Listen To This Eddie is a bi-weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
Lollapalooza was never meant to become an institution. The way its founders, the members of the band Jane’s Addiction, and lead singer Perry Farrell in particular, saw it when they first hit the road in 1991 was as a one-time only thing. An epic farewell before they went their separate ways. They picked the bands and artists that appeared on the bill themselves — Nine Inch Nails, Ice-T and Body Count, Henry Rollins, Siouxie And The Banshees, Living Colour, and Butthole Surfers — and packed amphitheaters across the US with the most adventurous elements of Generation X egging them on and totally losing their sh*t. It endured because the fans demanded it. It endured because the sequel in 1992 was even better than the original.
In a glowing contemporary review, The New York Times described the original Lollapalooza, “a boon for the twenty-something generation, a happening that may instill pride in teenager’s who have grown up under the shadow of rock’s mythic past.” In assembling such a diverse lineup and turning the entire endeavor into a real event replete with art installations, a carnival sideshow and space for activist groups, Jane’s and the organizers were creating whole new myths at every stop along the way.
“It was a train of freaks traveling the world, bringing it to Ohio, bringing it to Jersey, bringing it to Seattle, and seeing that it was everywhere, and they were waiting for it, and they were hungry for it,” Jane’s drummer Stephen Perkins told Spin. “Once we left the town, the town was never the same.”
Once he got out in front of the people Farrell saw that even if his band wouldn’t continue, there was a future Lollapalooza. That being said, he also realized that if he went out again with the exact same sort of set up, the counter-culture would rise up to denounce the whole thing as an empty cash grab. If he really wanted Lollapalooza to succeed he would have to top the original in every way shape and form, and that meant going bigger. Much bigger.
To begin with Farrell decided that, rather than limiting Lolla to a single main stage, he would also bring out a second side stage on the road, allowing more bands to join the tour. The art display would become even more elaborate, including something called The Rhythm Beast, a sort of interactive sound sculpture. Booths were set up to sell everything from artist merch and fried foods to temporary tattoos and books. You could even bungee jump on site for a mere $79 a ride.