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Lollapalooza: A View from the Trenches

By Thales Exoo in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 6, 2007 2:00PM

2007_08_lollaskyline.jpgChicagoist (this one, anyway) doesn't fancy ourself to be a music critic. We sometimes think the years we spent working "in the industry" may have caused us to prefer to keep our distance to avoid ruining all of our fun. But we do love music, obsessively so, and have been known to traipse all over the continent proving that fact. So when an internationally renowned music festival shows up in our backyard, there's not much of a chance that we'll miss it (especially when we manage to score the $60 three-day passes).

Armed with two frozen bottles of water (stays colder longer and you can drink the melted bits as the day progresses), a "Neat Sheet" named Harvey (don't ask), sunscreen, and a well-funded text message plan to help keep track of everyone we're supposed to meet up with, we braved the throngs of Eddie Vedder lovers (with the t-shirts declaring that fact) and the heat and the rain for three days of musical euphoria, starting with The Fratellis and ending with TV on the Radio (sorry Eddie).

Lollapalooza wins in our minds not just for the decent food and fantastic and diverse musical selections, but the extraordinary people-watching opportunities. We saw wizards and vampires and superheroes and futuristic spacepeople, girls (and one guy) with homemade puffy paint tank tops that revealed their weekend itineraries (among other things), a variety of tutus, kilts, and lederhosen, and one shirt that seemed to follow us around the festival that featured a questionable declaration of its wearer's friend's sexual orientation. And that's not to mention all the miscellaneous t-shirts. Sensory overload! One of our favorite pastimes at Chicago festivals is counting how many people we see wearing Sufjan Stevens' "Come on feel the Illinoise" t-shirts. The Lollapalooza 3-day tally wound up at 14. Not bad, but we've certainly seen better.

Questionable attire aside (we never have understood wearing knee-high high heeled boots and jeans to an outdoor festival in August), we were impressed by the crowds. We never felt the inclination to press up to the front of any stage, but back around the sound booths (where we seem to gravitate) everyone was always respectful of space and each other. People could choose to get up front and dance like their lives depended on it or hang out in the grass on a blanket sipping wine from a black thermos. Either way, or any combination of the two extremes, seemed to result in a good time for everyone. Chicagoist's claustrophobic tendencies salute everyone's politeness.

Sure, there was the umbrella blocking the view of many behind us while we were rocking out to our personal highlight, Spoon (granted it was raining, but no one else seemed to care), and some girl's bad decision to crawl onto her boyfriend's shoulders right in front of us during LCD Soundsystem, but we thought for the most part everyone was too busy enjoying all of the music to be too obnoxious. Actually as a whole we thought the festival-goers were all a lot more pleasant than most concert-goers we experience throughout the year. Even during the 20 minute or so technical malfunction during Peter Bjorn and John, everyone milled peacefully about, hitting around the ever-present giant concert beach ball to pass the time.

Now we're a little sunburned, extremely tired, happily woozy from too much sun and too much dancing around, and still singing along to the extremely happy tunes of I'm From Barcelona in our head. We wonder if anyone would notice if we joined the band -- what's another member when you've already got 29? Either way, we look forward to next year. We can't help but be proud of the fantastic job our city does putting on the festival, and the even better job our residents and visitors do attending it. We're sure there were notable exceptions, but we don't mind sitting back here with our rose-colored, Perry Farrell-endorsed glasses.

Image via Olivia Leigh