Lollapalooza, Lolla

Lollapalooza, Lolla

30 Years Ago, The First Lollapalooza Felt Like One Wild 'House Party'

It's #Lollapalooza weekend, and as the organizers and bands behind the first-ever festival told us, #Lolla has always been a place for history

7/31/2021 10:04:00 PM

It's Lollapalooza weekend, and as the organizers and bands behind the first-ever festival told us, Lolla has always been a place for history

Perry Farrell, Trent Reznor, and Gibby Haynes look back at the alternative festival that defined the ‘90s and was resurrected for a new generation

twice during her 2010 set with Semi Precious Weapons.“Lady Gaga showed up in, like, a see-through bodysuit? And went and stage dived in the crowd at one of the small stages, and they were just ripping [at] her limbs,” Farrell says. “She looked like Mary Queen of Scots, [who] was beheaded, right? But she was enjoying herself. We did pull her up, and then she turned around and jumped back in. It’s so fucking cool, and it makes me like her a lot. I thought that was very bold and very big of her.”

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Those seemingly once-in-a-lifetime occurrences served as the driving forces for the near-instantaneous commercial success of the festival and its participants. “I look back at that as a real turning point of Nine Inch Nails breaking through to some degree,” Reznor says. “The level of audience increased significantly after those shows. It was a homemade, low-budget operation, and we got up to Lollapalooza, now we’re playing real, professional venues.”

“Nine Inch Nails blew up so big in the middle of that middle of that tour,” Haynes remembers. “They are the ones that got the crowd started. The crowds went apeshit for them. It was on after that.”Farrell, for his part, had spent a lifetime priming for success in his new role as a festival producer. Long before he was belting out hits such as “Jane Says” and “Been Caught Stealing,” he was creating experiences for others as a vocalist and hype man for his first band, Psi Com. “We started putting on our own parties, because we didn’t feel like we could fit in at Gazzarri’s,” he recalls of the famous hair-metal joint that reigned on the Sunset Strip through the early ‘90s. “We knew we weren’t welcome, so we put together our own damn party.”

The singer even personally printed up the tickets to his events. “Literally, we would be on the streets like Hare Krishna guys, except we’d be handing out handbills to people to go and see our show.” The more he took on, the more he learned. “Your circle of influence starts to widen and widen and widen, like when you drop a pebble — or an atom bomb — into the water.”

Those early lessons later allowed Farrell to bring the festival back to life after sales began to plummet circa 1997. “At that time, there were probably four or five other festivals, and it diluted our strength,” he explains. With not enough headlining acts to go around, the decision was made to cancel the 1998 event. By 2003, Jane’s Addiction had not only reunited, but released its third studio album,

Strays, produced by classic-rock legend Bob Ezrin (Kiss’sDestroyer, Pink Floyd’sThe Wall). Farrell was then keeping company with modern rock gods Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, and late Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell, when he had an epiphany. “Right now, what’s going on in the world is people are starting to play video games,” he recalls thinking, “and I just kind of saw, oh man, we could do a Lollapalooza, bring in video gaming, and ... talk about alternative energy. I kind of got hot, so I just kinda lit a match. And then, it lit up again.”

Paul Natkin/Getty ImagesA reunited Jane's Addiction performing at Lollapalooza in 2003.Tapping his bandmates and friends as headliners, Farrell’s Lollapalooza was reborn as a traveling tour for the very last time. 2004 once again saw soft ticket sales, and in 2005, he, along with his partners at the William Morris Agency, made the decision to bring in an outside production company in C3 Presents. Together, they brought the festival back from the grave once more, this time as a destination festival in Chicago. To Farrell, it was the perfect choice for the event’s rebirth. “It reminds me of America a lot. There are good people, and they are different colors, shapes, sizes, sexual proclivities and ... studies of theology. They’re just, like, a hodgepodge of interesting people.”

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The new, committed location was just the tip of the iceberg. With fresh faces at the helm of the ship, Lollapalooza’s once alternative lineup was quickly expanding into other musical categories, with electronic-heavy acts like M83 and indie darlings like Death Cab for Cutie and Tegan and Sara appearing on the bill. As Farrell shares, however, it had never really been about any one specific genre. “Music is really holy to me. To me, it’s my religion as much as anything else. The sound that you’re bringing to me will either heal me or hurt me.”

The same can be said of the festival scene at large. “I think the work that Perry did here in America, I would imagine that his impact was well-bought by making a tangible festival that’s interesting, that has an identity, that’s also commercially viable, is one of the main reasons in pursuing festivals now,” Reznor says.

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