As I made my way through the main gates of the festival I was visited by a sudden flashback from my childhood, which ironically entailed being admitted to Disneyland. The elements that met me at the entrance of Lollapalooza had a peculiar theme park like quality, and it took a moment once inside to acclimate myself to the environment. On my far left clouds of grey smoke hovered over an out door food court, and the appetizing aroma it created advertised over priced BBQ. To my left a row of tents selling Lollapalooza themed merchandise persuaded me from venturing to far in that direction.
The main field was like a giant frying pan, and in order to see the show I would have to voluntarily jump inside. With no trees to hide behind, there was no escaping the sun’s venomous rays. Lining the outer perimeter of the field were the five main stages, where various bands performed sometimes simultaneously. The action closer to stage was very different from that found toward the center of the field. In the center you were able to hear both bands at once, and consequently this is where the burnouts seemed to have congregated. It was there that I realized Lollapalooza had brought out more than just the usual suspects I had grown a custom to seeing at local venues. Fans had come out of the woodwork to experience this event, which meant hordes of suburbanites and visitors from adjacent states. It was an interesting mix to say the least. At one point I was confronted by a gentleman who looked to have been about age 25, dancing on one foot, wearing a shirt that read “shit wizard.” (very very strange)
Meeting the wizard face to face was enough to detour me from returning to center field, so instead I spent the better part of the second day watching the bands the best I could. Each band poured everything they had into their performance. I didn’t witness a single musician not giving their time on stage 110%. But unfortunately all this was observed on a giant monitor posted next to the stage, opposed to first hand. To look directly at the musicians was like watching ants on the sidewalk pick up miniature instruments. The abundance of people made it near impossible for me to experience any entimentcy while trying to enjoy bands like The Arcade Fire or the Dandy Warhols, which were both hailed as having giving exceptionally strong performances.
The side monitors made it feel as though I was watching a Lollapalooza pay-per-view special. I wanted the experience to feel unscripted, spontaneous, and maybe even natural. I came there attempting to gain something, and no doubt I certainly did. But what I left with wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, and the end result had me questioning whether it is still possible to grab hold of that romantic “Woodstock” style outdoor festival. The easy comparison made by most industry attendees was between Lollapalooza and Intonation, which was held just a week before. My favorite quote from any conversation touching upon this subject was, “where is all the free beer,” whereas Intonation opposed to Lollapalooza had offered plenty of free Goose Island to anyone with an industry pass.
My schedule for that day was as follows, and who ever worked programming ought to give themselves a round of applause because none of my favorite acts overlapped until the very end. First it was local band the Changes, followed by the honorable Saul Williams, followed by the unforgettable Dinosaur Jr. (they were awesome and it was my first time seeing them live), followed by Drive-by-Truckers, followed by The Arcade Fire, followed by Spoon, followed by the only toss up that day between the Dandy Warhols and a little bit of the Killers. When it was said and done, I felt as though I had seen enough sun burned bikini tops and gratuitous tribal tattoos to last a lifetime. But looking back over the extravaganza I was delighted to think I had seen so many talented performers back to back in such a short span of time. Lollapalooza has become almost an institution, and perhaps a name that for many means as much as the bands that play it. I can stand up proud and let my future children know I was there, I experienced it all, and I survived Lollapalooza 2005!