#TBT: Lollapalooza 2012
Photo: Lollapalooza 2012 by Maressa Levy
Chicago, Illinois -- Each August, multiple stages, 130+ artists, and more than 200,000 fans take up residence in the center of Chicago for the three sweaty, loud days that comprise Lollapalooza. Nestled in Grant Park, the festival's original event has had such success that it has gone international, with events now in São Paulo, Brazil and Santiago, Chile. I had just finished graduate school and was looking forward to starting my "big kid" life when I decided to go to Chicago for Lollapalooza 2012 - what better way to celebrate than a festival? I had never been to Chicago, and figured going for Lollapalooza seemed as good a time as any, so I bought a ticket and found a group of friends who had space in their hotel room.
We got to the festival early Friday, donning our festival attire and walking the mile to the festival grounds from our hotel. The city was flooded with festivalgoers, and Chicago residents dodged hula hoops and backpacks on their way to work. I spent much of the first day hopping around from stage to stage, trying to get my bearings on what would be my home for the next two days. After making stops at Yellow Ostrich and The Black Angels, I (inexplicably) ended up at Zedd, where I briefly bounced around with the festival's 18 and under crowd before heading to Chow Town for a break and a beer. Post-snack, I caught M83 before settling in for the Black Keys. We trekked the mile back to our hotel, ordered a pizza, and promptly fell asleep.
Saturday was hot - much hotter than expected. Luckily, Lolla was prepared, and there were plenty of CamelBak Water Refill Stations that kept attendees happy and hydrated. My festival partners decided to skip Saturday afternoon in favor of a museum visit, but the lineup was too good to pass up so I headed there solo and met up with other friends. The weather looked gloomy but manageable - that is, until the winds picked up. As I stood by Grant Park's iconic fountain, I saw waves of people running for the gates. An approaching storm and severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service had caused the festival to shut down, and although there were evacuation shelters provided, most festivagoers (myself included) preferred to evacuate to the nearest bar. Lightening ripped through the sky and people overflowed out of surrounding restaurants, waiting for the now torrential downpour to pass.
The festival reopened after a few hours, and we beelined for the Red Bull Soundstage to make sure we had a good spot for Red Hot Chili Peppers. We slipped and slid our way to the front, were we waited through the The Weeknd's set to hold down our spot. After almost two hours of waiting, the Chili Peppers took the stage for a show I'd been waiting for years to see. They ran through all the hits, from "Californication" and "By The Way" to more recent tracks "Dani California" and "Snow [Hey Oh]." I euphorically stood screaming the lyrics to "Dosed" with thousands of other fans (something I found myself doing again just last month at Firefly), the smell of rain still in the air, a beer in hand, surrounded by friends and strangers, seeing one of my favorite bands live - albeit corny, this is still one of my favorite memories. The walk home to the hotel was just as musical, as hoards of attendees spilled out of Grant Park onto Congress Avenue still singing.
Thankfully, there was no sign of rain when we woke up Sunday. After a champagne brunch, we plodded our way to the festival grounds just in time for Gary Clark Jr.. Next up was Florence + the Machine, who gave a stellar performance in between hilarious (drunken?) banter. I closed out Lolla at Perry's Stage with Kaskade. Muddy shoes and tired legs didn't stop me from dancing until the very last note, when we begrudgingly left the park for the last time.
Perhaps it is because Lolla was one of my first big festivals, or maybe it's due to the many water refill stations (which is directly correlated with my happiness at outdoor events) or the awesome group of people I was with, but I find Lolla to be a must-attend event. Will I go again? Probably not, I like to mix it up and the crowd was a bit young for my taste. Do I recommend going? Absolutely.
If you're headed to Chicago for the fest, be sure to check out our Lollapalooza 2013 Festival Guide, with our recommendations on where to eat, sleep, shop, party, and explore convenient to Grant Park.
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