If Lollapalooza were a relationship, it would be a tumultuous one. The kind that is so good and passionate, but it’s ultimately just too crazy to last longer than a fling. We’ve all had one: the kind that stings a little, but keeps you longing for more.
The three-day music festival takes place the first weekend in August in Chicago’s Grant Park. The beautiful location, which is home to the famous Buckingham water fountain and over looks the city’s amazing skyline, quickly becomes filled with seas of music lovers, many too drunk and/or high to remember why exactly lolla is a love/hate relationship.
I say hate, but really I mean heartache. No one hates lollapalooza, you just hate that it doesn’t love you the way you love it.
It all starts early in the year when ticket sales are first announced. If you are not one of the lucky ones and able to purchase the moment they go on sale, you are out of luck. Each year the tickets sell out in record time, leaving the unlucky masses to the fate of ticket brokers, forced to sell their souls or pay astronomical fees to rock.
The ticket situation wouldn’t be a situation at all, if it weren’t for the intense love people have for Lollapalooza. Each year you wait for the rumors to start, dreams run through your head, imagining an amazing line up, full of headliners you love and small, up in coming bands you love to pretend to know about. And this year, two of the headliners alone had me lusting for the almighty three-day wristband: Nine Inch Nails and The Cure.
Even though concerts started at noon, I arrived each day around 4pm. I figured, and have learned from experience, early to start means exhaustion and being wasted off your ass before the headliners take the stage. Leaving you to piece together your day and night by matching the random scrapes and bruises your body now wears as war stripes, to those in the pictures your phone stores as evidence and memories of your drunken experiences.
Because of this, I figured 4pm seemed like a solid time and here is what I experienced:
Friday: I entered the park under blue skies, but the ground was caked with mud due to heavy downpours that soaked the park hours earlier. I quickly noticed all the muddied arms and legs proudly adorned by many concertgoers, and hoped I too wouldn’t become mud soaked. My fate was uncertain.
NIN played at 8pm and this was my motive for the day, if not the whole weekend. Arriving at 4pm, I sent texts to my friends to see their whereabouts only to have all the texts fail to go through. Even though you expect the lack of cell phone reception due to hundreds of thousands of people, it is still irritating as hell.
Figuring I’d just float around solo until I found a friend, I caught part of Band Of Horses’ solid, but too melodic for what I currently needed performance before heading to Imagine Dragons all the way on the opposite end of the park to the Lakeshore stage. I quickly remembered that I hate this side of the concert; everyone herds like cattle down a hill to a giant area of cluster and confusion that is shared with two gigantic stages. There are too many people and not enough space. And right after the band took the stage their power failed, and I bolted back to my preferred stages and met a new group of friends to catch Thievery Corporation.
The group’s energy was electric; it’s the type of music you want to dance to, with or without several shots of fireball whiskey. I had the latter, resulting in a hazy remembrance for rest of the evening. After Thievery Corporation, my friend and I caught Queens of the Stone Age; my hopes for a Dave Grohl special appearance were quickly crushed when their regular drummer took the stage. After QOTSA’s amazing set, my friend and I hung out with the rave kids at Perry’s, the stage that houses the electronic dance music.
Then it was finally time for NIN. The moment I had been waiting years for. From what I remember, it was magnificent. I made the same mistake I made at lolla ’11 for Foo Fighters, too drunk to remember the full set. Fortunately, I knew I could catch NIN the following weekend at Outside Lands in SF, but still, I kick myself for my stupidity.
I may not remember it all, but thanks to my trusty iPhone, I was able to piece together my evening and provide myself with proof that I did in fact have an amazing, muddy Friday.
Saturday: A difficult morning as Friday chewed me up and spit me out, had its way with me and left me nothing but an empty shell of the awesome self I surely thought I was the night before. I felt like death. Fortunately, my roommate had a ticket for Saturday and wasn’t going to let my hangover deter our excellent adventures. After some OJ, a shower, and a mimosa, I was feeling slightly more alive. This was my roommates first lolla experience, so we went knowing we would have to collaborate on our plan of action, her main objective was to catch The Lumineers, my objective was to not throw up and catch Foals, Postal Service, and serve as my friends tour guide.
We mastered it all, perfectly. Foals were killer and if you have read any of my previous stuff, you know I am a big fan! Their energy was outstanding, playing songs off their latest three albums, they even crowd surfed while jamming. Definitely a band to see on tour should you get a chance.
After rocking our faces off to Foals, we made our way to the opposite, much to be desired side of the festival for The Lumineers. It is difficult to watch a band like The Lumineers in sea of people, everyone chatting and constantly having to move for people cutting closer to the stage is insanely distracting, especially when the performance is more chill and laid back.
We ended our evening jamming out to The Postal Service. Their concert was an experience. The music, the view of the city, and the fireworks made for a beautiful conclusion to Saturday.
Sunday: All I knew is The Cure was playing that night; the rest of the day was open for me. With an open schedule, I figured I’d roam and let the day take me where it wanted me, and this resulted in me making some observations about the festival.
- Lollapalooza is managed really well, it is far less of a shit show than many other festivals.
- In addition to great music, the festival offers some pretty solid food selections. Chicago is a foodie town, and it shows.
- Festival attire is always interesting. Unfortuntately, this year is all about those weird high wasted ‘mom shorts,’ that no one looks good in. This is really becoming an epidemic and a eye sore.
- So many people, so many port-o-potties, but yet, such a toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortage. Come prepared, whatever that may mean to you...
Finally, it was time for The Cure. I am a longtime fan, but a newbie to seeing them live. I didn’t know what to expect, but apparently I forgot that Robert Smith wasn’t immune to aging. The group looked hella old, but they pull it off so well that it actually makes them seem cooler. Once he started playing, it sounded just like I imagined. It is amazing to see a group with that type of history and experience. The group played for 2 hours and left few hits un-played. There is a reason they have stood the test of time and I couldn't have asked for a better concert to wrap up my Lollapalooza 2013.
Like with every Lolla weekend, Monday came too fast. I was sad it was over, but my sprained joints, bruised knees, and overworked liver were happy. One’s relationship with Lollapalooza should remain a fling, the type that makes you hopeful for another summer, but grateful for your sanity when it is over.
I’m already excited for Lollapalooza '14, because ultimately, you forget the negative aspects, and always want to go on another ride.
The Cure performing on day 3
Written by Ashley Dickinson