Music festival Lollapalooza was held from August 3 through 6 this year in Chicago, Illinois. The names that were on the headliner list along with TOMORROW X TOGETHER are as follows: Billie Eilish, Karol G, Kendrick Lamar, the 1975, Lana Del Rey, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The boys of TOMORROW X TOGETHER were the second Korean artists—after j-hope performed there last year—, and the first Korean group, to headline the festival that draws some 400,000 people to the grounds of Grant Park every year. Let’s take a look at three words and phrases that capture all the excitement the group brought to the Bud Light Stage on August 5.
This year at Lollapalooza, not only did TOMORROW X TOGETHER perform, but so did NewJeans, who played the festival’s T-Mobile Stage on August 3. Then there’s BLACKPINK, who headlined both Coachella in April and BST Hyde Park in July. Not only is it becoming a more common sight to see K-pop artists performing at major long-running festivals within and outside of the US, but, as in TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s case, they’re also being afforded better and better timeslots and stages. The recent rising demand for K-pop at festivals demonstrates both the power of K-pop fans and the inroads K-pop has made into the music market. TOMORROW X TOGETHER made their first appearance at Lollapalooza in the summer of 2022 with a 45-minute set. The documentary TOMORROW X TOGETHER: OUR LOST SUMMER, covering their US tour and stop at Lollapalooza, shows how the members of the group worried about the kind of reaction they might get at the festival. But their fears were allayed when their performance was met with ear-splitting cheers and the crowd singing along to the group’s hits. The show led to even more people in the US finding out about them and converted more listeners into fans. Then, a year later, the boys returned to the festival, but this time as headliners—with a longer concert on a bigger stage and with an even more enthusiastic audience.
TOMORROW X TOGETHER started performing at 8:30 PM, but “TXTPALOOZA” was already trending in the US on X (formerly Twitter) that morning. It was already clear two days beforehand how much buzz there was surrounding the group’s upcoming performance. There was a TOMORROW X TOGETHER pop-up store near Grant Park selling merchandise for the group’s Lollapalooza concert that was open for the duration of the festival, and BIGHIT MUSIC reported more than 200 people waiting in line for the opening on August 3. There was a line to get into the store for the entire four days it was open, with fans sharing and swapping things like photocards.
When the morning of TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s performance came, it started to rain over Chicago, but that didn’t stop MOA from crowding around the entrance to the festival grounds from early in the day in order to secure a spot close to the stage. By the afternoon, the standing area of the Bud Light Stage was already packed with MOA and their blue light sticks. When other artists performed throughout the day, it didn’t matter which direction the audience cam was facing: the giant screen showed a sea of light sticks and homemade signs bearing the names of the TOMORROW X TOGETHER members. MOA was filled with so much enthusiasm around the pop-up store and at the stage that the burning curiosity of other festivalgoers had them asking questions about the idols and their fans. As the Sun slowly set, people wearing TOMORROW X TOGETHER shirts, carrying light sticks, and wearing telltale signs that they were MOA streamed endlessly toward the stage. By eight o’clock, not only was the standing area directly in front of the stage full of people with light sticks, but so were the areas to the sides, stretching out far from the stage. At the same time, passersby were forming into a crowd just outside the audience, curious about the K-pop group. As the concert drew closer, the giant screen played short documentaries and music videos. Even though the members themselves hadn’t yet taken the stage, cheers erupted every time something new appeared on screen and the crowd was chanting their name. The swath of TOMORROW X TOGETHER light sticks lit a brilliant blue across the darkening sky, and as the countdown began, a giant roar of excitement flowed out from the glowing azure. It was the loudest sound around the whole day.
The audience sang along to the words of each song from the instant the boys came out and opened their performance with “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You),” and continued singing together for the full 90 minutes. That included not just English songs and choruses with English lyrics, but also Korean lyrics and even an unreleased song. “I’m just excited about what song they’re going to start with, and for big fireworks,” Eliza, a MOA from New Jersey, said, adding with a laugh, “and I hope to see ‘Cat & Dog’ because I want to hear the bark in Chicago,” referring to the unofficial chant that, sure enough, the crowd broke into spontaneously when the group performed the song. A MOA from Florida named Hollie was “really excited” to find out what TOMORROW X TOGETHER would be performing this time “because I remember last year they really had a bunch of choreography,” and this year didn’t disappoint either: The audience loved the sharp choreography and dance breaks, and it was quite a sight seeing the crowd dance along to songs that have been featured in TikTok challenges, like “Good Boy Gone Bad” and “Happy Fools” featuring Coi Leray. On top of these energy-filled numbers, there were also emotionally charged songs like “Anti-Romantic” and the unreleased song “Blue Spring” that moved the audience to tears as they sang along. The rollercoaster of a set list closed with “Sugar Rush Ride” and fireworks to go alongside. MOA continued to chant “TXT” even after the concert came to an end. It’s safe to say that MOA’s enthusiasm was the secret sauce that turned an already fantastic performance into an unforgettable experience. Ask anyone who was in Chicago that day, and they’ll let you know it was really MOAPALOOZA.
3. TXT MADE HISTORY
“You could probably hear it across Michigan Avenue long before the concert started,” magazine Consequence writes of MOA’s screaming as the audience watched the countdown to the start of the show. “The last 10 seconds might have registered on the Richter scale.” MOA’s passion that day was noted by major media outlets as well. “Fans who queued early, blue cross-adorned light sticks in hand, got to prove their adoration by singing along to TXT’s unreleased track ‘Blue Spring,’” Rolling Stone reported, “and witness a band who didn’t take any part of the experience for granted.” And all that excitement extended to MOA online. That same day, “TXTPALOOZA” was the third-most popular trending tag on X worldwide; immediately after the group’s performance, phrases like “TXT LOLLA 2023 HEADLINERS” were trending in the US. In Korea, mentions of the songs on the set list bubbled up in real time. People watching online through Weverse, YouTube, Hulu and the like made comments like, “The audience there is even good at singing the Korean parts,” and, “I can tell how popular they are in the States!”—because even watching online, you could hear the cheering loud and clear.
Consequence made a statement with how they titled their review: “TOMORROW X TOGETHER Make History.” But it’s about more than just the fact that the group was a headliner or how much noise the fans made. The biggest takeaway is how well they performed up on stage. “As the show progressed it became clear how much TXT have grown,” the magazine’s article continues. “The stage banter was looser than last year, they looked more comfortable, and more of their personalities came through,” and said the athletics behind their choreography made them look like “superhumans.” TOMORROW X TOGETHER performed their set front to back without a single break and still had plenty of energy left to work the crowd and get them to excitedly sing along and cheer. Their performance also led to online comments like, “You can tell how much better they got after their world tour,” and, “They look so natural—like rock stars.” British music review outlet NME gave TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s Lollapalooza concert a perfect score, saying, “Their performances are tight and impactful, their vocals phenomenal, and their stage presence nothing short of rock star status.” US entertainment site Vulture went so far as to say that “the group put on one of the weekend’s biggest spectacles.”
Winter, another MOA at Grant Park, summed up the significance of TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s performance at Lollapalooza where she said, “I think being headliners shows not only that they have a strong fan base but they keep growing and growing.” TOMORROW X TOGETHER already proved their popularity in the US earlier this year with a Billboard 200 number one and over 500,000 albums sold; their performance at Lollapalooza made that popularity tangible right in front of the eyes of tens of thousands. The opportunity to headline the festival also gave them another chance to show everyone at the festival who they are. TOMORROW X TOGETHER first traveled to Chicago four years ago, right after their debut, to put on a showcase. After the prolonged pandemic, the group kicked off the North American leg of their world tour with a performance in the city, only to come back again later in the year with their spectacular first Lollapalooza performance. The following year—this year—after performing to stadiums across the US, the group returned to the Lollapalooza stage, this time as headliners, and will soon be performing at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). MOA’s unmistakable blue light over Grant Park that night stood as a symbol of how much the group had grown in the meantime and why they were invited back to the festival. And as has been clear to anyone paying attention so far, that blue light will only continue to grow in size and intensity—until it lights up the entire sky, wider and brighter—with TOMORROW X TOGETHER.
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