Is There Room for Actual Adults at Chicago’s Summer Music Festivals?

Here’s how our brave, over-30 writer fared

August 5, 2022 7:15 am
Festival attendees at Lollapalooza 2021
Festival attendees at Lollapalooza 2021
Chicago Tribune via Getty

Summer is festival season in Chicago — for proof, look no further than last weekend’s Lollapalooza, during which thousands of suburban teens descended upon the city for four days of music, sunburns and body glitter. In return, most residents avoided downtown like The Wiener’s Circle avoids ketchup. But what about those mid- to geriatric millennials (read: anyone over 30) still capable of staying out past 10 p.m. — is there still a place for them at the city’s largest music festivals?

Of course there is — with or without the body harnesses. (Note that the Gen Xers are already there; they mastered not caring what anyone else thinks in the actual ’90s, and they’ve been wearing cargo shorts since they were actually cool.) As bonafide adults, we donned our most sensible shoes and headed to Lollapalooza 2022, all in the service of encouraging the now-hesitant to get back out there. Summer music festival season is far from over — hell, Windy City Smokeout is literally tonight. Here’s what we learned. 

1. Nobody Cares What You’re Wearing (And That’s a Good Thing) 

The cool teens of Lolla must have a secret group chat to coordinate outfits, because the festival this year was a sea of sequins, body harnesses and something TikTok keeps insisting is called “Bubble Braids.” But as for you, a grown adult? Nobody’s expecting you to be a walking Princess Polly ad — in fact, they’re not really expecting to see you at the festival at all. So embrace it! Wear that worn-out Wilco shirt! Brush off your cargo shorts! Treat yourself to an extra layer of Dr. Scholl’s! Because at the end of the day, those cool teens may have their whole lives ahead of them, but you have something even better: comfort. 

2. The Boy Scouts Were Right About One Thing — Be Prepared

So — those cargo shorts. Still wearing them? Good, because we’re going to stuff those pockets with everything you’ll need to survive the fest. Be sure you don’t leave the house (or the nearest Walgreens to the festival’s entrance) without: 

  • Clear bag: Maybe you have one from a sporting event — if not, it might be time to get a well-made one. And hey, at least on the positive side, snooping around at what everyone else brought is a great way to kill time in between bands. 
  • Earplugs: If you’re a frequent concertgoer, it’s worth the extra few bucks to get a pair that don’t feel like tiny razors in your ears after an hour. (Pro tip: The festival’s first aid tent will typically have disposable earplugs, plus other essentials like sunscreen, Band-Aids and ibuprofen.)
  • External phone battery: Yes, there’s charging at the festival. But also yes, it will cost you about $25 to do so. (Seriously.) Save that cash for a 312 Wheat Ale and bring your own. 
  • Portable Neck Fan: We spotted a group of comfortable-looking dads wearing these at Lolla, and we’ve never been so jealous of anyone in our lives. That includes everyone in the Platinum Lounge viewing area.  

3. Four Little Words: Go Early, Leave Early

One of my favorite moments of Lollapalooza 2022 was wandering around the still-empty Grant Park at noon before the hordes of other attendees arrived. Just me, emerging bands, empty food lines and no wait on giveaways at the “Red Bull Gives You Wings” Booth. But along with that comes knowing when it’s time to call it a night — and as a bonafide adult, that meant leaving about 20 minutes before the headliner ended, giving me enough time to get out, hop a train and be on my way home before 100,000 other people tried to do the same thing. 

4. Find Your New Favorite Band (Or At Least Try To)

Most adults look at the lineup and immediately start droning on about how it isn’t as good as it was a decade ago. But you’re better than that. Pick three bands throughout the day that you’ve never heard of and listen to two songs each. That’s it! Just two. We did this and wound up finding out about Daisy the Great, which was one of our favorite sets of Lollapalooza 2022.

5. Never Forget: You Can’t Day-Drink Like You Used To

Walking out of Lollapalooza feels like you’re walking onto the set of a zombie movie, except instead of brain-hungry undead, it’s just a sea of puking and passed-out drunk 22-year-olds. If they can’t handle a day’s worth of vodka lemonades and sunshine, then you — a real adult with a 401(k) (maybe) and a strong opinion on dishware (almost definitely) — can’t. Instead, enjoy a beer (or splurge for the $15 cocktail — you deserve it) or pop a light edible, but leave the hardcore partying for the post-show. (“Hardcore partying” is what we call taking an extra melatonin, and “post-show” is your bed.)

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