The huge outdoor festival Lollapalooza celebrated its 30th anniversary July 29-Aug. 1to full capacity. A livestream was broadcast in 2020 to keep in the spirit alive due to a pandemic, forcing a year's postponement for in person entertainment.
In 1991, Lolla was a traveling act that toured around America for two months and was originally planned as a farewell party for rocker Perry Farrell's band, Jane's Addiction.
Farrell's idea was to bring diverse music acts together to see what would happen. Lollapalooza was a surprise success that eventually landed in the historic Grant Park in Chicago and never left after 2005. In 2016, an additional day was added to make it a four day celebration, continuing until today. [Editor's note: The event's future is currently up in the air, as its contract with Grant Park expires this year.]
The term "lollapalooza" refers to an extraordinary thing, person or happeningan appropriate name for the LGBTQIA+-inclusive gathering.
There was representation of the community every day at Lollapalooza in 2021, from the opening acts to the headliners. Miley Cyrus, Tyler, the Creator, LP, Brockhampton, Brittany Howard, Mxmtoon, Kaytranada, Omar Apollo, Renforshortm, Jake Wesley Rogers and Serena Isioma were among some of the planned roster all representing the community with identities ranging from cis to trans to non-binary.
Classically trained and hailing from Madrid, Tristan Simone graced the GrubHub stage early July 29 to kick off the set of concert performances. Clearing it for the record, he mentioned, "I have always been open with who I am as a gay rapper. I don't want to do pop music. I want to rap!"
Another open hip-hop artist, bisexual Princess Nokia, exclaimed from the T Mobile Stage, "I used to wear this outfit when I would sneak into the gay bars and now I am wearing it to play Lollapalooza!" She also told cisgender men to keep their hands to themselves at her show, to cheers from the crowd.
Gay country crooner Orville Peck talked with Windy City Times backstage and described the lineup as "quite lovely and diverse. [Regarding] art and music, I always regarded that as the one area where I had no obstacles. I grew up loving Bowie, Elton John and Freddie Mercury. Their gender and sexuality almost didn't even matter. That was the music I was inspired by. I never understood that I had to hide who I was to make music. Music made it possible for me to expose who I was, where I was afraid to show that in other parts of my life."
He wanted to his queer fans to know, "I love y'all and I'm proud to be a representative for the LGBTQ community within the country world. It never feels like an obligation, but always an honor. I hope everyone can feel proud to be a gay, yeehaw country fan. If you are not then get going. There's a whole world to discover with my music and everyone should feel welcome!"
Singer Jake Wesley Rogers, who performed July 30 on the BMI Stage, said he's always felt "a gay rock energy" in his music: "Elton comes through because I am flamboyant, gay with glasses and play the piano really hard. He paved that road and I am walking on it!"
Lesbian soul singer Joy Oladokun held a captivating set at the BMI Stage on Saturday afternoon. After the performance she told Windy City Times that she proudly held hands with her girlfriend as they walked around the festival meeting fans and catching other performances throughout the weekend. She confided, "I have a privilege that artists didn't have 20 years ago. I am trying to relish in it and also represent myself well. I hope that people who are questioning can find their way into the community and feel safe."
To her queer fans she stated, "Be kind, be yourself and trust that thing in you that wants to explore, whether that is what role you will have in the gender, binary discussion or your sexuality. We are finally in a place where these discussions are able to be had gracefully and compassionately. People are going to be able to come into their own with a new generation of people that can be themselves without question or pageantry. That is the dream!"
There was some pageantry because, for the first time, daily drag shows took place at the Bonus Tracks Stage on the East side of Grant Park; Aunty Chan hosted.
Chicago's out and proud mayor, Lori Lightfoot, attended some of the outdoor festivities and took to the mic to say, "Thank you for masking up and vaxxing up." With Lolla becoming a destination concert for more than 100,000 people each day, travel and safety concerns have been an issue with a growing variant from a virus possibly threatening to shut the entire money maker down. There was a lot riding on the biggest public gathering in the United States since the pandemic started. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test were required to enter and masks were mandatory for all indoor spaces. The first day around 600 people were turned away by not fulfilling these requirements.
Music has continued to evolve over the years with new artists creating tons of music during a lockdown. Suddenly, musicians can make their art from their bedrooms, then distribute their work on platforms such as YouTube or TikTok. A new generation of artists are no longer hiding in the closet with their personal lives, as many had done in the past.
New performers don't want to be put in a box in 2021. Singer Sir Chloe, who identifies as bisexual and performed at the T-Mobile Stage, spoke of the general mindset of sexuality: "Things have changed so much since I was a kid. The rhetoric around sexual orientation has become much more open and welcoming. I would like to see a continuation of that. I think we are on track, although it can't all happen at once. I hope people can have open and honest conversations about it."
Trans pop princess Kim Petris brought that conversation to the forefront by being unapologetic. Backup dancers and a visually bright set had her time slot opening for the popular headliner Miley Cyrus directly across from her on mirroring stages.
Moore Kismet, at just 16 years old, was the youngest person to DJ at Lollapalooza when they performed Aug. 1 at the Solana x Perry Stage. They said, "Being a Black, trans performer in electronic music is very hard to make your way in spaces like this with big stages in gigantic festivals. This is something I have wanted to do since I was little. Now I get to live out my childhood dreams and play my crazy, weird music for everyone!"
This rising pansexual artist uses they/them pronouns exclusively and is nonbinary. Kismet stated that they "didn't feel so alone" after a trans performer such as Petris performed on Thursday.
When asked about their thoughts on rapper DaBaby being cancelled, Kismet said, "I'm just glad the organizers of Lollapalooza understand and respect the safety of the LGBTQ performers. There are a lot of us here like drag queens and Hannah Rad from Hulu with a live stream. We are working hard and need to be respected for who we are. Having an artist like DaBootieHole was not going to work out for us! How are you going to have a blatant homophobe perform with a diverse and unique group of performers? It would have contradicted the entire festival."
DaBaby was replaced on the performance roster with Atlanta's Young Thug after a previous series of homophobic comments at the Rolling Loud Miami Festival. He continues to be cancelled in other upcoming festivals such as the Can't Wait Live: A Concert for Jobs, Climate and Care in Philadelphia on Aug.13; at the latter, DaBaby was rbeing eplaced by R&B singer Ne-Yo.
The Lollapalooza cancellation has sent an example for others to follow and sticks with the original idea that Farrell presented to concertgoers. Visit Lollapalooza.com for updates on purchasing 2022 tickets.