Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell launched Lollapalooza as a touring festival in 1991 as a way for the band to bid farewell to its many fans. The multi-artist one-day event lasted through 1997 and inspired the many traveling festivals that came after it, such as Ozzfest, H.O.R.D.E. and Warped.
The festival was revived in 2003 and, after cancelling 2004’s concert, in 2005 Lollapalooza reinvented itself as a multi-day festival stationed in Chicago’s Grant Park.
This year’s edition takes place Aug. 7-9. While tickets remain available, expectations are that that the event will sell out and draw around 225,000 people over its three days.
Hitfix talked to Farrell on Monday. With Lollapalooza only a few days away, he was calm and collected, and looking forward to the latest edition of the music baby he birthed 18 years ago.
He gave away a few secrets about Jane’s Addiction’ performance at the festival-its first since 1991– as well as revealed who will never play Lollapalooza. He also talked movingly about his reaction to the news that the Beastie Boys had to pull out of Lollapalooza because of Adam Yauch’s cancer diagnosis and responded to criticism that this year’s lineup is weak.
In addition to planning the festival with promoters C3, Farrell will perform twice at Lollapalooza: on Aug. 9 with a reformed Jane’s Addiction and the day beforewith his dance outfit, Live Electro, in Perry’s, the dance tent.
Lollapalooza starts on Friday. What’s this week like for you?
It just goes off the Richter. I start to put a set together for Jane’s Addiction. We’re doing wild things this year because it’s a homecoming for Jane’s Addiction. My long wish list that I had for Jane’s Addiction-[on it] were things like hot air balloons, a helicopter.
Are you arriving by helicopter?
I didn’t say that. We’re doing a helicopter trick. In the meantime, I have my solo project [Live Electro] with my wife Etta [Lau Farrell]. Putting something like that together takes days and days and days… We’re rehearsing Jane’s Addiction in the afternoons and Live Electro sets at night… It’s very exciting and it comes on so fast and you always think to yourself, “I’m not prepared this year…”
There are more then 130 acts performing over the three days. What’s the key to finding the right mix of performers?
The music industry has a very different look to it today [than 1991]. The very first Lollapalooza, it appeared that the music industry was breaking acts left or right, yet we only chose seven. Those seven were all fresh names. In 2009, not only are we picking fresh groups [but] the major label records aren’t breaking acts. We have to go back and back and have acts like Depeche Mode, Jane’s Addiction and Tool. And we have newcomers-but they’re not really newcomers-like Kings of Leon. A breakout group would be a Lady GaGa, [but] if we put her on to headline 2,000 people would show up, maybe 4,000.
Even though she’s selling records?
Records never really equated to live attendance. Certain acts do better live. Pearl Jam might not sell as many records as Lady GaGa, but they’ll fill a field full of people. It’s very specific, live festivals, and how you book it.
The Beastie Boys were supposed to be one of the headliners. What ran through your head when you heard the news about Adam Yauch’s cancer?
I cringed; I was really looking forward to it personally. We worked very hard to get the Beasties. It was on again, off again, it was on again. When you hear that Adam has cancer, you start to worry for Adam. It really sucks. I’m hoping he’s going to be okay. You don’t treat cancer lightly, you look at Farrah Fawcett. I worry for Adam.
Have you been in contact with Adam?
I did email Adam to tell him I’m so sorry. He didn’t have a lot to say.
How did you pick the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs to replace them?
They have a ton of credibility and artistry and I’m good friends with them. For many, many, many years, their daily person was my daily person, so I kind of consider them family.
Who will we never see play Lollapalooza?
My first inclination is to say maybe one of the groups like a Disney group because, again, they have a certain power to sell records, but to an audience that is a sophisticated audience, they’re not going to buy it. It might go for tweens, but I always felt that people, to a large degree, were taking advantage of these young people. I don’t want to name names, I never like to put down musicians, I’ve made a habit of not jabbing at musicians– even if they’re young, I know they’re trying as hard as they can…
You’ve been playing with Jane’s Addiction this summer on the Nine Inch Nail/Jane’s Addiction tour, but this is the first time playing with them at Lollapalooza since 1991. It must feel different.
This is much different. When we got together to discuss what the future of Jane’s Addiction was, we went around the room and said we should do a tour with Nine Inch Nails. I said, I see us at Lollapalooza in 2009, picking up where we left off. Where we left off was a pretty remarkable place. I’m going to be emotional. I know when the helicopter flies over Grant Park, people are going to be emotional.
But you won’t be in it.
I know…they’re filming the show in 3-D. There’s a company that has been filming groups in 3D a lot, probably because they’re building movie theaters for them and need content. [The concert] will probably end up as a theatrical [release].
Lollapalooza started as a touring festival. Do you miss those days?
I really do. I love going to different places, but with Lollapalooza we can’t go and play people’s parking lots. That, to me, doesn’t sound like a fun afternoon… For me, the quality control in Chicago is amazing. With the City of Chicago, we get what we always wanted… I always wanted to play in a beautiful outdoor location in a welcoming city that’s laid out beautifully, has great restaurants, and hotels nearby to continue the party.
Jim DeRogatis from the Chicago Sun-Times wrote on July 31 that the six headlining slots were “the least impressive” in the five years Lollapalooza been in Chicago, while Greg Kot from the Chicago Tribune says it’s a very un-Chicago-centric line up and is interchangeable with any of the other big festivals. How do you respond to those criticisms?
First off, Jim DeRogatis has no love for Lollapalooza. He never has. He’s got ulterior movies every time he writes about us. I say that to you clearly with my heart very calm, something is going on with Jim DeRogatis that he’s out to get us. I haven’t put any thought into why- I don’t even thing about it. It’s like listening to Fox News… that’s how I relate to him.
Our line up is amazing; we have six headliners, most festivals have three, we double that. The Kings of Leon and Jane’s Addiction are two of the hottest groups in the country. Tool has always been an amazing slam dunk. The Killers are so popular with the young people. Depeche Mode is a seminal group, the classiest cream of the crop. When they look at it, when they try to put it down, it’s like the Olympics: you to take out the highest and the lowest score. [DeRogatis] is the lowest score.
(DeRogatis responded: “Perry sure is sounding paranoid these days. As with all of the journalists in Chicago who’ve written about Lollapalooza, the only motive I’ve ever had is to hold Perry and [Lollapalooza promoter] C3 Presents up to their promise to give Chicago the ‘world-class festival’ it deserves. There is nothing personal or ‘ulterior’ in any criticism or praise I’ve ever given the festival.”)
Following last year’s festival, Lollapalooza signed a deal with the city of Chicago to keep the festival going through 2018. Where do you see it in the year 2018?
I can’t go down the road that far. I can go a few years at a time. We’re expanding the dance area. We’re opening that up to 10,000 people. We have LED screens. It’s going to completely go off. I see the dance area and live music being intermingled with electronic music.