Four-day general admission passes to this year’s Lollapalooza sold out in about two and a half hours this year, but if you’re eager to get to Grant Park that weekend you can still spring for a platinum pass. It’ll get you into two air-conditioned “hospitality lounges,” separate viewing areas for four of the stages, special restrooms, free drinks and catered meals, and you’ll be able to catch a ride to all the stages on a golf cart. All this for $4,200.
Lolla’s organizers like to pitch their festival as the pride of summertime Chicago. Fortunately, it’s just a small fraction of the live music offerings available in the city during the warmer months. True, Lolla’s restrictive radius clauses—which can prevent artists from performing within 300 miles of Chicago for six months before the festivities and three months afterwards—make it difficult to see anyone on that fest’s bill outside of Grant Park, though some of the best artists have found loopholes. (Migos, for example, will play the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre on June 2 as part of Future’s Nobody Safe tour.) If you evenly distribute the cost of a Lolla platinum pass across the 110 days of summer, you’ll wind up with a little more than $38 to spend each day—that’s just slightly above the $36 general admission ticket to the Nobody Safe tour (not including the Ticketmaster fees, of course).
But for those of us scraping together funds to see live music on the cheap, there are wealth of options. And often the least expensive events wind up being the most memorable of the summer. One of them, Do-Division Festival, kicks off on Friday, June 2, the unofficial beginning of the season. Making the most of summer doesn’t have to involve big, multiday events. There are plenty of smaller neighborhood festivals, such as Green Music Fest, the Pilsen Food Truck Social, and Villapalooza, which draw fantastic acts for a small donation (if that); many request $5, though a few ask as much as $10. This summer that means you can see postpunk legends ESG and rising Chicago rapper Femdot play West Fest for roughly the same amount of money you’d fork over for one beer at Lolla.
Some of the bigger community gatherings—Wicker Park Fest, the Silver Room Block Party in Hyde Park—have yet to announce their schedules. Others, such as the southeast-side 3 Yards Bangin’ House Fest, haven’t announced any plans for this season’s festivities. No matter, though: part of the joy of live music in the summertime is that the multitude of inexpensive events guarantees you’ll be able to find at least one act that piques your interest. And it’s a lot more fun to go to a show when you really want to be present in the moment and not because an expensive pass obligates you to be there. v