Lollapalooza 2021: From Miley to Megan, 10 must-see acts to catch this weekend
Though a few things have changed this year — no Kidzapalooza stage and strict new COVID guidelines to be aware of before heading to the park — the stacked four-day lineup is an impressive feat to have pulled off in record time.
Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1991, Lollapalooza got its start as a touring event, originally intended as founder Perry Farrell’s way of bidding adieu to his rock act Jane’s Addiction. Yet, it soon proved successful and became one of the early American models for the thriving and popular festivals that have now become a cornerstone of contemporary culture across the globe.
When: July 29-August 1
Where: Grant Park; use main entrance at Michigan Avenue and Ida B. Wells Drive, or at the north entrance at Columbus and Monroe Street
Tickets: Starting at $130 for single-day tickets
In the past two years, the event has shown its resiliency and innovative spirit, quickly vaulting to a comprehensive virtual model amidst a global pandemic in 2020, and returning triumphant in 2021 as one of the first major music festival events hosted in Chicago (and the country for that matter).
Though a few things have changed this year — no Kidzapalooza stage and strict, new COVID-19 guidelines to be aware of before heading to the park — the stacked four-day lineup is an impressive feat to have pulled off in record time.
Here are the 10 acts people will be buzzing about when the weekend wraps:
No one exactly knows who this incognito Canadian country singer is (his trademark look is a long, fringed mask and cowboy hat) but the boudoir-looking John Wayne has heaped tons of due praise in his few years on the scene. Both for crafting a highly contagious psychedelic outlaw sound that refreshes the genre and for being an LGBTQ iconoclast whose work with Trixie Mattel and Gaga will soon put him in a new league. (Thursday, 2:45 pm, T-Mobile Stage)
The world needs a band like this Austin, Texas, neo soul-funk duo right now. Buoyed by their massive Otis Redding-style hit “Colors,” the potent act is a lyrical and literal show of unity, merging two distinct musical partners (one who grew up on gospel, another who played in every hip indie band in Texas) into this generation’s songwriting tour de force. They are the act to beat this weekend. (4:45 p.m. Thursday, T-Mobile Stage)
Coming out of her kid star shell over the course of the past decade, Miley Cyrus has been experimenting with her self image and music image in that time span, but where she’s landed recently with the glam rock album “Plastic Hearts” is a great place for that ballsy energy and unique voice. Cyrus’ constant state of flux also means anything goes in this set. Will she unleash her latest Metallica cover? Will former collaborators The Flaming Lips join her for a hamster ball ‘palooza? Will she do a duet with dad Billy Ray? Cyrus no doubt will bring the surprises in this festival opening night finale. (8:45 p.m. Thursday, T-Mobile Stage)
Black Pistol Fire
Lollapalooza gets in touch with more of its rock roots this weekend with a platter of next gen rising stars, among them White Reaper, Radkey, Hinds and the Austin blues-garage-rock duo Black Pistol Fire. The latter’s recent appearances at Riot Fest and Voodoo Fest still have jaws on the floor. Songs like “Bad Blood” and “Hope In Hell” are teething with all the implied grit and gumption that belies their small two-person stature — like The Black Keys on a case of energy drinks. (2 p.m. Friday, Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage)
Married couple Jason and Victoria Evigan give major vibes of likewise weirdo duos The Ting Tings and Die Antwoord with their futuristic, multi-cultural, uncategorizable dance pop. But the really admirable thing about this project is its social arm, looking to spread Bob Marley levels of love and joy with their nonprofit Picture This, which has a mission to unite children across the world in friendship. This set will not only look and sound good — it’ll feel good, too. (4:30 p.m. Friday, BMI Stage)
There’s no shortage of hip-hop talent booked for this weekend, but the rapper that all eyes and ears should be on is Polo G. Born and raised in Chicago, his pensive rhymes and melodic style are highly narrative and infused with real-life struggles and personal mea culpas. Though track “Finer Things” put him on the map in 2018, his newest No. 1 album “Hall Of Fame” and top single “Rapstar” is a foreshadowing of where he’s headed. (5 p.m. Friday, Bud Light Seltzer Stage)
If you need an excuse for the tears that may come from this set, just blame it on the sweat. This folk-pop star is one of the most heartfelt songwriters to debut in recent years who wears her soul on her sleeve with songs like “Breathe Again” that come alive like a scene in a movie. Others, like “Bad Blood” and “Lost,” give major Tracy Chapman vibes and show off her guitar prowess, too. (3:20 p.m. Saturday, BMI Stage)
Megan Thee Stallion
Though the schedule duel of the revived Limp Bizkit and Megan Thee Stallion may be one of the bigger conflicts of the weekend, our advice is to go for the “Savage” Stallion. We are currently living in a hip-hop matriarchy and MTS is one of the best to wear the crown with her writing second-to-none and slick confidence being the stuff that superstars are made of. Her inclusion in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020 says everything you need to know about her impact. (6:45 p.m. Saturday, T-Mobile Stage)
Made up of three brothers from Missouri, Radkey is the punk rock release you will need by Day Four. Creating some of the catchiest hooks in modern rock, their style finds that often unattainable level of radio-friendly earworm gems supported by a cache of cool. With inklings of The Ramones and vocals that give off an almost Danzig vibe, songs like “Dark Black Makeup” are good reason to get up early today. (12:50 p.m. Sunday, Grubhub Stage)
Stay hydrated for this one. Foo Fighters are notorious for packing in a massive three-plus-hour set stacked with hits like “Everlong,” covers of rock gems like “Under Pressure” and quippy bits from Dave Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins. After releasing the documentary “What Drives Us” earlier this year, penning essays about what is missing when we don’t have live music, and using their stature to help save stages and reopen venues like L.A.’s Forum and Madison Square Garden, there is no better or more goodhearted band than the Foos to help make us all feel in the zone again after a year gone dark. Let’s just hope the rain stays away from their set this time. (8 p.m. Sunday, T-Mobile Stage)
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.
NOTE: According to the Lollapalooza website: “In accordance with City of Chicago requirements, full COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results will be required to attend Lollapalooza 2021. For patrons who are not fully vaccinated, a negative COVID-19 test result must be obtained within 72 hours of attending Lollapalooza.”