This was our first year attending Lollapalooza so we really didn't know what to expect other than a lot of people and a lot of really great music. For those who aren't familiar with the event it was conceived in 1991 by Perry Farrell (lead singer of Janes Addiction) as a farewell tour for his band. In 2005 the festival platform was re-worked a bit and since then it has happened annually in Grant Park, Chicago. This year there were roughly 100 acts over the course of 3 days and 100,000 attendees each day. Considering the number of people attending and the general nature of festivals I was expecting complete chaos but fortunately it was organized chaos and somehow things worked very well.
The food this year was surprisingly good thanks to Chef Graham Elliot who had a part in selecting all of the vendors and menus. We were quite surprised that the best food we ate while in Chicago was in the park and not at nearby restaurants. The drink selection was fairly limited and only featured Bud Light products, Thorny Rose wines and a variety of juices / teas. People were encouraged to bring Camelbak's to the park which had a number of free refill stations that offered very good filtered water. We were very glad to have had one with us because we stayed well hydrated and didn't have to carry water bottles around with us. Another cool benefit to the Camelbak refill stations is the fact that just this year alone enough water was dispensed to save almost 320,000 water bottles. Since 2010 (when they added the refill stations) over 1,000,000 water bottles have been saved which in and of itself is pretty amazing.
We managed to see 15 bands in 3 days which for us was perfect. Certainly enough to justify the time/money spent but not so many that we were completely burnt out and miserable by day three. I am going to do a quick run down of the bands that we saw along with some brief thoughts about each one.
Day One (Friday): Emeli Sande: Solid vocals and good crowd interaction. Icona Pop: Fun and upbeat but the music/vocals were a little disjointed at times and I couldn't tell if they were having technical difficulties or not. Crystal Castles: Incredibly intense performance both in terms of the music and the on-stage antics, hugely entertaining. Imagine Dragons: A little too low-key and slightly difficult to hear. Modestep: Very high energy, huge bass and a lot of fun. Nine Inch Nails: As always a spectacular show, both from a visual and auditory standpoint. Trent Reznor never disappoints.
Day Two (Saturday): 360: Honestly this was one of the big surprise hits of the show. He was a lot of fun to watch and the music was great. Ellie Goulding: As expected she put on a great performance and sounded amazing. The Lumineers: They put on a solid show but I wasn't blown away. Mumford & Sons: They were definitely headline worthy and really sounded spectacular. Kendrick Lamar (After party): This was supposed to start at 10PM but Kendrick didn't get on stage until 1AM. The majority of the performance involved him holding the mic out in front of him and having the crowd sing most of the songs, I was less than impressed.
Day Three (Sunday): Tegan and Sara: We didn't catch all of their performance but what we did see was very good and a lot of fun. Alt-J: I didn't really know what to expect but Alt-J was decent. Not a band I would have seen outside of the festival but they were still entertaining. Vampire Weekend: I really enjoyed this show, they were excellent live and definitely a band I would like to see again. The Cure: This was by far the best show of the weekend. They put on an amazing show and the crowd was so engaged that it was nothing short of magical.
Since this was our first year at Lolla and our first big festival we learned a lot about how to best take advantage of the experience. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of your time at Lollapalooza:
- Bring a backpack. Keep it small but make sure it has enough room to hold any swag that you might pick up and/or a blanket / sweater.
- Don't over do it. Prioritize which bands you want to see and don't try to see everything. You will get burnt out and by the time the headliner rolls around it will be hard to enjoy it.
- Get to headliners early. If there is a particular headliner you really want to see get to the stage at least 1 hour before their performance. We did this for The Cure on the last night and ended up getting very close and by the time the show started there were so many people behind us we couldn't even see where the sea of people ended.
- Hydrate. I can't stress this one enough, keeping the fluids going (sorry but beer doesn't count) is absolutely essential to being able to stay for long periods and enjoy yourself. We averaged about 150-200 ounces of water between the two of us each day and it proved to be invaluable. There is nothing worse than being at the festival with 100,000 other people and having a headache or feeling like crap because you haven't had enough water.
- Sit. For bands that you are okay with seeing from a distance, consider sitting down. The hardest thing on my body was standing in one place for long periods so being able to break things up by sitting for an hour here or there was huge for me.
I hope this info comes in handy for any future first timers at Lollapalooza, it is an amazing festival and we are definitely planning to go again. I'd love to hear about others experiences at the festival and any tips/tricks you may have so please don't hesitate to leave comments!