Alternate title: Stormapalooza
I’ve been all about the festival scene this year, hitting up Spring Awakening in June and Pitchfork in July. While I had a GREAT time at both of those, I was still, without question, most excited for Lollapalooza. Lolla is my favorite thing about summer in Chicago, and I spent most of the year looking forward to the first weekend in August to take over Grant Park for a day stacked with music.
I went to Lolla alone this year, and while I certainly don’t mind the company of friends, I think I may enjoy festivals solo more than I enjoy them with company – or at the very least, I definitely don’t hate being there by myself. Going alone eliminates all the logistical challenges of trying to navigate 100,000 people without losing the people you came with, which, on Sunday, proved to be an enormous blessing.
Going alone also meant I could show up whenever I wanted, and since I wanted to make the most of my $110, I showed up at about 1:00. It was already blazin’ hot, so I made filling my water bottle a top priority as soon as I got into the festival. There were a handful of water bottle filling stations around the festival, but if I have any complaint about Lolla this year, it was the INSANE line situation at said water bottle filling stations. You can barely walk two feet without stumbling into a bar at Lolla, but the water stations are spread out and crowded. Obviously they make way more on alcohol sales than free water bottle refills, but Lolla must know it’s going to be hot as hell during the festival. It’s in August in Chicago. Expecting nice weather is about as futile as expecting nice weather during Rock ‘n’ Roll. More water stations in the future, please.
Anyway, I went to the water station near Perry’s (the EDM stage) to get my hydration on. As I walked towards Perry’s, I saw a massive dust cloud blow across Columbus. Perry’s and Lower Hutchinson Field are usually a nightmare of mud during Lolla, but since it hadn’t rained in weeks, this year, the softball fields that turn into mud pits after rainstorms were dry and dusty. Add to that strong winds, 90 degrees, humidity, and 100,000 sweaty, sunscreen-sticky bodies, and you have a recipe for some serious mess. I came home with a grime tan like never before.
Since I was already at Perry’s, I stuck around for Alison Wonderland, hanging out in the shade rather than getting caught up in the sun/teenagers in front of the stage. Though I wouldn’t put Alison Wonderland up at the top of my list of favorite EDM artists (though admittedly, I haven’t listened to much of her work, so I can’t really make a fair call on this yet), I sincerely appreciate her as a concept. The “involvement” of women in EDM usually extends to them providing vocals or gyrating on stage wearing pasties and a thong, and nothing more (both in terms of clothes and in terms of influence). Music production and DJ-ing are a “boys club”: no girls allowed. I don’t like that at all. I think there is absolutely room for women in EDM, just like there’s room for women in every other genre (though, of course, it can take a long freaking time to get people to come around to that idea – particularly the men with power in that genre), so to see a female producer throw it down at Perry’s made me oh-so happy.
I noticed some clouds start to roll in during Alison Wonderland’s set, and pulled out my phone to check the radar (cell service was really reliable this year at Lolla: a nice change from the norm!). There was a little storm out by Aurora that sent me into a panic, but I tried to convince myself it wouldn’t lead to anything and went over to the Samsung Galaxy stage to reapply sunscreen and catch George Ezra. I couldn’t shut down my worry, though, and when 2:30 hit and George Ezra still hadn’t come out on stage (sets at Lolla start exactly when scheduled 99.9% of the time), I got even more worried, and decided I would listen to one song and then start heading closer to the exits in case they evacuated us due to the weather.
As it turned out, Lolla was ahead of me. Someone came on over the PA system and announced that the festival was being evacuated in advance of an oncoming storm, and we should all proceed to the Grant Park underground parking garages. Amidst much grumbling from everyone but me (I was THRILLED to be kicked out well before the storm started), we trudged up Columbus and west to Michigan Ave.
Things I never expected to do: walk down Michigan–as in, in the middle of the road itself–at 2:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday. Or, you know, ever. Even the Chicago Marathon course doesn’t get you on this part of Michigan.
A lot of people loitered around on sidewalks up and down Michigan Ave., but I, for one, was ALL ABOUT being underground during a severe thunderstorm, so I went to the stuffiest parking garage you ever did sit in with all of my friends.
Haha. It did fill up a bit later on, but it wasn’t even close to as crowded as I expected it to be. I don’t know where everyone else went, but I definitely don’t think all 100,000 people sought refuge underground.
At about 3:15, we got the word that the festival was reopening, so those of us in my parking garage headed back up. I was much dismayed to realize the storm had done nothing but make it more humid, which would be unfortunate under the best circumstances, but is absolutely miserable when you’re standing at Van Buren and Michigan with about 1,000 of Naperville North’s finest, who are all pushing and shoving and generally getting up in your biznass. No thank you.
Lolla announced that the festival would reopen at 3:30 and music would resume at 4:00. Reentry was fairly efficient, all things considered, though the line to refill my water bottle (priority #1 for me upon reentry) was anything but. I assumed Lolla would do the same thing Pitchfork did earlier this year when they had a thunderstorm and would just resume the day as planned, but instead, somehow, the festival reorganized the ENTIRE remainder of the day (which, considering things shut down at 2:30, was definitely most of it) so that no one’s set would be cancelled.
I just want to pause for a moment and give a serious, serious shoutout to Lolla for the way they handled the weather on Sunday (which continued to be a problem as the day went on). I have never in my life been so thoroughly impressed by a severe weather contingency plan. They didn’t wait until it started storming to evacuate us: they kicked us out before it had even started to rain. Communication, through the app, announcements, and video screens throughout the festival, was on point. When more weather popped up later in the day, Lolla warned us an hour ahead of time that something may happen and let us know they were monitoring the situation, and then continued to update us as the night wore on. Just that alone deserves accolades, because in my experience, this is NOT how people normally deal with severe weather. They wait until the last second to make a call on anything, and then when they do make that call, they have no idea how to put whatever sort of plan they had into action, if they even had a plan at all. And then on top of ALL of that, they managed to make sure that not a single act got cancelled (which was not the case at Pitchfork). Can you imagine that kind of logistical nightmare, having less than an hour to rearrange 30 acts, communicating the rearrangement to the acts and their crews, communicating the rearrangement to 100,000 festival goers, and not having anything go wrong in that entire process? I was FLOORED. People love to hate on Lolla for being so much more expensive than other area festivals, but I think the way they handled Sunday shows why Lolla is worth the money. Other festivals that experienced thunderstorms in the area this year either ignored them and hoped for the best (Spring Awakening) or appeared to flounder around, not knowing what they were doing (Pitchfork). Lolla handled the entire situation with the utmost professionalism and efficiency, and I could not have been more impressed. They very clearly learned from the issues they had when it stormed on Saturday during Lolla in 2012, and Sunday proved that their new system works.
Anyway. Just because the system works does not mean that I was good about checking my app, so I didn’t really know who was playing when. Galantis originally was supposed to play Perry’s from 3:30-4:30, and I really wanted to see them. I could hear music coming from Perry’s when I finished filling my water bottle, so I headed over and, when they dropped Runaway, assumed it was Galantis. As they kept playing, though, I realized I didn’t recognize any of the other songs. I pulled out my app and realized, lo and behold, I was dancing around to Mako, not Galantis. Oops. I suppose that’s an inherent problem with EDM – when everyone uses computers to make their music, it’s harder to distinguish between who’s who!
My bigger concern, however, was that in seeing Mako, I had missed the beginning of George Ezra. Once I realized my error, I quickly popped over to the Samsung Galaxy stage, found myself a nice spot in the shade of a…trash can (haha. It was really, really hot, you guys. I couldn’t handle the sun.) and posted up for his abbreviated set.
The rearranged schedule threw off my entire plan for the day, so I found myself with an unexpected break after George Ezra, which I used to go purchase my first-ever Rainbow Cone. The parts of it I actually got to eat were delicious, though, unsurprisingly, an ice cream cone doesn’t hold up well in 90 degree heat, so a fair portion of it melted all over my hand/shirt/leg/shoes. I was an absolute mess, and had to use most of my hard-earned water to rinse off my hands. That meant I needed to, once again, brave a water bottle refill line. I went over to the station by Perry’s, where I proceeded to wait 40 minutes to fill up my water bottle. Galantis played Perry’s while I waited in line, so I could at least hear them, even if I couldn’t really dance along. As soon as I filled up my water bottle, though, I made a beeline towards the stage and danced around like mad to make up for all the dancing I had missed earlier.
Originally, I wanted to see twenty one pilots, but their changed set time overlapped with most of Galantis, so I only caught one or two songs from them. Man, can they PERFORM, though. To be honest, I was really unfamiliar with twenty one pilots heading into things, so I spent a fair amount of time on YouTube listening to them (I take concerts fairly seriously, and I usually spend at least a day or two listening exclusively to an act I’m going to see if I’m not already a huge fan of theirs. I find concerts to be a lot more fun when you know the music ahead of time), and I was pretty impressed with their music. I really wish I had been able to catch more of their set!
I grabbed dinner after twenty one pilots (a “French dog”–aka a hot dog inside a baguette–from La Boulangerie) and wandered around for awhile. I noticed clouds appearing in the sky, which, of course, made me nervous, so I pulled up AccuWeather and saw a pretty nasty looking line of storms north of Milwaukee that appeared to be moving south. No bueno. A little while later, Lolla sent a notification through their app that they saw the weather and knew it could hit Grant Park between 8 and 10, but they’d keep us posted. I then started worrying about what would happen if the weather did hit in that time frame, and, more specifically, if they would call the festival early due to the weather.
The new schedule meant I technically had time to see Of Monsters and Men before Halsey, but I was antsy and so far away from the Samsung Galaxy stage that I decided to forgo Of Monsters and Men entirely and just head over to BMI for Halsey. She brought Josh Dun, the drummer from twenty one pilots, over for one of her songs, and everyone lost their damn minds. These teens, y’all. I really liked Halsey, but I definitely felt like one of the older people there. She has great music but seems to particularly appeal to the 16-19 demographic, to which I have not belonged for quite some time.
I continued keeping an eye on the weather as I refilled my water bottle again (I was so. thirsty. all day on Sunday. I think I drank around 60 oz. of water at the festival alone, never mind the water I had at home before and after the festival), and around that time Lolla announced that they were moving up all of the headliners to earlier times. Because of this, I decided to skip NGHTMRE and head straight to the Pepsi stage for Kygo, who would be going on immediately after FKA twigs. FKA twigs was fine, though not really what I would have chosen to see, especially since NGHTMRE is way more my speed (Trap ❤ ❤ ❤ ). I could see lots of lightening to the north and was worried they were going to call the whole thing, and that if they did, I wouldn’t have a fast escape route, so I ended up leaving my good spot to go see two minutes of Bassnectar before returning for Kygo (note the lightening bolt in the sky above the buildings on the right).
UMM Kygo was amazing. So, so good. I could listen to Tropical House alllllllll day. Sadly, I only got to listen to Tropical House for about 25 minutes on Sunday. Lolla originally was supposed to end at 10:00, but after the 2:30 storm, was pushed back to end at 10:45. The nighttime storm, however, forced them to shut down at 10:00, so all the headliners had to play shorter sets. Sad day 😦
Even though the day didn’t go quite as I would’ve liked, I had such a great time. Lolla truly is the highlight of my summer, and next year, against my better judgment, I’m probably going to spring for a three-day pass. I’d love to experience the whole festival, and hopefully next year I’ll get the chance to do that – ideally with less bad weather 😉