If I had to summarize Lollapalooza 2015 up in a sentence, I’d like to quote a young teen festivalgoer I overheard at Perry’s Stage during What So Not:
“I think we should see Paul McCartney, I heard he’s a big deal or something.”
I suppose The Beatles aren’t as well known nowadays, but all jokes aside this is what makes Lollapalooza the unique experience that it is. It’s a conglomeration of all types of music that lets festivalgoers sample a variety of sounds without ever leaving Grant Park. For three days, Chicago is home to eight massive stages that host both famous artists like Metallica and Kaskade to lesser known acts like Hippo Campus. A slight rain delay on Sunday caused many acts to cut their sets but overall I saw happy people with tremendous love for this festival. There’s a reason why so many people love Lollapalooza; from production value to the activities within the park, Lollapalooza really is its own world within Grant Park.
With my wristband registered and my card linked to Lolla cashless I was ready to start this three-day marathon. Having gone to Spring Awakening and EDC Las Vegas, I was ready for the typical long line at security and mentally steeled myself for the groping that is the “pat down” (we’ve all had our personal space violated). However, upon arriving at the park and despite there being hundreds of other attendees at the front, we were whisked through bag check and security (sans groping) in a matter of minutes. Amazing! Security was super efficient and moved smoothly all weekend long, with my longest wait being maybe 20 minutes. And the best part? They let you bring up to two sealed bottles of water through the gates. Three cheers to hydration.
Once inside Grant Park, the festival layout is almost overwhelming measuring one mile from end to end. There are food tents with local Chicago restaurants, a farmer’s market and a street dedicated to artisans that sell environmentally responsible products called “Green Street”. Prices for everything are very affordable, even for a broke post-graduate like myself. Food costs anywhere from a few bucks to $15 and waters/beers were almost half the price that other large festivals charge. I highly recommend checking out the Uncorked Wine Lounge where they’ll gladly serve you a bottle of wine (in a travel mug) for about $25.
The mainstages titled “Bud Light” and “Samsung Galaxy” were massive, with larger than life visuals to boast. Even Perry’s was impressive, with a large podium center stage and pyrotechnics that spewed fire so hot you could feel the heat from the back. Smaller stages like the BMI stage and Pepsi had a much more intimate feel to them; and while they might not have carried the same sound system as Bud Light, they were nestled between trees and shaded for most of the day (a luxury in the Chicago heat). Despite Lolla’s best efforts to put sufficient distance between stages there was some bleeding over of sound, most noticeably when Kaskade and Paul McCartney were playing at the same time. From where I stood in the back of Perry’s, you couldn’t hear anything except Kaskade’s set but when I moved to Samsung to catch the end of Paul McCartney you could distinctly make out the booming bass of electronic music. Kygo’s performance suffered a similar fate on Sunday, with Nero playing so close by. Unless you were directly in front of a speaker during Kygo’s set, you could only hear Nero playing in the background.
Just wandering the mile-long park you’re bound to find artists you’ve never heard of. I found Mt. Eden tucked away in the BMI Stage as I slowly made my way to the Bud Light stage. Even with a small crowd Mt. Eden brought huge energy to their tiny stage, chugging beers and jumping up and down with their fans. It felt silly to admit that I had never heard some of these other artists before but so many others at Lolla felt the same way. Ian from Ireland, if you’re reading this, thanks for chilling during Logic’s set and discovering this great rapper from Maryland with me. If anything, I left Lollapalooza with a newfound appreciation for rap and a slight obsession for Hot Chip.
Despite catering to all ages, Lollapalooza called on iconic artists this weekend to round out the nights. Just wandering through the crowd at Paul McCartney proved that even electronic favorites couldn’t beat the classics. Metallica, my favorite act of the weekend, rocked through the night (and the Chicago curfew) despite popular Sam Smith simultaneously playing to the crowds on the other end of the park. During the day I found listening to electronic to be just what I needed: seeing DJ Snake and Boys Noize throw down got my energy way up and all my cardio needs for the week were probably met. But come nightfall I found myself enjoying the indie rock vibes from Florence + the Machine, a band I never paid much attention to before Lolla. Closing the weekend out with the tropical house tunes of Kygo was a nice touch, but there’s something magical about thousands of people in a field singing along to “Hey Jude” that even home-town hero Kaskade couldn’t beat. I’ll admit I found myself singing along to Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” as he closed out Saturday, feeling on top of the world as I sang the few lines I knew.
If you’ve never been to Lollapalooza and have the opportunity to attend, I highly recommend it! This was my second year attending Lolla and my experience was just as good if not better than what I remember from last year. Something worth noting about Lollapalooza and C3 is that they craft this festival with a focus on the consumer experience. I have to say I was blown away by how quickly and efficiently they evacuated the park during a storm warning. Getting back into the festival was even easier and handled with such professionalism that should be applauded. I’m not even sure how security handled the thousands of fans that poured into Grant Park. Lolla’s partnership with Uber as good ole’ public transportation made getting to and from the festival a breeze. If you’re looking to truly escape the city and explore a mixture of cultures and sounds, you have to check out Lollapalooza.