1 Millennial, 2 Fests: How a 25 yr old Survived

July is the fastest moving month — if you blink, you’ll miss jam-packed weekends of block parties and farmer’s markets. Some of us, however, live by a different calendar: music festivals.

Music festivals are great for seeing a ton of bands, dressing like you normally don’t and stuffing your face with fried food. For my 25th birthday, I decided (for some reason I don’t know) to spend it at Mamby on the Beach. Cool bands on the beach, perfect Chicago temperatures — sounds fun, right? It wasn’t until a 17 year old in cheeky shorts tipped over my water bottle that I realized an interesting journey was ahead.

Fast forward two weeks and I was at another festival, Pitchfork. After years of working at festivals, I noted key differences while attending both for the first time and decided to share them with the internet.

1. Traveling and Crowds

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Mamby on the Beach

After a hefty train ride to 43rd street, my boyfriend and I arrived at Mamby to a fairly sparse crowd. It was the final day of the two-day fest, which I honestly appreciate over three (or four!) days. The area was split into two parts: the beach and a park. Even though I was mostly going for the beach, the park area was a nice break from the sand and bumping beats. The park are also had all the food vendors, which was unfortunate if you had a nice beach towel spot. Since majority of festivalgoers don’t like to arrive when the gates open, the crowd was easy to manage. Unfortunately, the summer heat got to us and we left just before the headliners.

Pitchfork Music Festival

Pitchfork is part of the few that does inner city festing right. Insanely close to two train lines, the perimeters of the park are neatly blocked off and they even had a bike valet. My friend and I arrived about two hours after gates opened at 3pm, still pretty early for fest o’clock. Crowds were forming at the stages already and it was a tricky ploy for Pitchfork to have big names perform in the early evening on the first day. The organic and genuine energy, however, made the biggest difference when Twin Peaks played, followed by Carly Rae Jepsen. The fun, dancy vibes started the evening right, and continued through Shamir’s even more funky set. However, when it came to Beach House’s headline set, the sleepy tunes drove people out of the park as if it were to storm.

2. Festival Bag v. Security

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Mamby on the Beach

Of course before going into any festival, you have to be searched by security (re: volunteers in colored tees.) If you ask anyone, I’ll be the first to admit I overpack for festivals. I’ve been in too many rain storms, evacuations and phone battery disasters to know better. For Mamby, I knew ziplock bags would be my BFF to fight the beach sand. What surprised me the most was after having every single bag and pocket searched, the only thing that was taken was hand sanitizer. Their reasoning? Walgreens apparently doesn’t sell their little to-go sanitizers with a seal, and they thought it was alcohol. My hands were very sad that day.

Pitchfork Music Festival

Mamby had a rule on ecigs that no one listened to, while Pitchfork basically allowed anyone to bring in joints. Joints were by far the accessory of choice, beating out bucket hats and fanny packs. I’m not exactly sure how they got past security but bless those green gods — especially during Beach House. The puff, puff, pass clouds wafted even beyond the park perimeter.

3. Trends. Trends Everywhere.

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Mamby on the Beach

After working just one festival, I quickly understood why the girls on Sex and the City hated seeing younger girls prancing around. In one corner, you’ll see Madewell fringe vests and Sam Edelman sandals. A few feet away, you’ll see Forever 21 knockoffs of the same thing. I instantly felt like a Millennial Grandma who overdressed for the party. Back in my teenage years and many thanks to MTV, my style icon was Alexa Chung (if anyone remembers Its On with Alexa Chung, we just became BFFs.) I wouldn’t even have a clue as to who young ones look up to now.

Pitchfork Music Festival

If Mamby is the poster child of Forever 21 festival gear, Pitchfork is basically a timewrap to the 90’s. Everything is acid washed and dad hats as far as the eye can see. What made Pitchfork the best for people watching though is that you could tell everyone actually planned their outfit. I’ll admit, I picked out my outfit two months in advance, only to have it change because of the cooler weather. It’s no wonder “festival gear” pops up on my Pinterest starting in March.

4. I’m Here for the Music, Man

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Mamby on the Beach

It’s no secret — audiences will differ with festivals based on the bands playing. The music fest that stands alone on this is Riot Fest … by a longshot. With that said, this was my first year for Mamby and I was intrigued as to who would buy a two-day ticket for B+ bands. No matter the festival, Sunday is almost the most tame. People are tired and just want to enjoy their favorite bands. However, during a few sets, I had to guard my open water bottle like it was a newborn (the no bottle cap rule is just dandy.) You’ll try and go through life avoiding teenagers but there will always be one not watching where they step. RIP, thirst quencher. >:(

Pitchfork Music Festival

Pitchfork’s Friday crowd was quite enjoyable, as it was also my first time there. In full disclosure, the $65 I paid for a one-day was entirely for Carly Rae Jepsen. I have heart strings tied to E•MO•TION that all started with a bookshelf. My boyfriend was on vacation for a week and I decided to build a bookshelf by myself. A couple songs into the album and I was crying and dancing with a screwdriver in my hand. Flashforward to Pitchfork, I didn’t have my screwdriver but CRJ exceeded all expectations. It was the best environment with new and old Jepseners. Which brings a new point — who comes up with these fan names?

5. Bonus Round — Lollapalooza

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Now that the 25th Lolla has wrapped up and announcements are made for next year (yay, another four days,) think pieces reflecting on the weekend will go up. While I didn’t attend this year (thanks to Redbull TV,) once you go, the experience will likely be the same years to come. Lolla is super fun when it’s fun, and really bad when it’s bad. Insane crowds (100k+ each DAY) make Lolla pretty miserable at times, especially anywhere near the water refill stations. And you can’t forget about the babies — err, I mean teenagers. The Metra and L are jammed all weekend and the hospitals prep weeks in advance for drunk young ones.

Despite being run over by teenagers, Lolla is wonderful in the massive Grant park, seeing top 40 and underrated bands, and beautiful skyline views. My only wish would be lower price tiers but come on — it’s Chicago.

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