Last week, our friends at Chicago Reader asked a question. Can Vic Mensa radicalize Lollapalooza? We’re not quite sure his message reached everyone, but during Mensa’s headlining set at the Pepsi stage at Lollapalooza this past Saturday night, he tried his damnedest to.
Surrounded by a large crew of actors dressed in riot police gear, Vic Mensa was a firebrand of activism. During the single “16 Shots,” the actors violently burst on stage and forcefully grabbed Mensa before pretending to shoot him as the sound of gunshots rang out. Mensa then laid motionless on the ground to an audience of hundreds of people while a somber narrator described the video footage of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald in vivid graphic detail.
Throughout his set, Mensa refused to relent with his advocacy. He performed “Shades of Blue,” a song about the water crisis in Flint that harshly criticizes a government that allowed people to be poisoned in the name of profit. Lucy Stoole, a local drag artist and one of the hosts of Smart Bar’s weekly Queen! party, appeared on stage to perform a mock wedding as two of the male actors passionately kissed during “Free Love,” a rousing call to arms for LGBT rights. At some point in between songs, Mensa stopped to address the audience, telling them that Lollapalooza isn’t very “accessible for people where I’m from,” on the city’s south and west sides.
It wasn’t all politics though. Singles like “Danger” felt soaring while “U Mad” felt like a colossal warhammer that shook the audience into an absolute frenzy.
So, the question remains. Can Vic Mensa radicalize a commercialized Lollapalooza? We’re not sure if that’s possible, but we’re sure glad that he tried.