The Newbie's Guide to Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza has been a staple in Chicago since 2005. And in all of those years, I never once went. There was never one firm reason. It just wasn't on my radar. And it always seemed I was traveling during that first weekend in August. Plus, I always thought I'd only go if I could score free tickets (the moxy of a Media Buyer right here). This year though...this year I was interested. Mostly, I wanted to see Mumford and Sons. But there were enough bands playing that intrigued me enough to go. The hard part is the tickets were released prior to the bands being announced. And I didn't know anyone who wanted to go with me. And the ticket price is pretty steep for a weekend. Excuses, excuses.

So I choked. I didn't get tickets. Tickets sold out. And I knew I wouldn't get a chance to see Mumford.

Some time later, a friend of mine was trying to sell her ticket. Juli moved to New York (possibly only to stalk Arthur Darvill), and the tickets to Chicago have not been that cheap this summer. She just couldn't get back here for the festival. So she posted about the ticket on Facebook. I remember seeing it, but not thinking too hard about it. Again, I really didn't know who was going. Then a few weeks later, she posted it again. This time, I casually asked how much the ticket was.

Two weeks later, the pass was on my wrist.

With an XRT headband and an alcohol wristband for good measure
Friday

The first day DID NOT start well.  Rain was in the forecast and I got drenched as I walked to the office.  I was already concerned about attire for the weekend, so I wore the Converse.  Which was definitely a better choice, though they were completely soaked through when I made it to the office.  Luckily I have about 18 pairs of black ballet flats in the drawer of my desk (give or take a few).  I grabbed a co-worker's desk fan and pointed them towards the socks (ultimately beyond repair) and the shoes.  Spoiler Alert - The shoes were mostly dry by the time we left for the festival, but I did get a massive blister on my ring toe (seriously?!?!?!?) by the end of the night.  I still blame the rain.  Or the fact that the Converse have been relegated to the back of my closet all summer long.

The threat of rain again was the worst part of the day.  I'd had people tell me horror stories over the last few days.  "As long as it doesn't rain, you'll be fine.  If it rains, it is the WORST. THING. EVER."  "The heat is the WORST. THING. EVER.  People will be dropping like flies."  "You need to wear steel toed boots.  Not only will it help with the mud pits, but people will be stepping on your feet all day long.  It is the WORST. THING. EVER."

I was beginning to regret my decision.

I kept track of the rain situation all day long.  By the time 3p rolled around, Adele texted me and said it was time to go.  I was basically a frazzled nerve and needed to get this over with.  We met up, I slapped on the wristband and we were off to Grant Park.

Newbie's Tip - Read the FAQ before you show up.  Know the rules.  While your bag will be searched, you can bring one with many, many items.  The best thing to know is the water situation.  In 2013, we could bring two unopened bottles of water.  Up to one liter each.  This will save you money.  Especially since there are places where water bottles can be filled up for free.

We picked up a map/guide as we walked in and decided to make a loop of the grounds to see what was what.  The first concert I wanted to see was Imagine Dragons at 545p, so we had plenty of time before that started.

Food was our first stop.  Chow Town was Graham Eliot's vision as he brought together some of the best Chicago-based restaurants for the festival since 2010.  This year was no different.  So it was fitting that we started out at Grahamwich with the Lobster Corn Dog and Truffle Popcorn.  We grabbed these and moseyed on to the Uncorked Wine Tent.  This...magic...

We knew we'd start with a bottle of wine.  What I didn't expect was the bottle would be poured into a plastic thermos.  Makes sense, really.  Cause a mass of people walking with tons of glass bottles is probably not so safe.  So a thermos of wine was snagged.  We found a place to sit and watch a concert on a big screen (don't know who) and munch on some popcorn and lobster corn dogs.  This was already starting out better than I'd have imagined.  We did grab plastic cups for the wine instead of drinking straight from the thermos.  Because we are classy, classy ladies, thankyouverymuch.

Thorny Rose Riesling.  The thermos will be used through out the rest of our summer lives (mostly at the pool)
After buying our second bottle of wine (Hey, don't judge me!!), we worked our way over to Perry's Stage.  This is where all of the teenage ravers (and Adele) spends most of their time dancing to electronica music and scoring drugs (not Adele, though she did point out where the dealing would happen).  This was also the place I watched as about 6 teenage kids jumped over the fence into the festival.  Good security, guys.

Newbie's Tip - Concerts start on. time.  Adele was very clear about this from the start.  If the concert is supposed to start at 545p, it is going to start at 545p.  There are way too many artists and a delay would screw up everything.  So a delay isn't an option.

We walked over to the area where Imagine Dragons would play.  Adele directed us to a place on the hill where we couldn't really see the band, but we could hear everything fine.  We had wine, it was nice and cool and we listened as the power went out (or something) during the show.  It was fixed after a few minutes, so that was interesting.

Adele wanted us to see New Order, which worked, cause it was in the same field as Imagine Dragons. We just focused off to our right instead of our left.  I don't think I realized who New Order was until I heard them sing.  Of course, I knew who they were!!  80's New Wave band.  I spent most of their set saying, "Yeah!!  I know this one!!"  Nice.

Mostly dry Converse...
After New Order, we separated.  Adele wanted to go see Nine Inch Nails.  I was more interested in The Killers.  The Killers were pretty good.  I didn't know enough of their music to really know what was going on, but they put on a good show.

The blister started up as I walked to the train.  I left the show a few minutes early and it actually worked pretty well.  I made it on the 1058p train early enough and didn't have to worry about finding a seat.  I was home a few minutes after midnight, and fell asleep a few minutes later.  It was a long day.  And I still had two more to go.

Saturday

Oh, that alarm was ringing pretty early this morning. And I really could have waited a little longer to get up and at em. The first band I wanted to see wasn't until 3p. But if I was going to do this, I was going to do this. Whole day. It's like Disney World. You get there when the gates open and you let the janitors sweep you out the door at the end of the night.

The good thing about the event is that public transportation is on the ball. They have many extra express trains both going to and leaving the city. I caught one this morning after I stopped at Starbucks. The lack of sleep and the bottle(s) of wine caught up with me, so chai (and Aleve) were my breakfast.

Breakfast of Champions
It was interesting to watch the people on the train. There were the Lolla folks (designated by the wristbands) and the families with kids wondering WTF was going on. I'm sure they knew what was happening, but I'm not sure they really understood the ramifications of the Lolla folks on the train. Honestly, if you want to head to Chicago during Lolla, you can probably be all by yourself in other areas of the city. But you would be well advised to stay clear of Grant Park. And know your kids will learn some colorful language or they'll know more about alcoholism and drug use than you might want them to be exposed to.

The first chunk of Saturday was spent wandering. Wandering for food. Wandering for music. It was getting a lay of the land by myself. I grabbed a donut and waited in a 30 minute line for a free bandana that I will most certainly never wear (cause, Free!!). And I made my way to the Lake Shore Stage. A band called the Wheeler Brothers were on and they sounded pretty decent. And...they were really good. Rock with a touch of Bluegrass. Totally enjoyable.

During the morning, I spent my time wondering when I was going to buy a bottle of wine. It was so good yesterday, that I knew I needed another. But as the day went on, I came to the realization that I am here by myself and a bottle of wine may not be the best idea. Plus, I wanted a strawberry and cream soda float (where I had my Celebrity Sighting of Gale Gand!!). So I stayed sober. And...kind of the best idea I had all weekend. Especially as I saw drunkeys being carried out of the shows at various times of the day. I didn't want to be that girl.

Newbie's Tip - Don't be that girl.

I hung around the area where the Court Yard Hounds were playing at 3p. But I was there around 230p. The day before, Adele and I hung away from the massive crowds. Today, I figured I could shimmy my way in and around the masses. At this point, I didn't have a big crowd around me. It was a select few who wanted prime seating. This vantage point was pretty interesting as I watched the crew set up for the next act. Adele had said yesterday that without fail, the concerts start and end on time. It makes sense. Different stages on opposite ends of the field can't have two people playing at once. So if the concert on the Lake Shore Stage ends at 3p, the concert at the Red Bull Stage starts at 3p. It was like clockwork. Soon enough, the Court Yard Hounds took the stage. The fun part was I could take some close pics of the chicks...

Court Yard Hounds - Emily with a Banjo

Court Yard Hounds

Court Yard Hounds - Martie
After the concert, I wandered to the other side of Grant Park to see Ellie Goulding. But it was stupid hot in the crowd at the Court Yard Hound's set and I needed to sit. This is where I found my second favorite place of the festival. The WXRT Lounge. Shade plus seating equals love. I sat there the whole time Ellie Goulding was on. So while I didn't see her, I heard her. And I enjoyed the show quite a bit.

Newbie's Tip - Find places to hang in the shade.  They exist.  And they are wonderful.  I would assume they would be more wonderful in the 100 degree temperature.  But they were good in 70/80 degree temperature as well.

The best part about today was the fact that I could wander without worrying about anyone else's musical choices (Adele and I don't really see eye to eye on music). I made my way to another stage which was completely shaded and wonderful. It was pretty tiny and a band was on the stage to not a ton of an audience. I didn't realize they were tuning up. And after a few minutes, they started their set. And what a completely unexpected surprise. Brooke Waggoner had a bit of a Tori Amos vibe to her with an almost kiddie sounding piano. Once she added a base and a banjo (or maybe a ukelele) and I was kind of hooked. I downloaded her CD when I got home.

Newbie's Tip - Don't be afraid to check in on an unknown artist.  I had two really good finds today.

I had planned on seeing the Lumineers, then Mumford and Sons since they were in the same general area. But as I got to the field, I knew I had to make a decision. Stay somewhere in the middle to see both or move towards the front for epic Mumford viewing.

Epic was the choice. Like it wasn't going to be?? I bought the pass so I could see Mumford. It was the only reason. So this wasn't the time to wuss out.

Newbie's Tip - Know where you want to be/who you want to see.  I didn't mind being far away to see The Killers or Imagine Dragons last night.  Mumford...I wanted to get close.  I knew no matter what, it would be crowded.  So I figured I'd attempt getting up close.

I was able to maneuver through the crowd and ended up in the...let's say front eighth of the crowd. At a certain point, I just couldn't move much more. And it was fine. For a while. Soon enough the Dudes that left for a beer run or the Trixies that feel they can do whatever they want started trying to horn their way through the crowd. And that shit was not going to stand for long. Our area was policed by three of us. The tall guy with the nice camera, the pot smoking guy, and me.

Guy with Beer: "Yeah, I'm just trying to get back to my friends."
Me: "So?? How do you think you're going to get there??"
GWB: "If you can just let me through..."
Me: "Don't think so. Do you see any space around here??"

GWB turned around. Then White Shirt Guy came by a few minutes later.

White Shirt Guy: "I know, I'm the asshole who had to go to the bathroom. I just need to get back there."
Me: "Seems you made your choice earlier."

Newbie's Tip - When you find a spot, stay there.

White Shirt Guy hung around our little corridor for a bit and was so close to me at a certain point that I had to lean backwards like a hinge to not touch him. I finally looked at him and said, "What's going on here??" (this may have been slightly more...colorful in all actuality) He moved slightly and I could stand upright. Luckily, WSG left after the second song. Pot Smoking Guy and I exchanged looks and may have high-fived. It was good, because I needed to get away from the Trixie next to me.

This chick started out being slightly annoying. She pushed her way up into our area with about 45 minutes to go. And she wasn't too bad to start. Until her group wanted to sit down in the field. Which...with 75,000 that ultimately watched the show...not a safe choice. But she didn't care. When she sat down, her back and spine were directly touching my leg. And she could not have cared less. So I pushed back with my leg. I was not going to move. After a guy told Trixie she should stand up or will get seriously hurt, she stood (albeit with an eye roll and a huff). This was a bit more of a problem for me as she did nothing but touch me. Not in a weird way. In a "there is not a lot of space and some people don't take that into account as they move around" sort of way. Trixie was one of those long haired girls. The ones who pull their hair into a ponytail. Then a bun. Then down. Then half up. Then in a bun again.

Sigh. Seriously. Then when the concert started, she began to dance. Again, this is expected at a concert. But...personal space, man. This was really when I was happy I stayed sober. Cause if I'd have had some wine in me, there is a 50% chance I would have punched her. Every move she made, I was being touched. She was touching me so much, she was nearly inside of me. Stop. Just...stop. Midway through the show, someone moved from in front of us and I jockeyed for position just a bit more. There was no more touching. Happily.

As for Mumford. Loved. Them. It was completely what I wanted. And worth every dollar I payed for the ticket. Done.

Mumford...

and Sons.
The concert was soon over and I made my way home. There was one last day and I was going to have very little sleep. Again.

Sunday

I was a little less chipper on Sunday than any other day. Of course, a wake up at 730a followed by an arrival home at midnight will do that to someone. I caught up over the phone with the family and got ready for the day. A stop at Starbucks was a perfect (again) stop before the train to Chicago.

Today, I was planning on seeing Tegan and Sara, Vampire Weekend, and Phoenix. And Adele was going to be back in the mix. The plan was to meet her at the wine tent at noon. It turned into the Biergarden at 1230p. Either way, I hung out at the WXRT Lounge as I waited for her to arrive.

If anything, the XRT Lounge and the Uncorked Lounge are the best things about Lolla. They're they reason Lolla has been such a good weekend. The unexpected experience. I had gone into Lolla expecting a sea of people everywhere. And yes, there are a sea people everywhere (see Mumford). But there is also a ton of open spaces. Other than the concerts themselves, you can always find a patch of grass or, like at the lounge, an Adorondak chair in the shade. As a shockingly pale and increasingly older person (I did have to ask Adele, "Wait, how old are we??" this weekend), I don't need to be in the sun all weekend. Especially with the youngsters consuming all kinds of items around me. So these lounges have been a godsend.

Adele and I wandered and did some shopping in the early stages of the day. I am constantly impressed as Adele goes shopping, buys things and wears them out of the store. As if her outfit (which was perfectly fine) was the worst thing ever and needed to be changed out. Today, she started with a black shirt and ended up with a gray shirt and a black fedora. I can't even comprehend how to do this. But it works for her every time.

Again with the vibe at Lolla...I will never be able to dress correctly for an occasion. Ever. So a festival...I didn't even know where to start. I haven't bought a pair of shorts this season (or last year...or for the last 5 or 10 years for that matter), and I was a bit stressed at what in the world to wear.

Newbie's Tip - It truly doesn't matter. Sure, Adele looked adorable in the shorts and the new items from the festival. But there were all kinds of people in various stages of outfits. Most were normal. Shorts and tops. Skirts, dresses, capris. Then there were others. Tons of flowered headbands/bandana things. Very hippie-ish. Maxi dresses are always big. And dudes consistently had their shirts off. Though we did see an odd amount of fur. One was wearing rainbow fur. We shook our heads. I mean, the weather is SO MUCH better than it could have been, but fur?? So worrying about being a fashionista at Lolla?? You don't have to be one. No one cares.

90% of our day was spent at the Uncorked Wine Tent. Which...kind of perfect. We were in the shade and we found a sofa which we immediately commandeered for the next three (plus) hours. Perfect. Two of Adele's friends met us for a bit of time. And there was a big screen we could see. Which ended up playing Tegan and Sara. Score!!!!!!!
Not the best picture, but where we spent a good amount of time.  On the couch.  In the shade.
Adele and I did split up again as I started towards the North side of the grounds towards Vampire Weekend and Phoenix. She made her way to Perry's and then The Cure.

Vampire Weekend.  No, Really!!
I didn't get close to the stage today, which was fine. I only really cared for Mumford. But Vampire Weekend was good. Phoenix started an hour later, so I wandered around for a few minutes, then found a seat in the XRT Lounge. Again. I was planning on leaving Phoenix early so I would get home at a slightly decent hour, but Metra was not going to cooperate. There was a 1058p train and an 1158p train. I thought there was a 958p train too. Nope. But an 835p one. Which..did me no good at all. I still decided to leave early as I didn't want to get caught in the scrum of Union Station again tonight. Plus, I thought getting home at 11p instead of midnight would bode well for me as I woke up early tomorrow morning. Sadly, it was not meant to be.

My kind of town, Chicago is.
So overall, Lolla was a great weekend. One I was really happy to finally have attended. I was worried about the weather (totally unfounded) and the ticket price (Mumford was worth every penny of the weekend) and about going by myself (best day to have gone by myself). Adele told Allison that within 15 minutes of arriving here, I was ready to buy a three day ticket for next year. And...it's pretty true. Friday and Sunday's lineup was a little lean for me, but Saturday more than made up for everything. Plus, the more you wandered, the more music you discovered. Or not. I was perfectly content with hanging out in the wine tent for three hours. But I did discover, this was an impressive event. And one I will be carving out a place for next year. It paints Chicago in an amazing light and makes for a very fun weekend. Until next year, Lolla!!

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