Festival Fans: At Chicago summer music festivals, students find culture, community


Eliza Dearing

Summer festivals are gathering spots for groups of friends, who say the joy is in the culture, community and atmosphere.

Zara Siddique, Sports & Leisure Editor

When Leila Rezania has her friends over before a concert to get ready she sometimes finds herself enjoying being with them more than the actual concert. It’s the same for Brandon Jones whose favorite part of Lollapalooza was experiencing his and his friends’ favorite artist together. He said it was life changing. It’s also the same for Ethan Clark who attends concerts and festivals early and waits in line because he loves finding people to enjoy the music with.

These students represent a larger community and culture surrounding concerts and festivals. 

While many are there for the music, the experience goes beyond the few hours spent at the venue. 

Summer festivals are gathering spots for groups of friends, but above all, the joy lies in the culture, community and atmosphere.

“It’s just always a positive experience,” Leila, a sophomore, said. “I’ve never experienced anything negative. We’re going to have fun all together no matter what happens.”

The excitement begins days, if not weeks, earlier with the overwhelming anticipation of planning outfits, researching schedules and gathering large groups of friends. 

Within their alluring atmosphere lies a community and lifestyle for many teens, for whom the experience goes much further than the music, becoming an exciting and year-round hobby.

Chicago has become a hub for mainstream music festivals and concerts — home to famous festivals such as Lollapalooza, Summer Smash, Pitchfork and more — where a stream of popular artists constantly perform.

These festivals attract many high schoolers and have been deemed a crucial activity, a gathering spot for large groups of friends and a defining aspect of summer.  

When Brandon, a junior, attends concerts or festivals, it’s not only for the music but also for the connection he feels with his friends. When walking into Lollapalooza last year with his friends, he said he could feel the energy radiating off all of them. A moment that stood out to him as special was when they got to see their favorite artist, Playboi Carti

“We were all just dancing and moshing, and it was just great to experience that with them,” Brandon said.

Without friends it’s definitely not the same. Like, part of the reason I even attend concerts and festivals is to experience them with my friends.

— Leila Rezania

The community atmosphere in concerts also contributes to making the experience so special. Brandon remembered an instance where at a set last year at Lollapalooza, he fell down in the chaos, and immediately multiple people reached out to help him up. 

“When you’re at a concert or festival everyone looks out for each other. It’s like a family kind of thing,” Brandon said. “It’s something I really enjoy, being around all that with my friends.”

Leila said the concerts mean more to her than just the people performing on stage. She views the friends she goes with to be a crucial part of the experience.

“Without friends it’s definitely not the same,” Leila said. “Like, part of the reason I even attend concerts and festivals is to experience them with my friends.”

Leila also views the leadup to concerts and festivals as equally enjoyable to attending them.

“It’s always fun picking out our outfits, and to sort of match the theme of the concert you’re going to, and also just getting ready with and meeting up with everyone you’re going with,” Leila said.

Ethan, a junior, prefers to arrive at concerts and festivals early as a way to get to know people aside from his friends while waiting in lines for entrance or merchandise.

“Everyone is similar in ways, and if you just start a conversation, it’s like the build-up to the concert is just as good as the concert itself,” Ethan said.

Senior Ben King is attending two main festivals this summer, primarily to spend time and bond with his friends. 

“I see a lot of different friends because there are so many different types of music, so it’s not something that I just share with a small group, but instead I’ll be with like 15 to 20 people and we’re just all together,”Ben said. “Especially with college soon, it’s like one of our last moments all together.”