In 2 days, I’ll be heading to my 6th Lollapalooza.
Lolla was my first festival (unless Warped Tour counts) and the gateway drug that led to my live music addiction. It’s a BFD for my family, too; even my parents come for the weekend and attend all 3 (now 4) days, and typically do a better research of the artists than I do. I know, right, my parents are bad ass.
Even if your parents aren’t as cool as mine, I’ve picked up some tricks along the way that can help maximize your Lolla experience, and I figured it’s high time I share them. I’ll start with some high level stuff, and then delve into my 2017 plan on another post. So, here it goes.
1. Plan ahead, but not too much
Like any great vacation, it’s always good to go into it with a rough game plan along with an open-mind and some flexibility for the inevitable unexpected events. I don’t plan every single second, but I do roughly plan out which acts I want to see and what I want to eat, just so I’m not wasting valuable festival time staring at a map or pacing back and forth at the food court. In fact, I even created a Lolla food cheat sheet over on Three Times Per Day, which you can check out here (coming soon).
Remember, of course, that this is ultimately just a good time and not a military drill. Don’t stress too much about missing some or all of a show if you get caught up; just focus on doing what you want, when you wanna.
2. Listen to the bands you don’t know ahead of time
I actually picked this up from my parents, who listen to Lolla radio obsessively for the month or so before the festival. As a result, they know everyone they like from noon to 10 pm. Randomly discovering artists and bands along the way is definitely fun, but, at least in my experience, I love singing along to a song I know and avoiding that feeling of regret when I discover a band on Spotify that I love only to see they played a festival I was just at.
3. Keep some TP and, if you have female urinary organs, disposable pee directors in your bag
Last time I mentioned disposable pee directors to someone, they replied with:
The internet can be cruel sometimes. Look, if you’ve never been in a festival port-o-potty, I understand your skepticism. But as a festival goer with hygiene standards and who has lived with men most of my life, I will never sit down on a festival port-o-potty as long as I live nor will I use 1-ply toilet paper to wipe some stranger’s (/strangers’) piss off of a seat, the preferred coping mechanism of the hilarious Spongebob GIF poster. Those disposable pee-ers are amazing, super easy to use (though I do recommend practicing one time at home first), and a hell of a lot better than sitting on those bacteria-infested petri dish of a seat in the incubator that is the 100 degree port-o-potty. As for the TP, chances are you’ll end up in a PoP that has none, so it’s better to be safe than…drippy.
4. Wear a fanny pack or a drawstring bag
While I’ve never personally had anything stolen, theft does happen at festivals and is a total fuckin’ bummer. Fanny packs worn in front of your body and drawstring bags, which are harder to open than zippered backpacks, are safer than pockets or bras when you’re jumping or moving around in a crowd. You can also keep collapsible water bottles on hand to refill (sometimes the drink stations will even give you ice) and your TP and pee directors. My fannypack of choice is this Patagucci. It’s pretty tiny, but fits my phone, GoPro with a spare battery, 2-3 pee directors, and lip balm just fine.
5. Pace yo’self and DRINK WATER
So this past Spring Awakening, I couldn’t make Friday and Saturday, but had a Sunday pass, where I flew home from my friend’s wedding at 5 am on Sunday in hopes of partying it up with all my Chicago friends later that day. Guess what? None of them made it on account of going too damn hard on Friday and Saturday, including texting me from their after partying while I drove from New Hampshire to Boston at 3 am, returned my rental car, and then waited at the gate for my flight.
Lolla is 4 days in a Chicago August, which means you have to pace yourself and drink TONS of water. My modus operandi is to take it easy on Thursday, scoping the scene, taking it easy with the booze, and getting a full night’s rest, which means that this year, with the Porter Robinson after party, I’m going to pass on substances that night, put down the blinds, and sleep in. I also find it helps to try to not pig out on junk food, which only wears my body out faster. Practicing a little bit of self restraint the first day and putting up with your little brother and boyfriend calling you lame is worth it to be able to jump out of bed and run from back-to-back acts all four days. Unless you’re one of those superhumans like PIF who can somehow rally for 4 days straight and survive on 4 hours sleep. FOMO is a powerful stimulant, I guess.
Remember, you can bring two sealed bottles in with you each day. Also, keep an eye out for your friends and other festival attendees, for that matter. It’s effing hot, which makes it really easy to overdose. And for the love of god, don’t buy stuff off strangers, especially that you can’t test (with a test kit, not on yourself). Even weed can be laced with synthetics that are far more potent and that have unknown side effects.
6. Sign up for Lolla Cashless and carry around your ID but not your credit cards
After being at festivals without the cashless option, i.e., where you can store your payment info on your wristband and use it to pay for drinks, food, and merch, this is a godsend. Sign up before you get to the festival, and leave your cards safely tucked away in your pack or, better yet, a locker. Though you will get an ID band, it’s safer to keep your ID on you, because sometimes vendors want to double check, especially if you have a cutie patootie baby face.
7. Gather up some trustworthy friends and invest in a locker
If you’re like me, anything below 70 is cold, and, more than once, it’s rained at Lolla. A locker is a great place to store a sweatshirt or raincoat, a change of shoes and socks, and all the things you don’t want to lose but may need (Ventra card, credit cards). They also have chargers, so you can charge up when your iPhone inevitably loses battery while you’re frantically trying to locate friends via text message. Rent them by the weekend or day for $60 or $20, respectively, here.
8. Call your missing friends or, better yet, pick a meeting spot
I have yet to not lose a friend at a festival. Unless you have a Secret Service level cell phone, you probably won’t be able to send or receive any texts while in or around Grant Park this weekend. However, phone calls usually work. I find it’s best to just pick a meeting spot where you’ll meet up if you get lost or before certain sets. And, everyone says this but honestly it’s true, don’t be too wigged out about getting separated. Use that time to do whatever the heck you want on your own schedule — if you’re with your diet partner, go get that funnel cake. A friend that “doesn’t like EDM”? Go dance your ass off at Perry’s. Then meet at your designated location. But don’t spend 2 hours pouting under a tree and frantically trying to text. It’s really not weird to be alone, I promise.
I reitereate, keep an eye out for your friends. Getting lost in the crowd is one thing, but them running off cause they’re too drunk/high is another.
9. Don’t even try to Uber afterwards
Look, Lolla attracts like 400,000 people, which means it’s damn near impossible to get an Uber/Lyft for less than $200. Plan to skip it and walk (aka wear comfy shoes, I don’t really care if they’re closed toe or not) or get a Ventra pass if you’re going further and map out the route ahead of time and take a screen shot, cause cell signal is going to suuuuck. You can try to get a cab or something the further you go West or South, but it will be both time-consuming and challenging for the first 30-60 minutes after the festival ends.
10. Talk to the people around you
A study conducted by UChicago and UC Berkley researchers who study happiness found that bus and train commuters who communicated with those around them had a more positive experience than those who didn’t. I’ve not done the research on festival-goers, but I’d imagine it’s the same. Chicago is an urban festival, rather than a camping one, which in my experience makes the environment one where strangers are less likely to interact. Fight the urge to partake in the New York Subway Effect! Make eye contact! Talk to the people around you! The aforementioned study found that people tend to underestimate the willingness of those around them to interact, when in fact we are social creatures, eager for the contact of other humans. Plus, you never know who you are going to meet, and at the very least, it’ll increase your satisfaction, to use the clinical term.
That’s really all I have so far as general Lolla advice. I guess I could have suggested sorting out sleep arrangements early, but since Lolla is 2 days away, I figured that was futile. I also omitted advice on what to wear, because I truthfully think that’s very personalized and plan to do a stand-alone post about that later. I will say that Lolla is one of the most crowded festivals I’ve ever seen, so close toed shoes end up being more necessary than at other festivals, though comfort is really more important, which is why I suggest sandals that have supportive straps, like Tevas. One plus of Lolla is that it’s in the middle of Chicago, which means that anything you realize you need, you can basically walk right out and get. Lost your sunglasses? Run to Target on State Street and grab another pair. Don’t want to pay festival food prices? Run out and grab something from Potbelly’s.
But for now, I’m going to switch over to the specifics for 2017, which you can catch here.