Observations out and about Lollapalooza 2016

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“This is the loudest train ride of my life,” says a Lollapalooza-going ‘L’ rider on the way to Grant Park.

There is a sense in Chicago that mostly everyone is into the festival in a “yeah, it’s awesome” way.  Midway Airport has a Lollapalooza LCD screen and there are Lolla cassette designed Ventra cards (the Chicago transit pass) to commemorate the occasion. The buses read “On July 28 we brake for Lolla” in delightfully proud fashion. Not just the fest but the city is celebrating the 25th anniversary.

There’s a fun feel to being on the ‘L’ before and after the urban festival – frisbee played under the tracks, sixty-somethings discussing Major Lazer and overheard discussions of various acts from various riders: “he went for it really early in set, sexual tension, it’s like where do we go from here?”; “third song he said your shirts off”; friend clarifies “that was not for women.”

photo by Mike Francis

During a night ride, a girl explains to two of her friends that she’s working Lolla and schedules her shift so she can take in certain sets she wants to see.

In fact many of the security and fest workers seemed happy to be there and caring about attendees having a good time. Tiffany who worked security at the Bud Light guest lounge greeted people with an infectious smile.

Moments later the girls turn to the subject of Kanye (not a 2016 Lolla performer but – surprise! – he manages to seep into conversation anyway.) One girl mentions how he “does not give Chicago enough props” and her friend concurs, “he’s probably from the suburbs.” I didn’t even know Kanye was from in or around Chicago until that moment.

On Thursday, the first day of Lollapalooza, rapper G-Eazy gives the windy city super props. From the main stage, he tells an incredibly packed out audience, how seven years ago he had played to ten people in Chicago and a nice family let them sleep in their basement. “I fucking love this city like it’s my own because you all  have always shown me the most love and made me feel at home.”

photo by Mike Francis
photo by Mike Francis

Over at the festival grounds on Saturday, the anticipation of veterans Red Hot Chili Peppers – lala at lolla –  is felt early on. When I have my ID checked for the alcohol-legal wristband at 11am, Ian, the vendor, tells me he’s pumped to see them.

Four girls, Madison, Nina, Christina and Lexy ages 19-21, tell me how cool my shirt is and that my skirt is “cute as fuck” and I take to them immediately.

They are chilling on a grassy knoll waiting for the Pep who will close out the day. “I have memories of rocking out to the Peppers in the back of my mother’s car when I was three years old.” They have a plan in place to move into the audience at the beginning of Jane’s Addiction – who they also want to see.

When Jane’s Addiction does perform a mom-type puts her hands over her face, classic “Home Alone” style, while one dancer undresses another dancer who is blindfolded. “I hate to sound like a prude but oh my God!”

And Yes, I did meet Marshmello, kinda. I had watched a string of three of his fans in marshmallow helmet masks make their way to Perry’s Stage. So when I spotted the artist, I marched over to see who he was and was told by those near him he was a DJ of mysterious identity.

Other observations: A couple of dudes talking fashion, “I feel like all you’re wearing this summer is tank tops.”

photo by Mike Francis

Cornhole sure is a hit.  Every game’s in use throughout the park from the Artists Village to the Da Beers hangout.

Along with the veteran acts are bands like Totem, AudioDamn! (both bands have singers with killer voices), Potty Mouth (90s influenced, think Veruca Salt) – sweetly voicing excitement over their Lolla first despite any name to the contrary.

LCD Soundsystem thanks the dancing crowd for being into it. “I mean you never know. You could just be here to throw things.”

Overheard:  Perry Farrell does not hate EDM. He was upset over that clickbate headline declaring that he does. While he doesn’t like “certain” EDM, like fist pumping every thirty seconds, he plays good EDM at home. Apparently, he had been on the verge of tears over being misunderstood.

And how much Farrell’s Lollapalooza creation means to a fest-goer I met in the Lolla Time Warp tears me up every time our conversation plays back in my mind.

The best part of the Time Warp monument were the posters from various years gluepasted on a block as they had once been on city streets. The photo memories of acts from festivals past were fun to look at though they could have been presented in a more emotionally impactful and visually engaging way.

It was there that I meet an audience member that grabs my heart, Jason, 39, very genuine, “I didn’t attend in ’91 or ’92 – ’94 was my first.” Back when it was a touring festival, Lolla hit Philadelphia on a dearly remembered rainy day. “The Beastie Boys were fantastic. I don’t think my feet touched the ground once.”

We discuss scheduling decisions you have to make as he muses how he’ll catch some of both Flume and Haim.

Flume, by Mike Francis
Flume, by Mike Francis

He doesn’t make it every day of the festival day anymore (and now he sometimes brings his nine year old son) but for the 25th he committed to all four.

“I found my way to Chicago and [Lollapalooza] found its way here with me.”

It brought home the music, how it really means something in people’s lives. And being there with the people and the ritual and the tradition immerses one in the deeper significance of the twenty-five years. It stays with one and becomes a memory which reaches us across time.