At its best in the early
'90s, Lollapalooza represented a generation celebrating its individuality.
How-ever illusory, for one day, the outcasts took over. Musically,
politically and socially, the traveling daylong alternative music festival
was like the revenge of the nerds.
When the multiband tour returned to the Tweeter Center on Saturday for
the first time in five years, the fraternity and sorority types far
outnumbered the freaks, everything was a heck of a lot more expensive and
the vibe was more consumerist than community-oriented (though the political
action displays did do a booming business).
More random observations from
Best T-shirt slogans: "I Have Determined That My Sole Purpose in Life
Is To Serve as a Bad Example"; "I Hooked Up With Your Girlfriend and All
I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt," and "Crap" (just "Crap").
Quote of the day: "Hugs! Hugs and drugs make for one good,
rockin' day!"--Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme, admonishing
some fans in the mosh pit to stop fighting.
Most incongruous booth on the midway: The U.S. Army recruiting
Most entertaining booth: The karaoke display, where random
fans singing Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" or AC/DC's "Highway to
Hell" were often more entertaining than the acts on the second stage.
Most ubiquitous act of the day: The International Bellydance
Superstars, who performed three times (but weren't nearly as exciting as
you might think).
Ticket price for Lollapalooza '93: $35 (before Ticketmaster
service fees; two shows sold out).
Ticket price for Lollapalooza '03: $59 (before Ticketmaster
service fees; one show barely three-quarters full, with much of the lawn
In many ways, Lollapalooza had become just another long concert
experience with a lot of extra distractions, a la H.O.R.D.E., the Van's
Warped Tour, Ozzfest or the many radio-station festivals that sprang up to
imitate its success.
But in the area where it mattered most--the music--tour organizer Perry
Farrell proved that he can still throw a better party than almost anyone
The main stage highlights were plentiful, starting in reverse order with
Farrell's revitalized Jane's Addiction. Augmented by a mostly hidden
keyboardist and a trio of very visible go-go dancers, the headlining quartet
ended the 11-hour day with a set of psychedelic and sensual art-rock fueled
by Stephen Perkins' rolling polyrhythms, Dave Navarro's searing guitar and
its latex-clad frontman's undeniable star power.
One of the pioneering bands of the alternative era, the now clean and
sober Jane's Addiction was a stronger and better group than it had been on
its earlier reunion tours, or arguably than it was in its late-'80s heyday.
The only disappointment was that it pandered to nostalgia with a set that it
could have performed but for a handful of exceptions in 1991, when it bid
farewell by launching the tour that was Farrell's brainchild.
In favoring classics such as "Three Days," "Oceansize," "Summertime
Rolls," "Been Caught Stealing" and "The Mountain Song" (which featured guest
guitarist Mike Einziger of Incubus sitting in) over material from its potent
new album "Strays," the group indicated that it is still looking backward,
when the Jane's Addiction and the Lollapalooza of yore were always about
turning toward the future.
As the penultimate act, Audioslave was also a nod to the past: The
supergroup is comprised of alternative veterans from Rage Against the
Machine and Soundgarden. Though its set was a lot more inspired than its
last local performance at the Riviera Theatre (thanks to a much more
animated Chris Cornell on vocals, as well as the always-astounding fireworks
of Tom Morello on guitar), the band still suffered from two major problems.
For one, its members never seemed to be playing together (a point
underscored by the fact that drummer Brad Wilk set up his drums with his
back to the crowd; he never looked at the audience, much less his
bandmates). For another, the group has too few memorable songs--the best
tune of its set was a propulsive cover of "Seven Nation Army" by the White
Stripes (who would have been a fine addition to the bill).
The main stage's middle triptych provided the day's best music by far. As
always, the rolling rhythms, hippiesh melodies and space-rock vibes of
Incubus were a trippy delight. The Queens of the Stone Age rocked with
unparalleled fury, delivering hypnotic drones that never skimped on the
hooks, especially when guest vocalist Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees
joined the group. And the old-school jams of West Coast hip-hoppers Jurassic
5 (led by South Side native MC Chali, a k a Charles Stewart) turned the vast
and impersonal Tweeter Center into an intimate and wildly celebratory house
Kicking things off were two bands that were charmingly energetic but
annoyingly unoriginal. Pop-punks the Donnas were eager to sell out with
their glammed-up image and their musical mix of the Ramones meet the
Runaways, but they were redeemed somewhat by the unrelenting fury of drummer
Donna C. (known to her mom as Torry Castellano). Meanwhile, the Los Angeles
quintet Rooney took almost all of its cues from Weezer, but it did deliver a
few memorable tunes, including the hit single "Blueside" and a cool cover of
"Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" by the Ramones.
Much less impressive were the offerings on the second stage. In the past,
Lollapalooza used this venue to showcase edgier acts from the indie
underground. In 2003, it was essentially dedicated to C-list major-label
wannabes such as Fingertight (which veered from generic nu-metal to generic
hardcore), Cave In (accomplished but unimpressive Boston punk), the
Distillers (spirited gutter-punk with more attitude than ability) and locals
Swizzle Tree (the pointlessly noisy, nu-metal sister band of Lucky Boys
The nadir, though, was Steve-O of the MTV series "Jackass," who
"entertained" the second stage's largest crowd of the day by breaking light
bulbs over his head, snorting table salt and making himself vomit again and
again. He then stormed over to the main stage in his bloody T-shirt and
tried to distract the Queens of the Stone Age, who gave him all of the
attention he deserved: absolutely none.
That the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow has given way to Steve-O could say
something about how Lollapalooza has changed since the early '90s, becoming
cruder, less intelligent and less meaningful. Or it could simply illustrate
once again that bad taste is timeless, inescapable and an alternative to