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Clear skies, festive vibes kick off Lollapalooza 2018

People dance to EDM music at Perry's Stage during Lollapalooza. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

As if to taunt Lollapalooza fans, weather forecasts went back and forth for days on whether it would storm Thursday afternoon.

But in an unusual stroke of luck for the usually weather-cursed festival, the rains were held at bay as the first bands took the stage.

The only downside to blue skies and sunshine: heat.

The heat index peaked at around 90 degrees, and while there was a slight breeze, many of the roughly 100,000 attendees still scrambled to find a spot of shade.

But the heat wasn’t enough to deter Willie Thacker from breaking out his annual Lolla ensemble. Dressed as Mega Man — a crime-fighting robot from a popular video game — Thacker sported a royal blue helmet-like fleece cap and was completely covered from the neck down in a light blue ensemble.

Willie Thacker | Jane Recker
Willie Thacker | Jane Recker

Thacker said he’s worn the outfit for the past three years so his friends can easily find him.

“The heat’s going to get to you no matter what you wear,” he said. “There’s only so many layers you can take off. The key is to stay hydrated.”

While just staying hydrated might work for Thacker, other festival attendees tried to stay cool by wearing breezy ensembles. Women debuted an array of outfits, ranging from athleisure crop tops, to floral rompers, to dazzlingly glittery tank-tops. For the men, as in previous years, the basketball jersey reigned supreme.

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Matthew Boyle was sporting a white jersey emblazoned with the words “McDonald’s All American.” Boyle –– who was disappointed with this year’s lineup but was excited about seeing the Liverpool band The Wombats –– explained that he chose his jersey for its uniqueness.

“This (jersey) is Jonny Flynn’s. He played at Syracuse, (was) really hyped up and went to the Timberwolves and just sucked,” he said. “It’s a retro, antique item.”

Matthew Boyle (center) with his friends at Lollapalooza. | Jane Recker
Matthew Boyle (center) with his friends at Lollapalooza. | Jane Recker

At Perry’s stage — typically the home for Lolla’s EDM artists — crowds came ready to party as early as noon. While those braving the beating sun closer to the stage madly moshed with their limbs joyfully akimbo, those remaining in the shade maintained a chiller vibe.

Ashley Ehman and Vincent Wartenweiler found respite under a tree near Perry’s where they practiced their hula-hoop skills.

“Hooping is really big on Instagram and kind of a part of festival culture now,” Wartenweiler said. “It’s like an art form for a lot of people or a mode of reflection and relaxation. For other people, it’s more about high energy vibes and having fun with your body.”

Vincent Wartenweiler and Ashley Ehman | Jane Recker
Vincent Wartenweiler and Ashley Ehman | Jane Recker

While the BMI stage is arguably the shadiest and coolest in the festival, the southern rock from sister act Larkin Poe brought a little Atlanta heat through their soupy jams. Lana Smiley was feeling the music, closing her eyes and swaying her body in time with the bass drum hits.

Smiley has been coming to Lolla every year since she moved to Chicago five years ago. Before that, when she lived in California, she often went to Coachella. She said while she likes that Lolla was more accessible than the famous desert festival, she thought Lolla would benefit from incorporating more interactive art.

The best kept secret of Lolla? Kidzapalooza. Hidden in a shady grove, children and their parents have a place to play with giant bubbles, watch jugglers and people on stilts and even learn how to rap.

Lizzy Roberts was there with 5-year-old Owen, 4-year-old Waylon, and 18-month-old Cash. The two older boys were setting the fashion bar high with brightly dyed hair, courtesy of one of the Kidzapalooza booths.

Roberts hoped she could make The Wombats set but thought the kids would be tuckered out by then. After all, even rocker toddlers have to nap.