By: Bailey Johnk
Photo © 2019 by: Frank Griseta
LakeShake 2019 is officially over and as Lauren Alaina said in her post-performance Instagram caption, everyone in the city of Chicago was left “lake shaking”. Ringing in its fifth year this past weekend, the three day event was headlined by country music big hitters like Maren Morris, Miranda Lambert, Brett Young, Keith Urban, and Luke Bryan. With 26 other artists and bands hitting the stage all day every day, LakeShake’s anniversary celebration went off with a bang, making 2019 one its best years yet!
But what attracts regular concert-goers like me to the festival is not just music. Those thinking of attending in future years should know all the amazing extras that come along with the experience, beginning with the food. Just because you can hear the currents of Lake Michigan hitting the shore from your picnic table doesn’t mean you have to feel stuck in the city. Take one walk around LakeShake and you won’t be able to avoid breathing in the savory smell of smoked meat. Many stands offered different kinds of barbecue pulled pork sandwiches that tricked your taste buds into thinking you were smack dab in the middle of Nashville, the music city itself. That and homemade Mac and cheese, fried chicken, burgers, hot dogs, taco stands, and even funnel cakes. Though every country music fan can appreciate a good Southern meal, there were delicious options for everybody and it’s oh so hard to resist.
Though LakeShake is ultimately family friendly, we all know a good country song can’t help but slip a line about beer or whiskey in it, so of course, the festival offered liquor galore. While big cocktail bars offered beer, canned drinks, jello shots, etc., LakeShake also had different brands bring their own unique stands to the event. Barefoot Wine made their own makeshift tree house; you could do spritzer tastings, get cool swag, and with one climb up the stairs, you were hanging in the branches. One whiskey brand had a stand with a remote control car track; you could try their ice tea whiskey cocktail and race your friends in the dirt. Twisted Tea had a double decker bus with giant beer pong, free tea tastings, free pulled pork, a photo booth, and a VIP area at the top of the bus where you could listen to music and dance. The biggest hit with Chicago locals, though, was the Blackhawks bar. A big tent completely themed to the hometown hockey team with a long bar, TVs playing sports games, and plenty of tables/stools. One drink that was exclusive to this years LakeShake was their special fifth year beer made specially by Revolution Brewing in Chicago.
If you’re not hungry or thirsty and you’re in between performances, there is still plenty to do at LakeShake. Huntington Bank Pavilion is filled with so many unique vendors and activities. You could visit the booth run by PAWS, Chicago’s largest no-kill shelter/humane organization. There, you would find homeless puppies you are able to pet and play with. If you donated treats, toys, or food on Friday, you were entered for a chance to meet Miranda Lambert. You could go get your palm or tarot cards read. You could get henna done on your body. You could get leather branding done or buy a new cowboy hat. You could even get a custom toe ring. If shopping isn’t your style, you could play a game of corn hole, visit the silent square dancing floor (no out loud music, only headphones) or you could take a ride on the big carnival swings next to the smaller stage. There was never any shortage of things to explore and discover at LakeShake which makes it well worth the money. Just don’t forget to grab a picture at one of the festivals many photo op locations (the big LS, the LakeShake postcard frame, or the giant LakeShake chairs). If it’s not on your Instagram, were you really there?
When buying your ticket to LakeShake, it’s comforting knowing your money is supporting not only the city but the artists performing. One other perk most don’t know is that your money is also going towards charity. This year, LakeShake worked with State Farm to create a Neighborhood of Good stand. There, you could charge your phone, grab sunscreen, donate and relax. Donate to what exactly? State Farm was working with Notes for Notes, which is a national non-profit that helps give youth free access to professional music studios. Dropping by the booth and participating helped create music education access for youth as well.
The only possible downfall of the festival was the weather. The forecast called for rain all weekend. On Friday, it didn’t rain but as the sun went down, temperatures dropped to the 50s and the wind off the lake picked up, providing a chilly night for the headliner performance. Saturday was warm and sunny all day. On Sunday, die hard Luke Bryan fans were forced to sing in the rain. Altogether, the atmosphere was not so bad the whole weekend and even with the wet clothes, attendees were able to enjoy themselves.
In order to get a well-rounded feel for the experience that is LakeShake, I decided to go beyond myself and ask a couple other festival goers about their time at the shows. Everything I heard was positive. Besides the music, the things people enjoyed the most were the “atmosphere” and “the venue” which they said was “gorgeous”. The stand out performances for them were Granger Smith, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban and others. All of them said they would attend again. One said LakeShake always has “great performances that never let you down”. Another said, “Music and sound was on point, food vendors were killing it and nothing beats seeing live music literally right next to Lake Michigan”.
Last but not least, tips for future LakeShake goers! Bring a gallon sized plastic bag filled with your own snacks; they are allowed in the venue and they prevent you from spending too much money on food. Bring a reusable water bottle; the venue provides a free fill up station and you won’t have to buy a water bottle you’ll just end up throwing away. Be aware of the weather and bring sunscreen and/or ponchos if necessary. And most importantly, bring a good attitude and a good camera. You’re going to want to capture these memories forever; LakeShake is unforgettable as is.
Sunday 2018 LakeShake Recap
Country Lakeshake Festival: