Features | Festivals

I Did Not Have Fun: Lollapalooza 2011

By Colin McGowan | 19 August 2011

Deadmau5 was doing whatever Deadmau5 does. I had stopped looking at the stage and was instead fixated on a blotch of mustard that had fallen on my shoe. I licked my thumb and squatted over my feet to wipe the stain. Nestled in a forest of tan leg fat, I saw a small hand with bright red fingernails making a circular motion some four inches below the hem of a teenage girl’s skirt. I saw the hand glide up the girl’s skirt like a spider caught in an updraft and fumble for a moment as if it were turning a combination lock. I was in middle school once; I know that clumsy motion. There was some serious fingering going on while Deadmau5 was doing whatever Deadmau5 does.

This was the low point of the weekend. Also that weekend I saw the Cool Kids, the Mountain Goats, and a sampling of other bands. By “sampling,” I mean I spent most of my time ping-ponging between stages, flipping through the Lolla app on my phone, trying to link sounds I didn’t like with band names I had heard of once or twice, avoiding stuff I was positive I would hate. Did Gorilla vs. Bear tepidly approve of those guys’ first record? Well, they’re probably better than Soundgarden. I may have seen Local Natives, who I remember sorta hating at last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. I saw some band that played boring folk pop. Fuck whatever band that was.

I went to Lollapalooza alone. That’s not true, technically, but I was alone at Lollapalooza. In part because AT&T’s network was apparently manned by carrier pigeons the entire weekend; texts arrived 45 minutes after they were sent, which made meeting up impossible. Some people I know wanted to see Skrillex, and I wanted to grab some free booze from the press tent rather than pay $5 for a Bud Light. We parted ways, and with no trail of electronic breadcrumbs to lead us back to each other, never reunited.

Which is fine. I sorta hate Skrillex the way I sorta hate that band I’m pretty sure was Local Natives. It’s a microwaveable sort of hate, because unlike my id or the Chicago Transit Authority, I get to choose how much contact I have with Skrillex or Local Natives or Ratatat. I’m not the guy to make faces at other people having fun.

Or: I am, but I don’t want to be that guy, as I am also the guy who has friends and acquaintances and acquaintances’ cousins who were looking forward to this weekend in roughly the same measure I was dreading it. In fact, two friends from New York drove cross-country to sleep on my floor and see Eminem. I think all of these people have bad taste in music, and they probably think I’m an asshole. We try not to vocalize these sentiments to each other.

Lollapalooza is a festival for people who believe in festivals, people whose hands get all clammy for, like, the Drums and who think a weekend of music can be transformative. It’s also a festival for thirtysomethings who want to get fucked up, lay in the sun, and pretend they’re twenty again. It’s a festival for people who want to do mushrooms and look at pretty colors—but then, that’s every music festival, and the euphoria of tripping has a lot more to do with the fireworks going off in one’s head than any specific corporeal thing. Anyhow, Chicago is a city with enough pretty colors that don’t form a Playstation logo to avoid a festival like this and still get your hallucination on.

Lollapalooza is not a festival for me, who, without a node to cling to in this sea of (I guess) pretty happy people, can only cling to pettiness. I thought about writing that Skrillex’s set sounded like an asshole tumultuously shitting out teeth without having seen his set, but that felt unfair. Not because I don’t have valid criticisms to lob at Skrillex or the glitter-pocked sewage monster that is Lollapalooza, but because the sewage monster has its slimy paws wrapped around a mass of humans—douchebags, teens, parents, lawyers, the drunk, the severely depressed, the mourning, the people who like me ate some rancid hotdogs and had to throw up only moments before leaving for the festival, the Chris Cornell fans, whatever—who seem (I guess) pretty happy. I let ice cream trucks roll by my apartment all the time without lecturing the local 8-year-olds about maintaining a healthy diet. And it’s not like I don’t eat ice cream.

The most gracious thing I can offer Lollapalooza is a mutual understanding that we should stay the hell away from each other. Let chain-smoking Dads pump their fists. Let the muddy masses undulate to shitty electronica. Let Anheuser-Busch plaster its logo onto the blood platelets of infants. Let Deadmau5 do whatever Deadmau5 does. Let the children finger-fuck. I just don’t want to watch it.