Line Up for the Lineups: A Run Down of Chicago’s 2021 Music Festivals

Madi Ellis | LollapaloozaLollapalooza — as well as many of Chicago's other music festivals — have now announced their lineups for 2021.

After more than a year without live music, Chicago’s music festivals are just one of many activities returning from COVID-induced hiatuses. Here’s The Phoenix’s breakdown of some of Chicago’s biggest music festival lineups for 2021.

Lollapalooza (July 29-Aug. 1)

Courtesy of Lollapalooza

Tyler, the Creator and Post Malone will once again take the stage at this summer’s Lollapalooza along with Foo Fighters, Megan Thee Stallion and Journey.

Jack Harlow will be returning to Chicago for the first time since December 2019. Harlow opened for rappers Lil Skies and Lil Tecca at the Lyrical Lemonade Christmas show pre-COVID — but following the massive success of his single, “Whats Poppin,” and release of his debut album, “Thats What They All Say,” Harlow is one of the stand-out stars taking the Lollapalooza stage. 

Omar Apollo will arrive in the Windy City hot off of the release of his debut album “Apolonio.” Hit-song “Kamikaze” seems like it was crafted for cruising down Lake Shore Drive in the summer, sharing in the feeling of freedom that permeates the album — a fitting theme for the festival’s return after a year without live music. 

Full COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be required to enter the festival, though details on this screening process will be released in July according to the fest’s website

Tickets went on sale May 19, with four-day general admission starting at $350 excluding taxes and fees. 

Summer Smash (Aug. 20-22)

Courtesy of Summer Smash

Some of the biggest names in hip-hop will take the stage at the Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash in Douglass Park, located in the North Lawndale neighborhood. A$AP Rocky, Lil Baby and Lil Uzi Vert will each headline a day of the festival. 

Familiar names in the scene such as Waka Flocka Flame, Lil Yachty and Swae Lee are sure to draw a crowd to the park. Pooh Shiesty and Coi Leray, who collaborated on the viral song, “BIG PURR” are set to make their first appearance at the festival. 

Ohio rapper Jasiah is set to perform Sunday. The up-and-coming artist collaborated with director and Lyrical Lemonade founder Cole Bennett on the music video for his viral single, “Crisis,” raking in almost 25 million views on YouTube. 

Summer Smash hasn’t put out specific guidance on COVID-19 protocols yet, but said it’s working closely with Chicago health officials, according to its website

Three-day tickets are on sale now, starting at $275 without taxes and fees. 

Pitchfork Music Festival (Sept. 10-12)

Courtesy of Pitchfork Music Festival

Pitchfork Music Festival is where indie darlings get to shine in Chicago and the 2021 lineup reflects that — Big Thief, Phoebe Bridgers and Thundercat making up the headliners are proof. 

Pitchfork Music Festival will be Chicago’s first experience with Michigan-based Dogleg since they dropped their debut album, “Melee,” the week live music ended. The group is an explosive force to be reckoned with, a high point on the fairly mellow Friday lineup.

Joining Dogleg in playing Chicago for the first time since dropping a debut album is Bartees Strange. The artist’s premiere, “Live Forever,” has something for everyone whether they desire early-’00s alternative rock (“Mustang”) or dark, grungy rap (“Mossblerd”). 

Fresh off an NPR “Tiny Desk” performance, it’s clear Bartees Strange can fit into the more lowkey artists surrounding him — though from the album we know he can also be loud. Hopefully he feeds off of Dogleg’s energy for his Saturday performance. 

Like Lollapalooza, Pitchfork Music Festival will require attendees, staff, artists and anyone over the age of 12 to be fully vaccinated or proof of a negative PCR test within 24 hours of attending, according to their website.

Tickets are on sale now, with three-day general-admission passes starting at $195 and single-day general-admission tickets starting at $90 without taxes and fees.

Riot Fest (Sept. 17-19)

Courtesy of Riot Fest

Riot Fest took it one step further for lineup announcements, dropping two headliners — My Chemical Romance and the original members of the Misfits — for the 2022 iteration of the festival along with the 2021 lineup.

Riot Fest’s titanic headliners  — Run The Jewels, Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails — won’t be the only ones drawing crowds at the Douglass Park festival. 

Chicago’s very-own Beach Bunny will be taking on the festival with a home field advantage — the last show they played in Chicago was to a sold-out Metro (3730 N. Clark St.). Since then, the pop-rock quartet have released another extended play (EP), “Blame Game,” showing off a more aggressive side that will make their ritual walls-of-death that much more intense. 

California’s Just Friends, a bubbly, horn-backed rock group will also be hitting the stage in September fresh off the release of two EPs. It’s hard not to smile while jumping around to “Fever” (the remix or original) or “Stupid,” but it will be nearly impossible in the muddy mosh pits of Douglass Park.

The ancient interplanetary warriors who moonlight as musicians, GWAR, will also return to Chicago in September — fake blood and raunchy metal show in tow. The Phoenix sat down with the costumed ‘80s metal band at Riot Fest 2019 to talk about being immortal, Chicago and Zach Blair of the rock band Rise Against.

While Riot Fest has yet to announce a requirement for vaccinations or proof of a negative test, they have said they will remain in compliance with “local and state regulations regarding health screenings and mask mandates,” according to the fest’s website.
Three day passes are sold out but single day passes will be available next week.

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