This year will be my 5th year attending Lollapalooza. Lollapalooza is huge with a million things you could be doing at any given moment and at times it can be overwhelming. I’ve learned a lot over the years that has allowed me to enjoy the most out of my festival weekend with the least amount of stress and mishaps.
TIP #1: Know how you’re getting to the festival and how you are getting home.
The regular rules of traveling to downtown do not necessarily apply during Lollapalooza. Streets have more traffic than usual and generally lots of people walking in the street, so taking any bus that goes up Michigan may take longer than expected. When I lived down in Hyde Park, I eschewed the bus and took the Metra instead. This worked much better but because it only leaves once an hour I had to plan ahead to know when to be at the station both before and after the show each day.
The El is a nightmare during Lolla, especially if you are going north. It may be ok getting to the festival but if you leave to head home after the headliners you’re going to have trouble finding a train car with room. I suggest going to a station far in the opposite direction than you are planning on going, that way you can get on the train before it reaches the busier Loop stations. For example, if you’re taking red line north, walk down to Harrison or even Roosevelt. You’ll be able to get on and claim a seat before the crowds get on.
If you live within 2-3 miles you may want to walk. You can also find other creative ways for getting home. For example, I live near Reggie's Music Joint and will sometimes hitch a ride on their Reggie's bus, complete with free beer. Once I get to the bar, I go inside and have a 312 with the new friend I inevitably made on the bus before walking the 2 blocks to my house. It's a free ride home with free beer! It doesn't really get better than that.
TIP #2: Prepare for any kind of weather.
It could be really hot out for most the day but you never know when a freak storm will come in. Sure you could run and find cover and in cases where it may be dangerous, such as with lightning, you should definitely do that. In most cases though, don’t worry about it if you get a little wet. Pack some ziplocks for any electronics such as your phone and you’ll be fine.
A couple years ago a storm came through just as I was waiting in the audience for Arctic Monkeys to start. The show was delayed but I stuck it out in my spot in the rain. Once the downpour passed and the water was swept from the stage the show went on. I don’t know if it was the fact that I stood in the rain for 40min in anticipation, but the Arctic Monkey’s shortened set was one of the best I’ve ever seen at Lolla. It also turned some areas into mud pits which meant the Deadmau5 set that evening was a giant mud dance party, one of my favorite memories from Lolla.
TIP #3: Bring Water and Sunscreen.
Every year there are people who eschew sunscreen and end up walking around looking like a pink lobster by Sat afternoon. I know you’re working on your tan or whatever, but it’s no reason to avoid the sunscreen. Trust me and just make sure to put some on, ok?
Water is even more important. Two years ago I had a knee injury prior to Lolla to spent a lot of time in the aid tents icing my knee each day of the festival. I can tell you from experience that the aid tents were just full of people dealing with complications from dehydration. You’re outside all day in the hot sun dancing in crowds with a bunch of other bodies. Your body needs water. Sure, you’re drinking beer but with the price of beer at Lolla, you’re unlikely to be drinking even close to enough to get the fluids your body needs. Make sure you bring a big water bottle with you and fill it up at regular intervals. You don’t want to end your Lolla weekend in the aid tent with the other people who passed out from dehydration and missing that headliner you were hoping to see.
TIP #4: Bring a beach towel.
Lollapalooza is a loooong weekend. If you try to treat every show like you would a typical concert where you try to be in the middle of the crowd or make your way to the front row to dance with all the other biggest fans, you’re going to get burned out quick. Pick a couple shows you’re going to join the crowd for but for others, head to back where there is more room, lay down on a blanket or beach towel, close your eyes, and enjoy the afternoon with some fantastic live music playing in the background. By Sunday evening when you've had hours and hours of Lollapalooza you'll be glad you took it easy for most of it.
TIP #5: Explore the food options.
Lollapalooza has some really fantastic food, arguably better than the options at Taste of Chicago. My personal favorite every year are the lobster corndogs, which are worth the long lines. There is also a farmer’s market area that typically has fresh fruit. After being out in the sun all day, snacking on an apple or banana is quite the treat.
TIP #6: Make a schedule but don’t worry too much about sticking to it.
You are really looking forward to seeing Portugal. The Man but all your friends are going to see Iggy Azalea at the same time and the only thing you know about her is that that Weird Al did a parody of one of her songs. Although I often will split up with my friends in order to go see different sets, sometimes I will forgo the band I was planning on seeing in order to go see the band my friends are seeing, or I’ll realize that my schedule has me walking to the other side of the Lolla and I’m tired and don’t particularly feel like running across Grant Park at that moment. I’m pretty used to altering my schedule as I go along. I may miss out on seeing some of my favorite bands, but I’ll also be less stressed and happier in the long-run. Sometimes it’s more fun to be hanging out with friends at a band you deem inferior than to be alone at a set for a band you love. Sometimes not. Take things as they come but don’t be afraid to change your schedule on a moment’s notice. Regardless of your decision, the trick is to spend your time enjoying the shows you’re at rather than regretting the ones you’re missing.
TIP #7: Pretend like you don't have a phone and plan accordingly.
I can’t possibly stress this enough, but your phone will not work while you are at Lolla and I’m not even talking about the data connection. If you try to send a text to your friend right before the Outkast show, you’ll be lucky if said friend ends up getting the text before the show is over. Text messages just don’t go through when at Lolla. If you have 3G and 4G you may get lucky and it’s possible you’ll have better luck with a texting app like WhatsApp that sends messages over the data connection, but it’s best to plan on that being down as well. Just pretend like it’s 1995 and you have no cell phone and you’ll be fine.
For example, if you’re planning on meeting up with friends make sure you plan a specific time and place that you are meeting. If you’re with friends, it’s possible during the day that you will get separated due to the crowds. Make sure you plan on a mid-day and evening place to meet up in case you get unexpectedly separated. This is especially important if you’re traveling home with someone after the headliner. If you go to buy another beer and then can’t find your friend in the crowd on the way back, you’re really going to be happy you planned ahead for a place to meet.
TIP #8: Make meeting places but not at Buckingham Fountain.
I just said to plan ahead on specific meeting places when finding your friends at Lolla. That specific meeting place is not Buckingham Fountain. I know, it’s centralized and obvious but that just means that literally every single other person at Lolla is also planning on meeting at the fountain. It’s also a really big fountain. You’re going to end up walking around and around the fountain for awhile before you find the friends you are meeting. Instead, try planning a specific meeting place such as "the second bench from the left on the Northwest corner of Buckingham Fountain."
TIP #9: If you’re in a group, bring a balloon or something else that stands out from the crowd.
As I mentioned before, if you get separated from your friends for any reason it can be difficult to find them again in the crowd. One trick is to bring a stick or some sort of a helium balloon, that way it will be above the heads of the crowd and easier to spot. Just be aware that these items are typically annoying to walk around with all day and can also get in the way of other fans trying to watch the show so if you do take something like this with you to Lolla, make sure you are respectful of those around you.
TIP #10: Get consent when dancing or touching another person.
It’s hot out at Lolla. There’s a cute girl next to you wearing very little clothes and dancing to some Cut Copy and everyone is kind of crowded together. This does not mean you can reach out and grope her. It doesn’t mean you should just go up behind her and dance on her or touch her in any way. Just don’t. It’s not ok. Don’t do it.
If you think she’s cute and you want to dance with her, try asking her first. If she says yes then dance with her. Make sure she’s ok with you touching her before you do anything. Just because Eminem has some extremely misogynistic lyrics doesn’t give you permission to behave in misogynistic ways with the women around you when at his show. Be respectful and get consent.
BONUS TIP #11: Have Fun.
Plan ahead and have a good time. Talk to the people around you. Dance to your favorite bands. Eat some lobster corndogs. Drink some water with your beer. Relax. You’ll have a great Lollapalooza, I promise.
All photos by Jamie Bernstein.
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