The Lollapalooza tips you need to know

Today’s column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

The Lollapalooza tips you need to know


July 30, 2011

It’s most commonly known as Chicago’s “front yard.” But come next weekend, Grant Park will be more like the city’s playground.

Or, maybe its garage.

You know, depending on what kinds of bands you’re into.

Next Friday through Sunday (Aug. 5-7), the Windy City will again play host to the sprawling music extravaganza that is Lollapalooza. Since 2005, the annual festival – which was originally conceived in 1991 by Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell – has made its home in Chicago, where it’s under contract to be staged through 2018.

This year, the headliners for the sold-out 20th anniversary Lollapalooza include the likes of Muse, Eminem and the Foo Fighters. And this year, its expected 270,000 attendees will include the likes of me, as I’ll be taking in the festival for the first time.

To get myself – and you – up to speed on prepping for the ’Palooza, I sought out my friend Frank Grubich of Downers Grove. He’s been to each of the past four festivals in Grant Park and knows Lollapalooza like I know Wrigley Field.

In other words, really well.

Where to park

“I don’t even know if I should tell you this,” Frank said with a laugh when I inquired how gets to Lollapalooza from the southwest suburbs. “But I always drive in and then park at the Soldier Field underground lot (1410 South Museum Campus Drive).

“It’s only like $15 and a short walk over to Grant Park. And there’s hardly anyone there.”

With easy access via Lake Shore Drive to interstates I-90/94, I-55 and I-57, the lot is a quick escape for anyone from south of the city. So, sorry Frank, but your secret’s out now.

What to wear (and not to)

When asked the No. 1 thing that people should know about Lollapalooza, Frank instantly replied with the edict: “Wear walking shoes.”

He then added: “Everyone who goes for the first time is surprised at just how big Lollapalooza is (Grant Park does cover 319 acres). So, always give yourself ample time to get from one stage to another and wear walking shoes.

“The first year, my wife wore sandals and after half a day, she had blisters.”

To avoid blisters of a different kind (i.e., sun), Frank also recommended wearing sunscreen and a hat – a distinctive one, if you’re planning to meet up with people.

“It can really help for them to pick you out in a crowd,” he said.

Additionally, Frank suggested bringing some kind of mat to sit on, explaining that, “There isn’t a lot of grass on the park’s south end. And it can get muddy down there.”

Food and drinks

Lollapalooza is, of course, known for its menu of bands. But the fest is quickly becoming known for its culinary menu, as well.

For the third year, famed Chicago chef Graham Elliot is serving as the culinary director/mayor of Lolla’s “Chow Town,” which this year will feature 30 vendors serving “high-class, low-key fare.” For a full lineup of vendors, visit

“The food is awesome, and they don’t gouge you on the prices,” Frank said. “They also have dishes there that they don’t even have at the ‘Taste of Chicago.’”

Water is also readily available throughout the park, including for free at many locations. Frank recommended bringing your own bottle that you can then refill.

Start up the bands

To navigate the festival, Lollapalooza offers a fantastic free iPhone and Android app, featuring a map, band schedules and much more. I suggest a download.

Frank, meanwhile, suggested a trio of lesser-known artists to check out: Delta Spirit (Friday), Lykke Li (Saturday) and The Joy Formidable (Sunday).

Oh and remember, wear walking shoes.

Party in the Park