by: Cody & Casandra Chesneau
“Boom!” The plane shook when he hit the airstrip, waking me out of my powernap. “You have now landed in Chicago,” the voice over the intercom said. Groggy, I looked at my watch, 9 AM. After about four hours of sleep, and about two hours of plane flights, we had finally made it to Chicago. On the flight over, I had been listening to Bassnectar, RL Grime, Dillon Francis, and Nero to prep myself, put me in the mood to party, with little to no downtime for my sleep loss.
This leads me to Rule 1 of music festivals: Don’t start the party sleep deprived. Hurriedly, I pulled my sister into gear and we rushed out the airport onto some of Chicago’s public transportation. We needed to make it to some of the opening acts that day, if we possibly could. I don’t get many vacations off of work, so when I do, I try to make the most of it.
My sister and I were elated when we saw the skyline of city. It was my first time visiting Chicago, and I had heard more bad things then good when it came to this place. High crime and bad demeanor is what people had told me, but, I took a chance with Lollapalooza, and went anyway. I now know I was wrong about this illustrious city.
It took us a little bit to get into town. Nevertheless, we ended up taking some detours around the city, and we went to a local favorite Pot Belly’s, before we took an Uber to the festival grounds. Fortunately, Uber has a discount promo code that allowed to get our first ride free ride, so we were able to get a free lift. Once in the car, we were able to have a pretty solid chat with the cab driver, who turned out to be a Chicago native. He told us he was out of rap game for a while, out of the music scene, and asked about the current direction of music, especially at Lollapalooza. One thing we did make sure to ask about, was his suggestions for deep dish pizza joints, he had a few recommendations (one we ended up going to). He felt Chicago had a great house scene, especially because some of the best tech house artists the world has ever seen have come from Chicago. I have to agree, as some of the most innovative artists of their time, which includes the names like Frankie Knuckles and Arthur Baker, who both hailed from the great city of Chicago and revolutionized the scene. Turns out, everyone in the city was trying to get to the festival as well, as over 60,000 people were heading to the festival the same time as we were. Having a crowd that large gives off a certain energy that you can almost see and feel, and knowing all these people were excited about going to Lolla made our driver want to get a ticket for next year.
While entering the festival, we found something very peculiar, the crowd around the festival was young, very young in fact. On average, it looked like the groups had lots of sixteen to seventeen year olds, and even the occasional thirteen and fourteen year-old. On top of that, it was extremely crowded. One could barely breathe amongst the masses. You could tell though, the crowd was ready to party. One of the clearest memories I have of the festival was when I was walking in and I overheard a guy and his group before he entered the party, yelling at his friends about the bottle of tequila he had at his place that he and his friends could smash before entering the festival. Fortunately and unfortunately, that moment set the tone for the entire trip.
Once we went through bag check, which was an incredibly long thirty minute wait, we immediately downloaded the Lollapalooza app, which allowed us to get notifications within the festival about upcoming artists, schedule our list of artists we wanted to see, and informed us of weather emergencies. It was one of the most clutch things I could have done that weekend, as when the weather went bad, we were able to get the most updated schedule changes when they came out.
All in all, the festival was huge. Where the entrance was, there was two bars and two sets of food courts on the left and right of the road. If you went straight down the road, there was the huge merch tents with chargers and lockers. The rest of the park is beautiful, nestled by the pier, with bridges as the only way over to the festival grounds. This is great for security, which meant that there were double checkpoints at every bridge checking credentials. The staff members at the festival were on point and helpful. Not once did I find a staff member who didn’t know who could and couldn’t get into an area, which most festival goers try and take advantage of. Therefore, for a group of 89,000 to 100,000 people who were there every day, there was great crowd control. The rest of the festival was very expansive, it took us twenty minutes to walk from one stage to another. Each main stage though, was coupled with a smaller stage. They both would carry the same genre of music though. For instance, Bud Light – super Fratty mainstream bands, Samsung – all Rock/punk/metal bands, Perry’s – all EDM, all the time. Fortunately, there was a stage for everyone, even on the smaller stages, so even the off-kilter Nu Pop diehard would have a chance to jam out at the festival.
Once we got our bearings getting around the festival, we took a quick pit stop in the media area to see all the hubbub and the artists. Fortunately, there were a few hanging around the media tent. We were able to get a glimpse of Dillon Francis before his set, who we caught kissing a fern for the camera, as well as doing a couple of interviews for the big name companies like Fuze and more. There were a lot of very large media companies covering the festival, which included Red Bull, Fuze, alternative radio stations, and many others. Fortunately, the media area was well stocked with free food and drink, and a spa with massages and manicures. I took part in the happy hour whilst my sister checked out the spa.
Once refreshed, we headed out into the festival. That day, I saw Dillon Francis, Kaskade, DJ Snake, DJ Mustard, What so Not, the Weekend, Paul McCartney. Alt –J, and Flying Lotus. One of my favorite performances of that day was the one and only, Dillon Francis – who trolled DJ Snake with nude pictures of himself, licked the aforementioned fern, played “I Want It That way” by the Backstreet Boys, Jump!, and went one deeper with his DJ Hanzel persona. Finally, he brought in a surprise guest at the very end, Vic Mensa, to top-off his show.
One of the most emotional moments that I had at the entire festival was seeing Paul McCartney live. There was something about his energy that I cannot describe, that 80,000 people stood out there and listened to this one man, a legend, sing his heart out amongst his fans. What really moved me, was when he sung “Blackbird.” The entire crow was quiet, intently listening to a man who revolutionized the rock scene so many years ago with a group that has mostly passed away. As a twenty-something, I have never had my heart warmed by that many silent people, all of us tuned in, and entranced by one singer, on one stage.
Once the main headliners were over, we were invited to cover the #DellLounge and partake in the festivities in their VIP party. The Dell Lounge was an amazing venue. Nestled away amongst the buildings, it lit up with bright colors at night, disguising itself amongst the other more ordinary buildings around it. Inside the building, it was all white, a car was parked in the middle of the foyer with a DJ playing, with water and video games alike. Once we headed up to the dance floor, we found out the lounge was two levels. The first level was a dance floor and DJ booths, with scratch academy equipment (turntables and monitors in the back) as well as a fully stocked bar. One the second floor, there were more interesting sites: a photo booth, writable walls, some pretty intense neon signs, and a holographic generator with video games as well. In the back of this lounge, there was a VIP booth set up with some of the hottest computer laptops available, all showing off the New Windows 10 Operating System. Outside, they had a small deck that had an amazing view of the entire festival. Once I saw it, I knew I had to get my hands on it, but at a later time.
That night, for headliners, we watched Bixel Boys and A Trak paly in the lounge. Both DJs played a great show, moving the crowd all night long. I saw a great blend of deep house, rap, and a little trap from time to time. We were almost able to set up an interview with A Trak, but we couldn’t get an interview because he canceled his set early. Microsoft didn’t promote the event very well, so there was low numbers at the party, which was free! Therefore, at about 1:30am, A Trak just stepped off the decks, making his publishers come out and stop the turn tables and pack up his gear. Fortunately, we were still able to get a photo-op with him before he left to catch his plane flight at 6am.
Even though we weren’t able to meet with A Trak, we did meet a person named Max, who came from Chicago in the remix project, has new EP, and is good friends with Dillan Francis and A Trak. He works with a group called AudisBliss. Quoting their Facebook profile, ”AudisBliss is an entertainment and lifestyle tastemaker rooted in Chicago, Illinois. AudisBliss promotes like-minded brands by fostering cross-promotion and business synergy that enforces brand, product, and service awareness for its unique audience.” He gave us some information to follow up with, and we look forward to watching him grow as a producer and seeing where his company goes.
The next day, we took a quick hop over to the Dell Lounge before we headed to the festival, which was already in full swing. What I found out was Rule 2 about Lollapalooza: The party truly never stops. At some festivals, the crowd doesn’t start to arrive at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. At Lolla, this was 100% different. Once the festival gates open, people arrive. We were fortunate that day to listen to a lot of rock and EDM groups. Some of the artists we listened to that day were Death from Above 1979, Tame Impala, Carnage, Metallica, Kid Cudi, RL Grime, and Charli XCX.
After the festivities of Saturday, we went to one of the after parties with Boyz Noize and DJ Funk at the Evil Olive– a small intimate venue. The venue was very tight, only 300 people were allowed at max in here. It was a two level club, with VIP above and general admission below. Within the club, the atmosphere was electric and vibing, as most music being played in the venue was 150 bpm or more. Even Boys Noize had very high energy going into his set.
Personally, I loved the exclusive atmosphere, the sound, and the people, as it was a great mix. Fortunately, I struck up a conversation with a native Chicago woman beside me in the Evil Olive and found out she was a seven time Lolla veteran. She felt that the lineup this year is meant for a younger crowd, and as she is twenty-three, that explains a lot. I tended to agree with her. When you look at the schedule, there are a lot of very popular bands on the list. People like The Weekend, Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, and Bassnecctar seemed to pull in the largest crowds, seemingly lots of younger people.
Some of the points I did appreciate though, were the vendors. Unlike some of the other festivals I have been to, I felt the artists here were very artistic. There were a lot of artists selling paintings or jewelry or shirts. It felt to me that these items were made with care and love. I bought a few of the paintings to keep here at my apartment in Atlanta. I will have “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski staring at me when I move from room to room in my apartment now, money well spent.
One of the other successful concepts that I have to give praise to was the recycling system and sustainability efforts at the event. They had a program at Lollapalooza, that if you donate of bag of recyclables from the event, you get a t shirt and a chance to get tickets next year. It was a fantastic idea to help spur volunteerism. There were a lot of people going around collecting recyclables. We did our part and picked up some of the debris to recycle. We got a shirt that my sister is keeping. I have never seen a festival do any kind of program like this previously. It is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of sustainability, as most festivals produce a ton of trash and recycling. Frequently poorly separated and are a nuisance to clean-up afterward.
We skipped the after-parties on Saturday to get some rest, but we hit the ground running on Sunday. Before we ran the gamut of music, we decided to get food. And, if you’re in Chicago, you have to talk about the food, right? We knew we definitely had to make sure to get some deep dish pizza before we left. Probably one of the smarter decisions that we made… We decided to go to Lou Malantis, one of the top deep dish pizzerias in town. It takes thirty minutes to get your order placed, but my word, is it delicious. If there is one thing you need to do if/when you go to Chicago, order deep dish pizza.
Honestly, I had very high expectations of Bassnectar, as he was one of the major headliners for the entire event. Fortunately, he reached that bar. From my standards, he had one of the most creative and innovative sets of all the DJs in attendance. While most DJs I heard just blended songs everyone already knew, Bassnectar tried to give everyone a unique experience. During his set, he played Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” a surprising selection for any DJ to play. I was truly appreciate of Bassnectar, even with his established name and the genre he is supposed to represent, he actually gave a performance rather than just pressing play and dancing around the stage.
Twenty One Pilots and Metallica had stellar sets as well. One trend I did see was that that bands that really stood out were the ones that involves the crowd, used props, or even used fans to play. Metallica’s drummer let an audience member start one of their opening songs, and Twenty One Pilots actually set a platform on the crowd of people and the drummer actually played the drums while crowd surfing! I feel this connection separates a good artist from an amazing one. An artist can make their set memorable, if the artist can ignite their fans emotions.
Unfortunately, the inclement hail and lightning storms pushed the schedules a bit and even shortened the Sunday headliner sets. Ultimately, I felt it added to the festival experience, especially as we watched Bass Nectar play and in the background you see and hear thunder and lightning. It was such an exciting, hair-raising experience.
One thing that I found particularly troublesome was the amount of DJs who played the same songs over and over in their sets. Specifically, I heard Rustie’s Slasherr in five different sets at the festival, and a lot of Fetty Wap. In a music festival that is supposed to support creativity, I didn’t feel that the DJs who had made it here were pushing the crowd with new tastes or opening boundaries. Rather, they chose conservative playlists. Next time DJs, think more about what your style than what the people want to hear!
Overall, I appreciated the experience. Music is music, and you have to go for the good vibes, the good music, and the good time. Almost all of the musical sets were on point, the food was great, and Chicago felt very welcoming for the festival. I would recommend it if it isn’t on your list already. There was something for everyone, though I will say it was very crowded. When you do go, make sure you plan your schedule beforehand, bring a bandana, and as always, prepare for inclement weather. Finally, make sure that you have a map and a good idea of where you are going to stay. Nevertheless, we both found Chicago to be a town with a thriving atmosphere of food and music, and we hope that next year you join us for a fantastic weekend of revelry and fun.