Pictures show music festivals are back after more than a year, and attendees say they missed the chaos and crowds

A gigantic crowd of people with a circle in the middle holding another picture of a crowd close-up
A general view of the atmosphere during Lollapalooza in July (background) and a close-up (inner-circle) of a crowd at Hard Summer. Josh Brasted/FilmMagic/Getty Images, Courtesy of Audrey Boyt.
  • With more of the country opening up, music festivals are back from Los Angeles to Miami.
  • Concertgoers are enjoying weekends of music, dancing, and making friends at festivals like Lollapalooza.
  • Recent attendees told Insider that festivals feel just like they used to, and they missed connecting with strangers.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As crowds and live music ramp back up after a quiet year, days-long music festivals like Lollapalooza are making a comeback.
Flipp Dinero faces a crowd of people with a microphone in his hand.
Flipp Dinero performs during the 30th Anniversary of Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago. Josh Brasted/FilmMagic/Getty Images
The music festival Lollapalooza returned to Chicago in July for a four-day event with COVID-19 measures in place. All attendees were required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test to get in, and those who weren’t vaccinated had to wear masks the whole time, according to the festival’s website

On the third day of the festival, Lollapalooza began requiring masks in all indoor spots and recommended that everyone attending bring masks for the last two days.

More days-long music festivals are planning to return in the coming months, like Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and Outside Lands.

Lauren Leegard told Insider that she felt anxious going into Lollapalooza, her first music festival.
A person poses in front of a Lollapalooza sign with people all around her.
Leegard at Lollapalooza. Courtesy of Lauren Leegard
Lauren Leegard went to Lollapalooza — her first music festival ever — last weekend, and she told Insider she was anxious about being around so many people. 

This year, about 100,000 people went to Lollapalooza each day, NBC Chicago reported.

“There were tons of people which was absolutely insane seeing after the lockdown for such a long time,” Leegard told Insider, adding that being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 made her feel better. 

But once she settled in, she said she realized how much she missed being around complete strangers.
Two people pose in front of a stage at Lollapalooza
Leegard (left) poses for a photo in front of a stage. Courtesy of Lauren Leegard
“I met new friends and had face-to-face connections with random people even if I would never talk to them again,” Leegard said. “I loved seeing people having fun and what they were wearing and how excited they were for the same artist I was coming to see!”
Overall, Leegard said her weekend at Lollapalooza “felt like such a change from being inside all the time.”
A girl stands in the middle of a Chicago street at night with blurred people around her
Leegard after a day at the festival. Courtesy of Lauren Leegard
Leegard said her weekend of music exceeded her expectations of Lollapalooza. 
Natalie Mars told Insider that she was at Lollapalooza for the first time in July, too, and that she’s never seen so many people in one place.
A person shades her face in front of an outdoor music stage
Mars poses at Lollapalooza. Courtesy of Natalie Mars
“I enjoyed every single second of it, even if it got a little chaotic,” Natalie Mars told Insider. “I’m exhausted mentally and physically, but ready to go again next year.”

Mars said that she and her whole festival group had been fully vaccinated prior to attending Lollapalooza.

Mars recalled what she said was her best moment in the crowd at Lollapalooza. “You’d walk into these circles of women dancing, hyping each other up and singing together,” she said.
People pose for a photo in a crowd at a music festival.
Mars’ friends in the crowd. Courtesy of Natalie Mars
“It was a really uplifting experience that was all about supporting the people around you,” she added. 
Paloma Havlik said she drove from Michigan to attend Lollapalooza this year. “Being there and feeling the music literally go from my feet to my heart is a feeling like no other,” Havlik told Insider.

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“I will 100% be attending another festival in the near future,” she added. 

In California, during the same weekend of Lollapalooza, Audrey Boyt and her friends went to Los Angeles’ first large-scale music festival since the start of the pandemic.
A group of four poses on green grass with large 'A'and 'R' block letters behind them.
Boyt (second from the left) and her friends attend Hard Summer. Courtesy of Audrey Boyt
Hard Summer, the first big music festival to return to Los Angeles, took place at the NOS Event Center in San Bernardino on Saturday and Sunday, and 160,000 people showed up, the LA Times reported.

 

Hard Summer music festival didn’t require proof of vaccination, according to its website.
A stage with a DJ in front of a crowd of people.
DJ Jai Wolf performs onstage during Hard Summer music festival. Scott Dudelson/WireImage/Getty Images
Hard Summer said in a statement that the event was entirely outdoors and encouraged attendees to wear masks.

Masks were free at information booths, and there were nearly 500 places where attendees could wash or sanitize their hands, according to the same statement.

 

Boyt, who lives in the Los Angeles area, said it was her first music festival in almost two years.
Four people pose at a music festival in pink and blue lighting
Boyt poses for a picture with friends. Courtesy of Audrey Boyt
“I hate to be the person to admit that I actually really enjoyed being around people and seeing my favorite artists perform after so long,” Boyt said in an interview with Insider. “There was so much great energy cultivated inside the event center.”

Boyd said she was fully vaccinated before the festival. 

Boyt said that attending Hard Summer felt just like festivals did before the pandemic – but after nearly two years without attending one, the atmosphere felt even warmer.
A crowd of people smiling at a music festival
Boyt takes a selfie in the crowd. Courtesy of Audrey Boyt
“Everyone was so happy and vibing with each other,” Boyt said. “It’s definitely something I think we all missed.” 
On July 23, the weekend festival Rolling Loud took place in Miami, and fan Luke Fischer attended for the third time.
A huge crowd facing a stage with blue lights.
General view of crowds on day three of Rolling Loud Miami 2021. Jason Koerner/Getty Images
Rolling Loud didn’t require vaccinations or masks for the event but encouraged both, according to the festival’s website.
Fischer said he doesn’t think the pandemic altered his experience at all.

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“There were just as many people, if not more,” Fischer told Insider. “Nobody really had masks or seemed to care at all, and really when you’re at a festival like this you know what you’re putting yourself at risk for.”