Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell has turned on the Lollapalooza festival he helped conceive in 1991, and has suggested that it has become so corporately toxic he wants to “vomit” a lot of the acts who appear there out of his nostrils.
As insults go, it’s on a grandiose scale, but then so to is the Lollapalooza festival. Far too grand for the likes of Farrell, who in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, expressed his discontent at the Frankenstein’s monster he had helped create.
“The idea that you can protect yourself from people who want to make millions of dollars off your idea — you better have a suit of armor.”
Originally, Lollapalooza was meant to be little more than a one-off farewell tour for Jane’s Addiction, and included support acts such as Nine Inch Nails, the Butthole Surfers, Living Color, the Rollins Band and Ice-T.
The gamble of touring a diverse range of underground acts around the U.S. and Canada paid off handsomely. So much so, the movers and shakers in the record industry thought, “We’ve got a traveling gold mine on our hands here folks, let’s do it again.”
And so they did, again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and ad nauseam. Now while familiarity may breed contempt, in this case it also generates millions and millions of dollars. So as long as the money is rolling in, who cares about quality control, standards, or founding principals?
Although painted as a safe and happy place where alternative people go to be alternative, record producer Steve Albini called Lollapalooza out as a cash cow way back in 1993.
“Lollapalooza is the worst example of corporate encroachment into what is supposed to be the underground. It is just a large scale marketing of bands that pretend to be alternative but are in reality just another facet of the mass cultural exploitation scheme.
“I have no appreciation or affection for those bands and I have no interest in that whole circle. If Lollapalooza had Jesus Lizard and the Melvins and Fugazi and Slint then you could make a case that it was actually people on the vanguard of music. What it really is the most popular bands on MTV that are not heavy metal.”
[Photo by Raphael Dias/Getty Images]
When Metallica headlined Lollapalooza in 1996, it was too much for Farrell, who believed such a mainstream artist was contrary to the “Alternative Nation” the Jane Addiction’s singer had helped establish at the festival. The thrash metal giants were also too macho for Farrell and he quit.
Lollapalooza, which is an old American idiom meaning “extraordinary” or “unusual,” rumbled on for one more year, but then the juggernaut came to a grinding halt and was laid to rest in 1997.
Yet in an age where flogging a dead horse is a lucrative pastime, Lollapalooza was resurrected in 2003, by none other than Perry Farrell, who felt it was time for Jane’s Addiction to be dusted off and given another airing.
The tour bombed. Some say high ticket prices were too blame, others say apathy was the root course. Whatever the reason, the plug was pulled on the planed 2004 Lollapalooza and that it appeared was that.
But no! Determined to keep his alternative vision alive, Farrell went into partnership with Capital Sports & Entertainment (now C3 Presents) and Lollapalooza found a new home in Chicago as a two-day festival.
Since then, it has staged festivals in Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. To celebrate its 25th year, this year’s event in Chicago will be four days long (July 28 – 31).
Lollapalooza is not so alternative these days, but as a cash cow, it’s the gift which keeps giving, and as Farrell sagely points out, “That’s life.”
“Lolla started out as a scene for the alternative kids, and a lot of money was thrown at it. Rolling Stone called it a ‘cash cow’ in 1995. I can’t say they were very wrong. Everyone was selling something. Managers, agencies, record companies — everybody was.
“That’s life. There’s nothing I can do about it except study it and try to keep it sweet, truthful, honest. You see the money people coming, and you bring in more things that are exciting and delightful and funny and pleasing. That’s one way to win. The other way to win is you start something else. After 25 years I have another project I’m about to start.
“I’ll transfer that experience and reach for the stars on my next project, and do things that have not been done by Lolla, and see how it goes.”
Although he still has a hand in what acts appears at Lollapalooza, house music fan Farrell confesses he has no love nor interest for a lot of the EDM acts who are huge on America’s rave scene, and who appear on the stage named after him. Yet they draw a lot of punters and make a lot of music, so what’s an aging rocker to do?
“You’d have to do away with pop to escape it, and if you want to do a festival you can’t do away with pop.
“When they said they wanted to name a stage after me (when the festival relaunched in 2005), I was honored. I like the adulation. But now you say, ‘Perry, what’s going on with your area here?’ Believe me, I’ve got questions myself. I hate EDM. I want to vomit it out of my nostrils. I can’t stand what it did to what I love, which is house music, which was meditative, psychedelic — it took you on a journey. …I sometimes cringe at my own festival.
“The only way to change things is by changing things myself. At my new project, there will be great house music. I hope I will keep EDM at the door. They will be turned away.”
[Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images for Dobel Tequila]