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With Lollapalooza, Mumbai set for a swirl of culture, sound, and art

Global music festival that started 32 years ago all set to make its debut in India next weekend with close to 40 artistes and four stages

Naini Thaker
Published: Jan 21, 2023 08:02:35 AM IST
Updated: Jan 21, 2023 03:01:28 PM IST

With Lollapalooza, Mumbai set for a swirl of culture, sound, and artA showman manoeuvre an oversized figure in the form of a gorilla through the crowd at the Lollapalooza Festival in the Berlin Olympic Park; Photo by Gregor Fischer/picture alliance via Getty Images

“It started out as a waking dream,” says Perry Farrell who came up with the idea of global music festival Lollapalooza, when their band Jane's Addiction was almost at a breaking point. “William Morris [the agency representing the band] came to me with the idea of doing one more big tour. They said you can do anything you want,” adds the artist and founder of Lollapalooza. So the festival started as a multi-city venue for the band’s farewell tour in 1991. Thirty-two years later, the festival is one of the largest festivals the world over, in the leagues of the likes of Coachella and Tomorrowland. 

This year, for the first time ever, the global festival comes to India—in Mumbai—making it only the eighth city in the world where the festival takes place and the only Lollapalooza in Asia. The India edition is being produced by Farrell, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, C3 Presents and BookMyShow. The festival will feature close to 40 artistes—global and Indian—across four stages, on January 28 and 29, with close to 35,000 people attending per day. 

The beginnings of Lollapalooza 

For starters, the most fascinating thing about the festival is the name itself. “Lollapalooza the word has a description that I first read in a dictionary—you know the books that used to be on everyone's shelves before we searched online or on our phones,” says Farrell. “When I saw it there, I thought the description was perfect. It said something and someone that is wonderful or impressive. The second definition was a giant swirling lollipop. I really liked that because giant swirled lollipops are a great symbol for what we are doing in that we are swirling culture, sound, and art into one experience.” 

Though the festival saw quite a few ups and downs initially, since 2005 the festival has only grown—starting from a two-day format to a four-day festival globally. For Farrell, the goal is to start a dialogue among people with music as the common language and for the festival to be a vehicle for bringing people together. 

In the early days, Lollapalooza would travel to 28 states across the United States. Eventually, they settled on making Grant Park in Chicago as the annual festival’s home base. “There is something about the force of a caravan of musicians and artistes travelling around the country, the planet!” says Farrell. “When we come to a new place, we want to know what they are talking about, what their culture is, what is important to them. It is a way to build a family of artistes and musicians and promoters whose business is celebration.” 

The journey for Lollapalooza India started when Charlie Walker, partner, C3 Presents, first visited India during the U2 concert. Ashish Hemrajani, founder and CEO of BookMyShow recalls, “We spoke about how we would treat this festival differently and how we could add an Indian flavour to the festival—colliding the west and east to create something magical.” 

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What sets it apart 

Over the past few years, the number of music festivals in India has only grown, as the audience is looking for more music experiences. So, will this be just like the other music festivals? “Most definitely not,” says Hemrajani. “Right now, it looks like just another festival, which is international and at a larger scale. But you have to attend it to know how different it is, in terms of the artiste line-up—a 60 percent to 40 percent split between global and Indian artists—the food curation, health and safety standards and a lot more.” The response, claims BookMyShow, has been phenomenal—the early bird and Phase one tickets were sold out in the first 36 hours. 

Ambika Nayak aka Kayan who will be performing at Lolla, has been preparing for her performance for a couple of months now—from her outfit to the dance. She says, “This is the first time that we are experiencing a festival in India that is so huge in terms of size and people. To also listen to some acts that have a very different kind of scale of production. It’s always exciting to learn from that.” 

There are close too 60+ food options available at the food park, a majority of which are highly localised to Mumbai, “ranging all the way from the Haji Ali Juice Centre, to the best vada pavs available in Mumbai, Tibbs Frankie and biscuits from Pune’s Kayani Bakery,” adds Hemrajani. Additionally, sustainability and inclusivity are key to Lollapalooza India. “For transport there will be electric rickshaws and electric bikes for crew members to move around. There will also be the iconic Lollapalooza ferris wheel at the festival and a lot more,” says Hemrajani. 

BookASmile, the charity initiative of BookMyShow has collaborated with the Aravani Art Project, an art collective of people from the transgender community along with Mumbai-based artist Suparna Jashnani to bring to life The Wall Of Inclusivity in Expression at Lollapalooza India. Also, the festival is working with partner organisations such as 6 Degrees to make the festival a safe space for individuals across the LGBTQIA+ community. There will also be sign language interpreters at both the main stages, and for headlining acts, especially for the hearing impaired. For the visually impaired, there are ramps so they can come to the front and listen to music and the entire festival has ramps for wheelchair access. “We want the festival to be a Zero Waste festival—in that there will be recyclable cutlery and all the food will go to a food bank so there is no wasting food either,” explains Hemrajani. 

Outside of food and music, the festival promises to be an “experience like never before”, with engagement activities with various brand partners, including Bumble, NEXA, Levi’s, Budweiser and many more. Budweiser Beats Energy Drink is one of the co-presenting sponsors of the festival and two of the main stages—BudX Stage and the Beats Stage—will also see some of the biggest music performances. “Our deep-rooted connection to music and creative expression led us to partner with Lollapalooza, the global music festival that shares similar values. Our stages will have iconic artistes perform such as Imagine Dragons, AP Dhillon, The Yellow Diary among others as well as an immersive production experience for fans,” says Vineet Sharma, vice president- marketing, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Levi's, too, is known for its undeniable presence within the music industry on and off the stage. "As a brand, we have always believed that music can be a galvanizing force with the power to connect people across all barriers," says Amisha Jain, senior vice president & managing director of SAMEA, Levi Strauss & Co. When Lollapalooza India announced its inaugural edition, adds Jain, "an association with the festival seemed like a natural extension to us. This is another step towards connecting with a new generation of Levi’s fans. With this association, the brand aims to help create memorable experiences and be present in the lives of its consumers at moments when they are their true selves.”

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With Lollapalooza, Mumbai set for a swirl of culture, sound, and artDan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons performs at Hippodrome de Longchamp, for Lollapalooza Paris in July 2022; Photo by David Wolff-Patrick/Getty Images

A diverse line-up 

The core objective in curating the artiste line-up was to open up the audience’s music journey and experiences. “At every international Lollapalooza, our goal is to build a line-up that includes a combination of international artistes as well as local and regional talent to share the stage. That combination is part of the ethos of Lollapalooza – music for all people from all places,” says Charlie Walker, partner, C3 Presents. He adds, “There is a dynamic local and regional music scene within India itself. Bringing Lollapalooza to India will serve as an opportunity to expose the local scene to a broader audience and be a vehicle to expose regional artists to the international music community.” 

The split of artistes is such that there are bands and artistes that people recognise, but also some new musicians that one might have never heard of. For instance, artistes like Jackson Wang, who is a K-pop sensation or The Strokes, which won a Grammy award for the Best Rock Album of the year in 2021 are names that only a handful of the Indian audience would be familiar with. Additionally, there are indie artists including Prateek Kuhad, AP Dhillon, Kayan, Maalavika Manoj and many more performing at the festival too. “We’ve got some serious talent in this country, that needs a global stage. 

Lollapalooza is the perfect opportunity,” says Hemrajani. “When you look at the Berlin or Paris edition of the event, you find some great German and French artistes performing. With Indian artistes, we hope that some of our talent gets picked up to perform at other global stages too.” 

Maalavika Manoj is one of the younger artistes performing at the festival—probably the biggest set-up she’s ever performed at. She says, “I’m most excited to be playing against the backdrop of downtown Mumbai with the skyscrapers around. Usually, festivals happen a in large spaces outside cities but this one is smack in the heart of the city so it’s going to be pretty unique.” 

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Setting the stage 

The infrastructure in India continues to be a massive issue in putting together festivals. It has taken approximately three years of preparation to bring together the festival right in the centre of Mumbai. When comparing Mumbai to many other cities globally, such festivals are part of the culture—the sound, equipment, trailer parks and the ancillary infrastructure that comes along with a music festival. “India is still in its growth phase,” says Hemrajani. “The audience has really evolved, they want an experience, so the market readiness is no longer a challenge. It is the infrastructure, but we’ve been working with respective government bodies to ensure people have a great time.” 

This year’s festival is being looked at as an investment. The organisers have cleared up about 50-60 acres of debris-filled land at the venue—Mahalakshmi Racecourse, which hasn’t been used in the last 20 years. Hemrajani claims it has taken them over 60 days and close to 30 trucks to clear the debris and flatten out that portion of land. “We’ve made a massive investment in this festival, to ensure people have an unparalleled experience.” BookMyShow didn’t reveal the exact amount spent. The majority of sales have come in from Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, Hyderabad and Chennai. Despite challenges, Hemrajani is confident that once people attend the first edition of the festival, “the word of mouth will spread, and even more people are expected in future editions of the festival”. 

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