He surveyed the depressing landscape that’s since replaced that gilded period: “Call it Trough TV, when the networks that once aimed for the stars now see how low they can go.”
On Tuesday, Lollapalooza organizers released the lineup for its four-day extravaganza, which returns to Grant Park on Thursday, August 3, and I wondered when we reached our Trough Music Festival era. Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Odesza headline a lineup of roughly 200 acts. One of Lolla’s strengths has always been the volume and variety of acts it presents. But the odd list of performers slated for this year’s fest looks suited for a bland playlist devised by the least functional algorithm. Are Chicagoans really losing access to parts of Grant Park for 84 days this summer partly because of a festival that ranks Emo Nite, a party promotion collective who’ve yoked nostalgia for Warped Tour pap to sell badly designed merch, above Brakence, a Columbus star-in-the-making who is taking emo in fascinating, novel directions? (Lolla is the beachhead for the other corporate-run events blocking off Grant Park. Memorial Day weekend festival Sueños, which debuted last year, is run by Live Nation, the parent company of Lolla promoter C3; former C3 executive Charlie Jones now runs Four Leaf Productions, which is working with NASCAR on its Chicago street race the first weekend of July.)
Sure, I can find some acts I’m enthusiastic about on the Lolla lineup. How could I not? When was the last time you went to a restaurant with 200 entrees on the menu and couldn’t find something to eat? But this Lolla lineup is what happens when you have more money than taste. I wouldn’t expect Kendrick Lamar to play any other fest in town—I’m not sure which one could land an artist of his stature—but that booking doesn’t inure me to Josh Fudge, whose inoffensive, bespoke indie-pop is the kind of thing I’d otherwise only hear while passing through a Streeterville coffee shop. It’s funny to consider that Red Hot Chili Peppers played Lollapalooza during its original 1990s incarnation, which celebrated rock’s alternative boom. I’m not sure how “alternative” factors into the 2023 version of the fest, which appears designed to draw anyone with at least $365 (the price of a GA four-day Lolla pass) and a Spotify account.
The great acts that happen to play the largest festival in Chicago don’t make the festival lineup look like anything more than a mess to me. I won’t praise Lollapalooza for booking Dehd (one of the best young bands in town and one of the very few Chicago acts on the bill) any more than I’d commend the 2006 Adam Sandler comedy Click just because it got a “Best Makeup” Oscar nomination. I don’t doubt people will go, I just think there are so many better things to do on a summer day.
Lollapalooza’s lineup announcement came a day after Pitchfork Music Festival organizers announced that festival’s gathering. When Pitchfork’s three-day gathering returns to Union Park on Friday, July 21, it’ll be headlined by The Smile (on Friday), Big Thief (Saturday), and Bon Iver (Sunday). As much as I think massive music festivals have passed their peak, Pitchfork’s lineup at least suggests there’s a future for medium-sized, niche festivals that foreground distinctive curation for a specific audience. Only 42 acts will play Pitchfork, which is roughly a quarter of what Lolla’s lineup offers. The Smile, which features Radiohead members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, might’ve gotten mid-tier treatment at Lolla; The Smile will make their U.S. festival debut at Pitchfork, performing for a crowd that’s long treated Radiohead as a lodestar.
Pitchfork has always booked acts that surprise me, and Jamaican pop star Koffee certainly checks that box for me this year. It’s nice to see Philadelphia hardcore phenoms Soul Glo play a festival that infrequently spotlights hard and heavy rock bands, and I’m quite curious to see what cheeky Belgian dance duo Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul will do at that fest. It would be nice to see more acts I didn’t expect fill out the lineup, but at least that thrill hasn’t disappeared.
Pitchfork will bring back several acts that have played in previous years, including JPEGMafia and Perfume Genius, which I’m generally on the fence about. There are so many great acts that could play the fest, it can feel like deja vu to see Killer Mike play Grant Park for the umpteenth time. (On the other hand, it’s Killer Mike, and I suspect plenty of Pitchfork regulars will be excited to see him perform solo again.) I do wish the fest booked more local acts. I count five this year including Gary experimental producer Jlin, which isn’t the fewest number of locals on the festival lineup, but I always want to see more Chicagoans on those stages. I suspect other Pitchfork regulars feel the same way, and likely because they’re invested in the festival as much as the local scene. (I realize Lollapalooza also draws in plenty of diehards, who want the most out of their experience at that festival; I hope they can find some joy this year.)
I’ve listed the lineups for both Pitchfork and Lollapalooza below this paragraph. I suspect I’ll unpack several more festival lineups in forthcoming newsletters. The Pitchfork lineup is divided by day, and the Lollapalooza is one big list since organizers haven’t announced daily schedules. I’ve included links to past Reader features, show previews, and other stories where applicable. And regardless of what you think of these lineups, I think we can all agree on one thing. The biggest winner here is Charlotte rapper Mavi, who got booked for both Pitchfork and Lollapalooza; I can’t recall any other performer who swung that in one summer.
Pitchfork Music Festival lineup:
Friday: The Smile, Alvvays, Perfume Genius, Leikeli47, Nation of Language, Roc Marciano & the Alchemist, Youth Lagoon, Ric Wilson, Grace Ives, Jlin, Axel Boman, Mavi, Sen Morimoto, Contour
Saturday: Big Thief, Weyes Blood, King Krule, Snail Mail, Panda Bear + Sonic Boom, Julia Jacklin, Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul, Vagabon, MJ Lenderman, Yaya Bey, Black Belt Eagle Scout, 700 Bliss, Palm, Deeper
Sunday: Bon Iver, Kelela, Koffee, Killer Mike, JPEGMafia, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Mdou Moctar, Illuminati Hotties, Jockstrap, Soul Glo, Florist, Lucrecia Dalt, Rachika Nayar, Ariel Zetina
Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Odesza, Lana Del Rey, Karol G, the 1975, Tomorrow X Together, Fred Again . ., Noah Kahan, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Maggie Rogers, Carly Rae Jepsen, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Diplo, J.I.D., Louis the Child, Pusha T, Subtronics, Rina Sawayama, NewJeans, Lil Yachty, Mt. Joy, The Backseat Lovers, Sofi Tukker, Portugal. the Man, Alan Walker, Yung Gravy, Svdden Death, The Revivalists, Beabadoobee, Big Wild, Tems, Dom Dolla, Meduza, Sabrina Carpenter, Afrojack, Lainey Wilson, Jessie Reyez, The Rose, Joey Bada$$, Gorgon City, Key Glock, Nora En Pure, Rema, AC Slater, Morgan Wade, Sylvan Esso, Men I Trust, Alex G, Knocked Loose, Foals, The Garden, Maisie Peters, Niki, DPR Ian + DPR Live, Diesel, Poolside, Timmy Trumpet, Peach Pit, Ken Carson, Destroy Lonely, Wax Motif, L’impératrice, Acraze, Lovejoy, Armnhmr, Suki Waterhouse, Knock2, Ivan Cornejo, Holly Humberstone, Jessie Murph, Dehd, Declan McKenna, Thee Sacred Souls, Matroda, Magdalena Bay, Sudan Archives, Neil Frances, The Knocks, Solardo, J. Worra, Joy Oladokun, Umi, Franc Moody, The Happy Fits, Zack Fox, Emo Nite, Tom Odell, Disco Lines, Jean Dawson, Bonnie X Clyde, Ray Volpe, Blanke, Spacey Jane, Hairitage, Sueco, Gabriels, Brakence, The 502s, Remk, Michelle, Clinton Kane, Band-Maid, Dillon Nathaniel, Bakar, Dope Lemon, Loveless, Cafuné, Skizzy Mars, Ingrid Andress, Upsahl, The Linda Lindas, Mavi, The Beaches, Ekkstacy, Giant Rooks, Pardyalone, Ella Jane, Matt Maltese, Ax & the Hatchetmen, Sincere Engineer, Friday Pilots Club, Madeline Edwards, Richy Mitch & the Coal Miners, Little Stranger, Josh Fudge, Motherfolk, Husbands, Arlie, Rosa Linn, Tiacorine, Beauty School Dropout, Ari Abdul, Annie Dirusso, Danielle Ponder, Chri$tian Gate$, Somadina, Talk, Hemlocke Springs, Aidan Bissett, Sarah Kinsley, Big Boss Vette, Kidd Kenn, Austin Meade, Windser, Arcy Drive, Los Aptos, Cydeways, Finish Ticket, The Red Clay Strays, Carola, Usted Señalemelo, Isabel Larosa, Benson, Charlotte Sands, Harry Edohoukwa, Arath Herce, Tyler Christian, Hoosh, Chicago Made, Lesly Reynaga, Bad Neighbors, Pony Bradshaw, Loviet, Junior Mesa, Ninajirachi, Ian Asher