Lollapalooza 2013 needs to quit playing games with my heart.
The sold-out music festival took over Chicago's Grant Park last weekend, as it has since 2005, when the once-traveling festival was revived by Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell and reimagined as an annual destination event.
I have been covering the festival since it moved to Chicago in 2005, with the exception of Lollapalooza 2011 — the year my daughter had the audacity to be born on the same weekend — so it's become part of my summer ritual. (It's not August in Chicago until I'm drinking some complimentary Tito's vodka in the press tent.)
This year, I had resigned myself to not covering the festival, after missing the press application deadline through a combination of not turning the page on my wall calendar since February and sheer apathy for the Lollapalooza lineup.
Don't get me wrong: I love headliners Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails, but Lollapalooza 2013 would mark like the third or fourth time I had seen them perform in Grant Park respectively.
And as for the rest of the lineup, the big names anyway: The Cure, OK, sure, why not; the Postal Service, huh, well okay I guess; Mumford and Sons = Hotmommapalooza.
There was just nothing that grabbed my attention this year. I'm sure that somebody somewhere must be excited about the lineup, but for the life of me I don't know who it could be.
Maybe it's just another sign that I'm getting old. I probably shouldn't admit this in print, but for a majority of this calendar year whenever I heard someone rave about Kendrick Lamar, I assumed they were talking about the basketball player who married Kim Kardashian — which proves that I know nothing about either the NBA or the current state of West Coast rap.
It turns out I like that single he's got quite a bit, the one about diving into swimming pools of liquor; it sounds like something I would have listened to while spilling half of a Mind Eraser on my shirt at C.O. Daniels ... back when that was even a possibility.
Anyway, back to Lollapalooza, and how it was going all Backstreet Boys on my heart: A couple of days before the completely sold-out festival was set to unleash its alternative corporate-ness on Chicago, I got a text message informing me that I had access to an extra media pass if I wanted it. An unexpected victory, credited to the Gods of Lolla.
However, the following day brought a text that said the envelope with my media pass had been lost in transit to Chicago.
Amid this first-world problem tragedy, even though I had not officially applied for a press pass, I somehow ended up on the email list for the Hard Rock Hotel's VIP after-party — one of Lollapalooza's largest soirees — at which 1990s R&B act Salt-n-Pepa was scheduled to perform (how that is related to the alt-rock-favored Lollapalooza, I may never know.)
I would like to believe my invitation was grandfathered in due to my MVP status — as in, Most Valued Partier. In a room full of stuffy media types, I was never afraid to slam some Ciroc vodka and dance by myself/with my backpack like Kevin Bacon in "Footloose."
All it takes is one 6-foot-2 weirdo with a Rorschach pattern of back and chest sweat two-stepping to Gnarls Barkley to set things off.
So I planned to go and review the Hard Rock Hotel After Party, sponsored by ASOS, which is apparently a thing with enough money to pick up my bar tab for the night. Cheers.
But then, when all hope was lost, my media pass made a last-minute reappearance.
What did all of this mean in the end? That I was on unofficial assignment. Meaning, unlike years past, I could go to Lollapalooza whenever I wanted, leave whenever I wanted, drink however much free Tito's vodka I wanted (have I mentioned that the vodka in the media tent was Tito's brand? Nothing beats the taste of free Tito's vodka.)
Do you guys really want to read a review of Lollapalooza? If you did, have you not done so already, in the week that has ensued? The Internet is full of opinions and Vine videos.
My unofficial assignment status did lead to a revelation:
The key to maximizing your Lolla experience is to go late enough in the day that you can find a seat on the train. I know that sounds like some old fuddy duddy business, but I promise you that there are few things on earth more miserable than riding the blue line after Lollapalooza lets out at night. Packed like sardines in a can, the August humidity making, first, your shirt stick to you — then to everyone else.
There was a moment during Lamar's set when I realized two things: I was a decade older than everybody within joystick radius — and the only one not on ecstasy.
That, to me, sums up Lollapalooza 2013 quite succinctly.
Ryan Jackson always enjoys free vodka, and he can be reached at email@example.com.