Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I'm not a Lollapaloozer

Like many die-hard music fans, I can't imagine anything more fun than standing around in the 100-degree sun and humidity of a Chicago summer watching three days of live music on distant stages along with hundreds of thousands of sweaty and stoned hippies, frat boys, and other alternative music lovers. This is why I'm so happy that Lollapalooza will return to Grant Park this year bigger than ever with 130 artists playing eight stages over three days, Aug. 4-6. Exciting stuff.

With that many artists, surely there will be someone for everyone, making the $100-plus tickets well worth it. Or maybe not. I'm actually trying to think of one band that would get me to buy a ticket and go to this thing, but ... I must be getting old. Then again, I'm used to going to venues where 130 might be the number of audience members, not the number of performances. And I can't even think of eight stages in this city where I'd be willing to pay money to see live music, so maybe Lollapalooza is just a bit overwhelming.

Still, I've been to my fair share of outdoor music festivals, so I think I'm fairly competent in presenting a guide to surviving a major rock event in a downtown park ...

How to be a true believer

1. Wear your Sunday best. This ain't no day in the park. A flowery bonnet will keep the sun's rays off your face. Actually, the Scripture of the Smashing Pumpkins says that it's all right to dress however you want to, unless you are making a claim to alternativeness. In that case, the way that you dress (along with the rest of your life) must be subject to the guidelines and control of Rolling Stone magazine.

2. When Liz Phair says "Hello Chicago," respond with "amen!"

3. Clap and sway in unison. Lift hands heavenward and praise the singer.

4. Each performance can range in time from about 30 minutes to several hours. Well, no, they won't really be that long, though they might seem like it, especially bands like Dashboard Confessional and Death Cab for Cutie.

5. The festival is often surrounded by periods of musical worship led by a song leader, choir or band, although tattoo and piercing booths are just as important.

6. Musical styles vary between arena rock and Adult Contemporary with many artists choosing a blend of the two.

7. Concert goers will only sing along if they've heard the song on a station that claims to play "the new rock alternative" or "what we want."

8. Alternative rockers oppose the use of drum machines and/or slide guitar in their performances because those two instruments are associated with uncool music which is considered sinful or Satanic to them.

9. Other common features in an outdoor music festival include the collection of offering, the serving of symbolic communion, and a period of announcements. Communion is portrayed by eating bread (with some sort of sausage) and drinking wine, beer, or other liquor that helps the drinker believe in Perry Farrell as a true god.

10. Though most of the performers are relatively unknown with typically small audiences, an outdoor music festival allows them to mutter into the microphone and remain motionless on a large stage in front of thousands, with their unclean images broadcast on giant screens for all to witness.

(Pic of rock festival in Quito, Ecuador, 2004, available for $4.53.)


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