COVID Cancellations Bring New Talent From Humble Beginnings To Center Stage at Lollapalooza

Miranda McDonald, LollapaloozaDayglow performs on the Lollapalooza Lake Shore stage July 29.

“Everything has happened for me so quickly.”

Sloan Struble, the mind and voice behind Dayglow — an alt-pop quintet — describes what many musicians showing up to Chicago’s biggest music festival have experienced: entering quarantine with small, loyal fanbases, and coming out of it to perform to crowds of hundreds and thousands. 

While the global pandemic has created a situation unique to current rising artists, it certainly doesn’t seem unique to them because they’re braving it all together. 

Miranda McDonald, Lollapalooza Sloan Struble, the lead singer of Dayglow, jumps around the stage with a guitar during Dayglow’s July 29 performance at Lollapalooza.

The tired term “new normal” is a reality for artists who rose to fame in the last year. Struble’s album release cycle was interrupted by the pandemic, meaning the first album he was set to release was constrained to a digital space.

“I don’t have context for things,” Struble said. “Releasing an album with fans but not having an immediate tour was really weird but to me it was normal because I don’t have context.”

Trevor Daniel, another artist on Lollapalooza’s lineup, also didn’t get a chance to perform his album — his debut called “Nicotine” — for a live audience before the first wave of shutdowns in the United States. 

Unfortunately, he said he had created it with live shows in mind — even going so far as to tailor the bass on the album to play better to a crowd. 

“That whole [album], all I was thinking about was live shows.” Daniel said. “I was just excited, we had a tour booked.”

Daniel had been set to open for pop star Camila Cabello in late summer 2020 when it was postponed as the virus spread — making his Saturday performance his first in front of a crowd of more than 500 people, a number easily dwarfed by the crowd cheering as he left the Bud Light Seltzer stage.

Ashley Osborn, Lollapalooza Trevor Daniel performs on the Lollapalooza Bud Light Seltzer stage July 31.

However, there was a small silver lining to being sidelined for so long — Daniel said his band was “in sync” due to them being able to put so much time and energy into rehearsals.

One of New York City’s youngest breakout bands, LAUNDRY DAY, experienced the “new normal” for bands as well. The group also got a spot at Lollapalooza — 12:50 p.m. on the GrubHub stage to be exact — a big change from the last time they visited Chicago and graced the stage of Subterranean (2011 W. North Ave.) which has a capacity of 247. 

“The last time we played Chicago, we were high schoolers,” Jude Ciulla, one of the band’s vocalists, said. “We went out on the weekend and we probably had school two days after that show.”

Zack Miller, The Phoenix Laundy Day performs on the Lollapalooza GrubHub stage July 31.

The absurdity of this shift wasn’t lost on them either. The group’s drummer, Etai Abramovich, said they’d had something more “low-key” in mind for their return, but couldn’t refuse a spot at the festival. 

“We haven’t played a single show in about a year and a half,” Abramovich said. “And for this to be our first one is quite crazy.”

Many of the other artists at Lollapalooza also had been offstage for quite some time, only returning during the pandemic for digital sets — but that didn’t mean there weren’t milestones involved. 

Dayglow’s late-night television debut was made during the pandemic, although they didn’t head to New York or Los Angeles for their late-night debut — instead recording it at a studio in his native Texas — causing Struble to feel a bit of a disconnect.

“We didn’t get to travel to go to the late-night things,” Struble said. “It just felt like someone made an edit. It was very distant.”

This, like the rest, wasn’t a unique experience. 

Daniel also made appearances on late-night shows and put out digital performances otherwise, though he had a different gripe with it — getting too into his own head while recording. 

“When there’s no crowd, it gives you a lot more to think about,” Daniel said. “Like, ‘Oh fuck, did I mess that note up?’ Whereas at a live show, as long as you don’t sound horrible, you don’t really have time to overthink it.”

Daniel’s performance at the music festival only served to prove his point. A venture into the crowd via a fenced off area connected to the stage allowed him to get close with fans during his set.

Singer and guitarist of Chicago-based band Rookie, Max Loebman, said he also was excited to be back in front of an audience, but for different reasons. 

Not only is this a dream come true for Loebman — who attended the festival at age 14 and told himself that he’d take one of the stages someday — but it’s also an opportunity to develop the band’s next steps musically. The group is in the midst of creating their next album, and he said their music is often formed in a live setting. 

“That’s how those songs evolve is through playing them live,” Loebman said. “To me, the new songs take shape on the stage.”

With a 14-date tour booked for September, it’s only a matter of time before their newest songs have the finishing touches they need to make them live hits. 

While live concerts and music festivals creep back in, artists remain unsure when a true “return to normal” will occur, if ever. As Struble mentioned, that’s a situation they have “no context” for.

“It’s so weird that so many things have been happening and I’m sitting on the same couch,” Struble said. 

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