In 1st night strictly on­line, Lol­la­palooza em­pha­sizes women and so­cial change

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY SE­LENA FRAGASSI For the Sun-Times

If the gi­ant, gap­ing hole left by the lack of live mu­sic in 2020 wasn’t al­ready pal­pa­ble enough, watch­ing Lol­la­palooza 2020 kick off vir­tu­ally on YouTube Thurs­day night made the loss feel even more dev­as­tat­ing than per­haps any of the livestream­s thus far in 2020.

It may have been the video of body-to­body fans mov­ing in uni­son to Run the Jew­els that gave pangs to ex­pe­ri­ence even a sliver of the claus­tro­pho­bia we com­plain about sum­mer af­ter sum­mer. Or, the in­ter­ludes be­tween recorded per­for­mances that high­lighted all the hard­work­ing peo­ple be­hind the scenes of Lol­la­palooza like staff pho­tog­ra­phers who are strug­gling to get by in the new cul­tural par­a­digm. Or, cling­ing to the hid­den mean­ing be­hind founder Perry Far­rell’s words that he “hopes” to see us in Grant Park next sum­mer. Hopes?

While au­dio sync is­sues early on made ev­ery­thing feel “off ” and there was al­most an au­to­matic need to text a friend to see where to meet up at the Bud­weiser Stage later on, there’s rea­son to pause and con­sider why it’s not such a bad thing that the fully on­line Lolla2020 is like noth­ing we’ve ever seen in the fes­ti­val’s nearly 30-year his­tory.

In the first hour alone, women per­form­ers and artists of color were many. There also was a con­certed ef­fort to align with in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant or­ga­ni­za­tions in the cur­rent so­cial cli­mate in­clud­ing the Equal Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive and Michelle Obama’s

When We All Vote ini­tia­tive; other than a prom­i­nent re­cy­cling pro­gram, it’s hard to re­mem­ber a time Lol­la­palooza was so civi­cally en­gaged.

Not to men­tion the dili­gent ef­fort to shine a spot­light on the fes­ti­val’s home of Chicago more than ever be­fore, kick­ing off with the in­tro­duc­tion from Mayor Lori Light­foot as thou­sands of in­ter­na­tional fans tuned in (nearly 20,000 at one point Thurs­day) — all of them see­ing her awk­wardly start her con­ver­sa­tion with Perry Far­rell by ask­ing if he was wear­ing pants and then piv­ot­ing to hav­ing him send a mes­sage to the Lol­la­palooza de­mo­graphic about the need to wear masks.

One of the great ben­e­fits of watch­ing a be­he­moth like Lol­la­palooza as a livestream — be­yond be­ing able to use your own flush­able toi­let and get­ting the best un­blocked view — is you don’t have the choice for which set de­serves your at­ten­tion in the mo­ment. There’s no epic con­flict to be tor­tured about, no noise bleed to con­tend with and — more im­por­tantly — there’s the chance for dis­cov­ery of a new artist you could have been too hung over to see in that un­cov­eted noon time slot.

With­out this plat­form, you prob­a­bly would have missed Yel­lopain,

whose in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance was a “School­house Rocks” for 2020 and in­cluded a full civics les­son that even his­tory teachers would blush at.

While Lol­la­palooza part­nered with Toy­ota to bring the Live From the Mu­sic Den dis­cov­ery stage like it has done in years past (of­fer­ing up Do­mini­can-Amer­i­can artist DaniLeigh to start on Thurs­day), the night’s prime­time pro­gram­ming also in­cluded the rel­a­tively un­known but de­serv­ing Chicago singer-song­writer Kaina and Toni Cor­nell (the daugh­ter of the late Soundgarde­n singer Chris Cor­nell), whose im­pres­sive pipes belted out a cu­ri­ous cover of Pearl Jam’s hit “Black” in trib­ute to her dad. There was also singer-song­writer TeaMarrr, whose provoca­tive per­for­mance prob­a­bly made most par­ents wish there was still a Kidza­palooza area they could skirt the young ones off to quickly.

Noth­ing will ever re­place the in-per­son event: the real, raw, un­fil­tered, gut­tural per­for­mances that span more than 2-3 songs and the abil­ity to watch it with friends (or at least more than the 10 peo­ple we’re al­lowed to gather with now). Archived footage of like Alabama Shakes, Cy­press Hill and the like tried to fill that space, but the video pro­duc­tion in many of the recorded seg­ments made much of the night come off as just highly edited mu­sic videos.

But while we all want that live, sweaty, in-your-face ex­pe­ri­ence to come back next year (even if it will never be free again), for 2020, Lol­la­palooza should get some credit for pulling off the un­think­able in the mere weeks since the June can­cel­la­tion an­nounce­ment. Turn off that com­ment feed, turn up the AC and en­joy the next three days in a way you’ll never get to ex­pe­ri­ence Lol­la­palooza again.


Toni Cor­nell, daugh­ter of Soundgarde­n singer Chris Cor­nell, sings a cover of “Black” dur­ing the vir­tual Lol­la­palooza stream.

Brit­tany Howard SUN-TIMES FILE


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