J-Hope on Lollapalooza Set, without BTS

Around 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, an old white Pontiac Sunbird, with J-Hope song titles scribbled on it in black and blue paint and a human-sized stuffed harlequin clown shoved into the tiny back seat of the car, idling past the main entrance to Lollapalooza blasting songs from J-Hope. Presumably, this was meant to inject a new energy of anticipation into the crowd lined up against the gate, some of whom had camped outside for literally 12 hours, before Saturday night’s headliner J. Cole had even finished. his set. (“My muse,” J-Hope, dressed head-to-toe in Balenciaga, called the rapper when we spoke.) Or rather, the old convertible was the float ringing in the new day, the one fans of BTS had been looking forward to. Hobipalooza was near.

During his Sunday night set, J-Hope would become the first Korean artist to headline a major US festival and the first BTS member to perform without the others since the group’s temporary (temporary!) change to focus on solo projects. When added to the festival in June, along with label partners HYBE Tomorrow X Together, the Tweet Lollapalooza advertising Hobi’s performance blew up, and ARMY members I spoke to immediately bought tickets, attracting first-time festival-goers from across North America – Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Boston , Juárez, Toronto, Vancouver, Boston – and beyond (including South Korea) at Chicago’s sprawling Grant Park. “I’ve never been here before, I’m never coming back,” said one fan, who had posted all day at the Bud Light Seltzer stage barricade. “Unless Hobi is playing.”

Photo: BIGHIT MUSIC

“It’s the first time I’ve taken part in a festival,” the 28-year-old rapper and dancer told me on Saturday afternoon through his interpreter. “It’s a very special experience, also a new story for me.” J-Hope had recently released his second solo album, jack in the box, which showed off a darker side of the sunny boy that ARMY is used to seeing. Later, he hinted at what was to come: “This concept of ‘jack in the box’ is ingrained throughout the set list,” he said.

J-Hope told me that he practiced constantly for the performance, all too aware of the pressure that comes with stepping onto the stage as the sole focal point, without the shield of the other six members to sing, dance, laugh or cry. with. Of course, a festival slot, where you have to release songs within strict deadlines, is very different from a standalone BTS show, where they would be the draw of the night and surrounded by cheering fans. “When I chose to play Lollapalooza it was actually a very bold resolution, but I don’t regret making that decision because that ambition, that hunger to play here, got me to where I am right now,” J-Hope said. , adding that preparing without the rest of BTS made him realize the effort he would have to put in to go it alone. “During the set list practice process, I realized I was missing it a bit, but now I’m fully prepared. I just have to put it on.”

So did the sea of ​​festival-goers waving illuminated ARMY bombs and shouting and chanting his name 40 minutes before the music started – although J-Hope said he envisioned a more mixed crowd of longtime fans and curious newcomers. “I want people who don’t know me to listen to me too,” he said. “I’m just going to find out how they’re going to take my music and feel the vibe.” At 8:50 p.m. – an additional ten minutes were granted before the originally scheduled 9 p.m. start time – Pandora’s voice-over story of jack in the boxThe “intro” of started, and J-Hope walked off stage as he had promised me the night before. (“I prepared the popping,” he said at the time, making the required sound and waving a hand from a fist to a firework.)

Photo: BIGHIT MUSIC

Dressed in oversized all-black Louis Vuitton waffle denim, a holey t-shirt, and work gloves, J-Hope swayed, wobbled, and jackknifed around the stage during raucier songs like “More.” , “Pandora’s Box”, “Base Line”, “What If” and “Arson” – which closed the first half of his set in a spitting fire. Before “Blue Side (Outro)”, his figure hung in front of a blue screen like a puppet. “You really are crazy,” he said between “Hangsang” and “POP,” both from his 2018 mixtape world of hope. All thanks to his own “meticulous and thorough” set-list design, he said on Saturday, to highlight the “new J-Hope and show my musicality” and the “old J-Hope”, where he can finally pull out “my ultimate, dancing weapon” – a feature noticeably absent from the jack in the box music videos, which instead favored stumbles and trick headbangs.

As paramedics rushed to clear festival-goers who had baked all day in the 85-degree heat, he briefly exited the stage and emerged again, this time dressed in white with blue gloves and sunglasses neon green transparencies, launching into the tropical remix of BTS’ first all-English song “Dynamite.” The back half of his 18-song set was filled with tracks ARMY was hoping for – J-Hope performed “Daydream”, “Outro: Ego”, on BTS. soul map, and “Hope World”, before pausing to sit down. “Fuck, I feel like I’m gonna die,” he said, before adding, “Are you okay? I’m fine if you are,” and he hopped back, the drums He then launched into BTS’s “Trivia: Just Dance.” Do you love yourself: answer in “Chicken Noodle Soup,” where collaborator Becky G joined as a surprise guest. (Fans were also hoping that Jimin, who flew in to see his bandmate, make an appearance.) As the 10 p.m. curfew approached, J-Hope spoke in Korean for the first time.

“This is a very meaningful moment for me,” he said in his native language. “I grew so much along the journey with the album, and seeing the audience at Lollapalooza today gave me a firm belief in myself. I thank everyone who came to see my performance. I am embarrassed to say, but I’m also proud of myself for enduring the challenges up to this point.

Afterwards, he returned to English to introduce and perform his latest song, “Future,” waved to the audience that stretched to the north steps of the park and collapsed into the distorted checkered box of where he came from. Later, as the swarm of crowds returned to the streets, J-Hope hopped on V Live (along with Jimin) as the new story-maker, laughing at the post-performance euphoria and still sweating. glued to his neck.

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