Last week I briefly stood outside the gates of one of the year's biggest music festivals, wrestling with my age. As the Chicago skyline shone directly to my west, thousands of teens and 20-somethings wearing plastic wristbands streamed past me. Some waved open purses and backpacks in my direction, assuming I was there to inspect both. When I did neither, their pace quickened. All, I figure, were mentally asking the same question:
"What's the old guy doing at Lollapalooza?"
I wondered that too as I debated whether to blow off an entire Friday (I'd already completed a 7 a.m. tee time) and enter the concert event that, over its 10 year history, has become synonymous with the Windy City. Sure, there are artists I desired to see --Australian singers Courtney Barnett and Lorde for starters. But here? The average Lolla attendee is 24. I looked like I should be chaperoning the entire festival. Or driving the Lollapalooza car pool, if one existed.
As the crowd thickened, I drew an imaginary line down the center of my brain. I placed "Reasons to Attend Lolla" on the left and "Reasons Not To" on the right. First the reasons to proudly walk through the gates, creaking knees and all:
Barnett graced the stage at 2:15 p.m., a time that would still allow me to beat rush hour traffic and maybe catch a late afternoon nap.
I wanted to tell the kid wearing the "Eminem Anger Management 2002 Tour" T-shirt that it's time to update his wardrobe.
I wanted to briefly hang with the two dudes sporting "AP Computer Science" tank tops. Maybe one could solve my Microsoft Excel issues.
I wanted to yell, "Hey, you misspelled your name!" to the band Chvrches.
I wanted to randomly bump into any of my teenage daughter's friends just to watch her reaction later when one texted, "Guess who I saw at Lollapalooza? Your DAD!"
All the Port-a-Potties were apparently inside the grounds and I really needed to go.
Now, the reasons I should have been far, far away:
I'd been awake too long. Most Lolla attendees look as if they went from their beds directly to the main gate. I'm certain nobody besides me came from the golf course.
My phone battery was at 40 percent. Considering the phalanx of attendees who trekked across Monroe and Columbus all stared at their phones while ignoring passing bicycles, Segways and police commands, a full charge is necessary when one attends Lollapalooza.
My shoelaces were not the proper shade of neon.
I wasn't carrying a water bottle, a Lolla attendee's primary, sometimes only, source of nutrition. It's hard to duck away for food once you're immersed in a sea of Phantogram fans.
The negatives momentarily triumphed. I was ready to return to my car, find an outdoor wine bar with a restroom, order an early afternoon glass of Cabernet and act my age.
Then I saw them. A gray haired couple heading to the front gates. Both wearing wristbands. I introduced myself to 60-year-old Jeff Hughes and his 57-year-old wife Beth, from Rockford, Illinois. This was their eighth Lolla and they had shelled out $1,500 each for three-day VIP passes that came with air-conditioned restrooms, golf carts to shuttle them between stages and reserved seating.
"We upgraded a few years ago after we got trapped in the Eminem mosh pit," Jeff admitted.
Beth couldn't wait to hear Arctic Monkeys, while Jeff was partial to Trombone Shorty. This was clearly the highlight of their summer. Ditto for Connecticut couple, 43-year-old Eric Chrans and his 49-year-old wife Denise. Accompanied by their blue haired daughter Tiana, 16, they eagerly anticipated Kings of Leon and The Head and the Heart.
Suddenly my brain told me to me to get a ticket, even one that didn't include golf carts. "You don't have to be young to enjoy a young crowd's music," it said.
Maybe next year. When I'm wearing more sensible shoes. I've got a pair with custom orthotic inserts that will be just perfect.
They just need some neon shoelaces.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://bit.ly/gregschwem. Visit Greg on the web at http://www.gregschwem.com.)
(c) 2014 GREG SCHWEM. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC