So, Lollapalooza Berlin made sure to offer them a broad programme that was spread out over the several stages on the festival site as well as the additional enter/-infotainment activities connected to Fashionpalooza, Grüner Kiez, Kidzapalooza or the Lolla Fun Fair. If your week hadn’t been fun already, it was time to spice things up and get into the festival mood immediately once you passed the gates and stumbled across the festival site. Well, depending what you were actually looking for, of course, and the very individual idea of fun we all have.
Let Me Entertain You …
Whereas festivals used to be all about music back in the day, putting on a festival in 2019 means that organizers are facing the challenge of pleasing a whole new generation that seems to have very little to do with what used to be the essence of an audience at a music festival. It is no longer enough to just provide music in the old fashioned way and bring people together through their mutual love for music. Festivals need to step up their game quite a bit to increase people’s interest in spending money for a live music event, even if the live music sector is doing fairly well compared to the actual sales of music today. Most of all, it has got to be exciting. Not only for a bit, but if possible, for two full days in a row.
If you have surpassed your late 20s or early 30s, it’s unlikely that you end up getting that sheer excitement from all that glitter or space for self-exploration (or shall we say: self-presentation?) that had Lollapalooza Berlin pretty much in control once again this year. The noticeable young audience that makes up a huge amount of the crowd was fully in their element striking a pose whenever possible which basically meant there was no limit to posing at all.
If the festival site didn’t provide you with the most picturesque background or level of beauty – whether it was the actual Olympic Stadium or the big Ferris wheel with blinking lights – there was still the Fashionpalooza playground to explore. It wouldn’t be a surprise if things like the Spiegelwald (forest of mirrors) ended up being the bigger attraction for some visitors than some of the acts they weren’t allowed to take selfies with.
Wandering across the far spread out festival site offered the same kind of realizations over two days – if you didn’t catch a moment on a selfie, it didn’t happen. And most of all, it didn’t have any value. Whatever happened to enjoying festivals with your best friends and an endless agenda of checking out exciting bands?
Lollapalooza Berlin 2019 felt more like the version where music was in secondary place and the individual was a lot more important, at least if it held up a mobile phone and spotted something worth capturing.
Whatever it means getting into the zone for all the kids these days, it most certainly felt like getting into the danger zone on numerous occasions with everyone being so busy taking selfies or putting glitter into each other’s faces.
The future is…?
Luckily, the good and very much needed impulses were there somewhere in between with the Grüner Kiez promoting a sustainable lifestyle through a few panels being held by great organizations like WWF, Sea Shepard, Save The Children or Fridays For Future. You sometimes wonder what is the most ideal way to drag kids away from the make up counter or their mobile phones for a few minutes and it’s hard to say how big the actual impact of Grüner Kiez was this year, but the future will determine if consumerism keeps being more important than a conversation about sustainability.
The organizers of Lollapalooza Berlin are better equipped to measure the success in the years to come, but at least an effort was made and a few impulses were given and let’s hope caring for our environment (and ultimately ourselves in this world) will be met with the same excitement as a bunch of mirrors on display that encourage you to look pretty on the surface and make you fall into the same old trap of self-display instead of just accepting who you are. Hopefully, it’s still not too late for some common sense though.
Tears of joy
Much like the general entertainment programme of Lollapalooza Berlin 2019, the actual musical programme offered a bit of everything for everyone. Once again, an effort was made to get some sort of gender equality going on looking at the line up. However, putting Billie Eilish on in the late afternoon seemed like a weird move considering the fact that she probably drew one of the biggest and most dedicated crowds at this year’s shows. Fortunately, the audience didn’t seem to mind that one bit. If you didn’t shed a tear being emotionally all over the place and happy singing along Billie Eilish’s songs, you certainly were by looking at her highly dedicated fanbase going nuts for her all throughout the set.
Young girls holding each other in their arms, comforting each other while knowing all the lyrics by heart and boys being not afraid to get emotional, too. It was a truly heartfelt sight that brought back some hope in regard to young music fans totally soaking up their musical heroes’ words. The best part about it was – it was a young heroine on stage this time, not only blessed with lot’s of talent, but also a remarkable attitude. Plus, two sprained ankles and still no signs of slowing down.
Speaking of strong female figures being present at Lollapalooza Berlin, another name quickly comes to mind: Courtney Barnett. The Australian rock musician who put out her much acclaimed album Tell Me How You Really Feel last year faced the ungrateful task of playing on the Alternative Stage just after sets from Billie Eilish and Eurotrash icons Scooter which probably explained the small crowd, but Courtney Barnett didn’t seem to care much putting on an intense set while making sure her last European show this year went off with a bang.
Looking at the overall line up of the festival, it’s almost a surprise more guitar driven acts made it onto the bill at all. With a few exceptions like Courtney Barnett, Kings of Leon or Hozier to give a shout out to some bigger names – as the mainly newer talents were preferably booked onto the Wine Garden Stage, a cosy little stage that almost felt like a hidden space for everyone being fed up with all the usual candidates occupying the main stages. Everyone unlikely of attracting the target group was pushed to a very early slot like serpentwithfeet or was forced to play almost out of sight from the bigger crowds as it seemed.
Especially artists like serpentwithfeet experimenting with electro, gospel and soul music or Chinese Hip Hop group Higher Brothers would have been an excellent choice to really show some diversity on the bigger stages. The latter clearly proved that even language barriers didn’t matter as long as you can engage with the audience on a musical and emotional level.
A pretty distinct emotional connection could also be felt throughout Hozier’s set who managed to get the crowd’s attention without any doubt. Backed by an equally talented group of musicians, Hozier effortlessly demonstrated not only his vocal abilities, but also his guitar playing skills in broad sunlight all while avoiding unnecessary interactions with the audience putting the focus on the songs instead and letting the music speak for itself. If that wasn’t enough, he threw in a brilliant rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Living For the City which he nailed perfectly to say the least.
While Hozier was a good example of fine craftsmanship in regard to songwriting, you really got to ask yourself what values and talents acts like Bausa or UFO361 bring to the the table that could be of any use. Sure, the musical style is a matter of taste as it is so often, but the actual content of their work that is so sloppily and awfully conveyed with the help of autotune rap – that’s a whole new level of blandness that is difficult to process, especially because it is so willingly presented to an audience as part of a prestigious festival like Lollapalooza, but also – scarily enough – because there is a committed crowd actually there in front of the stage to celebrate this mentally and musically mediocre output.
Plus, how do you want to spread the message of body positivity and diversity as festival organizers, on the one hand, by curating informative panels on these topics and, on the other hand, you have acts like Bausa playing on the Alternative Stage (!) who repeatedly comes across as misogynist in his lyrics and videos? Pardon me, but if that is the idea of putting together a diverse line up, it’s a very unhealthy move. Having him playing the same stage as the likes of Courtney Barnett or Princess Nokia is simply a disgrace. Suggestions for a panel about respect and tolerance for next year are open… now.
Then again, seeing German rock ruffians Kraftklub playing on the main stage at the same time and getting everyone on their feet with their politically driven and positive messages and attitude makes you wonder in which parallel universe you are in where both acts can exist at the same festival only a few minutes on foot apart from each other. If the same kind of misogynist, macho behaviour like from Bausa is still welcomed into festivals like Lollapalooza in 2019, I’m afraid we still have a very, very long way to go in the name of respect and gender equality.
On the bright side, hosting a festival on the same festival site again does prove to be helpful in terms of getting rid of some of the problems that were caused last year, for example the issue of actually getting into the Olympic Stadium to enjoy some of the EDM acts there. With only one major entrance last year, frustration, long waiting periods and a bunch of angry people were kept much happier this year with the stadium having multiple gates open which made the whole experience of checking out the numerous DJ sets much easier. However, the overall volume level at shows caused many raised eyebrows. Despite being aware of the noise restrictions, sets from the likes of Billie Eilish still felt extremely quiet.
Kings of Leon probably wouldn’t have complained about a slight increase of the volume either. Playing their only German show this year, the Nashville rock band didn’t tease any new songs during their set, but were clearly in good form to treat their fans to a 24-song-setlist that reminded us again why having some decent guitar music in our lives (and at Lollapalooza) is a good idea.
If you don’t overdo it, a bit of glitter and the occasional photo is fine, too. Just remember kids, memories are made while you are in the present and actually experiencing a particularly joyful moment – and you don’t get to do that very much when your attention span only lasts for a split second and the memory you have only comes in the form of an edited photo.
Embrace your friends, feel the beat of the music in your guts and be present. Perhaps at another round of Lollapalooza Berlin 2020.