Megan and I made an agreement – I don’t know if it was really a compromise – but in my mind, I agreed to go to Lolla if she would go to ACL. In reality, we both wanted to go to both anyway – and I am pretty sure she already had tickets to ACL. So…..yeah it basically wasn’t an agreement at all, and we just wanted to go to ALL the festivals.
And that is how we ended up in Chicago (my favorite city until I met Austin later in 2017).
Lollapalooza had always been on my festival bucket list, but it was also something that I was never sure I would actually do. I have spent quite a bit of time in Chicago before going to Lolla, and was excited to go back. Chicago itself did not disappoint, but Lollapalooza didn’t end up being my favorite festival of the year. With that said, I think some of my, I don’t want to say disappointment – but perhaps, some of my underwhelming feelings were the result of being overwhelmed by the size of this festival. This was, after all, my first adventure outside of my local Firefly Festival. It was also the only festival I attended as a General Admission attendee. I usually don’t like large crowds, but love festivals – so I have been able to get around that with VIP or other special access tickets to avoid some of my anxiety.
With that introduction, back to the important stuff. First, the lineup: Amazing!
Day 0: We scheduled our flights to arrive in Chicago early in the morning the day before Lolla started. We spent that day sightseeing on a double decker bus, eating, picking up supplies and planning the big day coming up. The MLS All-Star Game had either just been held or was being held in town while we were there and the official store was in our hotel. We made the executive decision to get tacos and margaritas at a restaurant with sidewalk seating a couple blocks from Grant Park and to otherwise have a relaxing day.
Day 1: Thursday
One of the awesome things about Lollapalooza is there great customer service/social media presence during the actual event. We received several notifications advising us to arrive early to avoid lines. So we pregamed in our room (using the very clean metal trashcan as a cooler for beer) and headed out to get there before the crowds. It was still a bit of a wait to get in, but nothing like what we would experience on later days.
In reflecting on it, I think music took a back seat on Day 1, as we worked to get our bearings, took tons of pictures and bought way too much merch! We also met up with a couple who we met through Firefly in the cocktail garden. Sidenote: I never realized until this point that most festivals set aside particular areas where liquor is permitted, while beer and wine are allowed throughout the grounds. It is definitely understandable, but also inconvenient, as you have to either miss music, down your drink quickly or find a way to smuggle it out (Lolla was probably the best at preventing this).
We spent so much time taken in with the amazing scope of Lolla and just the different aspects that we hadn’t experienced before. Visiting the different experiences set up by sponsors, trying phenomenal food and visiting the huge huge merch areas. At the end of the day, we realized that we hadn’t seen a full set (together) by any band. I did do something very unlike me, and got in the middle of the crowd and danced like crazy during Bauuer.
The other reason we didn’t see a full set was because Liam Gallagher walked off stage after only a few songs angry at – well we still don’t know. Someone said it was a sign or jersey from an EPL soccer team he hated and someone else said that it was from all the people screaming “play Wonderwall.”
As we were settling in for Muse, the weather started to go a little crazy and a couple songs in the park got evacuated. See ominous skies below
Unfortunately, this mass evacuation led to a lot of pushing and shoving and an intense few minutes as we tried to get out one of the many exits. We eventually got behind a dad who was not only pushing a perfect path out of the crowd but also encouraging everyone to stay calm. As a result of the evacuation and the festival – there were tons of police and snowplows blocking the streets. Leading to surreal scenes.
We had both seen Muse at Firefly a few weeks before, so weren’t terribly disappointed by the early end to the day. And once we actually got out of the park, it was kind of cool to be part of the evacuation and walk down a totally blocked off main street in Chicago.
Day 2 – Friday
We weren’t as early getting in this time, so the lines were a little worse but not terrible. We also found out that if you use the side entrance to the park the wait times are a little easier. Also – if you can make it without a bag, you can get in almost wait free in the no bag line.
Our second day at Lolla was a good one. My favorite parts were Missio – who put on an amazing show at a smaller stage in a little wooded area off to the side. It made it feel more intimate and the vibe was amazing. And Blink 182. Again, a fantastic show with a huge crowd singing along the whole time. We also had some great food on our second day, including lemon grass beef from an amazing little Vietnamese food stand.
One of the coolest things about Lollapalooza is the venue itself. The food stands are all set up on a road that runs down the middle of the park. It has traffic lights and stops signs and is normally a fully functioning road when the festival isn’t happening. It also means all the food is centrally located and easy to find.
Day 3 – Saturday
For me, this is the day where things started going a little sideways. But, it was also one of our favorite nights – because we went to an awesome Grouplove aftershow at Park West.
Chance the Rapper was headlining Saturday night. Chance the Rapper is from Chicago. This was also the first weekend day of the festival, so crowds were naturally larger. We waited in line for quite awhile to even get in that day, and while we were waiting we started to hear security alerts and tweets about people trying to take down parts of the fencing to get into the park to see Chance. This went on throughout the day and we actually saw people being chased and tackled while waiting on go inside. The combination of the chaos, increased crowd sizes, and the fact that I didn’t have my normal escape to a quiet VIP section led me to get very anxious. I ended up leaving mid afternoon to head back for some quiet time before the aftershow.
Before I left that day, I got to see four amazing sets by: Glass Animals, Colony House, Vance Joy, and Live.
We headed out to the aftershow and it was definitely memorable and one of my favorite parts of the trip. The cool thing about city festivals, is the aftershows and the opportunity they provide to experience the city’s music venues. The special thing about festival aftershows is that generally, everyone who comes was also just at the festival too – but they love whatever band it is – so there is an awesome vibe at the show. I did almost get into a fight with a really drunk guy, but I also got to scream sing with 100s of my festival friends.
Day 4 – Sunday
We saw parts of lots of sets on Sunday, including: Barns Courtney, Car Seat Headrest, Rag N Bone Man, Charlie XCX and Tove Lo. We also got to see all of Maggie Rogers (one of my Firefly Faves). I left for the airport after Tove Lo and headed home to go back to work the next day.
- I love Chicago and Lolla is a bucketlist festival. I definitely recommend it (at least once) if you love festivals, live music, and food.
- The lineup was amazing, and every show we saw was well produced and accessible in terms of crowd size and placement.
- The food was fantastic!!! So much more variety and a great way to try food from some of the most popular restaurants in the city without leaving the festival.
- Malia Obama was there, so we kept seeing cool pictures in the news
- It was really awesome to experience a new festival.
- Crowd sizes (as someone who has trouble with crowds this was a hard experience for me). I don’t know if it would be different if we had VIP or if Chance hadn’t been on the lineup.
- Sound bleed between the stages
- Due to the crowds and the setup, we found ourselves missing things and not seeing as many full sets as we might – in order to get from one place to the other
- Long lines to get in – unless you arrive super early or go bagless
PS – this was also the first festival where my wristband tightened and I had to have it cut off and replaced. Good reviews to customer service who got this taken care of relatively quickly and shoutout to the lady wearing a Fyre Festival T-Shirt.
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