Chicago's Grant Park hosted one of the nation's largest rock music festivals this past weekend. I was lucky enough to attend the festival on Friday, for free, as a volunteer!
First, about my job...I was a volunteer for the "Rock & Recycle" program. A new green initiative began a number of years ago when Chicago began hosting the festival, and the Rock & Recycle program was officially launched in 2008. Eco-friendly activities paved the way for rewards. By filling up a plastic bag with recyclable goods (Lollapalooza invited vendors that serve beverages and food in recyclable containers), festival attendees received a free Lollapalooza T-shirt. Also, by taking one of any number of green actions such as riding a bike or taking public transit to the park or refilling a water bottle, participants earned Green Card stamps. Receiving three stamps entered them into a raffle to win a Honda Insight Hybrid. On “Green Street,” festival guests browsed booths selling eco-friendly and fair-trade merchandise. Lollapalooza partnered up with Green Mountain Energy in order to raise money to counteract effects of ever-day carbon emissions. For $5, participants could buy a souvenir BeGreen™ Fan Tag to help offset their carbon footprint. 8,500 tags were purchased at Lollapalooza 2008, which Green Mountain states had the equivalent environmental impact of taking almost 500 cars off the road.
At my booth, I collected filled recycling bags, stamped cards for completed eco-friendly activities, and directed people to Green Street. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people were enthusiastic about being green, and despite the resulting chill from the rain, they were more than happy to fill up a recycling bag.
One of the best perks about the job was that I was able to request where I was stationed. I asked to be placed the north end of the park (in a tent, sheltered from the rain!), and was therefore able to hear the bands I wanted to while on my shift. Ben Folds rocked on piano and vocals in his usual fun-spirited, youthful way; I love how he still has a bit of nerdy-student look to him with his glasses and occasionally self-deprecating lyrics, like "I'm rockin' the suburbs/Just like Michael Jackson did/I'm rockin' the suburbs/Except that he was talented..." (though the song was released in 2001, the MJ reference is especially striking). The Decemberists put on an impressively strong show, performing their newest album, The Hazards of Love, written in the style of a rock opera, in full. Shara Worden joined the band as the powerful female soloist in this narrative performance. I was also able to hear the mellow Bon Iver from a distance, and was introduced to the Fleet Foxes. I really enjoyed their folk/rock hybrid, and bought their self-titled album yesterday. In the evening, the rain had stopped, and I was free to enjoy the two headliners. I watched about half an hour of Kings of Leon, and enjoyed their drive and southern soul. I headed over to the other end of the park, to hear the darker, 80's British rock band, Depeche Mode. They were powerful and passionate, and we all shouted for more, even after their encore of "Personal Jesus" that we had been craving.
All in all, a fantastic day of environmental activism and music. I even felt, amidst the rain, a touch of Woodstock spirit among us.