Exhausted from post-Lollapalooza activities and ultimately feeling a swirling combination of sleep deprivation, dehydration and a few too many complimentary ciders at Boiler Room than I’d like to admit, I was in no condition to attend Lollapalooza day 2. Frankly, I didn’t even expect to go to day 2, because I just planned to go to see Lana Del Rey on Thursday and be happy. But after arriving late and missing out on 85% of the day, I wanted more. Even during my rushed walk from the entrance straight to the Bud Light stage on Thursday, I caught glimpses of fest goers having a blast, and enjoying ice cream and taking group selfies and dancing in bubbles. I silently decided I would have to return for Saturday.
When Saturday came and I checked my text messages, I realized a miracle had occurred: by the grace of the universe, I had some kind of immense bolus of karma delivered to me all at once in the form of a 4-day wristband given to me last-minute by a friend from work for the price of…. on the house! I will not go into the details of how the wristband was modified in order for me to use it, that will be known only to my snapchat followers and close friends who I babbled to in a rare moment of guiltless self-admiration.
Arriving to Lolla much earlier than I did on Thursday proved for a far different experience, and it helped not being saddled with the anxiety and frustration of being late to a stage. The amount of people in Grant Park on Saturday was staggering. Pouring in through the entrance gates were loads of bubbly, eager young people wearing Vans high tops, glitter and Camelbacks. By about 2pm, I waded through the crowd and met up with some friends to see the first set, Potty Mouth. They did a fantastic job, as usual, and kept their honest and fun nature to them; at one point there was a spontaneous crowd clap that one of the fans started from the front row, lead vocalist Abby happily told the crowd that this was her first time participating in a crowd hand clap. They’re a fun and talented group.
We left to go check out some other activities and other artists. Some interesting and fun things to do at Lolla included:
- Tye Dye arm coloring
- Dance underneath a novelty-sized beer mug bubble station
- Take pictures inside a bathtub decorated by Bacardi
- Take pictures on top of a stockpile of loudspeakers decorated by Bacardi
- Line up in front of a variety of Lollapalooza props for pictures
- Yard games for kids
There was even a 21+ only cocktail area, which kind of felt like a grassy, outdoor opium den where exhausted adults retreated to drink popsicle-flavored Jack Daniels drinks and doze off quietly in the sun. Walking through the closed off streets of Grant Park was pretty surreal: the intersections, normally clogged to the brim with relentless traffic were now clogged with young humans and vendor stands selling food and beer. It was definitely an extravagant affair, crisp 30ft HD screens were scattered around the park showing live feeds of the performances. I was wildly impressed by the stunning camera and screen quality by the Bud Light and Samsung stages, which were almost cinematic in quality and perfectly synced with the live action, truly a great feat of industrial-strength A/V processing.
There were plenty of intoxicated youth all around, though unlike some of the more hardcore music festivals (i.e. Ultra, EDC Vegas, Coachella) very few people appeared to be under the influence of anything more than booze and the green. Interestingly, arrests this year were actually down from last year, even with the additional 4th day. The crowds slowly gained in size as the night went on, until the entire Samsung area was filled with people.
Always a treat to see, these feisty yet humble girls have a refreshing retro-punk feel that makes me want to both grab my surfboard and start a mosh pit.
True bluegrass feel, with plenty of heartfelt ballads, made me want to wave a lighter in commiseration, even in the early afternoon sun.
Quirky and endearingly unrefined, Grimes’s performance was a lot of fun and very satisfying to see for the first time
Very energetic show; a true slice of rave, with impressive lighting and sound quality
Incredibly precise and authentic sound, the talented duo played their hits using live percussion kits while standing in floating galactic-looking captain’s pods.
As the night came to a close, I realized a greater appreciation for the gathering of friends and music lovers at this annual event. While some have complained that Lollapalooza has become more “commercialized” in recent years as its popularity grows, I don’t mind it. So what if there are more major sponsors and advertising booths thirstily giving out free branded swag? The spirit of the crowd is still the same: young people gathering together for perhaps their first music festival, cradled by the vast Chicago skyline, free from the tethers of parents and order.
It can be seen in the tempered chaos that permeates through the air and while not dangerous, it’s an alluring and intoxicating energy that misses almost no one. Even the mosh pit formed during the SNAILS set (Sunday) was chaotic and frenzied, but when someone dropped their phone, people stopped to search, or when someone fell, arms reached down to pull them up. At Ellie Goulding, (Also Sunday) a girl was visibly and very prominently under the influence of something hallucinogenic, and while she appeared to be having a good time, rather loudly, fans around her were quite concerned. Shortly after she appeared, a young guy told her friends they should go home and politely showed them the way out. If this were any other festival, there would have been heckling and arguing, but here, founded on general concern for health and safety, the situation was resolved peacefully. Several other similar circumstances like this came up throughout the weekend, and I was amazed each time.
The generous fans that music festivals like these attracts is a major reason why they continue to exist. I wouldn’t have even been able to go if it weren’t for the boundless generosity of one of my friends. I am beyond grateful for being able to go to this year’s Lollapalooza and let’s hope next year’s is just as rad in it’s own special way.