A Newbie’s Guide To Lollapalooza

Photo By Zachary Swickey

By Zachary Swickey

It’s that special time of year again! Lollapalooza, one of the most iconic music festivals in the states, which happens to be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, kicks off today.

No longer the traveling road show it originated as, Perry Farrell has kept the fest’s spirit of diversity alive with acts ranging from Crystal Castles to Eminem, and the whole thing now goes down in one of the raddest cities in the world, Chicago. Taking place at Grant Park, the festival is smack dab between beautiful Lake Michigan and the amazing Chicago skyline – a view few festivals can compete with.

If you are unprepared and have never been before, there is plenty to miss out on. I pity anybody who goes into a music festival blindly without any idea of what the experience will truly entail. Trust me, I’ve seen it all (including a first-time LSD user begging me to “take him home”). It’s easy to be overwhelmed, so I’ve concocted this guide for all you newbies venturing to Chicago this weekend. Seriously, take heed of what I tell you.

Douse Yourself in Sunscreen and Chug Water
Seriously, just pour the stuff all over your body, because the Chicago sun can be brutal and those shady spots underneath the trees are few and far between. This year’s fest is bound to be one of the hottest yet with an insane heat wave ravaging most of the country. I personally got a wicked awesome wristwatch tan line that everyone happily pointed out to me on a daily basis for a week. Do they make SPF 1,000? Also, bring a water bottle and fill that sucker up regularly or you will regret it.

Know that Your Cell Phone is Probably Not Going to Work
Yeah, that’s what happens when 95,000 people congregate in the same place, and it doesn’t help that you’re pretty much in the heart of downtown, which is already heavily populated. It will bode well for you if you don’t have an iPhone or use one of the major phone carriers. At the end of every night at Lolla, my phone lit up like a Christmas tree with texts, missed calls and voicemails, which leads me to my next bit of advice…

Keep Your Friends Close
Once you realize your cell phone is not going to be Twittering about how awesome the festival is, you will discover how screwed you are if you lose your friends. What do you even do? Raise your hand and shout “Over here bro”? Walkie-talkies are a good idea, but make sure you are not using the same channel as the police or festival management team (no, seriously). I once lost my friend for over 24 hours after when his cell phone died and he crashed at a friend’s hotel room.

Become One with the Map
First off, the festival takes place over 115 acres of Grant Park, so there’s plenty of walking to be done. The distance between the two main stages is just under a freaking mile, and you might find yourself running back-and-forth four or five times throughout each day. It also bad news when you are running to catch an act then realize you have no idea where there stage is (there are five). I hear Perry’s stage is going to be bigger this year and it will have to be to accommodate the fans of Girl Talk, Pretty Lights and Kid Cudi.

Catch Bands You’ve Never Seen or Heard Of
There are so many bands that you know, love and are dying to see, but Lolla is notoriously a breeding ground for buzz bands that are high on the rise. MGMT, Lady Gaga, the Black Keys and Grizzly Bear all played smaller stages or played freakishly early in the day before they hit it big. Don’t judge bands by their names either, because, seriously, Portugal. The man is an act you don’t want to miss.

It Ain’t Over Til After the After Party
I’m more depressed about missing the after parties than Lolla itself this year and for good reason – there are more acts and bigger ones than ever before who are all throwin’ shindigs of their own. The after shows truly make Lolla an unbeatable festival and the only reason it even works is because Lolla ends at 10 PM every night because of curfew, which mean people fail to realize. Seriously, you’ll see everyone looking at their watch when Muse finish their set Friday night. You might even catch a celeb. I nearly waltzed right into Lindsay Lohan, who accompanied her ex-girlfriend Samantha Ronson for a special surprise-guest DJ set.