Lollapalooza is an American music festival featuring alternative rock, hip hop, and punk rock bands, dance and comedy performances, and craft booths. It also provided a platform for non-profit and political groups. Conceived and created in 1991 by Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell as a farewell tour for his band, Lollapalooza ran annually until 1997, and was revived in 2003. The festival encapsulated American youth culture for the 1990s much as Woodstock did for the 1960s.
From its inception through 1997, and a revival in 2003, the festival toured North America. After poor ticket sales forced the 2004 tour to be cancelled, it was retooled in 2005 by Austin, Texas-based Capital Sports Entertainment into its current format as a weekend destination festival in Grant Park in Chicago.
EtymologyThe word dates from an American idiom of the early 20th century—originally meaning "remarkable or wonderful person or thing" and sometimes alternatively spelled and pronounced as lollapalootza or lalapaloosa. Common in popular usage throughout the early decades of the 1900s, the word steeply declined in popularity by mid-century. Farrell, searching for a name for his festival, liked the euphonious quality of the now antiquated term upon hearing it in a Three Stooges short film. The term also refers to a large lollipop (or "all-day sucker"), one of which is held by the character in the festival's original logo.
CreationPerry Farrell conceived of the festival in 1990 as a farewell tour for Jane's Addiction. During the Summer of 1990 "A Gathering of the Tribes" festival was a successful collaboration between legendary concert promoter Bill Graham and Ian Astbury—lead singer of the band The Cult. This festival played only two dates, both in California. The concerts were held in Mountain View and Los Angeles. This festival set the mold of a mix of diverse musical acts and a progressive/alternative marketplace. The musical acts signed to perform at the festival included: Iggy Pop, Soundgarden, Queen Latifah, The Cramps, Indigo Girls, Lenny Kravitz, Joan Baez, Steve Jones (of the Sex Pistols fame), and Public Enemy. Perry Farrell attended the Los Angeles concert and decided the time was right for a national version of such a diverse touring festival.
Unlike previous music festivals such as Woodstock, The Gathering of The Tribes, or the US Festival, which were one-time events held in one venue, Lollapalooza was a touring show—a modern-day Chautauqua—that travelled across the United States and Canada. Instead of drawing music enthusiasts from around the country to one spot, Lollapalooza came to them—bringing West Coast and East Coast underground culture to cities in the heartland. Because of this, many more people saw, and participated in Lollapalooza than had been to any previous music festival.
The inaugural 1991 lineup was daringly eclectic, drawing in headliners from rap such as Ice-T as well as industrial music such as Nine Inch Nails. Crossing popular music's rigidly-drawn genre lines gave the festival an air of independence from corporate rock. Another key concept behind Lollapalooza was the inclusion of non-musical features. Performers like the Jim Rose Circus Side Show, an alternative freak show, and the Shaolin monks stretched the boundaries of traditional rock culture. There was a tent for display of art pieces, virtual reality games, and information tables for political and environmental non-profit groups. Lollapalooza's charter was not just a super-star rock jam—it was a cultural festival, albeit for the newly-formed 1990s counterculture.
Success and declineThe explosion of alternative music in the early 1990s propelled Lollapalooza forward; the 1992 and 1993 festivals leaned heavily on grunge and alternative acts, and usually featured an additional rap artist. Punk rock standbys like mosh pits and crowd surfing became part of the canon of the concerts. These years saw great increases in the participatory nature of the event. Booths for open-microphone readings and oratory, television-smashing pits, jungle-gyms and group-musical pieces, and tattooing and piercing parlors made the event seem more like a county fair than a concert.
After 1991, the festival included a second stage (and, in 1996, a third stage) for up-and-coming bands or local acts. It began a churning effect for alternative music—as underground bands broke through to the mainstream, they drew listeners to Lollapalooza, who would then see the next generation of underground bands on the second stage. Many of the bands that played second stage at Lollapalooza later had more widespread commercial success.
In the early 1990s (prior to the advent of the ability to order tickets online via a website on the Internet), many attendees would have to camp outdoors in front of Ticketmaster outlets for hours (or even days) at a time in order to purchase tickets. Attendee complaints of the festival included high ticket prices as well as the high cost for food and water at the shows. When the festival played at the Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkston, Michigan (near Detroit) in 1992, concertgoers ripped up chunks of sod and grass and threw them at each other and at the bands, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the venue. Once the sun went down, attendees also lit several impromptu bonfires across the lawn using blankets, trash, sleeping bags, etc., in large heaps. Some attendees also climbed the scaffolding and lighting rigs surrounding the stage and overhanging the seats. This behavior resulted in the festival not being invited back to Pine Knob in 1993 (it was held at a dragway in Milan that year), but for reasons not explained, the festival was invited back to Pine Knob in 1994. When a sudden rainstorm occurred during the 1992 show at SPAC in Saratoga, New York, attendees created their own form of "slip and slide" on the wet lawn. After a half hour or so the lawn was nothing more than a huge mud pit and sliders were literally covered in mud for the remainder of the day. In Boston that same year, after night fell on the event fans tore down large sections of a tall perimeter fence at the back of the lawn area and used the planks to start large bonfires on the lawn. In 1993, most items were banned at the gate and beer sales were closed three hours before the end of the event to prevent events such as these from occurring. This type of behavior would also be repeated a few years later at Woodstock '94 and again at Woodstock '99.
1994 was the high-water-mark of the grunge era and a year of tragedy for Lollapalooza. Nirvana, the band that had kicked off grunge's breakthrough into mainstream music, was scheduled to headline the festival, but the band officially pulled out of the festival on April 7, 1994. Kurt Cobain's body was discovered in Seattle, Washington the next day. Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, made surprise guest appearances at several shows, including the Philadelphia show at FDR Park (usually taking time given to her by The Smashing Pumpkins vocalist Billy Corgan), speaking to the crowds about the loss.
In 1996, Farrell, who had been the soul of the festival, quit the organization to concentrate on his new festival project, ENIT; most of his financial interest was sold to the William Morris Agency. Ideas and musical genres that had been edgy and risque at the beginning of the 1990s were now mainstream or passe. Many fans saw the addition of Metallica in 1996 as going against the practice of featuring "non-mainstream" artists. Efforts were made to keep the festival relevant; including more eclectic acts such as country superstar Waylon Jennings and emphasizing more heavily electronica groups like The Prodigy. By 1997, however, the Lollapalooza concept had run out of steam, and in 1998 failed efforts to find a headliner willing to do the show resulted in the festival's cancellation.
Revival and rebirthIn 2003, Farrell reconvened Jane's Addiction and scheduled a new Lollapalooza tour. The festival schedule included venues in 30 cities through July and August. The 2003 tour achieved only marginal success with many fans staying away, presumably because of high ticket prices.
Lollapalooza lineups by year
lollapalooza in German: Lollapalooza
lollapalooza in Spanish: Lollapalooza
lollapalooza in French: Lollapalooza
lollapalooza in Italian: Lollapalooza
lollapalooza in Japanese: ロラパルーザ
lollapalooza in Polish: Lollapalooza
lollapalooza in Portuguese: Lollapalooza
lollapalooza in Finnish: Lollapalooza
lollapalooza in Swedish: Lollapalooza