Thoughts on the Eve of Lolla
It’s Thursday morning, and the pre-rush hour suburban commuter train—usually packed with suits aiming to get to work by 8—seems strangely sparse. I am assured that the Loop office where I intern will be similarly devoid of the daily, buzzing activity. It’s no wonder that professional, largely middle-aged class is heading out or staying out of Chicago on what looks to be a lovely weekend; come tomorrow, hordes of teenagers, college kids, and out-of-towners will descend upon the pristine Grant Park for a weekend of dancing, drinking, and debauchery. One hopes that most of the 100,000 or so lucky ticket-holders (80% of whom in 2011 were not from Chicago itself) are coming to Lollapalooza to see a number of the 130 bands that will take the eight stages over the next three days. The music is what makes Lollapalooza worth going to, especially with bands like Dr. Dog, the Shins, M83, Neon Indian, Washed Out, Twin Shadow, Frank Ocean, Sigur Ros, and Justice (the list goes on…) taking the stage this year. But in the past few years I have found myself wondering whether young adults (such as myself) are drawn to music festivals to vibe out to the wonderful musical experiences, or rather because the Lolla playlist is a great soundtrack for a weekend of partying.
While Lollapalooza garners glowing media reviews—and rightly so—it continues to be lambasted by some as nothing more than an excuse for high school and college kids from the suburbs (guilty as charged) to get disgustingly drunk for three days and nights. Having seen the safety measures C3 Presents has put into place throughout the park, I would have to disagree with any characterization that equates Lolla with dangerous partying. Nevertheless, I have definitely observed some anti-Lollapalooza backlash over the years. Many of my friends have, one time or another, been barred from attending by their strict parents; local Chicagoans, perhaps oblivious of the fest’s economic benefits, grumble about the gate-crashing hooliganism it attracts; and every year sees the appearance of right-wing Christian activists, ostensibly on the side of “morality,” outside the gates. Last year they bore signs instructing the bikinied and jean-shorted girls to take their skimpily-clad butts back to the kitchen, a stance all too silly to be taken seriously by a tipsy crowd of Lolla-goers.
Perhaps these negative perceptions are weighing on my mind because I am entering the professional world and spending too much time around boring middle-aged men. But is it no coincidence that the notoriously sloppy EDM-focused Perry’s stage has expanded, once again, to one of the larger stages at the fest? Of course, I am going to Lollapalooza 2012—as in the many years past—with the intention of enjoying myself. And enjoy myself I will. But this weekend, in the company of high school and Cornell friends alike, I’ll attempt to observe how we’re enjoying the festival. I’ll let the professional journalists review the shows from relative comfort while I get down with the kiddos in search of good vibes, great buzzbands, and perhaps some insight into the festival experience as it relates to us college folk. 20-year-old Brad Oberhofer of the eponymous band will be sharing his insight, so stay tuned. See y’all on Monday.