Part 5: Lollapalooza
Credit: © Fausto Ristori
1991 was a pretty rough year for the concert industry due to a troubled economy, rising ticket prices, and the lack of interest from audiences. With some package tours featuring multiple acts trying to get things going but with little fanfare. It was a tough year for the concert industry in the waning years of hair metal. With alternative rock acts still playing clubs and medium-sized venues, it wasn’t enough for the concert industry to get itself back in shape. Yet, it would take the vision of one man to create something for an audience that had seemingly been ignored by the concert industry.
In the late 1980s, Jane’s Addiction was one of the premier bands of the alternative music scene as they reached a commercial peak with their second studio release with 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual. Yet, the band was starting to fall apart due to personal tension and drug abuse as it was clear that they couldn’t work together. The band’s vocalist Perry Farrell knew that the end was coming for the band as he wanted to do a farewell tour. For a band like Jane’s Addiction, a farewell tour by themselves with a few acts opening for them wouldn’t sell big tickets. Farrell however, had a much bigger idea that would change the concert industry for the 1990s.
With help from Ted Gardener, Marc Geiger, and Don Mueller, Farrell created a touring package festival that wasn’t like anything else called Lollapalooza. Lollapalooza would be music and arts festival that would travel all over the U.S. as it would expose an audience who wanted something new to be into a world where they expect the unexpected. At the same time, it would expose audiences to new things that were happening along with political and environmental awareness at a time when the George H.W. Bush administration was happening.
With Jane’s Addiction as the headliners for the tour, Farrell knew he needed lots of acts to take part in the festival as he got a slew of different acts in different styles of music. Featuring veteran acts such as Goth legends Siouxsie & the Banshees, hardcore punk icon Henry Rollins and his Rollins Band, the folk-punk trio Violent Femmes, the ska-punk group Fishbone, and the neo-psychedelia band the Butthole Surfers. The bill also included such well-known acts such as the funk-metal band Living Colour and gangsta rap icon Ice-T with his new rap-metal band Body Count along with the electronic act Emergency Broadcast System and the industrial outfit Nine Inch Nails.
The first date began on July 18, 1991 in Phoenix, Arizona at the Compton Terrace where the tour was initially a big success both commercially and artistically. While the tour had some problems due to the ongoing in-fighting between the members of Jane’s Addiction, it was becoming a major success as it allowed lesser-known bands to be exposed to a wide audience. One of the acts that managed to take advantage of the exposure was Nine Inch Nails who had released their debut album Pretty Hate Machine two years earlier. Though its leader Trent Reznor was dealing with a lawsuit with TVT Records at the time, the tour gave him the break that he needed as the tour helped the album sell a million copies.
The tour also exposed certain events including sideshows where one of the sideshow acts was the Jim Rose Circus who gave audience something that was very different. At some points in the tour, bands would play with each other as the audience was becoming bigger and bigger. It was clear to the concert industry that something was happening that acts like Poison and Paula Abdul weren’t able to do at the time. These bands managed to gather a large group of people as Lollapalooza proved to be something that was extremely successful as the final show on August 20 in Orlando, Florida at the Central Florida Fairgrounds proved to be a major moment. Though Jane’s Addiction would break up months later, Perry Farrell’s idea proved to be big as it became clear to the concert industry that alternative music was something that couldn’t be ignored.
© thevoid99 2011