When the internationally acclaimed Lollapalooza festival came to Stockholm for the first time, we knew we had to be there – basically no matter who would be on the bill… But they did deliver an interesting and eclectic line-up featuring Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey, Foo Fighters, Travis Scott and many more. There really was something for everyone!
Lollapalooza was founded in 1991 by Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction fame. It started out as a touring festival that ran annually until 1997 and was revived in 2003. From 2005 onwards it has been held annually in Chicago’s Grant Park. Lollapalooza has since then spread to countries like Chile, Brazil and Argentina, as well as European locations Berlin and Paris. Stockholm now got the honors of being the first Scandinavian country to get its own Lollapalooza, and the three-day festival was such a success with 56,000 visitors that the festival is set to come back for 2020. (Yay!)
Stockholm has really been missing this type of general music festival, where the line-up offers so much variation there is something for all musical tastes. The beauty of such festivals (as opposed to niched genre-specific festivals) is that you get the chance to listen to new types of music you would not otherwise go to see live. And if you are lucky you will find new favorites. It gave us warm feelings inside seeing kids in Billie Eilish and Travis Scott t-shirts rocking out to Halestorm pumping their fists in the air…
The weather gods were favorable on the festival weekend, giving us pleasant temperatures and sunshine on all three days. Beside that, the festival area offered pleasant settings at the grass-covered Gärdet. There were also plenty of services including more than 40 different restaurants, a beer festival and a wine garden. There were lines to water taps and toilets on the first day, but these services were beefed up for the remaining two days making the festival experience smoother. The organisation in general was also at a high professional level, including everything from security to the technical side with large video screens at every stage.
There were four different stages and the programme was set up so that acts alternated on the two largest stages (Tower Stage and Bay Stage) with little or no gaps in the schedule. The Park Stage at the other end of the festival area and Perry’s Stage in a tent provided alternative musical entertainment so that at times there were three acts on at the same time. The tent had a party going on pretty much non-stop. You could hear the beats banging and the crowds cheering to the tunes being played by the best DJs and producers from today’s house, techno and EDM scenes.
Friday was really characterized by Billie Eilish, as you could not have missed all the fans wearing Billie merch and sporting their colored hairdos. Billie was no doubt the one drawing the biggest crowd — pre-teens with their parents, 20-somethings and well just about everybody wanted to see her. Nobody else gathered as large a crowd in front of the main stage. Her show suffered a bit from sound problems, but being in the middle of the crowd and singing along to all the tunes to your heart’s content, you would not have paid any mind to such issues. The air was electric with a special feeling of being there together to see the most talked about artist of the moment.
Another one of Friday night’s big names was Lana Del Rey, who spun her magic on the audience that looked mesmerized by her soft voice and laid-back coolness. She served all the hit tunes and had the crowds singing along — as well as sighing over how beautiful she looked. Meanwhile at the other side of the festival, slightly less beautiful Swedish garage rockers The Hellacopters were putting on a helluva rock show… And to end the evening, rap superstar Travis Scott entered the Tower Stage and had the predominantly young crowd going crazy over the beats and his energetic stage presence. Just consider how different these three acts are and you might have a hunch of just how versatile this festival was.
The crowds were still scarce early on Saturday, when we braved the festival grounds again and went to see DJ Gunn in Perry’s party tent… Basically needed to be there to catch a favorite of ours Jasmine Kara, who joined Gunn on vocals. The early afternoon continued in the searing heat of the sun with more diverse music, including the very interesting and ubercool British artist IAMDDB, who puts together various influences like trap and jazz.
The crowds were more scarce on Saturday afternoon than on Friday (the Billie day), as the day’s biggest draw was clearly Foo Fighters on the last spot of the evening. They really pulled in all the rock fans at the end of the day to enjoy their two hour set in the sunset. But before that, the indie rockers had the chance to enjoy Britain’s The 1975, and the seminal Swedish post-punk rockers The Hives showed how to really put on a show and entertain the crowd.
The rock fans really got their fill on Saturday, as beside the Foo Fighters we were served the band touted as the future of classic rock — Greta Van Fleet. The young Michigan band have been compared to the likes of Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant and are a part of a new generation of rockers who are breathing life into the genre like it hasn’t been done in the most recent years. The brothers Jake, Sam and Josh Kiszka and their family friend Jake Wagner may have a very short road behind them, but they surely have very prominent future.
Sweden’s own multi-talented singer, songwriter, producer (and pretty much everything else) Laleh put in a memorable show and the tone was set from the start, when music journalist Annah Björk read the chapter about Laleh from her new book — in which the international artist is rather disappointed to find out that the master producer was a young woman. As Laleh has mostly been away in the US, the audiences have been thirsting for her music and the crowds at Lollapalooza turned into Allsång at Gärdet during her biggest hits.
Sunday started almost too early in the afternoon, as we had to make our way to see big favorites of ours, Smith & Thell — although it turned out to be just Smith without Thell, and the special dynamics between Maria and Victor were definitely missed. But their hit grade folk pop is so darn good it was still much better than the majority of other acts at the festival.
The Sunday was probably the most-laid back day and people were enjoying the festival atmosphere in the sun, at times finding well-needed shade or getting a Lollapalooza cap from the Lolla merch shop when the afternoon sun got just a tad too hot. The afternoon entertainment included Norway’s electronic duo Lemaitre, who sounded rather excellent live, and Sweden’s own Markus Krunegård, who got the biggest cheers at the end of his set when he brought out crowd favorite Miriam Bryant as his guest. The very pleasant lazing on a Sunday afternoon feelings continued with the smooth sounds and amazing vocals of Mr. Jacob Banks.
Most of the rest of the Sunday evening belonged to very inspiring Swedish/Scandinavian female artists. Sweden’s own Tove Styrke brought out her perfect pop sensibilities and contagious, fairy-like stage presence on stage. She was followed by the up-beat and energetic Danish star MØ, who really loves getting close to her audience – high-fiving the front-row fans on many occasions and wading through the crowds to a smaller stage at the back at one point. The female power trio was completed by Swedish L.A.-based super star Lykke Li, who had the look of tormented beauty in her shiny red latex outfit.
While those more inclined towards pop sounds were enjoying all these powerful female acts on the two main stages, fans of harder rock got their fill of the day on the Park Stage with Australian rock outfit Wolfmother, who fit into that nostalgic classic rock category along with the previous day’s Greta Van Fleet.
When we heard the news that Chance the Rapper, Sunday’s headliner and the festival’s closing act, was cancelling his performance at Lollapalooza, it seemed quite a task for the organizers to come up with someone to cover up such a gap in the line-up. Then word spread that it would be the Colombian reggaeton super star J. Balvin… some derided the choice but many more loved it. The rise of reggaeton in Sweden and in the world has been unparalleled, and so we’ve seen more and more artists from this genre headlining festivals and topping charts all over the world. José Álvaro Osorio Balvín, a.k.a. J. Balvin jumped onto Lollapalooza’s main stage, the Tower Stage, on the evening of Sunday to tell Stockholmers why they should fill up their lives with reggaeton, and just dance, dance, dance…
All in all, we must say Lollapalooza Stockholm’s first edition was a resounding success for music fans like ourselves. And the 56,000 strong crowd was enough for the organizers to announce already on Sunday evening that there will indeed be a Lollapalooza 2020. Stockholm really needs a festival like this and we are already looking forward to next summer!