General admissions fans like Odesza and the Red Hot Chili Peppers hoping to get close to Lollapalooza’s headlines may find themselves fenced off and far behind this year.
Organizers have added a VIP-only section that now takes up a large standing room space to one side of the T-Mobile stage.
As rapper Skizzy Mars performed early Friday afternoon, hundreds of mainstream fans gathered to the right of the stage’s sound mixing booth.
However, only 40 people watched the show in the new secure VIP area – few enough for each fan to find a seat on the railing a few meters from the performer. There was about 20 yards of space behind them.
Madiely Torres was sitting in the little shade behind the barrier that blocked the nearly empty VIP section. She said she’s getting as close as possible to the Kendrick Lamar set, which is scheduled to start in eight hours.
“I did not like. I wanted to be right there,” Torres said for the VIP section.
Full festival tickets for the special access section cost $1,600—a big jump from the general four-day admission price of $385.
The festival launched new front-stage access as a highlight of the VIP experience. Other perks include lounge areas, golf cart services, and free shine and hair treatments.
The added section sits behind the small strip of private space reserved for Platinum ticket holders who have to pay $4,350 for their four-day senior seat directly in front of the stage.
The festival organizers did not respond to questions about why the VIP section was added. The festival also increased its daily capacity from 100,000 to 115,000 for the first time this year.
Torres, 18, said she was surprised at how far behind she found herself after hitting the stage early. Lamar fan said he hopes to be closer to the artist than he was to his show in Milwaukee last year.
Still, a first-time take on Lollapalooza shrugged when asked if the new episode was a fair addition.
“Well, I guess if you pay for it,” he said. “But that’s too much,” he pointed to the empty space.
The new episode worked better for Lindzee McKatims. Last year, the VIP ticket only got him into a few special places.
“Now the viewing area is significantly better,” he said.
New episode not filled for what was otherwise crammed Thursday night headlining set from Billie EilishSaid the 33-year-old from Seattle.
“There were definitely some open spaces. And I think that’s frustrating for people waiting in GA,” he said.
He remembered how cramped the crowd had been when he stood in the general reception area next to the now-fenced section last year. “There’s room to move now,” McKatims said.
“I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “It’s nice to have a little more space.”
Later in the day, Aakasha Shah waited behind the T-Mobile VIP section to watch producer Fred Again’s set, the last set before Lamar. There was a crowd around him, but there was almost no one in the doorway at the front.
“It’s much bigger than I remember it was in the past,” he said of the gated space. “This is huge.”
The 29-year-old South Loop resident said the new episode won’t prevent him from returning to Lollapalooza for the 11th time next year. But it was a little frustrating, she said.
“I think that’s huge. I think maybe half as much will be enough,” he said. “GA is getting a lot from its fans.”
Cory Bockenhauer walked from Sabrina Carpenter’s set to the VIP section to look for air conditioning. The Huntley resident scrambled high-quality tickets to celebrate his 30th birthday on Saturday.
When she arrived Thursday, she noticed the bonuses and said she had to skip the long queue to get into Grant Park. She had a front and center spot to watch Karol G in the VIP section of the Bud Light stage.
“I enjoyed being able to go front of the stage,” he said. “I think it’s worth it.”