Photos by Dylan Barnedo
Since its launch as a one-day festival in 2018, Lyrical Lemonade’s Summer Smash has grown into a three-day extravaganza that can go toe-to-toe with nationally recognized institutions. Pop-rap poster boy Post Malone, whose 2021 headlining set at Lollapalooza put him just below the Foo Fighters on the lineup poster, closed out the second night of 2022’s Summer Smash. Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti, who headlined Friday and Sunday, respectively, have both reconfigured hip-hop on a global scale. Hitmakers, veterans, and underground stars filled out the schedule; Chicago phenom Polo G, whose Hall of Fame debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 last year (and who contributes to PGF Nuk’s simmering breakout single, 2021’s “Waddup”), hit the stage just before Post Malone.
I wasn’t in town for this year’s Summer Smash, and I’m not sure I would’ve gone anyway. I’ve had mixed feelings about all sorts of large-scale events since their mid-pandemic return, and I’m increasingly uncomfortable with how many for-profit fests are taking over public parks—whether the neighborhood folks who use them year-round want it or not. Summer Smash is the first of three major festivals to occupy Douglass Park this year: the EDM-inflected Heatwave debuts next month, and Riot Fest returns in September. The final day of Summer Smash fell on Juneteenth, an obvious problem for North Lawndale residents who wanted to celebrate in Douglass Park.
Summer Smash has also had a spotty track record when it comes to taking care of people inside the festival grounds. I waited two hours for food during the first Summer Smash, for instance—though to be fair, in year two, organizers did a decent job handling the safety and logistical nightmare wrought by the storms that put Sunday’s music on hold for a few hours. Last year, a chaotic stampede led to festival bar staff walking out in the middle of the event.
Photographer Dylan Barnedo was on the grounds for the Reader on Friday and Saturday, and he caught some of the biggest, most magnetic acts at Summer Smash. Some of my favorite artists are decidedly less famous, and they hit the stage within the first few hours—including DCG Brothers and Dreamer Isioma. But it’s pretty much impossible to see everything, and Barnedo’s photos capture the electricity that drove tens of thousands of fans to Douglass Park. —Leor Galil