Every August, a plague descends upon the city of Chicago. A plague so wretched, so sickening, so disease-ridden that parts of downtown have to close entirely. Police call in reinforcements and parents pray for the safe return of their children. I am speaking, of course, of Lollapalooza. Most of you thought it was Cleveland but no: Lollapalooza is actually where dreams go to die.

If you’re unfamiliar with the 4-day music festival, allow me to break it down for you. Imagine going to see your favorite band. But in order to see them you have to sift through 300 horrible bands who sound like they stole their names from bars in Logan Square. Now imagine paying 5 times what you would pay so you can watch it with thousands of people simultaneously suffering from heat stroke, alcohol poisoning, and poor choice in facial hair. And when I say watch, I mean you’ll be watching from hundreds of feet away because although no one there really likes your favorite band, they’re camping out to see the latest dub step mash-up nightmare playing on that stage later in the day. Or the Lumineers.

I avoid Lollapalooza at all costs. I avoid it as if it were a prison riot or the Taste of Chicago. I avoid it like Rahm Emanuel avoids a publicly elected school board.

Last year was no different. I did not get close enough to hear drums pounding in the distance or to catch a whiff of patchouli. I was proud of my efforts and was looking forward to a short trip out to Philadelphia the day after Lollapalooza ended. I was asked to speak at a motivational camp for Philadelphia high school students. I was going to read some poems, tell some stories, and show them how to use writing as a tool for nonviolence.

I found a window seat on the half-filled Southwest flight. I had a book, a hoodie I folded into a pillow, and I was ready to relax.

Then came the bros.

These bros were on their way home from the filth filled hell hole known as Lollapalooza. This is not an assumption made based off the abundance of hemp ankle bracelets that dangled above their flip flop clad feet. No, this was a fact proven by their new Lollapalooza t-shirts, their festival bracelets, and their overuse of the word Lollapalooza or Lolla.

“Hey bro, I think this was the best Lollapalooza ever”

“I dunno bro, last year’s Lolla was tight but this Lollapalooza was awesome”

It was like listening to a book on tape that didn’t use pronouns. And it went on like this through taxiing, through take off, and by the time we reached cruising altitude I wanted to do bad things to these bros. Not fight them exactly, but give them a rigorous shaking. Then I remembered that I was going to Philly to show kids how to use writing as a tool for nonviolence and decided to keep to myself.

When I told this story to a friend, he suggested that perhaps I had such a strong reaction because I was jealous. Jealous? Why? Because I myself did not attend? Truthfully, I did attend a Lollapalooza. In 1993. I was in summer school between my freshman and sophomore year of high school when a pretty, out of

my league senior asked me if I wanted to go with her because she had an extra ticket. I know she was inviting me just to get to my older, more attractive, non-summer school attending brother. I didn’t care.

Why? Because this was the lineup:

Rage Against the Machine, Babes in Toyland, Arrested Development, Front 242, Fishbone, Alice in Chains, Dinosaur Jr. and Primus. I would rather see any of those bands instead of Mumford and Sons and I-ee-i-ee-I am not exaggerating.

“No, no, no” my friends said, “Jealous because they’re young and you’re getting old”. Old? Why that is both malarkey and poppycock! Okay. So maybe my birthday was 5 days after the festival. And maybe I was turning 38 which is almost half way to 80 and kinda freaky to think about but no!

Yes, I am older than those kids but I am way radder. They will never be able to attend the awesome concerts I’ve already seen, but I can go to any show they want to see. I probably won’t. Unless they start early and I have a place to sit, but I could!

So, to all you youngins out there: you can keep your Lollapalooza and your chlamydia because over the weekend I went in my parents’ basement and dug up my old Walkman. It’s yellow and looks like it works underwater but it doesn’t. I also found a box of old cassettes. And there wasn’t a Lumineers album in the bunch.

Tim Stafford is a poet and storyteller from Chicago. He is the editor of the Learn Then Burn anthology series on Write Bloody Publishing. His work has appeared on HBO Def Poetry Jam and featured in the PBS documentary “The Day Carl Sandburg Died”. He performs regularly at colleges and festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe including the ABC Brecht Festival in Augsburg, Germany, the 2010 Zurich Poetry Slam Invitational, the 2011 German National Poetry Slam, the 2013 Kiel Festival in Kiel, Germany, and the 2014 Woerdz Festival in Lucern, Switzerland.

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