The Summer Smash Festival

Douglass Park // Chicago, IL // August 20-22, 2021

From the start, Summer Smash was destined to fail. But, let’s talk about the good parts.

There are a few things that can create unbridled chaos at a music festival: lack of security, all-ages admission, intensely high temperatures, and, above all else, disorganization. Lyrical Lemonade, the production company in charge of Summer Smash, had high ambitions when bringing the hip-hop festival back to Douglass Park this year; rap icons Lil Baby, A$AP Rocky, and Lil Uzi Vert headlined the main stage over three days. Those names alone should have warranted more security and medical staff than were present.

Yung Bans at Summer Smash. Photo by Kate Scott

Let’s talk about the music. The two main stages were within a short walking distance from one another, making it easy for guests to see nearly the entire lineup for the day. Friday featured incredible performances from Teezo Touchdown and Chicago’s own Supa Bwe, and it set the bar high for the rest of the weekend. Bigger acts like Lil Skies and Lil Yachty gave fans reason to stick around through the heat of the day and put on energetic, exciting shows. The production at Summer Smash was impressive, from the sound and lighting to the pyro and CO2 for larger acts.

Lil Skies at Summer Smash. Photo by Kate Scott

I wish this festival had been better. I wanted to love it, and I think Summer Smash has the potential to come back in 2022 and blow everyone away. But, as I stood in a massively unregulated photo pit that was also being used as a place for random friends and fans of the artists to hang out, I was underwhelmed. Cole Bennett, the 25-year old videographer behind Lyrial Lemonade, had good intentions when helping to create this festival, but good intentions aren’t enough. When beer and food vendors walk off the grounds because they don’t feel safe, that’s a huge red flag. There is no ill will in this review, but it needs to be said: Summer Smash has to do better next time.