Lollapalooza opened for its second day Friday, a cooler day and quieter morning than the rush of the first day. Outside the gates, the topic remained masks and COVID-19, and the question if the return of the massive, outdoor, four-day music festival to Chicago’s lakefront would be a dangerous superspreader.
Cook County was added Thursday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of areas experiencing “substantial” COVID-19 transmission, bringing with it advisories for masks indoors. Illinois is now requiring masks at state-run facilities.
On the Chow Town strip of food vendors, Robert Miller, of Chicago, was one of the few concertgoers at Lollapalooza wearing a mask. “I’m 59, so I’m more susceptible,” he said. He’s also vaccinated, but says that’s a personal choice for everyone. “I feel like vaccines are for most, but not all.”
A quick tour up and down Michigan Avenue across from the festival in Grant Park, blocks lined with hotels and restaurants, found only two businesses with posted mask requirements Friday. One was the Travelodge on East Harrison Street, but a staffer at the front desk said the sign was simply up from last year and few in the busy lobby were wearing a face covering. The other was Symphony Center, where the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performs. (All businesses did share one sign on their doorways: No public restrooms.)
A few more concertgoers inside the gates seemed to be wearing masks than the day before, but they were still much in the minority.
Dustin and Angela Hetrick were attending with their three kids and all were wearing masks. They felt “good, slightly nervous,” about being at Lollapalooza, Dustin Hetrick said. “We’ve all got our masks, and we’re staying away from the bigger crowds.” The kids were excited to see Marshmello on the Bud Light Seltzer stage.
Other end-of-day headliners Friday include Tyler, the Creator on the T-Mobile stage and Omar Apollo on the Grubhub stage.
Alyssa Porter, 20, traveled from Woodridge with her friend, Jeannie Hansen, 19, on an hourlong, “crowded” train ride for Lollapalooza. They were nervous to attend the music festival, but their nerves were eased by festival rules to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from 72 hours prior.
“I was kinda scared to come down here because the (cases) have been getting bad,” said Porter. “Lately the rates have been going up, and I think we should be wearing masks at appropriate places.”
For the most part, though, those at Lollapalooza, artists and fans alike, were celebrating the fact they were at a music festival at all. Thursday night headliner Miley Cyrus said during her set “she would be nothing” without her fans and live shows, soon after sharing the stage with surprise guest Billy Idol and singing “White Wedding.”
Friday afternoon, a group of friends from the Chicago suburbs were surprised that attending the festival “hasn’t been that weird, actually,” following last year’s cancellation, and said it seemed like everyone just “doesn’t really care” for once. “It’s just nice seeing everyone being themselves again,” said Nya Ranel, 20.
Kenny Mason, a rising hip hop artist from Atlanta, played the BMI stage early afternoon. His latest album “Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut” was recently recognized by Billboard as one of the top 50 albums of 2021 so far. In the crowd of fans was Cesar Coronado of Humboldt Park, who said he had been looking for the nearest restroom but ended up pulled in by Mason’s performance.
“It was worth it,” said Coronado. “I hadn’t heard of him before and fell in love with him.”
Mason spoke with the Tribune after his set. He said he hadn’t known before the festival that Lollapalooza would be the largest crowd he’d ever perform in front of.
“My producer tells me not to look at other people’s performances and find my own style,” said Mason. “Performance-wise, I look up to Michael Jackson because of the energy and care he would bring to the stage,” said Mason. “If I could even emulate 1% of that, that would be amazing.”
A crowd began forming at T-Mobile for 26-year-old singer Giveon well ahead of his late afternoon set. ”Before we go further, I wanna introduce myself. My name is Giveon, and this is my very first festival,” he told the crowd.
Giveon has recently collaborated with big artists like Drake and Justin Bieber. He is known for “Chicago Freestyle” with Drake, which came out in 2020. The crowd went wild when he began singing about the Windy City, and when he performed Justin Bieber’s “Peaches.”
Though it was his first festival, and his second time in Chicago, the singer moved and danced around the crowd like he owned it, delivering a passionate performance and interacting with the crowd.
”If you’ve ever been heartbroken say ‘hell yeah’,” he said. The crowd shouted back before he began performing his popular song, “Like I Want You.”
Los Angeles-based indie pop singer JAWNY played the Grubhub stage but started off his set with some technical difficulties. ”No one knows (what happened),” he told the Tribune after. “We went up there and we couldn’t start for like 10 minutes. ... It’s almost like I’m happy that it happened, because I just feel like once everything worked, people just wanted to see us win.”
But sound issues were not the only hurdle. JAWNY’s regular drummer Donato had to cancel right before the festival. The drummer who filled in learned the songs for the set in 36 hours. “We played that show with him, in a way. We brought him in spirit,” JAWNY said of Donato. “His family was there in the crowd ... got to shout them out.”
JAWNY described himself as usually shy and awkward, but alive in front of the crowd. At the show, he pumped up the crowd with expletive-laden aphorisms. Two people climbed up into a tree to get a better view. ”I can’t have had a better show than that,” he said. “It’s indescribable. ... For some reason I have no fear when I’m up there, 10,000 people, however many people it is, I just feel alive.”
Zach Harris, Tatyana Turner, Maya Mokh and Doug George contributed to this report.