Photo credit: Petya Shalamanova
[Ed. note: We know Lollapalooza is famous for its long lines and scenes of teenagers doing various stupid things like puking and grinding, so in order to process the absurdity of the music festival in the modern era, we contacted a traveler from the 18th century and asked him to experience the weekend in Chicago. Below, we present the findings.]
Imagine my surprise when my patrons at the esteemed Noisey temple of Journalism contacted me from on high at their New York palace office building and directed me to travel with due haste to Grant Park, a lush green reserve abutting the portentous shores of Lake Michigan. There, they informed me, I would chance upon an event of epic proportions—a vast ceremony where people worship at the strange and wonderful altar of Music. I was reluctant, as I often get overwhelmed merely walking around inside a large store, but my demonic editors were firm: If I did not venture to the festival, they said, they would have me hanged—or worse, go unpublished. And I cannot have either of those things happen to me.
This is how I came to conduct an amateur anthropological study of the bewildering, tragicomic creatures of the Lollapalooza Music Festival. This log of my travels will, Lord willing, teach thy curious mind about what I have seen, and what I cannot unsee.
First, a note on the text: Yes, there is Music at the Lollapalooza Music Festival, and yes, some of it is splendid and worth discussing. But we shan't be discussing it here. Why should we? It does appear, to this erstwhile festival novice, that many of my fellow festival-going peers seem to have little regard, and perhaps even disinterest or disdain, for the Music. They would rather be scrubbing their shoe futilely on a chain-link fence to get the mud off, or eating a hot dog whilst staring emptily into the middle distance, or shrieking, or groping someone in a puddle.
Photo credit: Petya Shalamanova
These are just some of the odd and inexplicable pastimes that people come to Lollapalooza to perform, and that they perhaps are not be able to indulge in anywhere else. One cannot help but be aware of the unfavorable public opinions of the peoples who make up the goodly portion of Lollapalooza's transient populace. One hears myths of eternally vomiting harpies, wild men o'ertaken by internal "Molly" demons, and shirtless "Bros" getting extremely close to one's face and waving a wet hand, one knows not whether in violence or in friendship it extends. It is quite serendipitous that Lollapalooza exists, otherwise these exuberant youths would have nowhere to completely remove their trousers to urinate conspicuously on a fence, or wear a floral headband and look very sad, or stomp on a beer can and then give it a thumbs-up.
But I tried to dismiss such puerile gossip from my pure mind. I have traveled far and wide, and no matter where I have gone, I have found people to be, on the whole, much more pleasant, welcoming, and industrious than hearsay would lead one to believe.
Not so with Lollapalooza.
Never have I seen so many people, despite having a such an obvious cause for celebration, wandering around without any vestige of hope or joy in their eyes.
The festival stretches for more than a half of a King's mile, and perambulating from one end to the other compels the traveler to dodge packs of rabid creatures of all types of white people aged 18 to 24, overflowing with lust and rage and sea captain's hats and a likely lethal form of the "Fear Of Missing Out" sickness, which spreads here like some unholy combination of leprosy and wildfire. As one wades through the crowd like an imperialist through the shiny forests of some faraway isle, one chances to hear every third or fourth person commenting at a substantial volume and under seemingly great duress about how he or she feels like a salmon swimming upstream. What a stupid thing to say. One would only be like a salmon if the salmon were wearing American flag swim trunks and trying to pose for a photograph without stopping while simultaneously dropping a cigarette in the mud and spilling two "Bud Lights" on itself.
My three days at the festival were full to the very brim of my mind with learning and wonder. I discovered, for example, that cannibalism is advocated here, and that willing recipients helpfully label themselves if they fit a higher standard of dietary availability:
I found mythical creatures. In the wilds of the "Grasslands Full Of The Sleeping Or Possibly Dead," I encountered a curious half-man, half-ape:
I saw with my own two true eyes, not just men, but Supermen, in both the Nietzschean and "Silver Screen" versions of the word:
My findings, however, were not limited to merely animate life forms. I also discerned widespread evidence of a curious flora-related phenomenon, in which metallic cans—especially of the "Bud Light" variety—grow out of the ground and plants, seemingly of their own accord. Otherwise, how would so many get there?
It is fascinating and curious stuff.
I would be remiss if I did not touch upon the sartorial condition of the festival. It can be summed up thusly: Two friends wearing Michael Jordan jerseys, one a Bulls shirt and the other an old All-Star Game uniform, skeptically checking out a newcomer wearing a Michael Jordan Tune-Squad shirt, then sulking away. They had been defeated in the game of "Ironic Obscurity," the most dangerous game of all. But forsooth, is this not a revelatory comment on who we are, as people, together? Indeed, at Lollapalooza, we are all one massive Michael Jordan shirt, which we all wear because we want to associate ourselves with fleeting moments of greatness whenever possible.
There is one more episode I will submit, for it hath had a profound effect on me. I am now pleased to announce that I have been indoctrinated into the community of PLUR, which stands for Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect and is practised by wearing clothes of a bright colour, speaking in Escheresque riddles, and then go dancing to Music that follows more or less the same pattern for seven or eight hours in a row. A beskirted lady of, I assume, good renown, that I happened upon on the street performed the ceremony, shepherding me gracefully through a complicated series of ritualized hand motions before sliding a bracelet from her wrist onto my own, thus joining us in a candy-coloured union of PLURhood and sending me spiraling off into higher levels of consciousness. I am in love with my own life again! The bass drum thumps heavily in my heart!
I am converted! I renounce all my former possessions and my unfounded disgust with the frightening creatures of Lollapalooza! I am one with them now and will roll around with them in the mud until all I am is mud and I can be birthed from my own mud and be pure and wise and whole again! If you must find me, I will be standing rooted in the exact spot where we all furtively handled one another's secret parts in the dark of the self-same Sunday night, waiting for Lollapalooza to begin anew next year, and the year after, and the year after that, on and on forever until I perish from this earth and ascend into Heaven, which I can only imagine is worse than Lollapalooza, for nothing—not even the Lord's own stage—could ever be so perfect.
Devin Schiff has a magnificent brain. He's on Twitter — @devinschiff
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