Smuggle in booze! Throw away your shoes! Avoid Perry Farrell! Just some of our strategies for enjoying the Chicago mega-concert.
As far as festival guys go, I’m fairly hardcore. I’ve attended Lollapalooza a dozen times, but at age 47, I’ve developed a few techniques to make meandering through the packs of Bros and Trixies simpler and less stressful.
Most Important Advice I Can Dispense in This Entire Article:
Avoid Perry’s Stage. It is the porchlight attracting the moths of shirtless dudes and no-officer-my-passed-out-friend-hasn’t-been-drinking girls. If you need a taste of house music and DJ thumping, get your fill whilst waiting in line for a Kuma burger in South Chow Town.
Now that we have that out of the way, here are some other tried and true strategies for attending Lollapalooza:
Research and Schedule: I try to listen to every band before Lolla weekend, adding interesting bands on the Lollapalooza.com schedule maker. The schedule is laid out so the left column is the north stage, the right column is the south stage, and each column in between is in geographical order from north to south. If my research yields groupings at one end of the park, I’ll delete bands with duplicate time slots at the other end. Or, if there is a lot of rain, the south end will be a slop hole; both smelling like the sawdust your grammar school janitor sprinkled over hallway barf, and wriggling with mud-sliding neohippies. So stay at the north stages, at the BMI Stage, or the Pepsi stage. Traversing the park takes time and energy, better used for consuming cocktails (see Hydration below) and music. If you must make the journey between poles, stick as close to Lake Shore Drive (the east side of the park) as you can. The crowds will be thinner. Columbus Drive will be like swimming upstream in either direction.
Hydration: Staying adequately hydrated goes without saying. Fill your Camel-Bak or water bottles at the numerous free water filling stations. But you knew that, right? What I’m really getting at here is…
Booze: If you are a beer and whiskey snob like me, you don’t want to pay $9 for a Bud Light. While there is a craft beer bar in the park, the selection is limited and expensive. This is where you relive your youth and get crafty. Yup! I’m talking about sneaking in booze! There are numerous products available online which will get you past the non-consensual groping…errr…security pat down when you enter the park. Google: barnoculars, The Wine Rack, sneaky shorts, fake sunblock tubes, replacement water bottle caps, and/or hidden flasks. Sites like hideyourbooze.com are one-stop-shopping for such James-Bond-worthy gear. Mixing a nice bourbon or rum with coconut water or a mango smoothie in the park will not only taste light years better, you’ll also strut a little cockier knowing you’ve stuck it to the man! Even though that man is Perry Ferrell, but he’d understand. Perry is cool like that.
Sensible Shoes. Now that you’re feeling like a punk kid again, here’s where I remind you that you’re not. Three days (four this year!) on your feet is brutal!! Long gone are the days where a $4.99 pair of flip flops from Walgreens is going to get you through the weekend. You need a pair of shoes you can walk and stand in for hours at a time, yet you don’t mind possibly throwing away Sunday night when you get home (see “barf-scented slop hole” commentary above). So break out that old pair of Chuck Taylors that you should have replaced years ago, transfer your orthotics into them, and be prepared to buy a new pair come Monday. You’ll be jazzed when you begin wearing out your new pair of All Stars for next year’s Lolla, in a hip color. Congrats! Your “Lolla Shoes” tradition has just begun!
Room With a View. The Lolla grounds are huuuge! There are eight stages (or 6 if you skip Perry’s and Kidapalooza, which you will be doing, right?), and the two at each of the North and South ends have enormous viewing areas. You are going to change stages frequently, so the key is knowing where you can wiggle up as close to the stage as possible, without pulling the “my sister is up there” maneuver (which I’ll discuss below). It varies by stage, but in general, think either “front-left” or “front-right”. For a front-left stage, you walk along the left edge of the viewing area toward the front, then turn toward the stage when you get to the front. It’s amazing, even in a sea of sweaty, flip-flop-wearing hooligans, how close you can actually get, even if it’s packed. Ready? Front-left stages: Pepsi and Samsung. Front-right stages: Bud Light, Petrillo, and Lake Shore. Lake Shore is the toughest, as you’ll need to move to the back of the crowd to cut over to the right side, but you’ll get there. The BMI Stage is neither. It’s small, shady, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Is a good place to recharge on the grass if need be. If you are planning to be a bit more sedentary and prefer to see one or two favorites, you’ll want to execute the camp-out tactic, which I’ll describe below.
Meet Your Neighbors. So you’re here to see LCD Soundsystem, and you want to be close. You don’t care that Adventure Club is playing at Perry’s Stage immediately before (good…cuz you shouldn’t). Don’t worry about front-left or right. Just be sure to get a coconut water AND a mango smoothie, get down to the Samsung stage an hour or two before their set, get up close to front and center, and sit down. Get comfy. Kick off those Chucks. Pour some rum into that smoothie, and most importantly, talk to the folks sitting around you. They are also camping out, which means you already have something in common. You will meet fun, like-minded live-music warriors at Lolla. They will admire your ingenuity when you share some rum from your barnoculars. Plus, you have two hours. What else are you going to do? But here is the rub: 20 minutes before the show, you’ll all stand up. The crowd will grow and press in toward the front. You’ll be comfortable with your new music neighbors, so you’re good. Then, like clockwork, at the five minute mark, you’ll get the tap on the shoulder from the 19-year old blonde in mom jean shorts with the butt cheeks cut way too short. Seemingly alone, she will tell you her sister is up in front. Write this down: She doesn’t have a sister! If you let her pass, you’ll quickly learn that she is merely the head of the human centipede (no, not that kind). Twelve plus kids will parade by you, ending with the six-foot-four basketball player, who will stop right in front of your five-foot-four wife. Knowing 20 people around you will provide cover when you tell Becky she shall not pass (in your best Gandalf voice uv korse). You will have discussed this very scenario with all of your new best Lolla friends an hour earlier. “Becky” can be your codeword. Who knew Lolla was so similar to The Spy Who Loved Me? If you do have a moment of weakness and you let Becky, that little liar (do not confuse with Becky With The Good Hair – Ed.), go by, your booze-won neighbors will help you shame Stretch McJordan into moving so your wife doesn’t have to stare at his ill-conceived neck tattoo of Kim Kardashian in an armored bikini with real battle axe action. Thank you neighbor!
Exit Strategies. All good things must come to an end. Now you’ve got to limp through the masses and get to your train/hotel, whilst recalling how uncomfortable Chuck Taylor’s really are, even with orthotics. If you are lucky, you aren’t dying to see the headliner that night. If so, get out early. It is by far the simplest strategy. However, if you are staying until the end of the second encore by your favorite band-that-just-got-back-together-after-a-ten-year-hiatus, here are some tips. The north end is easier to exit. One of the two gates is directly adjacent to the Bud Light Stage. So if you are deciding between headliners, go north. Either way, if you can stand leaving before the last song, do so. It will be the equivalent of Mr. Sulu taking you to maximum warp. If you absolutely must stay until the very end, and you are at the North stage, watch from the West side. You’ll be able to see the gate. House lights go on, you make a bee-line. Simple. The Samsung Stage will be tougher. It’s the deepest in the park and the furthest from any exit. This is going to take you some time, so be patient. Whatever you do, do not head West, up the hill, unless you like being a sweaty, tired sardine for an hour. You must do the opposite. Walk east as far as you can, then turn North. Hug that Lakeshore Drive side of the park. You will walk further, but you will get out faster and in a much smaller crowd. This is a tried-and-true technique from an old pro, so trust me. I didn’t steer you wrong on the barnoculars, right? Right!!!
I hope you enjoyed Lollapalooza! You can now PSHHHH!!! all of your friends who claim they are too old to attend. One last suggestion: get that smartphone pic out of the way quickly. Don’t bother with a video. You’re never going to watch it. Live in the moment! Enjoy the live music performance you’ve prepared for and will remember for years. No need to share with your less determined friends. If they want to see Radiohead with a vodka and lime coconut water, they can buy their own ticket!