A look back at LOLLAPALOOZA (1991-2011)


Lollapalooza Year One / 1991

It’s like a flashback, reading the back of my black concert t-shirt (yes, I still have it!) –  Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Living Colour, Nine Inch Nails, Ice-T, Butthole Surfers, Henry Rollins Band, Fishbone, Violent Femmes.

My best friend Amy and I drove in her silver Volkswagen rabbit – the one with a brown door held shut with a bungee cord that doubled at my seat belt.  The “boom box” on my lap replaced its broken car stereo.  We got out to World Music Theatre in Tinley Park early enough to experience the “parking lot scene”, and got in to stroll through the “Green Street” of the day, talking to other like-minded neo-hippies about recycling, pollution, conservation and saving the earth.

I remember the day, the show, and our excitement.  Singing along to each of the eclectic groups,  although I don’t think I “got” Butthole Surfers until many years later,  loving the communal vibe of the all-day festival.

A Sun Times article chronicled my head-banging antics, as I reflected on memories of the first Lollapalooza… not the visual I intended to offer.

Lollapalooza Year Two / 1992

UNFORGETTABLE:  Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Jesus & Mary Chain, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill…

It began with my mom hollering “Have fun, Steph.  Don’t dose!” as I ran out to my friend’s car to head to the festival.  I guess I’d been too honest in telling her what I’d seen and heard about the year prior.  The show climaxed during Pearl Jam’s anthemic, raw and righteous set… I can still see my friend Mark gleefully losing himself in the lawn mosh pit.  It got even crazier later;  from the upper-deck suites, I recall watching Ministry’s Al Jourgensen tear it up on stage with a mic stand made out of bones (at least in my memory), and going out back to see lawn sod flying everywhere where once was the moshpit that hosted Mark’s miracle moment.  It was utter chaos, yet beautiful.  It was LOLLAPALOOZA.

Lollapalooza Year Four / 1994

Year three was good, but my favorite Lolla was definitely 1994:  Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, George Clinton & P-Funk, Tribe Called Quest, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Breeders, Flaming Lips and SO much other talent on the side stage.

I was an intern at WXRT, working the event from morning til the wee hours, giving stuff away and talking music with fans and my fellow-Greek DJ Johnny Mars.  I was able to break from working the promo booth to catch Flaming Lips on the Side Stage.  Running late for my next shift, I cut through the backstage area… next thing you know, Billy Corgan is debating boots vs. Birkenstocks with me, I meet James Iha’s mom, and Q-Tip and I shoot hoops against Ad Rock & MCA.  Oh, and I got a Meatloaf crew t-shirt from someone I helped to carry a box of stuff to Nick Cave.  But besides that… It was the first time I saw Beastie Boys playing instruments on stage – they hooked me then, forever.  And Pumpkins played a lot of Gish, which remains one of my all-time favorite albums.  Every act seemed to play beyond their best, fueled by the energy of the crowd and the “happening” around them.  It’s that utterly contagious vibe that gets me every time.

The Years Between

As awesome as they may have been, the other Lollas run together in my mind.  That said, I remember sets from Sonic Youth, Elastica, Jesus Lizard, Poster Children, Metallica, Screaming Trees and Rage.  Looking at the line-up of the cancelled 2004 tour is wild, because they’re almost all still successfully touring bands today!


Holy shit!  I can’t believe it’s been two decades since these vivid memories occurred.  Besides the fact that I’m still as smitten with live music as I was then, I never imagined the festival would have morphed how it did, and planted itself in our own Grant Park!  The bands I am most excited to see this year include:  My Morning Jacket, Arctic Monkeys, Big Audio Dynamite, The Cars, Ween, Cee Lo, Foster the People, Ana Tijoux, Manchester Orchestra, Chico Trujillo, Lykke Li, Ryan Bingham, Cage the Elephant, Damian Marley, The Kills, Beats Antiques, Typhoon, Dale Earnhardt Jr JR, Reptar, Walk the Moon, Beirut, Deftones, Atmosphere, Local Natives, Portugal. The Man, Delta Spirit, Friendly Fires, Lissie, OK Go… Girl Talk, Pretty Lights, Kid Cudi and Afrojack on Perry’s stage and Keller Williams on the Kids Stage.  It may be hard to see all that, eat good food, hang with friends and family, interview some bands and check out the sustainability initiatives… but I’m inspired and energized to try.