Saturday morning, I made the quick trip down to Chicago for my first-ever (and the 20th annual) Lollapalooza show. I wasn't there all that long, since I was primarily tasked with helping out our friends from FM 102.1, who invited me, but I certainly lingered long enough to make a few impressions.
First of all, witnessing the event from both the press area and the audience's perspective, it's tough not to compare it to Summerfest. In some ways, the Big Gig clobbers Lolla; in others, it could learn something. At the end of the day, I'll stick with Summerfest. Here's why:
The grounds, themselves, were expansive. With 250,000 in attendance, Grant Park felt very spread out, with tons of space between stages. Organizers did a good job of using fences to separate areas, like the hundreds of port-a-potties, from the beer tents and marketplace. All day long, it never felt crowded. We didn't stay to see Eminem, but given the incredible size the festival had to work with, there was lots of room to roam.
However, the grass surface of Grant Park got wet, muddy and stinky on Saturday, and Lollapalooza felt like a farm that reeked of manure. That's not Chicago's fault, of course, but mud would never be a problem at Summerfest.
Concession-wise, Lollapalooza was stacked with food options, and even though I had no interest in a beer in the blazing sun, their choices (Budweiser, of course) were comparable at $5 and $7.
The Lollapalooza App was also very advanced, and technologically speaking, the festival ran circles around the Big Gig. All the details had a mellow, organized feel to them, from top to bottom. It certainly didn't seem "indie" in the least, though; overall, much more corporate that Summerfest.
Not that it's the concern of the fest going public, but Lollapalooza's press access is great. It's a cordoned off area with working wi-fi, tons of technology and beverages to hydrate in the scorching mid-August heat. In addition to the roaming performers and artist-only swag (did someone say free blue jeans?), we saw some random "celebrities" wander through, like Ashlee Simpson, Taylor Momsen and oddly, Tim Meadows (I only recognized Meadows). But, one can't see the bands from this media village, so it also felt very distant. Summerfest's media area is, well, non-existent.
Finally, in terms of music, I found the acoustics to be very good, since most bands had staggered starting times on the stage. I wasn't there to review any shows, specifically and I wasn't listening with a critical ear, but I will say that dollar for dollar, any day of Summerfest had an overall stronger lineup that Friday, Saturday or Sunday. No, Summerfest doesn't get Coldplay, but when you add a Marcus act plus a few side stage headliners, it's a much better value in Milwaukee.
For $215, yes, you have the opportunity to see some pretty big bands in a general admission environment. But even with a daily pass, Lollapalooza is nowhere the bargain that Summerfest is, and to me, not as much fun, either.
Andy, I went two days this year, and agree/disagree. Here are my impressions: 1) Yes there are a ton of drunks, I noticed (especially at Coldplay and Eminem) that most were underage suburban teens, but people in my hotel made comments about how bad it's getting compared to years back. 2) SF has a worse music lineup than Lolla for sure, but you can't really compare since Lolla targets a specific demo while SF tried to please everyone on the planet. 3) The corporate sponsorship at both places is out of hand 4) Better layout at the park this year made it seem never too crowded, but I don't care for a lot of the food vendors and the beer selection is horrible (Bud Light - really?). 5) SF needs to attract more buzz worthy acts that Lolla does right.
"Lolla is not loaded with a bunch of middle aged drunks just trying to relive their youth."
hoo boy! sounds like someone's never been to Lolla!
Big Audio Dynamite! Soundgarden! Strokes!
Jesus Christ. This is what we get from OMC for a Lolla write up? Generally like your stuff, Andy, but music (festival) critic you are not.
There is no way Summerfest has a stronger lineup. I feel like Summerfest will just fill the slots with any band just to keep the 11 days of music and keep the title of "The Worlds Largest Music Festival". Summerfest should try to be The Worlds Greatest Music Festival, and get over the size. Also, I thought I read somewhere that any band that plays Lolla, cannot play anywhere else within a certain distance for 60 days. If I was in a band and had a choice of either playing at Lollapalooza or Summerfest...hands down Lolla.
No offense Summerfest.
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