Are you ready to rock!?


April 4, 2005


Rock fans who buy advance tickets to the revitalized Lollapalooza, which promoters say will take place in Grant Park on July 23-24, may be making a sucker's bet.

Promoters Capital Sports & Entertainment of Austin, Texas, launched a Web site Friday announcing that two-day passes to the alternative-music festival will go on sale Thursday for a limited-time discount of $35. They promise 70 bands -- none of whom is named -- on five stages, plus a "DJ Spin Temple."

"Grant Park will vibrate and shine as our dance floor, playground and canvas," boasts. The catch: None of this has been approved by the city, which has been notoriously hostile to hosting cutting-edge rock music in Grant Park.

In 1998, the Chicago Park District barred hometown heroes and 1994 Lollapalooza headliners the Smashing Pumpkins from performing a free concert at the Petrillo Music Shell. In 2002, it rejected a bid by surviving members of the Grateful Dead to perform at Hutchinson Field, the site at the southern end of the park that promoters have chosen for the new Lollapalooza.

City officials said Lollapalooza has been presented as a "fund-raiser" for the Parkways Foundation, a private organization devoted to raising money for park improvements. Parkways did not respond to requests for comment, and Capital Sports & Entertainment executives would not say how much money the company has promised to raise for Parkways.

"We're in talks with both the Parkways Foundation and the Chicago Park District, as well as the mayor's office," Lollapalooza co-producer Stacey Rodrigues said Thursday. "We've had great talks so far with all the parties involved. We didn't know there's been such a history [of problems with rock concerts in Grant Park]."

Rodrigues had promised an announcement about city approval on Friday; a Capital spokesperson said that announcement will now come today. But Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said Friday that Parkways and promoters had not applied for a permit yet.

The Park District Commission will not have to vote on the permit, but it must be approved by the Park Services Department after promoters address a wide range of concerns about public safety, traffic, cleanup and capacity. "I don't have any date for when there will be an announcement of city approval," Maxey-Faulkner said. "There is still a lot more to be done in the eyes of the Park District."

"In no way is this a done deal, and we'll be investigating this carefully," said Bob O'Neill, president of the watchdog group the Grant Park Conservancy. "The promoter got ahead of things here by hyping this event, but that's what promoters do."

Capital has not worked with Lollapalooza or the city of Chicago before. The company bought a stake in the festival last year from the Beverly Hills-based William Morris Agency and concert founder Perry Farrell. Both are working with Capital on the revitalized concert.

Billed as a "destination festival," Lollapalooza hopes to draw fans from across the country, and the Web site promises to make travel packages available. It also notes that promoters are seeking corporate sponsors.

Best known as organizers of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which draws more than 75,000 people a day in the Texas capital, Capital Sports said it decided to bring the retooled Lollapalooza to Chicago because the city is in the center of the country, and Grant Park is a uniquely beautiful site.

"The venue itself really spoke to us -- it's just a magical setting," Rodrigues said. "Chicago is also one of the strongest music markets in the country. We're surprised that it doesn't have a national music festival already."

Concert industry sources said the acts approached to headline the new Lollapalooza include Green Day, Weezer, Beck, Widespread Panic and the Pixies, who were offered $275,000 to perform. It is unclear if any of these bands has confirmed.

The manager of another major act that performed at Lollapalooza in the past said promoters approached them six weeks ago and offered $50,000, then upped that figure to $75,000. "I'm sure they'll come back to me with $100,000, but we'll still say no, because something about this just doesn't feel right," the manager said.

Promoters will not announce the lineup until April 22, two weeks after tickets go on sale. In 1993, Lollapalooza experimented with the Chicago audience by putting tickets on sale here without naming the talent. The concert sold out, and the test was cited as evidence that the Lollapalooza name and concept are more important than specific acts.

The alternative-rock audience and the concert industry have changed dramatically since 1993, however, and despite a strong lineup, last year's Lollapalooza was canceled weeks before its scheduled start because of poor ticket sales.

If the new Lollapalooza does win approval from the Park District and city safety officials, it will face stiff competition in the Chicago concert market on its chosen dates. The Warped Tour stops at the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park (which hosted previous Lollapalooza shows) on July 23, and the Dave Matthews Band performs at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wis. on July 23-24.