Skip to comments.A Senior Moment for Gen X: First Lollapalooza Was 15 Years Ago
Posted on 07/24/2006 7:14:47 PM PDT by Incorrigible
A Senior Moment for Gen X: First Lollapalooza Was 15 Years Ago
BY MICHELE M. MELENDEZ
[Chicago, Illinois] -- It happens to everyone: Some cultural moment makes you "feel old." For Generation X, now in their 30s and 40s, this is one of those times.
Beneath the buzz for next month's Lollapalooza music festival lurks the jarring realization that the first one was 15 years ago.
"Jeez. Really? Fifteen?" asked Kristen Palmer, 32, of New York City, who braved the mosh pit as a teen at the show in northern Virginia, outside Washington, D.C. "Are you sure?"
Back in 1991, music critics called Lollapalooza that generation's Woodstock. It had a similarly youthful, anything-goes spirit, even if body piercings had replaced love beads.
Lollapalooza -- originally a touring show -- has evolved into a three-day event settled into Chicago's Grant Park. It's Aug. 4-6, with roughly 130 acts topped by high-energy funk-rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers and the "Louis Vuitton Don," rapper Kanye West. Nine stages. Even a "Kidzapalooza" area for children.
The first Lollapalooza traveled to 21 cities with just seven acts: Jane's Addiction, Rollins Band, Butthole Surfers, Ice-T with Body Count, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails and Living Colour. Late in the tour, Violent Femmes and Fishbone replaced the last two.
The word itself -- lollapalooza -- was a curiosity, and started people using "palooza" as a suffix.
The dictionary definition: something extraordinary.
That's the vibe Perry Farrell, the iconic frontman of Jane's Addiction, sought in creating the festival. Farrell considers himself an alchemist of sorts, pulling different types of music and energy together.
"It's about revolution, and it's about rebellion, and all those things that young people still believe in and have faith in, that they're going to change things," Farrell, now 47, recently told Henry Rollins, an original Lollapalooza performer, on Rollins' Independent Film Channel show.
"That moment in the early 1990s was where alternative or independent rock started," said Steve Waksman, assistant professor of music and American studies at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. It had its own set of values, Waksman said -- experimenting with sounds and words, rejecting the music business establishment.
The first Lollapalooza mixed rock with rap with punk with funk with industrial.
Today, rap and rock artists routinely collaborate, by design or at the whim of DJs who blend the genres. But the concept was a baby when rapper Ice-T and Body Count, his accompanying heavy metal band, took the Lollapalooza stage and belted out "Cop Killer," a song describing violent revenge for police brutality. They would release it on an album the following year, sparking a national furor. (Ice-T now plays a cop on TV's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.")
The inaugural show was the year before a presidential election in which many fans would be voting for the first time. It was about more than music. Concertgoers strolled among issue-oriented booths with information about voting, AIDS, gun control, abortion, the environment.
"The original tour broke new ground in packaging rap, metal and alternative in one show, but it also broke new ground in including a wide range of progressive political organizations on the tour ... at a time when popular music was only making headlines for getting censored," said Reebee Garofalo, professor of community media and technology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Reviews were mixed. Some critics wished there had been more interchange among the bands, a wider variety of political viewpoints and a more diverse audience, which was largely white.
Regardless, for alternative music fans, Lollapalooza was THE show.
"This was the first time I remember there being an opportunity to see a bunch of alternative bands all at once, something different and special," said Anna Villines, 36, of Portland, Ore., who caught Lollapalooza in Enumclaw, Wash., near Seattle.
Brett Burmeister, 35, also of Portland, saw the same performance. "I spent 14, 15 hours in the rain," he remembers.
At a show in Clarkston, Mich., near Detroit, "Sod wars had been breaking out through the day as the people up on the lawn ... realized that the grass on the hill was easy to rip up in large, dirty clumps," recalls Michael Absher, 40, of Flint.
Christopher F. Smith, 35, of San Francisco, remembers feeling awestruck after the northern Virginia show: "I was still glowing -- energized and very, very alive. I knew that I had been to something important -- historic -- and didn't want to lose the feeling."
Observers note that Lollapalooza uncovered an appetite for eclectic music festivals, after the big "arena rock" shows that marked the 1970s and '80s.
"It's a touchstone," said Murray Forman, assistant professor of communication studies at Boston's Northeastern University. "It really did change the character of what we've come to expect from our (live) summer music."
Some who have seen Lollapalooza change over the years note that "alternative music" has become mainstream and that the show increasingly relies on corporate backing.
Daniel Goldmark, assistant professor of music at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, recalls a 1996 episode of Fox's long-running cartoon, "The Simpsons": Homer takes his kids to "Hullabalooza" to prove he's still cool. His daughter, Lisa, observes, "Wow, it's like Woodstock, only with advertisements everywhere and tons of security guards."
"At what point do people say something is authentic and real, and when does it become commercial, a sellout?" Goldmark said.
That's a challenge for show producers, who have to keep ticket prices low enough to attract a crowd.
"We've really made conscious decisions not to go too far (with corporate sponsorship) with Lollapalooza, because we feel the fans that are coming out don't really want that in their face," said Charlie Jones, partner and executive producer with Capital Sports & Entertainment in Austin, Texas -- one of the event's current producers.
After 1997, Lollapalooza took a five-year break. It returned in 2003 only to be canceled in 2004 due to weak ticket sales. Jones' firm and Charles Attal Presents, also in Austin, reshaped it last year as a two-day show in Chicago.
The 2006 edition adds a third day. There'll be an art market. Organizations devoted to stopping global warming, getting out the youth vote and other causes will spread their word. Children will get the chance to play music and dance in their own activities area.
Unlike the first Lollapallooza, this is a family-friendly show. Do the math. Gen X has kids now.
"One thing that's consistent with this generation ... they've been concertgoers since day one, and they're still music fans," Jones said. "They're just a little older."
July 21, 2006
(Michele M. Melendez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Not for commercial use. For educational and discussion purposes only.
Some of my favorite music is being called "Classic Rock!"
Help me qam1!!! Make me feel young again!
It's scary. I'm turning 29 in 17 hours!
You too? Did you know Poison and Skid Row had a venue at a casino in my area? So old!
A little off topic, but STL's classic rock station plays Bryan Adams. Bryan Adams??? He is as classic rock as Hanson..!
40s?? Oh, I'm back in Generation X now? (Being that I'm 41 and "40s" is plural, so it has to include me.)
I keep getting retroactively labeled a "boomer" even though I never got any boomer benefits.
Then again, the first Gen X sitcom was "Friends" and two of the actresses on the show are older than me (even if their characters weren't.)
You know you're old when:
You start wearing Depends to a Metallica concert.
You don't go to a Metallica concert anymore because the music hurts your ears.
You have to explain to your kids what a record album is.
How come I never had the idea that I or my generation (I never considered my self part of a generation) was going to change to world. I would say change to what exactly? Maybe I was and always be counter- counter culture. Oh well.
Pantera, Slayer, Machine Head, Fear Factory, Sabbath, Motorhead
I'm right behind ya bud! 41 is less than a month away!
If you were born after the death of JFK, you're a Gen Xer!
Pretty soon, you'll have to explain to them what a CD is. You already have to explain to them what a VHS is.
Without Sebastian, it isn't Skid Row.
I really like alt rock, but this lad has his priorities a bit skewed.
Similar to the 20 year anniversary of Ferris Bueller.
BTW, the joke was "If only Mama Cass had given her ham sandwich to Karen Carpenter, they'd both be alive today."
This stuff is not music - it's noise.
The good news is that whenever my nephew accuses me of being an old fuddy-duddy, all I need to do is pull out an old Suicidal Tendencies album and blowaway the cRAPola he's listening to.
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