Thoughts on Lollapalooza

My first concert was in fall 2015, and since then, I’ve fallen in love with live music. Back at the beginining of the summer, a friend of mine asked me to consider going to Lollapalooza with him. I didn’t think much of it initially, assuming that it was going to be too expensive and too much of a hassle, but the lineup looked really really good, and I eventually decided to buy a 4-day wristband. We hyped it up all summer, and finally, last week we went to Lolla! It was my first festival and an overall great experience.

What struck me the most was just how much the experience varies seeing different kinds of music live. Prior to Lolla, I’d only ever seen electronic concerts. Generally, electronic music is my favorite (and even that is a very vague term), but my expectations for what a concert is had been strongly shaped by dance music and the rave/club scene. Turns out that rock, indie, and hip hop concerts are TOTALLY different environments than electronic dance parties. To be honest, I actually kind of like those other crowds more although I’m not generally as passionate about the music. More on that later.

Here are my main takeaways as a first-time festival goer, and after that I’ll talk about what my favorite sets were and some other memorable moments. Unfortunately, I have no pictures, because some asshole stole my phone.

Takeaways

-Tonsssss of people. Swarms. Absolutely crazy amounts of people in one place like I’ve never seen before, which is simultaneously amazing and freaky.

People everywhere… credit Katrina Barber / Lollapalooza 2017

-Talk to people! They’re there to have fun and escape just like you, and most people are very chill. It’s so cool to have a really nice conversation with a stranger, brighten each others days, and then go on knowing you’ll never see them again. Just casual, positive interactions and good vibes all around.

-Crowds vary. While some people are super cool, friendly, and easy to talk to. Some people are just self-absorbed, drunk assholes. That’s reality I guess. Lots of “bro” types at Lolla specifically, who drink a lot and don’t handle their alcohol. Loud, rude, litter everywhere, throw their (thankfully aluminum) bottles into the crowd, and they’re not always empty — like come on, wtf?! A girl on the train ride back on day 1 offhandedly said “all these white boys wearing jerseys look exactly the same to me and it’s really tripping me out”. Lol.

-Don’t feel the need to get super close to the stage. It’s insanely crowded, which is fun once in a while, but at times I actually worried for my safety, and exiting the crowd will be an ordeal.

-Walk around and check out random stages. Lots of times “no name” artists you’ve never heard of blow you away and you discover something amazing.

-I’m not endorsing any illicit behavior, but if you want to smuggle anything in to a festival, it’s pretty easy to do so by crotching your items, placing in your wallet, or putting in your shoes.

-4 days is (in my opinion) probably too much. As far as I know, most festivals are 2 or 3 day, which I think is a lot more appropriate. I was physically and mentally exhausted on day 4 and it negatively affected my ability to have fun. But at the same time, if I was going to take time to go to a festival, which I wouldn’t be able to do very often, I feel like I’d want to make the most of it. Idk.

Porter Robinson. Credit Katrina Barber / Lollapalooza 2017

-Some sketchy characters will try to sell you drugs. Be safe.

-Situational awareness in general is important. Don’t get your stuff stolen. Don’t stand under trees if you see drunk people climbing them. Know where exits are. Be safe.

Things to Bring

-GOOD SHOES. HOLY. SHIT. I brought a pair of old beaters I’ve been wearing for 3 years. After 15 miles of walking on the first day, the insoles and midsoles completely gave out and I went the whole festival with terrible blisters on my feet which only got progressively worst. By the end of the weekend, I literally was limping to the train station in agonizing pain. My ankles and knees suffered from trying to walk weirdly to lessen the pain in my feet. I was too stingy to just buy another pair of shoes (meh), but you can avoid this situation by making sure to bring a comfy pair that have lots of life left.

-A water backpack like a Camelbak or other comparable product. I got a pretty solid one on Amazon for under $20 and it was an absolute lifesaver. If you’re walking around and dancing for ~8 hours a day, staying hydrated is a must.

-Earplugs! There are lots of high quality earplugs in the $15–20 range that are comfortable, and don’t distort sound, just make things quieter. My ears always rang after concerts before getting these, but volume at Lolla was generally pretty comfortable with them on. If I took them off, my ears started hurting. Even if you’re not super sensitive, hearing damage is permanent. These were BY FAR the best purchase I made of the weekend.

-Portable charger, especially if you’re going to take lots of pics and video. At the very least, if you don’t, make sure you know how to get home without your phone.

-I recommend a fanny pack to wear in front of your body to keep all your stuff in. Keeps your pockets from bulging and makes it much harder for pickpockets to get your stuff. Unfortunately, when you have tens of thousands of people in one place, a few of them are going to be shitty. My phone got stolen which was a huge bummer, and if you’re like me, replacing your phone is NOT a cost that’s easy to write off.

-Face mask. You can definitely get away without this, but my lungs felt pretty shitty on day 4. Lots of dust and second hand smoke.

BEST SET: For me, it was Porter Robinson hands down. His music + visuals in the rain were just PERFECT. So magical. Biased answer, I’m a huge fan. Close were: The Killers, Justice.

The Killers. Credit Cambria Harkey / Lollapalooza 2017

WORST SET: Migos. They showed up 40 minutes late, and would stop all of their songs 30 seconds in and start mumbling some inaudible stuff. Boo, boring. Left 10 minutes in.
MOST OVERHYPED SET: Chance the Rapper. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good show. I just don’t think it was particularly special for how much hype there was. Also it was soooo crowded, tons of immature/obnoxious festival goers, my phone got stolen on the way in, people were pushy on the hills leading down to the viewing area and people were falling and it was legitimately dangerous, although none of those things were Chance’s fault.
MOST UNDERHYPED SET: Justice. Super badass, nonstop (amazing) music, great light setup, and almost nobody was there since I guess Arcade Fire, Rae Sremmurd, and Zeds Dead (the other headliners that day) are just much more popular. I was able to get nice and close to the stage and still have plenty of personal space to hang out and dance. Didn’t encounter any assholes. Gaspard and Xavier (aka Justice) came down from the stage afterwards to high five, hand shake, and hug fans who were at the rail, and crowdsurfed, too. Just legendary.

My favorite sets (really hard to compare across genres so the order doesn’t mean too much): Porter Robinson, Justice, The Killers, Jai Wolf, Mura Masa, Cage the Elephant, Foster the People, Bishop Briggs, A-Trak, Glass Animals, Whethan, London Grammar, Maggie Rogers, Tove Lo.
Artists I knew nothing/little about that really impressed me: Mura Masa, Bishop Briggs, Max, Spencer Ludwig, London Grammar, Maggie Rogers.

Most Memorable Moments
-Getting off the train near Grant Park on day 1 excited as all hell and taking over the streets of downtown Chicago with all the other festival goers. Waiting anxiously in the security line and just being so so so excited finally getting into the park for the first time!
-A-Trak’s set on day 1. I walked up to their stage just as their “Heads Will Roll” remix started playing which was one of the first songs I used to hear a lot on Pandora when I was first getting into music. They played a really fun show.
-Porter Robinson’s set in the pouring rain on night 1. We got evacuated for thunderstorm risk about 40 minutes in. Having 100k people exiting a park at the same time in the wet and dark was really scary. Getting stuck at the train station for 2 hours soaking wet and then uncontrollably shivering for an hour on the AC’d train home fucking SUCKED, but hey, it was memorable.
-On the same train ride, a really drunk dude walked through our car and loudly announced “guys, I just shotgunned a beer”. You could practically hear everyone’s eyes roll. Cops later rolled through and I heard them say “this guy was flexing his muscles at a little girl”. Lol.
-The Killers’ set on night 2. Must have been tens of thousands of fans singing along. I wish I had known more of their songs so I could join in! They played about 20 minutes beyond when they were scheduled to stop and just absolutely killed it.
-Infamous lobster corndog. It’s literally a corndog with a big juicy chunk of lobster meat instead of a hotdog. It was really good.
-Seeing Mura Masa and Bishop Briggs back to back and just being blown away that these two artists who I really didn’t know put on two of the best shows I’d ever seen.
-Extreme foot pain
-Dancing through foot pain for Whethan and Justice (last two sets of the weekend) because they were just that good

Justice. Credit Scott Witt / Lollapalooza 2017

Overall, it was an incredible incredible weekend that I’ll never forget. Sure, there were lots of people in the crowd who I wasn’t too excited to hang out with, but that wouldn’t stop me from having a good time. I’ve also heard that crowds at other festivals like Electric Forest and Coachella are much better overall, and I’d definitely be interested in checking one of those out. If I did go to Lolla again, it probably wouldn’t be for 4 days, unless the lineup was too good to pass up. I’m sure with better shoes it’d be survivable.

If you love live music and have never been to a festival, I would highly recommend saving up and blocking out some time to go to one if you can!