This weekend Lollapalooza will once again rumble and rule Grant Park in Chicago. But it wasn’t always a three-day, sold-out mainstream celebration to boot. It’s nothing short of amazing to think of the festival’s roots and remember that Lollapalooza first started as a traveling farewell oddity tour for Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction in 1991.
And things have certainly changed since then. Because 20 years later, in 2011, the festival has a more corporate-flavor with sponsored stages and three-day ticket prices topping out at $215. This year, the fan count has swelled to an expected record number of 90,000 fans a day who will come ready to rock to the tune of 130 bands on eight stages.
One of the ways I’ve put the whole experience in perspective over the years is by re-reading one of my favorite interviews with Perry Farrell. The intriguing chat is from Dimitri Ehrlich’s Inside the Music, an excellent collection of conversations with artists and performers. One of the reasons I love reading this interview is because it was written around the time of Woodstock 1994, and it never ceases to amaze and challenge me to think differently about Farrell. And each time I read it, I always notice something new about Farrell’s artistic vision.
I can’t help but struggle with deciding whether or not his perspective on performance and entertainment has changed over the years. And each time I read deeper into what he says, I often wonder if the Farrell of today would put on the Lollapalooza of 1991, or vice versa.
So before I tell you which bands I’m looking forward to seeing this weekend, I’d like to get you ready for this year’s show by sharing a section of this interview that takes us back to Farrell’s provocative “self-love” mindset in 1994 and that properly celebrates Lollapalooza’s 20th birthday.
Ehrlich writes, “As the founder of Lollapalooza, Farrell gave a generation it’s own version of Woodstock, an alternative rock tour de force, which became so big, so powerful, and so popular that Farrell had to jump off … Farrell is playing to smaller crowds but he’s adamant about creating art on his own terms. Operating with that sense of freedom, he’s finding not only artistic rejuvenation but a kind of spiritual one as well.”
Farrell says, “Whether it’s about being a catalyst or being another cell in a total living organism, I’m finding that in the ’90s, this is what I’m shooting for, this is what I believe. I believe that the next step for entertainers is to teach people self-love.
“Those people who separate themselves, those who look down, those who condescend, they are going to be wiped out. I think that people are just going to wipe them of the slate. The performers who will be valued are those who come to a town and practice and exhibit self-love. Because I think that’s what we want now is to learn how to love ourselves ….”
“What I’m trying to do in my life right now is learn how to love the position that I’m in …. I welcome the fact that I entertain people. I don’t separate myself from them, I don’t look down at the crowd. I like being the emcee at the party, I like putting people in a good mood, and I work hard to do it.”
Farrell’s thoughts are certainly an interesting thing to think about as the music begins to rock this weekend.
Now, here are my top picks that I’ve already marked off as “must-see” on this year’s Lollapalooza mobile app. I’d love to hear what you think of Farrell’s thoughts and what bands you’re looking forward to seeing this year too.