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.
Show me the other 2 Talkbacks
7 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published July 29, 2015
If you've never heard of floating and sensory deprivation tanks, let us answer this question for you: it's not a form of torture. Rather, some consider it the ultimate form of relaxation, injury recovery and meditation, and it's coming to Milwaukee very soon.
Published July 28, 2015
When you've visited the same place well over 20 times, sometimes you have to look at it a different way. Whether that means taking a bird's eye view from the treetops, or a fisheye perspective from just a atop the water, Wisconsin's crowing jewel that is Door County still looks spectacular from any angle. Even if it's one you have bend a little to see just right.
Published July 15, 2015
Though Liz Lincoln, who writes under the nom de plume of Eliza Madison, just published her first erotic novella, the Milwaukee writer isn't new to penning books about romance. "I've been writing romance forever, really," says Lincoln, who debuted "Fast, Fresh & Hot" this summer on Amazon. " I wrote romance stories when I was in middle school."
Published July 12, 2015
A decade ago, I took a spin around the Milwaukee Mile in a special two-seat IndyCar. I did it again this morning, and it was even better.
Published July 8, 2015
While I only passively care about what happens on the court, I nonetheless passionately, urgently and desperately request Milwaukee and Wisconsin to get its act together and build the Bucks a new arena before it's too late. Just like I preached in the mid '90s when the Brewers were semi-genuinely eying Charlotte as their new home, I'll say it again: Build it now.
Published July 3, 2015
It's a long-standing tradition at Summerfest - and at plenty of other festivals - to use radio station DJs to introduce a headlining band. It may seem like a five-minute formality, but as usual, there's a back story to most of what the public sees while standing on the Summerfest bleachers.
Published June 29, 2015
It hasn't been a good month for the Stars and Bars. Only 150 years after it should've disappeared for good, national online and brick and mortar retailers have yanked the Confederate battle flag from their shelves and their sites. In other words, you will no longer find Confederate beach towels, belt buckles or even the General Lee (I'm bummed about that, actually) at Wal-Mart, Amazon, Etsy, eBay or many other stores around America. Fortunately, you won't find them at Summerfest, either, in the state that lost 12,216 men to the Civil War.
Published June 25, 2015
To me, the Kings Of Leon were supposed to save rock music. When I saw them for a second time at Summerfest in 2006, this time at the Miller Lite Oasis, something felt wrong. KOL seemed slow. Plaintive. Quiet? Turns out that was the direction this band would head in, and it's what made them extremely popular. But I came into tonight's show with an open mind and was rewarded with old Kings, and even lulled a little with new Leon.
Published June 22, 2015
"Summertime" is a great song - so great that it's been covered 25,000 times since George Gershwin wrote it in 1934. One of the more enchanting - and special - versions of the jazz standard has just dropped from Nineteen Thirteen, an enigma of a Milwaukee band. Featuring Victor DeLorenzo on percussion and Janet Schiff on cello as its two permanent members, you almost have to see this group to believe it.
Published June 18, 2015
Even though Summerfest gets passed over by lots of national media - at some point, let's put the onus on getting the word out better, OK? - there's no doubt that this gigantic musical festival is Milwaukee's crowning annual achievement. Here are the annual picks from OnMilwaukee.com Publisher Andy Tarnoff.