Lollapalooza Music Festival

Couple enjoying music festival
Couple enjoying music festival. doble.d 581505771 Getty

The Basics:

  • What: Music festival Lollapalooza
  • Where: Location varies - some years it is a touring festival, some years it happens in one location over a number of days.
  • When: Summer months - exact dates vary
  • Founded by: Perry Farrell
  • Founded: 1991

Lollapalooza History:

Lollapalooza was initially meant to be a big farewell tour for founder Perry Farrell's band Jane's Addiction (interestingly, Jane's Addiction would step in with a reunion show to help Coachella make a comeback several years later).

Although Farrell's idea was for a traveling music festival, the musically diverse bill of Lollapalooza was inspired by a 1990, two day festival called A Gathering of Tribes. The inaugural Lollapalooza, in 1991, featured hip-hop, alternative, industrial and pop music acts. The diversity of the line-up over the years is usually credited for Lollapalooza's mega-success.

Travelling Road Show:

Before Lollapalooza, large music festivals were tied to a single location and were usually held over several days. Lollapalooza turned that format on its head by taking the show on the road. This approach was also key to the success of the festival. Many music fans had never had the opportunity to attend a music festival, especially fans far away from large cities. With Lollapalooza, not only did they have a chance to attend a festival, but they had a chance to see a show that featured so many different types of music.

The festival had a real buzz of something new and exciting about it that drew in even more fans.

Perfect Timing:

In 1991, when Lollapalooza started, the "alternative" music underground was being mined by major labels in the wake of the success of Nirvana. Despite it's commitment to diverse line-ups, Lollapalooza was heavily routed in alternative music, and this new attention to the genre proved to be both blessing and curse.

At first, the festival seemed like the most relevant thing going, as mainstream audiences were introduced to alternative mainstay bands and "lifestyle." A few years down the line, all of this stuff just seemed normal. In some ways, the festival became a victim of its own success.

Good-bye Perry, Hello William Morris:

One of the final nails in the coffin of the first run of Lollapalooza was the departure of Perry Farrell in 1996. Most of the reigns were turned over to the William Morris Agency, who tried to make the festival even more mainstream. Fans started turning away, and by 1998, Lollapalooza couldn't convince a band to headline the tour, and the festival closed up shop, at least temporarily.

Bad Behavior:

Another factor in the fall of the Lollapalooza was the behavior of the fans. Festival goers in the 1990s gained a reputation for violence and destroying venues. After a series of incidents, some venues began to turn down Lollapalooza bookings.

Lollapalooza Returns, Then Leaves Again:

In 2003, Farrell stepped in to rescue the festival, and Lollapalooza hit the road again. Fans weren't interested in paying the sky high ticket prices, however, and interest was lukewarm. Farrell soldiered on and planned a 2004 run, but poor ticket sales forced it to be canceled.

Lollapalooza Stays Put:

Farrell didn't want to abandon his festival, and so he decided to change formats. Starting in 2006, the road show was ditched and the festival set up shop as a two-day event in Chicago. It is believed that a contract exists to keep Lollapalooza headquartered in Chicago until 2011.o until 2011.

How to Play Lollapalooza:

Even though Lollapalooza might not be what it once was, competition to play the festival is stiff. For unsigned bands, Lollapalooza works with Sonicbids in the Last Band Standing contest that lets fans pick an unsigned band to play at the festival. For unsigned bands, this is essentially the only way into the festival.