Article. Kim Doheon (Music Critic)
Photo Credit. BIGHIT MUSIC

Chicago has music festival fever. With excitement already on the rise from holding the Pitchfork Music Festival from July 15 to 17, the city is set to greet the four-day Lollapalooza festival next at Grant Park from July 28 through 31. Lollapalooza had a rocky start from when it was first held in 1991 but was later retooled and went on to become a world-famous music festival. They’re looking to hold an amazing comeback this year after canceling the festival in 2020 due to the pandemic and holding a scaled-back version in 2021. From the most popular artists of today to the legends of rock with their unwavering fan support—and the most surprising news to Korean fans: that j-hope and TOMORROW X TOGETHER will be performing—let’s take a look at all the buzz around the 2022 edition of Lollapalooza.

  • ©️ Lollapalooza
Lollapalooza was founded by Jane’s Addiction lead singer Perry Farrell. Preceding the alternative rock craze of the 1990s, Jane’s Addiction formed in 1986 but suddenly disbanded after the release of their sophomore album, Ritual de lo Habitual, in 1990. Farrell organized a massive music festival for the band’s farewell performance with other rock bands as well as artists playing across a spectrum of genres and guests including Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails, Ice-T, Body Count, Henry Rollins and more. Farrell additionally proposed it as a touring festival traveling throughout the United States and Canada and with plenty to enjoy on top of the music, such as tech shows and a circus. The name he chose is actually a 19th-century slang term in US English meaning “unique and unusual.”

Lollapalooza was a success right out the gate, starting with that first concert in 1991 and heralding the alternative rock revival along with Nirvana’s seminal Nevermind. Music fans were drawn in by the idea of a festival with no limits and no restrictions whatsoever on its lineup, ranging from rock bands who have made a name for themselves to up-and-coming newcomers. In 2020, SPIN magazine called Lollapalooza the opportunity that pushed alt-rock into the mainstream in the 1990s and emphasized that it marked the beginning of the modern American music festival. Farrell effectively fertilized a brand-new music experience for young people with the remains of his old band and watched a fantastic concert bloom in the city center.

With such a storied history, the festival has faced a crisis as well. Lollapalooza quickly lost its luster in the early 1990s as alt-rock made it to the mainstream and festival after festival sprang up around it. They had a policy of booking bands below a certain level of recognition, but that was thrown into disarray when Metallica took to the stage in 1996. The festival was also canceled entirely in 1998 when they failed to find a suitable headliner. Lollapalooza got back on its feet in 2003 when Farrell came back after stepping away from the planning committee in 1996, with his efforts leading the festival to tour around 30 cities and successfully attract investors. The festival is now a major music staple in Chicago every year.

The Lollapalooza format has also been exported to other parts of the world. The festival is equally spectacular in its South American counterparts held in Chile, Brazil and Argentina, attracting flocks of crowds every time. Lollapalooza is also now held in Europe, with individual festivals in Germany, Sweden and France. They make for a unique experience where festivalgoers are treated to both world-famous artists on stage as well as numerous cultural events.

The original aim of Lollapalooza was to hold a festival that would expose young people to alternatives to mainstream culture. More than 30 years in and that spirit continues to live on. A look at this year’s lineup alone reveals a list of artists that cross all boundaries of genre and race. They work in genres as diverse as hip hop, metal, rock, jazz, soul and pop.
This year, K-pop is a part of the lineup, too. j-hope, who took his first real steps as a solo artist with the release of his solo album Jack In The Box, is one of the artists headlining the fourth day, July 31. It was a surprising announcement, given how rare it is for Korean artists to perform at North American music festivals. There’s also never been a Korean headliner at a major US festival like this before. He will be on the Bud Light Seltzer Stage on the closing day along with Charli XCX and the Kid LAROI. Elsewhere and at the same, Denzel Curry, Polo & Pan and Green Day will be playing.

And it doesn’t stop at j-hope. TOMORROW X TOGETHER will be performing at Lollapalooza the day before that and will be the first K-pop group to perform at the festival. Together, TOMORROW X TOGETHER and j-hope are the second and third Korean artists to play Lollapalooza after Yaeji, and the first with Korean nationality. The TOMORROW X TOGETHER WORLD TOUR kicked off its North American leg on July 7 and the group will continue on through Chicago at the end of the month to join the massive festival. They will be performing during the second half of the Solana x Perry’s Stage, which Kaskade is headlining. The group will be performing during the same time slot as Chelsea Cutler and Turnstyle, Kygo, WILLOW and J. Cole will all perform after TOMORROW X TOGETHER.
j-hope and TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s prominence in the festival lineup highlights how popular K-pop has become. j-hope has had great success in the US, both with BTS as the group has weaved their way through the Billboard charts since the late 2010s as well as on his own when “Chicken Noodle Soup” reached 81 on the Hot 100 in 2019 and more recently with “MORE,” which reached number 82. TOMORROW X TOGETHER is likewise stepping up their activity in the US. minisode 2: Thursday’s Child, released on May 9, has proven to be consistently popular, setting a new record for the group by placing fourth on the Billboard 200 and remaining on the chart for ten weeks. They appeared on notable talk shows like Good Morning America and The Late Late Show with James Corden last year and performed “Good Boy Gone Bad” on NBC’s The Kelly Clarkson Show earlier this year.

As K-pop has expanded overseas, its popularity has led to it being seen as an alternative to mainstream culture there. Backed by attention-grabbing performances, messages of hope and positive images, K-pop has become a common point of interest for minorities and impassioned fans alike. BTS proved to be the catalyst for the explosion in K-pop’s popularity and the genre has since set trends with its attractive alternative to mainstream pop culture and enjoyed increased status and nobility, while its fanbase has become the fastest-growing and most organized group of fans in the world. j-hope’s and TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s appearances in the Lollapalooza lineup are proof of the influence K-pop has in the American market. They aren’t making a guest appearance, holding a surprise event with another crew or performing early in the day like relatively unknown newcomers typically do—these K-pop artists have been given top billing at the festival. In time, it won’t be unusual to see more and more K-pop artists headlining major US festivals like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. In fact, it is that much more meaningful because it aligns with Lollapalooza’s goal to seek out alternative acts.
Lollapalooza has a dynamic lineup planned this year, with artists from a range of genres, K-pop among them. The first headliners are Metallica, who have received renewed attention after their song was featured in the fourth season of Stranger Things. Also gracing the stage will be Jazmine Sullivan, master of giving an honest look at womanhood through R&B, and up-and-comer Lil Baby. Big names the following day include Gen Z pop punk hero Machine Gun Kelly, the perennially popular Dua Lipa and Glass Animals of “Heat Waves” fame.

On July 30, the third day, things heat up with DJs Kaskade and Kygo, rappers J. Cole and Big Sean and punk bands IDLES and Turnstyle. On the final day of Lollapalooza, expect a variety of performances from the always popular and recently socially conscious Green Day, the soon-to-be era-defining pop star the Kid LAROI and Eurovision Song Contest winners Måneskin, an Italian rock band.