Lollapalooza, a music festival in Grant Park, IL, was the reason I went to the states, and the reason I'll never forget it.
Summers used to be synonymous with the beach, the ocean, long days outside reading and playing, listening to music. They were for lying around until the sun started to disappear beyond the lowest hill in the west and the bats started to come out from hiding.
Summers were synonymous with youth and possibility, though I didn't know it at the time or how heavily time spent doing nothing would be so influential in the future. Some of the most memorable songs were released in the summer. Radiohead's Karma Police, Hanson's Mmmbop; what feels like every single Fugees track.
I remember them pouring from the boombox that was placed strategically to my right. I could only sit still if there was music to accompany said stillness. I remember holding books and waiting for my friends to get back from their scheduled, package vacations I couldn't afford, and I remember the 20th anniversary of Elvis dying in the days before I knew he died on the toilet. (Or that I'd come close to it a couple of times myself).
Summers were always musical, even if it was never with festivals. I grew up in the 90s, when festivals were growing to be the phenomena they are today. Glastonbury was a dream and I hailed Woodstock for all that it was. I didn't realize my first real festival would be the Lollapalooza in which Cobain blessed the Foo Fighters with rain.
My First Music Festival
It wasn't "real", but my first real festival experience was BBC Radio 1 Roadshow. Videos were broadcast on a large screen and the acts were the up-and-comers you see these days in Glastonbury's BBC Introducing tent. (Or whatever Lollapalooza's version of that is for emerging artists).
I didn't have MTV at the time, so seeing the videos on the big screen was kind of my first real experience outside of the TV shows we had in at the time. (The Chart Show, TFI Friday, Top of the Pops). Weirdly enough—more likely because that year had a lot going for it—I saw the Hanson and the Radiohead videos for the tracks I'd first heard on the radio.
1997 was a landmark year in music. It was around then that music became more to me than just something I did. It became something I was and something I could do and be. Music could change my life and it did, even if one of the tracks played was by a knock-off Blackstreet.
In the days before streaming, audiophiles couldn't be choosers.
A Brief Love via Internet Connection
After narrowly missing the chance to score tickets for Glastonbury, I used the modern day love connection we call the Internet, to find the person I told myself I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. The problem was they lived in Indiana. With them in Indiana and me in England, that posed plenty of difficulties for us to actually see each other face-to-face.
Well, after a couple of years of scrimping and saving—harder than it sounds when you consider I did my side via gigging and also had to buy a new guitar—I got there.
Our music tastes were varied. By varied, I mean we barely agreed on so much as a genre, but she'd once waxed poetic about the Foo Fighters and at the time, my band and I did an extremely lucrative-at-weddings cover of Everlong.
When we heard they'd be playing Lollapalooza, we made the executively spontaneous decision to go.
My Second Music Festival
The year was 2011 and my then other half and I had already started to fracture. I lived in her apartment but was here for another month after that which meant kicking me out would only have reflected poorly on her social standing.
That said, the year was 2011 and we also had single day tickets to Lollapalooza aka one of the biggest festivals in the world. Foo Fighters were scheduled to play one of the headline slots. Foo Fighters were gonna take the stage by storm.
We just didn't know how literal that storm would be.
2011 was Electrifying
Bands I loved were playing different stages during the day—bands like Best Coast, Noah & the Whale, Manchester Orchestra—but we decided to loiter around the stage the Foo Fighter were playing because it's Lollapalooza and everyone knows you have to rush to see the headliners.
Arctic Monkeys had the slot before them. As a fellow northern Brit, I was all for listening to them beforehand. The place started to pack before their set. I heard a couple yelling at each other even, which made me feel kind of at home.
I could have cried harder than the rain that was scheduled as rumblings of, "Maybe they won't play?" filled the multitudes of conversations that created their own static, even before the thunder. We were at Lollapalooza for the Foo Fighters and our faux love was on its last legs just for Dave and co.
They came out though, even as the rain gradually built and built. They stayed onstage though Dave's hair was slick to his forehead and any one of the five guys could have been electrocuted via their amps, their guitars, their pedals, but weren't.
My Hero is a track from the Foo Fighters' album The Color and the Shape. That was when the rain started to fall. My Hero is also a track that was inspired by Kurt Cobain, the frontman of Nirvana (who am I kidding? We all know Kurt), Dave's old band, who died nearly 20 years before that Lollapalooza.
When they started to play the song, the skies opened and the rain fell. My faux love and I looked at each other, proud we'd experienced the moment together, and knowing it was gone but Lolla would be forever.