Lollapalooza Adds More Stages—and a Beer Garden—to This Year's Sold-Out Festival

For this year's Lollapalooza festival, organizers made the mile-plus trek from one end of Grant Park to the other worth the trip by adding a multitude of stages, sponsor activations, and rest areas.

By Wendy Wollenberg August 5, 2008, 2:57 PM EDT

Two concerts could be viewed simultaneously from Lederhosen's Biergarten, a popular rest stop on the festival grounds.

Photo: Eric Craig for BizBash

For Chicago's fourth-annual Lollapalooza, which took over Grant Park Friday through Sunday, festival organizers C3 Presents from Austin, Texas, offered a smorgasboard of choices for music—not to mention art and beer—lovers. Eight stages featured performances by 120 acts running concurrently over three days, while new distractions abounded, from Perry's, an electronica stage named after festival founder Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, to Lederhosen's Biergarten, a popular stop for brews and brats.

The sheer size of Grant Park coupled with the diverse array of acts—mash-up wizard Girl Talk, gypsy punks Gogol Bordello, and headliners like Wilco, Radiohead, and Nine Inch Nails—could make getting the lay of the land difficult for any concertgoer. However, several helpful tools were on hand, such as pocket-sized official schedules, a centrally located information tower, and hordes of volunteers holding “Fest Info—Ask Me Now” signs. This is the first time Lollapalooza has sold out all three days in Chicago, with crowds upwards of 75,000 attending each day.

Gone was one of the biggest gripes of the past—the rule against bringing bottled water on festival grounds—and concession prices were kept relatively low. At Chow-Town, two food courts featuring dishes from prominent Chicago restaurants like Goose Island Brewpub, Starfruit, and Adobo Grill, costs ranged from $5 to $7, and vendors used eco-friendly materials. Recycling containers could also be found throughout the grounds, emphasizing Lollapalooza's green message. Green Street, an eco-educational exhibit, featured a Whole Foods-sponsored green grocery, a marketplace offering fair-trade and organic products, and a recycling tent where earth-conscious attendees could turn in bottles and cups for free T-shirts.

Other popular stops included The Flaming Lips Christmas on Mars tent, a circus-style big top seating 220 guests that screened a film produced by the indie rock band; an exhibition of works by School of the Art Institute of Chicago students and faculty entitled “Who Art Thou?"; and general stores scattered throughout Grant Park selling necessities such as aspirin and Visine (and rock star regalia like fringed scarves and studded belts, in case anyone was—gasp—dressed too conservatively).

Sponsored environments could be found in abundance, as well. The AT&T Digital Oasis (set up next to the AT&T stage at the south end of the park) offered high-speed Internet access and a live Web cast, while two PlayStation tents featured games like SingStar, RockBand, and LittleBigPlanet. The Dell Lounge, housed within a futuristic white orb tent stationed next to the Bud Light stage, offered Dell laptops for impromptu T-shirt and button printing. And local radio station Q101.1 set up a “Hammock Haven,” complete with a misting wall and black cloth hammocks hung from trees. In total, more than 200 tents provided by Classic Party Rentals marked the grounds at Grant Park.

Musical highlights from the three days included Perry Farrell's performance at the children-friendly “Kidzapalooza” stage (where he sang such dubiously kid-appropriate hits as “Knockin' On Heaven's Door” and “Superstitious” accompanied by Paul Green's School of Rock All-Stars), the angst-filled Rage Against the Machine set (during which some fans and security personnel were injured by the crush of people), and Kanye West's suprisingly on-time homecoming.

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