1. Nothing can truly prepare you for the three-day musical and spiritual journey that is Lollapalooza in Chicago.
You may THINK you’re ready for Lollapalooza. You may think you’re prepared for three full days of music and food and drinking and sun and the beautiful people of Chicago. You may think you have your high-waisted denim shorts pulled as high as they can possibly be pulled above your belly button, your flower crown setting perfectly atop your straightened hair, your sunblock, your wristband, a bottle of alcohol shoved down your pants. You may think you have it all figured out. But you’re wrong. Nobody is ready.
2. Getting your bag checked is the equivalent of hell itself.
You will wait in bag check for approximately eight hours behind three people who are already so drunk at 12:30 p.m., they can barely stand on their own two feet and who try to support one another like a wobbly tent made of broken twigs. One of them will be carried away before they make it to the gate.
You will make it to the gate yourself, and a nice man will not very nicely take away your half-full bottle of precious water and your full can of sunblock. You accept that death is now imminent.
3. There are more people than you will ever see in your life.
Grant Park can apparently hold what I estimated to be 1 trillion people but what Lollapalooza tells me is only 100,000 people. Still, 100,000 people is basically 1 trillion people when all of you are drunk and sweaty and smashed together on a field.
4. It takes approximately 48 days to walk from one side of the park to the other.
At some point during the weekend, you’ll convince yourself that you can EASILY get from one stage to another in only five minutes without missing a single one of your favorite songs before realizing the top of Grant Park is located somewhere in Ontario, Canada, and the bottom is somewhere near the U.S.-Mexican border. All is hopeless.
5. The Rain Gods do not care about you or anybody you love.
It will rain. Even if it says it’s not gonna rain, it will rain. You will try dealing with the rain. You will buy pizza in the rain. You will stand in the rain and eat your rain pizza and drink your rain beer. You will sing in the rain and dance in the rain and run in the rain. It will rain, but it won’t be that bad.
6. Ponchos are a necessary evil that will solve all of your problems and bring peace to your Earth.
This is a garbage bag with strings that they sell as a poncho. You will wear it if you, like me, have no shame. It will keep you and at least three loved ones safe. You will not regret it.
7. Mud is Festival Enemy Number One.
Or Festival Friend Number One, depending on your outlook on life. After all, Lollapalooza is perhaps the only time you can guiltlessly flop in a giant pile of chocolate milkshake-like muck and not immediately regret it. Your feet will suction themselves to the ground. Your shoes will be ruined. For a brief moment, you’ll worry that the ground will literally swallow your entire physical being and you’ll suffocate in the destroyed sod beneath a crowd of people who actually showed up to watch Kings of Leon. But somehow it’s gross and awesome and aggravating and beautiful all at once.
8. Despite the weather, you will have the time of your life.
You will get wet. You will be sad for one second. Then you will dance. And everything will be better.
10. Lorde’s hair is the most majestic creature on this planet, and seeing it in person is the cure to all of life’s problems.
Lorde’s hair is a celestial being, the Creator of all living things, a source of Good and Joy in an otherwise bleak and dark world. When she walks onstage, your soul ascends from your body and joins hers in the air above the crowd, swirling together as one. When she dances, you dance. When she feels, you feel. When she rises, you rise.
11. Rihanna makes literally everything better.
There is no life without Rihanna. There is either nothingness or Rihanna-ness.
12. The way Alex Turner combs his hair is capable of bringing all men, women, and children to their knees.
Nothing can possibly prepare you for the earth-shattering, tremor-inducing movements of Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner running a comb through his perfectly greased hair, his shirt sleeves effortlessly folded, his guitar slung around his shoulders, gripping him where no one else can. Man or woman, gay or straight, your life changed in this moment. You became a different person. There was a time before this happened and then there was the beautiful light of all that came after.
13. Kings Of Leon are capable of silencing the entire Earth with a cover of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.”
You will stand in the mud for them. You will sway to them. You will scream when you hear the first hint of Robyn’s verses. You will faint for them. You will rise for them.
14. You will never know who Calvin Harris truly is.
You might catch a glimpse of his shadowy figure between flashing lights and bursting fireworks, but there is no saying for sure. Is it him, or is it a mere trick of light, thrown off by the couple who’s grinding aggressively only three inches in front of you? Nobody knows.
15. Every outfit is acceptable if you all agree to look insane.
Denim shorts, crop tops, sunglasses, tank tops, cargo shorts, socks pulled halfway up the shin, backless dresses, sheer skirts, necklaces and bracelets and rings, literally anything they sell at H&M. All of this is acceptable in the magical land of Lolla.
16. A Hawaiian shirt is particularly fashionable if you try hard and believe in yourself.
Sure, it helps if you’re Childish Gambino. Or have a microphone in your hand. But Lollapalooza is proof that the Hawaiian shirt will never die.
17. Literally nobody can dance.
There is a brief moment when you realize nobody around you has any concept of a beat. They are bopping and swaying and dipping aimlessly. And then you realize, in a moment of freedom and light, that you can’t dance either. And it’s OK. Because you’re probably drunk and so is everybody else and nobody cares.
18. You will probably have no idea who 80 percent of the performers are.
Sure, you know Eminem and Lorde and Outkast and Kings of Leon. But under them on the lineup are about 3,000 bands whose names are a collection of letters you’ve never seen joined together before in your life. You will go see them. You will probably like them. You will dance to them. It will be good.
19. PORT-A-POTTIES ARE THE BANE OF ALL HUMANITY’S EXISTENCE.
You will drink a lot. You will fight the urge to hydrate because you know every sip takes you ever closer to The Deed. The port-a-pottie is humankind’s most ingenious invention, a box of great convenience and immense torture. You will try to avoid it. You will fail. It won’t be as bad as you think. But it’ll still be bad.
20. Everything smells, for better or worse, like beer, sweat, and deep dish pizza.
At any given moment, a deep breath brings in the overwhelming smell of Lolla: a slather of sauce, a bucket of sweat, and enough empty beer cans to fill Lake Michigan at least 10 times.*
*Not proven. Please consult a math textbook.
21. There is no escaping the music. It’s everywhere around you. It owns you now.
You can find the quietest corner. You can seek shelter beneath a tree or heavy rock. But the music will find you. There is nowhere without a beat. The ground is constantly moving. You will fall asleep at night to the sound of phantom drumming in your ears. There is no escape.
23. People who sit on other people’s shoulders will murder you.
Sure, you can see up there. But at what cost? AT WHAT COST?
24. Gary Busey’s face is quite possibly the most important way to not get lost in this world of darkness.
If you want to risk your chances of ever seeing your friends or loved ones again, go ahead. Go to Lollapalooza WITHOUT a giant picture of Gary Busey’s face. But if you want hope, if you want the ability to look at the sky at any moment and see Gary Busey’s face looking down upon you, guiding you, then make no hesitation.
25. If you pay $8 for a beer, you may as well make the most of it.
Let’s face it: You will spend $8 on a beer. And then $8 on another beer. And then $16 for two beers. And then nine hours later, you’re lying on a Chicago sidewalk having spent an entire month’s rent on Bud Light.
26. Someone far more important than you is always maybe right next to you at any moment.
Could be Malia Obama. Could be Barack himself. You never know.
27. Pizza is perhaps the one and only savior.
Lou Malnati’s deep dish saves lives.
The man who sells $6 jumbo slices on the street while you drunkenly stumble to the train at the end of the night saves lives.
Pizza. Saves. Lives.
28. Chicago is, without a doubt, the greatest city to have a music festival in.
There is no other city with a skyline as beautiful as this, overlooking a park as grand as this, hosting a festival as big as this, with pizza as good as this. There simply is no other place.