I have been attending Lollapalooza for the past 4 years now, and I have never been part of an evacuation. For that part, no one has ever been part of a mandatory evacuation at Lollapalooza since it’s inception in 1991. Evacuation is such a scary word and seemed like an extreme measure to take at the time. I am going to tell you why it was the right move and how it all went down from my perspective.
I had watched the weather that morning, and the trustworthy meteorologist said that we would be alright. A possible scatter thunderstorm during the day with the severe weather hitting the Chicago area later that night after Lollapalooza was already over for the day. When the text from a friend came in: “How is the rain?” I simply replied with: “What rain? lol”. At that point, I thought I better check the radar on weather.com as the city skyline was getting draped with a very dark, swirling line of clouds. The radar wouldn’t come up, as my phone was not cooperating at the time, but I did see that there was a severe thunderstorm warning in effect until 4:15 pm. Then the unthinkable happened – Alan Palamo of Neon Indian made an announcement at 3:10 pm that they were to be done playing in 10 minutes and that everyone had to leave Grant Park.
At that point, I do not think the crowd believed they had to leave; I know they didn’t want to leave. My group of friends didn’t want to leave the park either. The security ushered us out like a herd of cows, forcing us out in to the streets of Chicago.
The downtown businesses definitely will not complain about that – lines were coming out of bars and restaurants everywhere. We couldn’t get to a bar that had capacity so we ducked inside a Dunkin’ Donuts to watch the monsoon-like storm hit. The spirits of many of my friends were broken as I tried to repair them and keep them feeling good about the possibilities of what was to ensue. After the rain started to let up we made our way to an acquaintances apartment where we had a few beverages as we waited in anticipation of an announcement from the Lollapalooza headquarters. Then at approximately 5:40 pm the news we had been waiting for broke. The Lollapalooza gates were to reopen at 6 pm and music was to start at 6:30 pm. Then the next announcement came in that the schedule had been adjusted and that they were going to extend the headliners time to end to 10:45 pm. At that moment, I did a my “happy man” dance.
6 pm: We hop a cab and start heading back to Grant Park. Walking up to the gates, many were worried that the park would be full of puddles and mud. Once again, I remained positive and sent some vibes out that would hopefully be reinforced upon entry; To my surprise, I was spot on about the grounds being somewhat dry. When we came back in, it was like being allowed back into our favorite amusement park – with the live music being the center of our amusement. FUN. was the first band we watched when we arrived. They were supposed to play smack dab in the middle of the shut down and lucky for the people who made it back they made this adjustment to put them on at 6:30 pm. It felt like a truly magical show and is definitely going down as one of my fondest moments of the festival weekend.
The rest of the night was filled with an unbelievable live performance from Franz Ferdinand, and then we skipped over to Perry’s to check out Calvin Harris and Santigold. All the bands and DJs brought so much energy in their performances that evening. I believe they were feeding off how much energy the smaller but fully committed crowds brought. The evacuation caused everyone to be über excited and worked to the festivals advantage. The smaller crowds for a Saturday night was a great but somewhat expected surprise. The evacuation helped clear out some of the less committed people who didn’t want to come back; let me tell you, they really missed out, but it added to one of my favorite moments at Lollapalooza.
I commend the people in charge of the festival for how everything was handled. With the recent mishaps at festivals when inclement weather has hit, I fully understand why the evacuation was mandatory. It allowed them to check structures to make sure they were sound, and during that time it allowed mother earth to drink up the majority of the water that soaked her. Also, they took the time to adjust the lineup in an attempt to make the majority of the attendees happy, and in the end, we got an extra 45 minutes of music that night. BmnPlus, they added a couple additional shows on Sunday. For this being the first ever evacuation, they were on the ball. The only complaint I have is they should have been more informative on the evacuation shelters that were placed around Grant Park for a situation like this.
When people say, “Wow, that evacuation must have really been a downer.” I would have to reply, “No, actually I was part of Lollapalooza history and it was awesome!”