When Imagine Dragons’ lead singer, Dan Reynolds, looked out at the hundreds of fans surrounding the main stage at Lollapalooza India on Saturday night, he appeared to be holding back tears. As the crowd sang along to the Grammy award-winning band’s hit songs, Reynolds promised that Imagine Dragons would come back to India again.
This was one of the many high points of the Chicago-originated Lollapalooza music festival which made its India debut over the weekend. India is Lollapalooza’s eighth destination.
This wasn’t just the first Lollapalooza in India, but also, the biggest multi-genre music festival in Asia.. With over 60,000 attendees over the two days, of all age groups from across India, creating a secure and safe environment was clearly a priority. Staff and security were stationed across the venue, and trained in crowd management, sexual harassment prevention and discriminatory harrassment. From gender-neutral restrooms to ensuring that the massive grounds were well-lit and equipped with clear signposts, attendees were able to express themselves and enjoy the music and surroundings, without having to worry much about safety.
With art installations, a large food park for the attendees, and even a Ferris wheel, it was a music carnival of sorts where people milled about from stage to stage soaking in the music, or just sitting around and revelling in the atmosphere.
The sprawling, 50-acre Mahalakshmi Racecourse grounds housed four stages: The BudX, Walkers & Co., NEXA and the Perry x Budweiser Beats stages, which showcased 40 music acts. Several prominent Indian acts, including Prateek Kuhad, Divine, Bloodywood, Kayane, and Madboy Mink were a part of the line-up from India. Chelsea Cutler, Cigarettes after Sex and The Wombats were among the global acts that had fans excited.
On day one for many early attendees, the festival began with indie band The Yellow Dairy’s spirited performance. The indie-pop theme continued at the BudX stage with Japanese Breakfast’s debut performance in India. Lead singer and author Michelle Zauner bopped around the stage, singing hits like “Be Sweet” and “Side Tackle,” from her 2021 album “Jubilee”. Amidst all the music, her book wasn’t forgotten; when an audience member yelled that they loved her, another chimed in and said he loved her book.
As a part of a hotly-anticipated set, Canadian-Punjabi singer AP Dhillon rallied together the Lollapalooza crowds with his viral sensation, “Brown Munde,” alongside fellow rapper/songwriter Shonda Kahlon. Fans also made an enthusiastic beeline for EDM artist Zhu and rock band Greta Van Fleet among the other performances on the first day.
When Imagine Dragons, the day’s headliners took the stage for the final performance of the night, it felt surreal for several fans there who have listened to their music for nearly a decade. The group’s frontman, Reynolds, said that this was their first time performing in India, and it was evident that the wait had been long. The audience breathlessly gave Reynolds company as they sang along with every single song; it felt like a heady trip down memory lane when the group performed their hits Believer, Thunder, and Demons.
If the first day ended on a high, day two dawned early for several fans of Jackson Wang who lined up to watch him perform later that evening, from as early as 1.30 p.m.
Several fans began to take their place near the stage at the barricades, making banners and handing out photo-cards of the singer to other fans. In an electrifying set, he performed songs from his recent solo album ‘Magic Man’. With Wang currently touring the world with his Magic Man concerts, his announcement on stage that he would love to bring the tour to India was met with deafening cheers. For several fans of his who have followed his journey from his time as a member of the K-Pop group GOT7, seeing him take the stage was a dream come true.
Raveena, in a glittering dress, transfixed the audience with her dreamy, soulful songs and hypnotic dance breaks, during the interludes of her songs “Kismet” and “Secret.” Switching between Hindi and English, Raveena brought the crowd together with “Dum Maro Dum,” honouring one of her musical inspirations, Asha Bhosle. Raveena had previously sung “Dum Maro Dum” at Coachella music festival in California last year.
The second day ended with action-packed performances from Lollapalooza’s rock band headliner, The Strokes, at the BudX stage, and renowned American DJ, Diplo, at the Perry x Budweiser Beats stage.. As The Strokes played “Reptilia,” a fan-favourite, the audience broke into dance groups, spinning around and hopping along with the music. They also told the crowd that they watched Shah Rukh Khan’s latest movie, Pathaan, making the crowd go wild. Meanwhile, Diplo’s bass drops left the ground shaking and the carnival-like scene lit with purple laser beam lights.
Indian artistes also got a boost at the Nexa Stage, where artists including Nisa Shetty, Simetri, Shruti Dhasmana, Hanu Dixit, and John Oinam performed. Spearheaded by A.R. Rahman, NEXA Music is a platform curated to promote aspiring Indian musicians to showcase their talent and create original international global Standard English music.
Organisers said they were dedicated to making Lollapalooza as environmentally-friendly as possible. This was evident, as attendees were highly encouraged to bring their own water bottles, or purchase cups at the event to fill water in. With hydration stations located at practically every corner, refilling cups was simple, efficient and significantly reduced the amount of plastic waste generated.
On Monday, announcing the successful wrap up, festival producer and promoters BookMyShow said that the multi-genre festival would be back in 2024. Given the number of global and Indian musicians who were platformed in this edition, the possibilities this has opened up only means it can get bigger going forward.