Lollapalooza holds a special place in my heart. From 2006-2009 you could find me nestled within the confines of beautiful Grant Park enjoying all this party had to offer. Now that I look back at it the festival to me was much more than just a place to see some of my favorite bands in concert. It meant an escape from the world. I always used to think to myself, “the only worries I have during Lolla is what bands I want to see.” Pretty darn good problem to have. On top of that it also gave me a sense of independence during my angst-filled high school and early college years. I felt cool being there, not so much that I was an overly rebellious kid, but I liked rock n roll and counter-culture attitude that a place like Lollapalooza entailed at the time.

Now as I gear up for my return to Lolla, I don’t find myself nearly as excited. I’d like to attribute this to two reasons that are both within and outside my control.

First, the biggest reason Lollapalooza has lost it’s appeal to me is that it’s too safe of a music festival. I don’t mean safe in the security sense, every festival needs to have security on premise. It’s safe though in the sense that it has lost the swagger that gave it a counter-cultural association. After all, Lolla’s inception was based on Perry Farrell’s desire to create a community where tattooed and odd-dressed people like himself could get together and enjoy some music. That’s why you used to see headliners like Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, Widespread Panic, Daft Punk, A Tribe Called Quest, Primus, Manu Chao, etc. While all those bands have a larger following, they represent the type of edginess that Lolla lacks now. There’s something mysterious and unique about them. These types of bands defined Lollapalooza, it was part of the reason why I would shell out 200 bucks to go. You would be hard pressed to catch an act like the one’s mentioned anywhere else and that’s why it was so special.

Now, with headlining acts of this year and last year including Coldplay, Lady Gaga, Green Day, Arcade Fire, and Phoenix, the mysteriousness is lost. Everyone knows these bands and what they have to offer. When the show is about to start you already know what’s going to happen and when the show is over, you aren’t leaving with the sense that you witnessed something special. It seems now that Lollapalooza has just become another stop on the tour for many artists playing. That’s perhaps my biggest problem, it rarely has notable acts anymore where you think, “my goodness my only chance to catch these guys is at Lolla.”

Check out this video I took of Daft Punk in 2007, this is the type of stuff you went to Lollapalooza for.

This brings me to my second point. The allure of a music festival has changed for me. Like I mentioned before I was attracted to Lolla because it gave me independence, it let me live in a fantasy world for a weekend. After attending music festivals like Summer Camp and All Good in the past two years, my desires and perception on what a music festival to me is has changed. Lollapalooza just does not feel like it has the community these two festivals do. I think a big part of it has to do with the fact these two festivals have camping, literally allowing you to escape your home and the modern world for a weekend. At Lolla, I feel as if I go there for the day, equipped with very little and at the end of the day get to return to a shower, a nice meal, and a comfy bed. At camping festivals, showering for me comes in the form of dumping a bottle of water on my head and putting on deodorant. Sleeping occurs in my sleeping bag in a tent and food consists mostly of hot dogs and grilled cheese on my little charcoal grill. Going to the bathroom requires a trek to a portable toilet that turns more people away than it brings in.

So you may be wondering, “why in the hell do you want to put yourself through that when going to a festival like Lolla is ten times more convenient?”. Simply put, I love it and for me it’s all about the music. At camping festivals (Bonnaroo and Coachella withheld) you’re no more than a ten minute walk from any stage. You’re literally living the music festival. Acts go until 4 in the morning and start up at 11 in the morning the next day. You’re consistently exhausted and sometimes grumpy, but all that goes away once the music starts. After a show, you smile and take it all in with your friends while you walk back to your campsite and reminisce about the music you saw while drinking a lukewarm beer and sharing cheez-its.

A music festival to me is as much about the music as it is about the experience. Lolla provides both but it always feels like there is something missing. Like I said before, a music festival is a place to get away from the world and not worry about any problems you have. At Lolla it’s hard to do that when after the festival you return to your residence or wherever you’re staying. There really is no link between you and the festival. I guess that’s the greatest joy I get out of a music festival now. Feeling like I am connected to it and really a part of it. Taking in the culture of a festival and becoming part of its community instead of being a transient concert-goer who goes on their own way at the end of the day. I want to feel as if I belong there. From 2006-2009 I felt that way. It’s going to take a lot of effort for Lollapalooza to make me feel that way again. I know execs will point out that over 270,000 people are coming for the three days and call it a success, but there are many people out there that feel the same way I do.

Plus, how in the hell would I be able to make friends with 270,000 people anyway?