Crowds come early, Cochise defies the heat

Saturday, Lollapalooza takes off. The main thoroughfare along Columbus Drive was busy early and often as soon as the opening acts hit the main stages. Day 3 headliners include German-American rapper J. Cole’s highly international lineup; singer Willow (daughter of actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith); Chicago DJ Kaskade on stage at Solana x Perry (after K-pop boy band Tomorrow X Together); and Norwegian DJ and music producer Kygo.

Lollapalooza continues through Sunday in Grant Park with some 170 musical acts on eight stages, brought to life by Texas-based C3 Presents.

The north-south stretch along Columbus includes Chow Town and is the most direct route between most stages, with Lolla’s full footprint spanning about a mile. (A common refrain: you take your steps.) As Chicago’s biggest summer festival, it has a daily capacity of 100,000, although the first few days of 2022 weren’t sold out. By Saturday morning, the last of the one-day general admission tickets on the website had disappeared.

Rapper Cochise (aka Terrell Anthony Cox) opened the T-Mobile stage a little after 1 p.m., cutting a dapper figure in his signature khaki trench coat, dress shirt and tie, cruising the stage with the crowd singing hits from his albums ” Benbow Crescent” and “The Inspection”.

“My name is Cochise,” he said, half-breathing between songs. “And I put on this sexy trench coat. But you know I feel Beautiful.” He billed his next song as being inspired by a video game he loved to play, launching into “Megaman” from his latest album.

Talks continue between C3 and the city over a potential contract for the next 10 years of Lollapalooza by the lake. At the center of the issue is Chicago’s entertainment tax, the Tribune reported; the festival is subject to the tax and wants guarantees against the city raising the rate during the term of a new agreement.

Indianapolis-town siblings Emily and Mitch Price said they hadn’t heard of the talks, but echoed fans on Friday who said the music festival should stay in Chicago.

With a nod to other destination events like Coachella in Los Angeles, Emily Price said, “There aren’t a lot of big festivals in the Midwest.” Chicago needs Lollapalooza. She said she had wanted to come for years but was working, “then COVID.”

The smell of hot dogs and hamburgers wafts through the air in Chow Town, the row of tents where festival-goers can grab a bite to eat. Vendors were selling a multitude of options ranging from street tacos and bao rolls to mac and cheese and Indian food. Lou Malnati’s and Billy Goat Tavern are some of the best-known local eateries, but eateries from across the city, representing neighborhoods such as Ukrainian Village, Humboldt Park, Lakeview and Fulton Market, are on deck.

Lollapalooza attendees could cool off with a snow cone from Harris Snow Cones, a scoop of gelato from Vero Gelato or a funnel cake sundae from the Windsor Ice Cream Shoppe.

Although Ponce’s restaurant has served Puerto Rican food at other events and even tried food trucks, this is their first time at Lollapalooza. Fullerton’s family restaurant offers a taste of Puerto Rico with a simple but varied menu: pork skewers or pinchos, beef empanadas, pork chops and rice, and fried plantain sandwiches. Elora Ramirez, 16, helped her father, Jose, Thursday, and his girlfriend, Elba Jasso. Ramirez said being in Lollapalooza will allow the business to grow and grow.

“It’s fun and exciting to talk to these people, give them what they want, and watch them enjoy your food. It’s fun to see – it’s cool to watch,” she said.

Want to eat healthy at Lollapalooza? OK that works.

The Indian Garden offers a vegetable Biryani Bowl for $14, the Goddess and Grocer a (very good) veggie burger for $12 (gluten-free bun for $2 more). Healthy Substance of Garfield Ridge bills itself as “the vegan side of Mexico” and offers tacos for $6. Boxcar Betty’s offers sandwiches with chicken breast or portobello for $10.

Or, heck, you could just get a Chicago Style from Chicago’s Doghouse – which has veggies in it.

Security was another topic at Lollapalooza, with the festival taking place less than a month after the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park. Police have been a constant presence, though seemingly mostly in the background, inside and outside the fence (as of 2021, the city’s Office of Emergency Management has only released numbers on arrests or medical transports until after the festival). Helicopters circle overhead. In addition to uniformed police walking and biking the field, there were officers on Polaris vehicles patrolling in camouflage gear, badged as FBI and counterterrorism teams. Although not authorized to speak officially, an officer told the Tribune that they had also been to Lollapalooza for the past few years.

By late afternoon, many spaces inside the park were standing room only.

Chicago rapper Lil Durk drew the biggest Solana x Perry crowd at the festival so far, by far. He performed with a full band and was backed by screens that showed an endless video montage of Chicago scenes – downtown skyscrapers, two-unit apartments on the South Side, faces mugged for the camera or looking into the lens.

Before his set began, a red message on the screens instructed the crowd to step back and make more room. Durk paused after his first song and did the same, asking everyone to take three steps back. His fans still moved on. Shortly after the start of the third song, the sound cut out and Durk called the show off.

“We can’t go on until you back down,” he said. Fans closest to the stage were pushed hard against the railing and a voice over the loudspeaker ordered security to get those in distress out: “Next this young lady right in front of you.”

After a break of about five minutes, enough space had been cleared for Durk’s set to continue. “It’s one of my favorite songs to perform,” he said. “We’re going to slow it down a bit.” He sang “Home Body” from his 2018 album “Signed to the Streets 3.”

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