Your Go-To Guide to Lollapalooza 2017
For the past decade and change, Chicago has been flooded with out-of-towners in the late summer for Lollapalooza, the four-day weekend filled with every notable musical act you'd feasibly want to see live in a given year. Lolla 2017 is hardly any different: during August 3-6, some of our favorite current bands will grace the festival's many stages, both big and small. But newbies beware, this isn't just a waltz in (Grant) Park. As any vet will tell you, you'll have to battle large crowds, plan out your schedule, and feed yourself in between it all. We're here to take out some of that guesswork. If you're looking for a last-minute ticket or a bangin' after-party show to hit up (playlist included), look no further than our go-to guide below.
Since Lollapalooza sells out in minutes before the schedule is even announced, traditional means of ticket acquisition are out. You can try to enter various contests to win tix but if you’re not the gambling type, you’re probably gonna have to eventually bite the bullet and go with a broker. Four-day passes are currently going for around $300 on sites like StubHub and Vivid Seats, which is actually not that bad a deal.
VIP options are also currently on the secondary ticket marketplace, which get you amenities like multi-level viewing platforms, expedited entry, shaded bar lounge areas with craft beers and cocktails, free food from Big Star and Publican Quality Meats, air-conditioned bathrooms, lockers with cell phone charging units, and, yes, a massage tent. But our favorite perk is easily the golf cart shuttle transportation that takes you from one side of the park to the other in minutes.
Unlike many festivals, Lolla lets you enter and exit up to three times a day, provided you get your wristband scanned on the way in and out each time. They frown upon loose wristbands that can be slipped off, removing them between days, or general tampering. If you happen to legitimately lose yours, they can replace it for $25. If you register your wristband in advance, you can sign up for Lolla Cashless, which charges your credit or debit card for on-site purchases.
Lollapalooza takes over Grant Park, which is in the heart of downtown Chicago near Lake Michigan. Assuming you're not staying in a hotel across the street, here's how to make your way there:
Ride with the CTA or Metra
Getting to the park at the same minute as tens of thousands of others turns into a shitshow at peak hours. A cab or ride share will get you there, but most people opt for public transit. Any CTA line will get you downtown, but the Red and Blue Line Jackson stop is closest to the main entrance. If you’re riding the Metra, the Van Buren stop on the Electric Line is located within the park.
Shuttle or share
Uber or Lyft is typically a bit cheaper than cabs in Chicago (although peak Lolla times are inevitably prone to surge charges), but you can get $15 off your first ride Uber using the code RIDE2LOLLA. There is also a range of shuttle options -- try this helpful site where you can enter your address to find the closest one. If you insist on driving, you can park at garages near Grant Park (though you’d be wise to reserve a spot in advance).
The most fun way to get to Lolla is by bike (provided where you're staying is within biking distance). There is bike parking outside the main entrance, and local bike rental joints are offering discounts for out-of-towners, although you could just as easily participate in Chicago’s public bike sharing program, Divvy (check their site for locations).
Don't forget to eat in between shows. At Lollapalooza's Chow Towns, you'll find good food stalls aplenty lined along Columbus Boulevard. Here's where you should eat, without having to leave the festival grounds:
Chow Town North (closer to the Bud Light Stage):
Kuma’s Corner for heavy-metal themed burgers
Kamehachi for sushi rolls and rice bowls
The Smoke Daddy for BBQ
Dia de los Tamales for trippy tamales (and plenty of veg options)
Lou Malnati’s for real-deal deep dish pizza
Cheesie’s for fancy grilled cheese
Goddess and the Grocer for deli-style sandwiches and wraps
Chow Town South (closer to the Grant Park Stage):
Billy Goat Tavern for its SNL-made famous "cheezborger"
Leghorn Chicken for hot, hot Nashville hot chicken
Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs for a famous half rack or pulled pork sandwich
Rainbow Cone for a multicolored cool treat
Graham Elliot for the Chicago chef's latest
Edzo’s for an old-school burger
Since the music is what you came for, after all. Everyone will be buzzing about headliners like Chance the Rapper, Arcade Fire, The Killers, and Lorde, but the great thing about a festival as massive as Lollapalooza is discovering the talent on the sprawling undercard. Here are a few of our favorites:
... If you're looking to get political, but in a fun way
Attending a music festival is a great way to escape the drudgery of the 24-hour-news cycle -- seriously, good luck getting reliable cell service at an event like this -- but that doesn't mean you're there to turn off your brain. Hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, which consists of rappers El-P and Killer Mike, throws musical Molotov cocktails of righteous indignation and undeniable swagger, describing a hollowed-out nation while also cracking jokes about how they'll "speed-bag your ball bag." Their three self-titled albums, all distributed for free online, have turned them into a festival circuit favorite and you'll quickly understand why once you see them live. (Friday 6:45pm, Grant Park Stage)
... If you want to make things physical
On their last two records, 2013's Heartthrob and 2016's Love You to Death, indie favorites Tegan and Sara have doubled-down on the electro-pop elements that were present in their earlier work, crafting catchy, propulsive songs that wouldn't sound out of place on Top-40 radio. Those songwriting instincts serve them well on big festival stages, where you'll be drawn in by the dance floor ready beats of their hits like "Closer" and "Boyfriend." But hang around for the come-down songs, too: You'll probably need a breather. (Friday 5pm, Bud Light Stage)
... If you want to escape the heat
Sampha's unfussy, skeletal ballads hit like a blast of cool air. The British singer-songwriter and producer has collaborated with artists like Drake, Kanye West, and Solange Knowles, but his solo work, particularly his debut full-length Process, is comparatively low-key. Tracks such as "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano," "Blood on Me," and "Incomplete Kisses" will provide a few much-needed moments of contemplation during his just-in-time-for-dusk Sunday evening set. (Sunday 6:30pm, Pepsi Stage)
... If you can't get enough jangly guitars
There will be plenty of nondescript guitar-driven bands at Lollapalooza, but don't pass up the chance to see the Canadian indie-rock quartet Alvvays. Mining the fuzz-rock sound of '80s favorites like the Pastels and The Wedding Present, the band makes joyful power-pop cut with just enough melancholy and droll lyrics. The group's latest record Antisocialites drops early in September, so expect them to be playing new material along with older songs (like college radio mainstay "Archie, Marry Me") during their early afternoon set. (Saturday 3pm, Bud Light Stage)
... If you'd rather be in Alaska
Maggie Rogers isn't from the icy state up North, but her breakout track "Alaska," which had a small-scale viral moment thanks to super-producer Pharrell Williams, is as otherworldly as anything you'd find in the tundra. It's the type of skittering, mystery-filled folktronica oddity that would've been a blog favorite in the MP3 era, and the rest of her Now That the Light is Fading EP is similarly captivating. Catch the 23-year-old Maryland native now before all her songs are soundtracking some dreary Netflix show. (Sunday 2:30pm, Grant Park Stage)
... If you're wondering where punk went
Go see Cloud Nothings. The new pride of Cleveland -- LeBron and Drew Carey notwithstanding -- this band, fronted by Dylan Baldi, is a ridiculously prolific group of noise-fueled indie rockers who have been creating some of the flat-out ballsiest rock 'n' roll records of the 2010s, most recently 2017’s essential Life Without Sound. Amazingly, this is their first stop at Lolla, but it definitely won’t be their last. (Friday 3pm, Bud Light Stage)
... If you're looking for a British fix
Hot on the heels on their sophomore record How Did We Get So Dark?, British rock/NME Award-winning duo Royal Blood will play their frenetic no-frills, pull-no-punches rock for the Chicago audience. These guys have made Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page a fan, which tells you everything you need to know. (Saturday 5:15pm, Lake Shore Stage)
Lollapalooza brings tons of industry folks to the city for a week of SXSW-style showcases that take over venues across the city for dozens of official (and unofficial) after-parties. You’ve got plenty of options if you’re still fiending for live music after 10pm:
Wednesday, August 2
For those who can’t wait for Lolla to kick off, you can wet your whistle early with a tasty pre-festival treat in the form of a performance by iconic Austin indie rockers Spoon at Metro, the top venue in the city that's seen its fair share of stories over the past 35 years. For those looking for a more psychedelic experience with British attitude, point the GPS toward Temples at Lincoln Hall.
Thursday, August 3
If you’re looking to see a local band that everyone but you is already talking about, check out Chicago indie rock darlings Whitney at Thalia Hall, a beautiful restored historic landmark in the Pilsen neighborhood. If you’re jonesing for more of a party-starting, EDM-flavored affair, work the dance floor with darkly manic electro-punks Crystal Castles at Lincoln Hall.
Friday, August 4
Transitioning from underground favorite to headlining act this year, Canadian oddball indie rocker Mac DeMarco will close out Friday night with an intimate set at Concord Music Hall. Check out Warpaint at Subterranean if you're in for a set of moody art rock by a quartet of badass women from LA.
Saturday, August 5
The Vic is the place to catch near-perfect indie band The Shins, who are as easy to like as they are hard to find fault with. Car Seat Headrest at Lincoln Hall is where you’ll experience the spectrum of Will Toledo's work as an already prolific songwriter that spans from lo-fi gems to full-band rock 'n' roll headbangers.
Sunday, August 6
If you’ve got anything left in the tank by Sunday night (kudos if you do), The Head and the Heart at Metro will provide the perfect comedown from the weekend with their soft folk harmonies and gorgeous, lush melodies. Or you could go in the complete opposite direction and see EDM kingpins Zeds Dead at Concord Music Hall and call in sick Monday.