20 Years of Lollapalooza: The Highs and the Lows

Back in 1991, Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Farrell was looking to put together a really cool farewell tour for his band. But what started out as Farrell’s farewell brainstorm (a traveling music fest complete with an eclectic mix of bands, side stages, information booths, virtual reality games and a smattering of political fodder),became an annual tradition fueled by the power of the early 1990s alt-music epidemic.

Twenty years later, the Lollapalooza festival still hasn’t said its final goodbye.

The recently announced 2011 Lollapalooza lineup– which is slated to play out at Chicago’s Grant Park from August 5- 7– includes artists like Eminem, Foo Fighters, Coldplay and Muse. And in a major blast- from- the-past return, late 70s new wavers The Cars are also on the Lolla lineup, marking the twentieth anniversary of the famed festival.

But it hasn’t all been good. Over the past twenty years, Farrell’s beloved Lollapalooza has had its share of highs and lows, including an unfortunate cancelation and a hiatus that stretched for years.

Lollapalooza Lows:

At a 1992 Lollapalooza date at Great Woods in Massachusetts, fans caused a bit of damage when they ripped apart fences, built bonfires and tore up sod, causing Great Woods bigwigs to just say no to any more Lollas at their venue. But they changed their tune three years later, welcoming acts like Beck, Cypress Hill and Hole for the 1995 Lollapalooza show.

Back in 1994, the festival’s headlining act was supposed to be grunge gods, Nirvana, but the band pulled out of the show just days before lead singer Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home.

And after seven years of operating as a traveling music show, Lollapalooza went on a five-year hiatus, from 1998 to 2002. Why? Organizers apparently couldn’t find a headlining act in time for a 1998 show. When a show didn’t happen in ’99 either, critics lamented that Lolla had perhaps run its course.

A Brief High, then a Low:

The festival was back in 2003 (Audioslave, Incubus and The Donnas!) but in 2004 Lollapalooza was canceled due to poor ticket sales for its 16-city destination. Fans missed out on what would have presumably been a great show featuring Sonic Youth and PJ Harvey.

Lollapalooza Highs:

In 2005, Lollapalooza changed things up and stayed put at one venue– Chicago’s Grant Park– transforming from a traveling show to a multi-day one-stopper. The Windy City has been the festival’s resting place ever since and the show has gone on as scheduled every year.

And in 2011, Lollapalooza even went international with a first-ever non-American date. The destination? Santiago, Chile, with a lineup that included Kanye West, The Killers and Deftones.

Could this year’s Chicago dates bring more highs for Lollapalooza? With Eminem as a headliner, expect this festival to continue on its road to “Recovery.”