Friday, April 10, 2020

Should Lollapalooza be cancelled this year?

Photo by moi
Yesterday Governor Pritzker shared his viewpoint that all summer events should be canceled, though Mayor Lightfoot is less comfortable making that call ... yet.

My personal history with Lollapalooza goes back the the fest's inaugural tour in 1991, and I've made it to just about every single Lollapalooza since then—only missing a few as it turned toward its "metal" period, but picking it back up and attending every Lollapalooza in Chicago once it found a new home in Grant Park. So I've seen almost every incarnation of the festival.

I wouldn't classify myself as a Lollaplooza apologist since it made its home in Chicago, but I have adapted to its changing identity more than some others music writers as it went full on mainstream and grew to the size of a small city each year. But accepting it for what it now is doesn't mean I feel the same way about it, and this was the first year I was considering skipping the whole thing altogether.

Lollapalooza isn't just a music festival. It's also a huge source of revenue for Chicago and Chicago businesses, and it supplies a LOT of people with jobs. Most people that work festivals work a festival circuit, and depend on them happening as major sources of incline throughout the year. So, much like my personal feelings about SXSW—another festival I long ago lost any personal warm feelings towards, while simultaneously appreciating its importance to the city and residents of Austin—cancellation isn't something I worry about affecting organizers and attendees as much as it will decimate the living of so many people who work on the ground to make it happen.

So it's a difficult question. I'm assuming that both Lollapalooza and the Pitchfork Music Festival—the two major festivals most in danger right now—have done their due diligence and investigated how many acts they could keep if they had to postpone until later in the year, and decided that would be difficult to impossible.* And it grows even less less possible with each day as other musical acts have to move their tours to the second half of the year. So while we potentially face an overabundance of great concerts to choose from come the fall, it will also potentially be a period where we experience a musical glut. And that glut is standing in the way of rescheduling things for the big fests.

Clearly Lollapalooza is hoping that by the end of July we will have returned to a state of being where gathering 100,000+ people in downtown Chicago will be an acceptable option. But that's looking less and less likely.

So it's a thorny question; should Lollapalooza cancel? I don't know about should, but I'm having a really hard time seeing things getting back to normal enough that they won't have to cancel.

We'll see! I'm trying to remain optimistic, mainly for the legions that depend on the money Lollapalooza brings into Chicago, but I'm not feeling great about Lollapalooza 2020's chances.

*A side note: I imagine Lollapalooza the business could survive a year off, I'm not certain Pitchfork Music Fest or Riot Fest would. P4K's chances look a little better since they're owned by a corporation, while Riot Fest is still primarily a DIY affair despite the size of the event. I've mentally steeled myself for P4K not happening, as well as Lollapalooza, but if things were so bad in the fall that even Riot Fest got canceled I can't even imagine what Chicago's music scene will look like a year from now.

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