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Riding the Wild Surf at Lollapalooza

Memoirs & Miscellany, Outdoor Concerts Add comments

Photo: Matthew Taplinger

No keys. No phone. No money, credit cards or ID. I was sitting on the ground next to Buckingham Fountain staring out toward the darkness that had taken over Michigan Avenue. Slumped up against the concrete, with muddy feet and smelling of sweat and Budweiser, I had just had the best moments of my first Chicago summer.

“What time is it?” I asked the man sitting on the ground next to me. Through his beer goggles he swayed his eyes toward me. He said he didn’t know the time or where his friends were or how he got there.

An hour before, at the MGMT concert, I had left all of my things behind and surrendered to the crowd. Finally.

For Lollapalooza 2010, I splurged and bought three-day passes. For the first two-and-a-half days, I watched a friend of mine crowdsurf during almost every set. It was getting to me. I had to do it.

So, there at MGMT, my crowdsurfing friend and I, accompanied by our mutual friend Jim (Beam), sang all the best songs off of the group’s debut album, “Oracular Spectacular.” Yet again, my friend surfed away into the crowd with a smile. Now it was time for me to decide. At that moment, a favorite song came on. With one last bit of encouragement from Jim, I handed all my belongings to a friend.

“How do I do it?” I asked her, now realizing there must be some type of proper crowdsurfing etiquette.

“She wants to go,” my friend yelled to the large men in front of me.

As they turned around and looked in my direction I squealed, “Lift me up!”

The next thirty seconds were a rush of hands, yells, dips, swirls of color, and finally a plop! down to the ground. It was the best thirty seconds of my summer, and one of the coolest of my small existence. I was one with the waves of the crowd. It cradled me in its hands, rocking me not-so-gently to the music that flooded my ears. The waves that day were totally radical. So gnarly.

I watched the rest of the set from the comfort of third row center—definitely the easiest way I’ve ever scored such a cheap seat upgrade—in the middle of a group of strangers. We held hands and swayed together like hippies as we crooned a slow ballad. As the last song came to its end, I said goodbye to my surfing buddies and headed to the next venue. Then, it dawned on me. I had nothing.

The thing about being at Lollapalooza in the summertime in Chicago is that it messes with your head. You pay absurd amounts for beer. You stand outside in ninety-degree weather in the sun all day long and still dance your ass off. You take swigs of bourbon without chasers and without a thought of how it is severely dehydrating your body. You hug and hold hands with sweaty strangers in crowds just because you both love the same song. And the sweat. So much sweat. You sweat all day, and you still feel great. It was this Lollapalooza fog that made me feel completely fine that I was now without phone, money or ID. The obvious solution was to go see The National play my favorite songs and dance with strangers. This made complete sense.

Luckily, the fog hadn’t entirely taken over my mind—I still had planned that no matter what, I would meet my friend at the fountain after the next concert. Thanks to a stranger with a watch, I made it on time. (Sarah Alo)

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