Photo by Maclay Heriot

Lollapalooza: 25 Years of Music

(Feature Photo by Maclay Heriot)

Lollapalooza first became a part of the festival circuit 25 years ago in 1991. It began as a touring festival by Jane’s Addiction frontman, Perry Farrell, and has since developed into a world-renowned music event that provides a stage to some of the most influential musicians of our time. It has taken place in different countries around the world but its current and most notable home is at Grant Park in Chicago. In honor of 25 years, Farrell added a fourth day to festival and was set to take place from July 28 – 31, 2016.

As music festival enthusiasts, Lily and I, knew we had to attend.  We had never been to Lollapalooza and it was definitely on our music festival bucket list. This year’s musical acts, the 25-year anniversary, and the added fourth day provided us with more motivation for us to attend – and off we went to Chicago.

Location and Layout of Lollapalooza        
This year, an estimated 400k people were in attendance. With such a huge quantity of people, festival organizers needed a large, widespread venue like Grant Park.  This iconic Chicago park is filled with grassy fields, a majestic water fountain, iconic monuments and borders Lake Michigan.

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Photo by Maclay Heriot

There were 3 blocks of the park that were sectioned off for the music festival. The area was occupied with 8 different stages, various vendors, and VIP sections. The stages were strategically placed so that there was enough space in between stages to avoid sound clashing. However, in two areas there were two stages that occupied a space, one major stage and one minor stage. In this case strategic artists scheduling for set times was required to avoid any sound issues.

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Photo by Charles Reagan Hackleman

List of new songs debuted at Lollapalooza (that we saw)
Flosstradamus, FKi 1st & graves – Came Up feat. Post Malone & KEY!
Radiohead – new songs off their brand new album A Moon Shaped Pool
Vic Mensa – two new songs off his upcoming LP, one featuring Joey Purp
Die Antwoord – Shit Just Got Real featuring Sen Dog and DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill plus a cover of Insane in the Brain

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Photo by Cambria Harkey

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Photo by Greg Noire

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Photo by Roger Ho

Favorite Set
There were many amazing sets from the weekend, which is to be expected from a momentous music event like Lollapalooza.  One of my favorite sets from the weekend was from a mainstream artist that I did not plan on seeing but decided to check out last minute.  That artist was J.Cole.  It was my first time seeing him live and to be honest, I only knew his songs that were played on mainstream radio. When we walked over to the stage and you heard his voice in the distance, you could hear the passion and feel his energy.  The tone of his voice acted as an emotional guide as it led you into the right mindset of the next song. He truly opened himself up not only as a musician but also as a human being.

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Photo by Greg Noire

Most Common Theme of Lolla – Peace and Unity
Of the select sets that we were able to make our way to, there seemed to be a common theme amongst many of them. J.Cole, Major Lazer, Vic Mensa, and Die Antwoord all discussed the topic of unity amongst people no matter their race, gender, religion, or age.  They each made it a point to say that peace is the ultimate goal and that we all need to make an effort to help reach this goal.  I found this very important and touching because part of being an artist is creating but the other part is about having something important to say.  In today’s world, this message has never been more important.

28366397930_d9a8918c66_zPhoto by Roger Ho

Favorite Attendee
Lollapalooza is an all ages event.  You have a wide array of groups from only young adults to families to only groups of parents.  Of all the people that I saw at the event, one person stood out to me the most.  During Future’s set on Friday, there was a little boy on top of his dad’s shoulders and was most likely around 4 to 6 years old.  At first, I thought the dad wanted to see Future but since they were so close to the front, he put his son on his shoulders so that the boy could see and also avoid being trampled.  As I watched the pair, I knew that wasn’t the case.  This little boy knew EVERY SINGLE WORD to Future’s set. He was dancing and raising his hands. This little boy could not have been happier.  There is something about seeing the enthusiasm on a young child’s face that I just love.

Favorite Chow Town Stand – Momofuku Milk Bar
I have heard many great things about Momofuku Milk Bar over the years. I have never been able to try it due to the fact that they are located in New York, Washington DC and Toronto. When I saw that they would be a part of Chow Town at Lollapalooza I had to check it out. Momofuku is known for its cakes, shakes and baked treats created by James Beard Foundation award winning chef Christina Tosi. At the Lolla stand they offered a variety of cookies and crack pie. We decided to try the crack pie and a cornflake-chocolate-chip-marshmallow cookie. Both were delicious but the crack pie was like nothing else I’ve tried before. I am not a fan of fruit pies. This is totally different. It is a cold gooey cookie pie with a butter filling and a toasted oat crust. If you have a sweet tooth, I highly recommend giving it a try. Luckily for those of us who live on the West Coast, Milk Bar announced they will be opening a location in Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan in the near future.

Favorite Random Moment – Chalk Art
While walking through the event grounds on day 3, we came across a random group of people who brought chalk into the festival. We aren’t sure if they were permitted by the festival or not, but there they were, drawing on the ground. A giant rainbow that encompassed “Lolla Love,” was the primary focal point along with a colorful heart.  This random piece of art on the floor seemed to brighten up the festival that much more. Anyone who walked by smiled at the sight of it.

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Least Favorite Part of Lollapalooza – 1-Hour Entry Wait Period
No matter what festival you attend, there will be issues. It is practically unavoidable at any large-scale event. The main issue for us at Lollapalooza was the entry period, especially on Saturday.  There were only two entry points for the festival for 400,000 people. The event did try to alleviate some of the crowd through the CitiPass and VIP entries, but it was not enough. Those who did not have a Citibank account or VIP passes had to suffer in the heat and humidity with other sweaty bodies touching theirs.  Luckily, we were in the Mid-West and not in LA. If this happened in LA, I know everyone would push and mob to the front.  Since everyone is nice in the Mid-West, that didn’t happen. I did have a brief flashback to my time in Germany for the last Love Parade.  The festival organizers only had one giant entryway. There was a mass panic, which ultimately led to a stampede, many people dying, and the end of the festival.  All I kept thinking to myself was, “this better not be a repeat of Germany.” The limited entries led to a massive crowd, which led to an hour-long wait. I could deal with a massive crowd or a long wait but not both at the same time.

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Photo by Charles Reagan Hackleman

HELPFUL HINT: If you ever find yourself in the situation mentioned above, you need to be smart and aware of the potential dangers.  There can be a mass panic or some people may push through to the front. Either situation can lead to you being trampled.  To avoid this potential danger, stand closest to the side that provides a way for you remove your body from the crowd as quick as possible.  In the case of Lollapalooza, we stood by the side with the fence barricade. We could simply climb over it if we found ourselves in a dangerous situation.

Post Lolla Grub Spot – Shake Shack
Every night, after the festival was over, we had to regain our energy before we could continue.  Our favorite spot – was Shake Shack! Lily had been there before and told me I had to go. Since I had never been and was already craving a burger, we decided to go. Even though we had to wait in line for about 30 minutes or so and the two girls behind me kept coming a little too close into my personal space, it was still worth it. All I have to say is, if you have never been to Shake Shack, you really should go because it is absolutely delicious! It is now one of my favorite post music festival meals.

Post Lolla Bar – Buddy Guy’s Legends Bar
There were many after party shows with artists that played at Lollapalooza but unfortunately the shows we wanted to attend were sold out.  As a result, after eating we headed out to the bars near Grant Park.  First on our list was Buddy Guy’s Legends.  Buddy Guy is one of my favorite blues guitarists and I have had the honor of seeing him perform in Hollywood.  I wanted to check out his blues bar and it sure lived up to the hype.  It was one giant room with 2 bars, one on each end, and reserved table seating in the middle.  The main act for the night was the Nikki Hill band and she sure rocked the house. At the end, I was able to score a free shirt and I also bought one for my dad because he is the one that introduced me to Buddy Guy in the first place.

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Photo by Charles Reagan Hackleman

Lollapalooza was a fun experience especially since it was our first big music festival experience in the Mid-West.  There was even something beautiful to be seen when the event ended.  All you could see was the youth of Chicago taking over the streets for blocks in every direction.  As people tried to find their way home or to their hotels, you walked by people trying to hustle, street drummers that started a dance mob, and people just singing on the street.  After all, that’s what a music festival does, it breathes life into the people that attend and they breathe it back into the city.