Lollapalooza is many things. To me, it's a rite of passage, the Mecca of music, and the lifeblood of the Chicago summer. Whatever it means to you, this is a festival that has emphatically demonstrated its staying power.
This year was the most interactive, exuberant, and jam-packed yet.
This year marks the 25th anniversary since Perry Farrell first dreamed up Lollapalooza as a farewell tour for his beloved band, Jane's Addiction. How fitting then, that on this milestone birthday, Farrell and his bandmates returned to perform on the main stage – along with a record 171 other musical acts.
This year was also the first time Lollapalooza spanned four days at downtown Chicago's Grant Park, with a reported attendance of 100,000 fans a day. Having personally attended the festival 10 times, I found this year's to be the most interactive, exuberant, and jam-packed yet. Here are my favorite performances, some of them a blast, and some I would even describe as life-changing.
Daytime energy, late-night vibes
On Thursday, I saw The 1975, a high-energy band with a unique Europop/punk sound. As incredible as that performance was, their intimate Friday night House of Blues after show presented by Citi was even more unforgettable. Though the set list was virtually the same as Thursday's, the boys added new guitar riffs and longer sax solos to some songs and also encouraged us to sing along with them. It was so cool to experience and compare this indoor late-night show with their outdoor Lollapalooza performance and the big, energetic daytime crowd. For a music lover like me, both were truly memorable.
Another noteworthy performance came courtesy of Muddy Magnolias, a soul/Southern rock duo out of Nashville, TN. Their vocals were a mix of soul, folk, harmony, and pure power, and they brought a sultry vibe to their unique brand of "country" music.
As great as Thursday and Friday were, Saturday was the day of breathtaking performances, with Chris Stapleton as one of the highlights. He performed his blend of blues and Southern/country rock on one of the larger side stages and attracted an audience that was easily large enough for the main stage area. I've never seen a crowd go so crazy for an artist. They seemed to know every lyric to every song and totally immersed themselves in the performance.
Chris Stapleton wasn't the only artist who delivered a noteworthy show. Jane's Addiction gave a performance that was heavy on nostalgia – and perfect for die-hard fans like me: They played their entire 1991 album, "Ritual de lo Habitual."
The big dog, of course, was Red Hot Chili Peppers. I had never seen them live, even though they've been a favorite of mine for over two decades. And they didn't disappoint. The show was, in my opinion, perfection, and they played every song I could ever want to hear.
The best of the rest
Alongside the established and emerging music acts from rock and hip-hop to blues and electro-pop, fans could indulge in a bit of retail therapy at the pop-up Lolla Shop, relax with a massage, or even do a wine tasting. There was also an impressive menu of culinary choices with something for every taste.
I loved how there were so many more spots set up this year for fans to relax, recharge, connect, and play games. Foodies enjoyed an entire village called Chow Town, curated by a local Chicago chef, and the selections were a huge departure from standard festival fare. In previous years, vendors mostly offered Chicago classics like pizza, hot dogs, and burgers. But the gourmet choices this year were off the charts, especially the Lobster Corn Dog from Graham Elliot Bistro, which I treated myself to each day of the festival. New restaurants added to the variety with super snacks like MAD Social's Chicken Waffles – an indulgent deep-fried, sugar-dusted waffle topped with chicken breast Milanese, crisp pork belly, and maple syrup – and Pork & Mindy's candied bacon in a cone.
All of this could be a bit daunting to navigate on your own, but fortunately I had my cashless wristband to accompany me on my Lolla adventures. It gave me expedited entrance to the festival – a bonus available through my Citi card – which was crucial since lines were overflowing with fans.
But my favorite perk of the wristband was the Citi Lounge, where I could take shelter when it rained and, most importantly, charge my phone, which seemed to run out of battery 17 times a day! Another lifesaver was the Lollapalooza smartphone app*, which was even more interactive and helpful this year. The real-time schedule alerts helped me plan my days, and the app's map function pointed me towards all the stages and places to eat and drink.
From day to night, in rain and sunshine, this year's festival will go down in the books as one of my all-time favorites. I could not have imagined a more perfect way to enjoy Lollapalooza #25. See you next year, Lollapalooza 2017!
By registering her Citi card with her cashless wristband, Kelly received exclusive perks like expedited festival entry through the Citi Fast Lane, discounted Lolla merchandise, and access to the Citi cardmember lounge. Check back on www.citiprivatepass.com for upcoming festivals, presale tickets, and VIP packages to more of the year's hottest concerts.