Lollapalooza Gets Green with Gaga

13 Aug

The entrance to Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago

REPORTING FROM CHICAGO — With one of the most musically diverse festival lineups of the summer, Lollapalooza took over Grant Park in Chicago for the sixth year in a row on Aug. 6, 7, and 8. With 115 acres, 35 more than last year, Lollapalooza attracted 80,000 attendees per day. By adding acreage, the festival was said to have increased its selling capacity by 10 to 15 percent.

The 152-artist weekend included the likes of soul singer Raphael Saadiq, Eighties throwback DEVO, Austin indie darlings Spoon along with The xx, Metric, Kaskade, MGMT, Nneka, Erykah Badu and Cypress Hill. Headliners played simultaneously on the Budweiser and Parkways Foundation stages, which were at opposite ends of the park. Over a mile separated the two stages, so attendees were faced with tough decisions each night. Friday headliners were rockers The Strokes and dance-pop queen Lady Gaga; Saturday’s were the upbeat French group Phoenix and veteran punk band Green Day, and Sunday’s were the orchestral indie Canadians Arcade Fire versus 90s grunge band Soundgarden.

Festival sponsor F.Y.E. hosted an autograph tent on the northern end of the park, and organized autograph signings for fans with 49 of the weekend’s artists. F.Y.E. was brought on as a sponsor in 2007 when the local Virgin Megastore closed and now handles all CD and DVD sales for all bands in addition to doing the autograph sessions.

“Our lineup for signings has been incredible this year. Sales-wise, this is our best year so far,” said Shaun Smith, events supervisor at Trans World Entertainment, which operates F.Y.E. stores. Smith noted that the most popular meet and greet session was MGMT. Other favorites included The National, Phoenix and Spoon, who each attracted over 300 people.

Other festival sponsors included Sony, which set up the Bloggie Borrow Bar, where attendees could rent an HD camera for free and upload their videos online. H2O was Lollapalooza’s official water sponsor, chosen because of their product’s sustainable packaging. Rather than petroleum-based plastic bottles, h2O uses paper from managed forests and water-based ink in its packaging.

Chicago Chef Graham Elliot Bowles, owner of the local restaurant Graham Elliot, was culinary director for Chow Town, Lollapalooza’s two-street food court. Food vendors included local restaurants such as Big Star, The Southern, and Kuma’s Corner. Big Star offered elote (corn-on-the-cob) for $5, tostada de panza ($7), and coctel de frutas ($5). The Southern offered hush puppies with buttermilk ranch ($6), sweet potato fries with spicy ketchup ($6), and shrimp cocktail with peach sauce ($8); and Kuma’s Corner offered the Kuma Burger (bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg), Judas Priest burger (bacon, bleu cheese dressing with apples, walnuts and dried cranberries), and Iron Maiden burger (avocado, cherry peppers, pepper jack, and chipotle mayo), for $10 each. The most popular of the food booths at Lollapalooza, Kuma’s, cooked over 2,000 pounds of bacon within the three-day period. While many vendors had to undergo an application process, Kuma’s was personally invited by Graham Elliot and selected from an online reader’s poll of favorite Chicago restaurants.

“I think there was a benefit in terms of being exposed to a wide variety of people that haven’t heard of us or haven’t been able to make it out to the restaurant,” said Executive Chef Luke Tobias. “We were busy from noon to close, all three days. We sold a lot of burgers.”

Festival organizer C3 Presents implemented a number of environmental initiatives throughout the park. In addition to having h2O as a sponsor, there were eight water refill stations at Lollapalooza where attendees could refill any container with cold, fresh water. The stations were provided by Event Water Solutions, and cost $2,000 per unit, per day.

Emily Stengel, the Green Street production manager working for C3 Presents, explained that the refill stations were a last-minute addition to the festival, but were ultimately very effective.

“It was a huge step for greening Lollapalooza, even though it was added late in the game,” said Stengel. The refill stations filled enough water bottles to save 204,200 bottles. Near the main entrance of the festival, C3 Presents set up Green Street, a strip of vendors and booths dedicated to the themes of sustainability and fair trade. C3 also favored Chicago-based vendors in their selection process. Chicago-based clothing company Demographic and jewelry vendor Beads of Hope Africa were two companies at the event, whose owners both agreed that the large scale of the event and amount of exposure benefited them. “Nothing can touch this,” said John Ritter, co-owner of Demographic. “A normal street fair in Chicago will probably be between 2,000 and 5,000 people, so the sheer number of people [at Lollapalooza] is incredible.”

Since 2005, Lollapalooza has teamed with Parkways Foundation, the philanthropic partner of the Chicago Park District to raise over $5 million. This year, 10.25 percent of the event’s gross revenue will go to the foundation, and in 2009, C3 Presents and Parkways Foundation signed an agreement that will continue this alliance at least through 2018.

“It’s not just coming in as a large-scale music festival and then pulling out and leaving everything to be repaired. Rather, the idea is that Lollapalooza comes to town and it leaves Chicago a better place,” said Brenda Palms, executive director of Parkways Foundation.

To get attendees more involved with the “greening” of Lollapalooza, C3 Presents set up Rock and Recycle centers where patrons could get bags to fill with recyclables such as aluminum cans and plastic bottles. One full bag could be redeemed for a Lollapalooza T-shirt and a chance to win an Origin 8 bicycle. In order to operate the program, C3 designated 85 of its 300 Lollapalooza volunteers to run the booths and give out about 3,000 T-shirts.

“I think this year we took some major strides, and they proved to be successful so I’m really excited to see what the future brings and how we can become more environmentally friendly,” said Stengel. — Linda Domingo

Interviewed for this article: Shaun Smith (518) 452-1242; Luke Tobias (773) 604-8769; Emily Stengel (512) 294-1752; Brenda Palms (312) 742-4804

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