The best part about living in a big city like Chicago, is that every year after the snow melts away, the sun comes out and the whole city becomes a party. Music is everywhere and the sun penetrates as much skin as public decency laws will allow. There are two fests in Chicago that rivaled each other in 2014, Lollapalooza and Riot Fest. Lollapalooza from August 1-3, 14 in Grand Park and Riot Fest September 12-14, 14 in Humbolt Park. Both in large public parks, three days long, tens of thousands in attendance every day, handfuls of stages with acts ranging from nostalgic punk rock to the next EDM superstar with plenty of rain, mud and attempts at jumping the fence between them.
I thought I knew what fests were like, that’s until I went to Austin, TX for the 2015 South by Southwest festival. Instead of three days, it’s three weeks. In lieu of jumping from stage to stage, you jump from bar to bar, convention center to theater, outdoor bandshell to record store parking lot. I went for one week at the end of the festival from March 18-22, during the music week. Other areas of the fest revolve around interactive and film. Since it was my first time at SXSW, I took it slow. I browsed the free events, stood in lines and made friends, I took public transportation into town and got back to the homested before the trains stopped. While it rained, naturally, there was enough sun to burn my pale city skin. I had a great time trying to capture the diversity of this festival and how just like in Chicago, the city just swells with energy when everyone’s having a good time.
The festival experience is somewhat overwhelming to those who steer away from crowds and loud music. But the joy of attending these festivals is enjoying the experience. It’s not about making sure you get to every band on your meticulously planned schedule, or having perfect weather so you don’t have to cover up with a poncho or ruin your white shoes. It may feel unoriginal to want to go to a festival to see some music, but I can guarantee everyone who goes to Lolla, or Riot Fest or SXSW has their own unique experience.
Galleries of all three festivals are linked below.