Ask anyone, the music community is a buzz this week in anticipation for Lollapalooza. Many a fan’s favorite festival, the 3 day event kicks off tomorrow (August 6th) and goes til Sunday, offering over 130 bands up on a silver platter in Chicago’s historical Grant Park. Like most festivals, Lollapalooza has seen its share of heartache. It started in 1991 born to Jane’s Addiction in the hopes of creating an truly awesome farewell tour for the band. That initial lineup in 1991 was comprised of artists spanning across various rock genres, from the post-punk Siouxsie and the Banshees to industrial Nine InchNails and even dabbling in a little Ice-T. The rock culture expanded past just music to include tents housing alternative freak shows, Shaolin monks, art displays, virtual reality games and of course, booths promoting political and environmental awareness.
An explosion of grunge rock in that early ’90s propelled Lollapalooza to the big time and became the birth place of “Alternative Nation” as coined by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell. Stages were added in the coming years and fans became more engaged, mosh pits and crowd surfing exploded, boothes popped up for open mic readings, television-smashing pits evolved, and tattoo and piercing parlors prevailed. But attendees began to complain about high ticket costs as well as escalating food and water prices. Soon fans began rioting and in 1992 chunks of sod and grass were ripped up and hurled at each other and other bands resulting in crazy costs for the venue.
Courtney Love at Lollapalooza in 1995 ©Heather Faulkner
In 1994, Nirvana pulled out of their scheduled Lollapalooza headlining spot. The day after the announcement was made, Kurt Cobain was found dead in Seattle. Courtney Love would go on to make surprise guest appearances at several shows. Since she wasn’t on the bill, The Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan would graciously lend her set time to speak to the crowds about the loss and perform a couple songs. Two years later in 1996, Farrell (consumed with a new festival project, ENIT) decided not to be involved in the production of Lollapalooza. Metallica was booked and fans cried sell out. The powers that be worked at keeping the festival relevant, expanding genres to country and electronica but it was too late. When a headliner was no where to be found in 1998, Lollapalooza, along with alternative rock, was declared DOA.
In 2003, Farrell revived Jane’s Addiction and attempted to bring Lollapalooza with them, bringing the festival to 30 cities. However high prices still plagued sales and the 2004 tour was cancelled at the beginning of the summer because no one was buying. Farrell smartened up in 2005 and partnered with Capital Sports & Entertainment (now C3 Presents, co-owners and producers of Austin City Limits) and transformed the train-wreck into a destination festival in Chicago’s Grant Park. Seventy acts performed on 5 stages that year, and Lollapalooza inked itself a deal in 2008 making Chicago its home through 2018.
Now gearing up for its 19th year, Lollapalooza is a testament to the versatility of festivals and rock and roll itself. Lighter fare such as Weezer, Death Cab For Cutie, Wilco and Ben Folds have made their way to Chicago in the last 5 years, and the evolution of rock from grunge to indie has solidified (as much as something as transitory as rock and roll can be solidified).
Just to be safe though, let’s throw some punk into the mix (See this year’s headliner Greenday) and add a helping of grunge (See the thousands of kids wearing flannel in the audience. See also: Soundgarden.) Chris Cornell and Co. will be reuniting Sunday night on the South Stage for the first time since 1997 (the last year of the traveling Lollapalooza, mind you. It all comes together….).
Other acts to be seen at this weekend’s Lollapalooza include Arcade Fire, The Strokes, The Black Keys, The National, The New Pornographers, Gogol Bordello, MUTEMATH, Metric, Against Me!, the xx…basically every band and artist that we’ve discussed on the festival circuit this summer. And one that we haven’t. The queen of the pop-culture universe, Lady Gaga. The festival is rumored to be preparing for the Fame Monster with a $250K stage set up. A far cry from the afternoon side stage performance she did as a brunette back in 2007.
Tickets are still available for this weekend ($90 for a day pass or $215 for all 3 days). Check out all the info and acts over at Lollapalooza’s site.