Where is my Lollapalooza?
131 independent 45 minute sets = The Walmart of Music Festivals
Posted Aug 4, 2007
Lollapalooza (n): a remarkable or wonderful person or thing
Initially conceived in 1991 by ex Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, the groundbreaking music festival celebrates its 11th year this weekend. Now, the original concepts that built Lollapalooza (diversity of culture and unsigned bands) are efficiently raped and whored out by a throng of corporate sponsors. Generation X...you are now a commodity, thank you come again.
It began as a traveling circus of music and weirdness. It was the first multi-act festival that toured across the US - before Ozzfest, before The Warped Tour. Shaolin Monks, freakshows and poetry slams were blended into sets of funk, rap, rock and experimental music. And they kept things relatively simple: Two stages - one for big acts and one for small acts. See the full history of Lollapalooza acts.
Grunge acts fueled the first few years, with headliners like Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains. Many of the side acts were unknowns who would go on to major success - The Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth launched their careers with help from the festival.
In April of 1994 the grunge influence at Lollapalooza disappeared with the loss of Kurt Cobain. Nirvana was scheduled to headline the tour - a day after they officially pulled out, Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home. In the following years the festival was dominated by hip-hop, rap and heavy metal.
Disappointed with the 1996 show, Perry Farrell abandoned the festival, selling controlling financial interests to the William Morris Agency. Sure, he stayed on the bill and played w/ Porno for Pyros, but the dream of a diverse cultural mecca of music and arts was dead. Marketing teams foresaw electronica as the next 'big thing' and it dominated the 1997 festival. The result was disasterous. They failed to reach attendance goals and didn't have enough support to keep the show alive for another year.
So, wait. If Perry Farrell sold Lollapalooza in 1997, what is he doing promoting it now?
In 1998 Farrell sunk his life savings into the ENIT festival. ENIT (short for 'energy knitting') was an all day, all night rave of music, technology and freakouts (Merry Pranksters and Ken Kesey included). You gotta love this guy. He just wants to throw a good party. Unfortunately, city curfews cut the traveling festival down in many venues and ticket sales were dismal. It lost Perry a lot of money.
Fast forward to 2003. Farrell rebuilds Janes Addiction, they release their first album in 10 years and appear as the headliners for a new Lollapalooza. This time it's backed by corporate sponsors Verizon Wireless and Microsoft. Farrell is still there, as a figurehead and 'tastemaker'.
When asked about the new attitude of the show, being a departure from the simple 2 stage traveling circus of 1995, Farrell replies, 09/03:
- You want to give them a balance. It’s like being at somebody’s wonderful home. If you give them three or four places, that’s plenty. If you give them nine, you can’t really experience that many things in a day.
Ahhh - that makes sense. That's why in 2007 there are only eight stages (the 'kidz' stage must not count, it would make the dreaded nine) and the show no longer tours. Mr. Farrell has arranged for us to visit Playstation's Stage, Bud Light's Stage, Adidas Stage, Citi Stage, etc. Until 2011 Lollapalooza will bloat Chicago's Grant Park and spill into the surrounding loop. According to lollapalooza.com, they're up to 24 corporate sponsors, including AT&T and Fox News Corp's Myspace. Unfortunately, this arrangement destroys the diversity of the show. Like bands are now grouped together to create easily marketable demographics within the event. One used to sit through an entirely new experience, because there were fewer stages and one had to be open to new ideas. Now, fans are digested into an easily understood flowchart of consumer characteristics.
Look for any mention of the festival's history on Lollapalooza.com. You won't find one. 11 years running and they hide their history from their fans. But Perry Farrell's face is there - iconized like a tech-culture demigod.
The integrity and diversity of the old festival is replaced w/ bling and superficial technology. We are now segregated and herded into convenient target audiences. All under the guise of counter culture and originality. It's sad. I miss my Lollapalooza of old...I love you Mr. Farrell for what you created then.
And, fuck you Mr. Farrell, for turning it into the Walmart of music festivals.
Lollapalooza on Wikipedia
Interview w/ Perry Farrell for KROQ
Interview w/ Perry Farrell for Guitar Player
ENIT Festival Coverage
Lollapalooza Returns after 6 Year Hiatus
411 Mania on the Past, Present & Future of Lollapalooza
Perry Farrell recounts the history of Lollapalooza (MP3) Part 1
Perry Farrell recounts the history of Lollapalooza (MP3) Part 2
Perry Farrell recounts the history of Lollapalooza (MP3) Part 3
Perry Farrell recounts the history of Lollapalooza (MP3) Part 4