alternative-rock concert Lollapalooza is attempting to resurrect itself as a
two-day "destination festival," drawing fans from across the country -- and
Chicago is the city that has been chosen for its comeback.
The promoters, Capital Sports & Entertainment of Austin, Texas, announced
Wednesday that they will bring Lollapalooza to Grant Park on July 23-24.
They declined further comment until a press conference on April 26.
The Parkways Foundation, a fund-raising arm for the city parks, has
endorsed the concert as a way to raise money. But a spokesperson for the
Chicago Park District stressed that the festival -- which would take place
at Hutchinson Field at the southern end of Grant Park -- has not yet been
approved by the city.
"We don't know a thing about it," said Erma Tranter, president of
watchdog group the Friends of the Park. "The questions we would have are,
'How many people?' and 'Is this the right place for it?' "
Former Jane's Addiction leader Perry Farrell, who launched Lollapalooza
in 1991, is on board as creative consultant, and promoters are remodeling
the event after southern California's Coachella Festival, which draws 50,000
fans a day.
So far, the acts rumored to be part of Lollapalooza 2005 -- alternative
rocker Beck, the jam band Widespread Panic, and underground favorites the
Killers and Kings of Leon -- lack major drawing power, and industry insiders
question whether the festival can succeed in this city's ultra-competitive
summer concert season.
After a five-year hiatus from 1998 to 2002, Lollapalooza returned as a
conventional tour in 2003. But last year's bill with headliners Wilco and
Sonic Youth was canceled because of slow ticket sales at nearly every stop
-- except Chicago, which may explain why the Windy City has been chosen for
this third comeback attempt.
In 1993, Lollapalooza promoters experimented with the Chicago audience,
putting tickets on sale without announcing the lineup. The concert sold out,
largely because Nirvana was falsely rumored to be headlining, but that test
has since been cited as evidence that the concert's name and concept are
more important than the specific acts.
Capital Sports & Entertainment bills itself as "an integrated management
and marketing firm providing services to athletes, artists, events and
entertainment brands," and its clients include bicycling champion Lance
Armstrong. The company promotes the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival
and is affiliated with Stubb's BBQ, a popular 2,200-seat Austin concert
Chicago's hip, but not that hip
CSE has not worked with Lollapalooza before. Following the failure of the
2004 tour, sources said the company bought a 50-percent stake in the
festival from the Beverly Hills-based William Morris Agency, whose veteran
alternative-rock booker Marc Geiger has joined Farrell in programming this
But neither CSE nor Geiger have dealt with the Chicago Park District
before -- the tour previously stopped at the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park
-- and the city has been notoriously hostile to hosting edgier rock concerts
in Grant Park.
In 1998, city officials barred hometown heroes the Smashing Pumpkins from
performing a free concert at the Petrillo Bandshell. Local promoters Jam
Productions successfully hosted a show by Radiohead at Hutchinson Field in
2001, but Michigan Avenue residents and fans of the Grant Park Orchestra,
which performs at the northern end of the park, complained about the noise
and the crowds.
The Park District subsequently rejected a bid by surviving members of the
Grateful Dead to perform at Hutchinson Field in 2002.
"The event that they have proposed is not the Lollapalooza of the past --
it's a softer, tamer event," Park District spokeswoman Jennifer
Maxey-Faulkner said Wednesday.
But a source familiar with the Lollapalooza proposal said plans call for
as many as four stages hosting cutting-edge rock bands, plus a rave dance
tent. "These promoters have no idea of the amount of aggravation involved in
working with the city to do anything like this in Grant Park," the concert
industry insider said.