Resnick: Are music fests like Lollapalooza worth the hype?

Gideon Resnick

Being drunk and basking in summer heat is all the better when Radiohead is playing 10 feet away from you. There are more music festivals throughout the country from April until the end of summer than there are white suburbanites attempting to rap. But really the only ones that matter – the ones that the biggest and best artists attend – are Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

Midwesterners really have it easy. If Lollapalooza is too close to home and not outlandish enough, there’s Bonnarooo in Manchester, Tennessee. It’s a mud-filled hippie fest, which is as close as people can get to a modern Woodstock, complete with mushroom-capped showers and opiate dealers. It takes place in early June, making it a perfect first adventure, and potential first arrest, of the summer for college students. There are no accommodations in Manchester, so if camping is not on the agenda, Bonnaroo is absolutely out of the question.

It is also a whole lot less tame than Lollapalooza. Concerts are scheduled from as early as 10 a.m. and go until 4 a.m. during a four-day period. The variety of artists also ranges beyond the realms of other festivals, with veteran favorites like Buffalo Springfield, comedians like Conan O’Brien and superstars a la Jay-Z. The fest is exhausting, drug-filled and unbelievably hot, but well worth it for those who know what they’re in for.

Coachella, the most glamorous of all the music festivals, is staking claim in the Southern Californian Indio Valley for two consecutive weekends in April. The event is a perennial letdown not because it lacks star power but because the damn thing sells out in seconds. Don’t get me wrong: seeing Kanye West, Arcade Fire and The Strokes in one weekend sounds swell, but it’s an unanswerable tease when the festival is more than 1,500 miles away from campus and in the middle of a desolate valley, a trek from Los Angeles even.

The atmosphere is more like Lollapalooza than Bonnaroo, with shows ending at a reasonable hour and the option not to camp out. This year’s lineup features the smoked-out veterans Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre; ambient, intellectual misanthropes Radiohead; and the still up-and-coming garage band rockers The Black Keys. It would be nice to see those guys, but aside from the fact that it’s sold out, there is absolutely no way that it would be worth the additional cost of an airline ticket.

The fact is that Coachella is not conducive to anyone that doesn’t have a heap of money or live in Los Angeles. Festivals are meant for the summer anyway. It would suck to have to go and have one of the best weekends of one’s life at a music festival and return to an African religion class in Frances Searle on Monday. Whether or not you prefer camping and drugs to the security and comfort of a hotel, festivals are best experienced when responsibilities are as far away as summer is right now.

Gideon Resnick is a Medill freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]