Ponnada: Lollapalooza turned up, burnt out

BY SRI PONNADA | AUGUST 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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Do you love music? Are you a die-hard fan of any certain performer, or band? Well, I have some advice for you: Don’t be tempted by all the hype and allure of music festivals like Lollapalooza and buy extremely overpriced tickets to see your favorite artist(s) there.

This summer, I decided to attend the annual music festival in Grant Park. I was super excited to see many artists on the lineup — some whose music I’ve loved since I was a freshman in high school, when great music wasn’t mainstream. However, when I got to the festival, I realized that it wasn’t what I signed up for. To be honest, I had a feeling that something was amiss when I was walking to the venue and saw a tall, young man who was wearing a tank top and basketball shorts and who looked no more than 20 years old, sporting a Native American headdress.

And he wasn’t alone.

There were hundreds of people at the festival wearing not only those headdresses, but also bindis — a decorative mark worn in the middle of the forehead, usually by Hindu women, for religious reasons. It was kind of sickening to see the multitude of unapologetic children and adults alike ignorantly appropriating significant elements of other people’s cultures simply to “look cool.”

Speaking of looking cool — out of the approximated 300,000 people who attended Lollapalooza this year, it seemed like at least half of the people there just went to the festival because of how overhyped it is. I really wonder how many people attended either because they knew and loved the artists performing or just because they love music and wanted to discover some new sounds.

I remember one particular instance during Calvin Harris’s set when the crowd was pretty much dead, which was surprising given how pumped they were a few seconds before. Harris had just started playing the intro to “Flashback,” a song from his ’09 album, Ready for the Weekend. I absolutely love that album, so naturally I was singing and dancing away, but then I heard someone behind me ask, “What the f*** is he playing?” I was appalled.

But what can you expect? The festival was crowded by angsty 14-year-olds who think it’s OK to grind to Broken Bells and the kind of people who hit the bars every weekend at Iowa who were jacked up on all sorts of drugs and didn’t know or care what they were listening to — they just wanted to get “turnt up.” In fact, on the very first day, I saw a girl being carried to an ambulance on a stretcher. Apparently, she OD-ed and broke something, but there she was on the stretcher, continuing her dance all the way to the ER.

It probably sounds crazy, but it’s true. I understand why it would be hard for some people to believe these things happen at Lollapalooza, though. The festival is so extremely glamorized by the media that fans couldn’t possibly know the true nature of the event until they have a costly, firsthand experience.

In the words of the annoying 13-year-old who proclaimed to me when I told her friend she wasn’t going to cut me in line at the Calvin Harris concert, “Music festivals are supposed to be a happy place. Why can’t we all just be happy?” I wish it were true, but Lollapalooza is definitely not what it used to be years ago — a place where music-lovers could go to get a music-high, not a contact one.

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