This adventure was an experience that began with selling my two extra Thursday wristbands on Facebook. I meet up with the buyer at Grant Park last Wednesday, where Lollapalooza was being held. To my utter confusion, outside the entrance were fans camping out waiting for the doors to open, which wouldn’t happen until 11am the next day. What’s going on? Why were they camping so early? Or at all?? The tickets are sold out, so there’s no point in camping. But when I talked to these people, I realized what they were here for: Lana Del Rey. I couldn’t believe it, they were camping out for days just so they could race to the front of the stage at 11am when the doors opened and wait another 8 hours, missing all the dozens of other performers and Lollapalooza festivities, just to be front row for the Queen, and maybe get a selfie or give her a gift. And I thought I was a superfan. I suppose actions speak louder than words. I deeply considered just locking my bike and camping out with them, skipping work in the process, but I just couldn’t find it in me, I felt like I should have been better prepared anyway and requested off. These guys deserved it more than me.
So the next day came and I left work early, although to my horror I realized it was much
later than I originally planned; I was to leave at about noon and get there at 2pm, see a performer or two and get to the Bud Light stage where I would camp out for 5 hours or so until she came on at 8:30pm. Emergency requests, and glacial server load times put my departure at 4pm! And a freak rain system came through and showered traffic and brake lights all over the interstate. By the time I got home, changed, walked to the Blue Line and made it through Lolla security, it was about 6pm. My heart racing, and enraged at the outcome of the night, I managed to keep my calm and make my way to the Bud Light stage, which was already crowded. I slipped to the front and told myself, this was a decent view. I was maybe about 40 people back, which still actually wasn’t bad, and I began to relax and enjoy the moment a little more. Making friends with people around me and sharing Lana stories and song favorites made the time sail by.
When she finally came on, the entire crowd was ecstatic. There was a charge in the air as the shrill screams from thousands of fans cried out for her. Every sudden change or step closer to her performing sparked cheering and clapping; the gorgeous sky blue neon light display that read “del rey” came on and everyone went wild. The piece was an interesting contrast with the rather earthy and organic set, which contained trees, foliage, and in Lana tradition, a large wingback chair. Bringing the neon lighting and forest vibe together was the large twinkling star backdrop. I can’t actually remember if they twinkled, but in my rosy memory they most certainly did.
As Lizzie came out for the first time, after Byron and Blake, the crowd lost its mind. I couldn’t actually believe it was happening, and I was seeing her in such an amazing venue: in Grant Park wrapped by the Chicago skyline. I found a good spot near some avid fans, and one darling blondie who belted out every song, right along with me.
As is customary at some point in every show, Lizzie ventured off into the front row after Born to Die to reward the superfan elite, devoting several full minutes of stage time to take pictures and hug the most devoted of fans. Everyone in the audience waited patiently, glaring enviously at the large screens as enraptured mega superfans had their dreams come true before everyone’s eyes. I even saw Noah, one of the campers from the night before! He definitely deserved the selfie he got with her. For Lizzie to do this at nearly every performance, with such gratitude and willingness, shows how boundless her humility is.
Continuing her show, Lana Del Rey gave a blissfully tranquil performance of Honeymoon that felt like everyone was under the same hallucinogenic influence. The set list covered a wide range and was extremely surprising and remarkably refreshing. When she performed High by the Beach, with excerpts of the music video playing on the larger-than-life screens behind her and the crowd reciting every word, it was clear to me that this set list was frankly unpredictable. The only thing I could be sure about was the Off to the Races finale, and everything until then would just be a series of joyful surprises.
I was a bit taken aback by the backup dancers who accompanied Lizzie on stage. Who the hell are these bitches daring to share the stage with the Queen?! is one of the thoughts I shared out loud. The girl next to me agreed, the dancers threw us off a bit and were slightly distracting. Nonetheless, I grew used to them, and slowly even appreciated them being there, like wax figurines dancing carefully and gracefully off center stage.
It came at a complete shock that she sang Lolita. I love the demos that she recorded, and the song feels quite personal to me because I’ve heard such different versions of the song. The biggest treat, however, was Yayo. Lizzie performed the song almost all by herself, even donning a Gibson Flying V to strum the somber chords. Not everyone in the crowd recognized the significance and rarity of this occurrence: Lana only plays Yayo live very rarely, so it was a treat akin to witnessing Haley’s comet or winning the Powerball (well, technically the odds are not nearly the same, but for me I was just as excited). The utterly intoxicated among us didn’t appreciate the moment and chattered loudly through the intimate song, but the chatter was moderately easy to ignore.
The girl next to me was so sad that we had reached the end of her set. She was totally lost in joy, a feeling like slamming on the brakes as soon as you get on the highway.
No one wants a Lana Del Rey concert to come to an end. There’s a wave of emptiness that sets in, crashing into the cloud of slowly dissipating euphoria, like deep summer heat wafting through an open door into a crisp air-conditioned room. What do I do with myself now? What do I do with my life? What is the point of it all now? Were some questions I asked myself while slowly trudging aimlessly away from the now partially disassembled stage. I know I wasn’t the only one who shared these thoughts. Lots of us, I’m sure were already opening their phones to re-live the moment through their snapchats and make oozing emotional posts to Instagram. I’m already trying to figure out a way to camp at her next show.