Summer Music Sound Off: Lollapalooza

I L-O-V-E music, which is one of the reasons I love Chicago. Although I’m not the kind of music lover that necessarily knows a lot about music, or at least I’m no music scene expert, I just know I can’t function without it. On the train, at work, running, or cooking, or reading, music on, heading phones in. Notes and rhythm keep my internal clock ticking and the planets in orbit. My taste is really all over the place, much like this blog.. and my general interests…  and I suppose me, myself, as a human being (see current Panodra shuffle – Ace of Bass, Chevelle, Childish Gambino, Darkside, Danny Brown, Drake, Jhene Aiko, Lydia Loveless, No Scrubs, ODEZSA, Rebelution, and Say Anything). I’m apparently torn between my 15-year-old angst ridden self looking to rock out, and my current self who just wants to bust a move and drop it low. There are few things I like better than getting my groove on. Now that it’s festival season and, accordingly, everyone is losing their damn minds, it seems like an opportune time to sum up general music-related crap I feel needs to be addressed. Here’s part 1 of my 3 part series because I can never be brief (thus all my posts are in parts – I should work on that).

Lollapalooza: the myth, the madness, the lunacy

Considering the affectionately named “Lolla” is the most infamous of Chicago music festivals, it will go first. Back in my heyday (aka college; aka like 3 years ago – so long ago) I was all about festival life. In the past year, though, the novelty of it all has severely declined. They used to represent a majestic space filled with my dancing peers and friends, whom have now been replaced by drunk teenagers pushing up on me. Once a day to get some prime sun, is now just a sure way to get dehydrated and burned. The campy and carefree festival vibe overturned by the horror of using a port-a-potty that hundreds of other people have used. Obviously, festivals themselves haven’t changed, I have. However, back in April (or something like that) I got swept up in Lolla fever and bought my Sunday ticket. I was going through a pretty serious Childish Gambino phase and felt some intense need to see him again – it took me a good two months to regret my decision. As Lolla grew nearer, I realized none of my friends were going, that I actually hated the idea of pushing through 2 million sweaty bodies to see my favorite performers up close, and feared for my pasty skin and scalp. I half-heartedly tried to sell my ticket, but a sales person I am not. Then the festival gods smiled upon me and delivered an angel in cut offs and combat boots. My homegirl since I was a tween, Shooka (the storyteller & style blogger behind Worn Out), got a sweet gig covering Lolla for Revolt Tv and thus, I not only had a companion for my Homeric journey (insert melodrama here), but one of my favorite companions who would commiserate with me over the abundance of crop tops and painted on metallic tattoos (this was a VERY real trend).

I hade planned to arrive early to catch Jhene Aiko, but planned poorly, we didn’t arrive till about 3:00pm, at which point Shooka had to depart to do cool press lady things. So I headed for the Grove Stage to catch RAC, whom I didn’t know much about but I heard had some good dance beats. For the 45 minute set I awkwardly stood behind an even more awkward group of people and did the slight head nod and body shake. They, or rather he (?), were fun and originated from my beloved Portland, OR, so overall I had a good time despite the IMMENSE amount of people crowding me.

Next was Chromeo, a funky Canadian duo who’ve got the rhythm in their soul. I adored them since I first heard Needy Girl, so I was all hyped up when they came on, and they delivered. Fortunately for me they played some of their older sets like Fancy Footwork and Night by Night, and if you haven’t seen their music videos before, they’re worth a watch. I didn’t have the desire nor will to push through the crowd to get up closer (which is actually a lot easier ridin’ solo), but instead stood behind an unassuming group and shook my tail feather. By this time I was feeling a little more at ease about the whole Lollapalooza experience, I had only seen one kid vomit, and was already descensitized to seeing 12 year-olds in nonexistent “festiwear”. Shooka was finishing up at this point and headed toward me to catch the end of Rebelution – which brings up a great point or source of info; the stages on the left side of the schedule line-up are approximately a 30 minute walk from the ones on the far right, so you have to spend the entirety of the festival on one side of Grant park unless you want to spend it busting your butt.

I hadn’t heard of Rebelution before, but assumed since they were near the other artists I’d seen that day they would match my interest. I was presently surprised because they were phenomenal. They’re a reggae rock group from Californ-I-A with strong instrumental talent and postive vibes. When Shooka arrived we stood far to the left of the stage, away from the vomitting teenagers, and happily grooved on, until the deluge occurred. It had sprinkled earlier during Chromeo, but I wasn’t concerned because 90% of the time the weather forecast for Chicago was incorrect – well this was the 10%. It poured. We tried to seek refuge under nearby trees, but only got more wet, it was kind of fun though. But the rain wasn’t stopping. Which brings me to another side note – what you wear matters, and I don’t mean in regards to fashion.

In protest of festiwear (i.e. crocheted crop tops, maxi skirts, leather sandals, etc.), I did my best to dress sensibly for Lollapalooza. I wore a white tank, shorts (with little sailboats), hiking sneakers, plain sweatshirt, and stored all my stuff in one of those water-proof-draw-string backpacks that they hand out for free at random events. My look was comfort and I-don’t-care-if-it-gets-ruined. However, as it started to downpour Shooka and I realized white shirts were quite possibly the worst idea, and by this point my sweatshirt was also soaked. As we took in the seriousness of the situation, a group of tourists next to us pulled out a tarp from seemingly nowhere. Strangers from every corner rushed the tarp, ourselves included, and huddled against these poor, friendly, tourists. We spent about 10 minutes under this tarp, smashed up against a group bros wearing outfits similar to mine, until the rain slowed. By this point the damage was done, we were soaked, somehow my phone had survived, but we were going to be wet for the rest of the evening. We just sucked it up and did the damn thing.

After Rebelution finished, Shooka humored me, and we headed to Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover aka my future husband). It started to sprinkle again, but I didn’t care as I happily hopped around and shouted out lyrics. In my opinion, Bino is always great, but I definitely enjoyed seeing him more at a smaller venue. He has a really cool light show, that was lost since it was still light out, and the sound just didn’t carry very well over the mass of screaming fans. Then we headed to our final show of the day, Darkside, another group I knew little of, but had heard a fair amount about (the only reason I ‘hear’ anything about anyone is because I have a cool diverse group of friends that listen to all kinds of music – hey friends!). We arrived a little early to the set because we were too pooped and soggy to truck it to any other stages, which was nice because we got right up front. Even as the crowd started to fill in, we noticed it was not the typical Lolla crowd. By this point the majority of Lolla attenders seemed to be at the peak of their drunk or high, but none of them seemed to be at this stage. Everyone there was about our age, mildly buzzed, but overall super chill, we even made friends with the group next to us. My main conversation topic was the strange banners all over Lolla, more specifically the happy dancing lizards on said banners – I just couldn’t get over them. Shooka and I were especially interested in their black little booties resembling the kind of booties we wanted for our fall wardrobe. Finally, the NYC electronic-instrumental-vocal duo came on, and my mind was blown. Not only was the music itself amazing, and really unlike anything I’ve heard, but the lights matched the vibe perfectly. It was a minimalistic light show of whites and reds pulsating perfectly with the beats, accompanied by occasional bursts of fog. It left me with a relaxed happy feeling as we headed to the train.


Summary: Would I do it again? No. However, I don’t really regret going this time around. I feel like it’s one of those rights of passages for all Chicagoans, and gave me the opportunity to see sets I might not otherwise have seen; plus I had an adventure with one of my best friends. I think next year I’ll buy tickets to the after shows instead, but Lolla was definitely an experience. My only advice would be: don’t wear white, comfortable shoes are key, and don’t be worried about Lolla selling out – there were literally hundreds of tickets for sale the day of, half of which were the same price I paid.

Festi on Chicago,

Arty the Alien