When Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell started Lollapalooza 25 years ago he had no idea he was starting a revolution. What began as a touring festival has turned into a musical landmark. Though it eventually found a permanent home in Chicago, Lollapalooza now tours in five countries, including Berlin and Brazil. 2016 is the 25th anniversary of the festival and it continues to get bigger. There have been notable acts over the years, but we can’t forget what made this possible: the inaugural Lolla on July 18, 1991.
Lollapalooza started out as a farewell tour for Jane’s Addiction. Farrell wanted Lolla to be unlike other music festivals at the time. Instead of being one time events in one place, Lolla would travel across the country. It also featured non-musical acts, such as Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, freak show, art stall, and VR games. There were also booths dedicated to non-profit organizations and social awareness, something Lolla tries to keep with today. The lineup wasn’t jam packed with bands like it is now, but the bands on the bill are now considered legendary: Living Colour, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails, and Butthole Surfers to name a few. Let’s look back at some memorable performances from the first Lollapalooza.
Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails‘ fanbase was growing when they played at the festival. The band’s debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, dropped two years earlier. Their aggression, Reznor’s anguish, and the grittiness of both the music and the band members made it a Lolla highlight. Nine Inch Nails have aged tremendously since their formation, but nothing beats a young, dreaded Trent Reznor throwing his body around on stage. Nine Inch Nails returned to Lolla as headliners in 2008.
Siouxsie and the Banshees
These post-punk icons were the second headliners of the very first Lollapalooza. They already had a well-established fan base and a long career by the time they played the festival in 1991. Known as musical pioneers, Siouxsie and co would only release two more albums before calling it quits in 1995. Though Sioux went on to release a solo album, there hasn’t been new music from the band since their breakup. At least we can relive what made them so great and iconic with this Lolla performance.
Though they formed in 1985, Jane’s Addiction’s time in the spotlight was fleeting. The band dropped only two major label albums before disbanding in 1991. Jane’s Addiction is now considered one of the most influential bands of the genre thanks to their unique sound. Both the band and the inception of Lollapalooza show Farrell was ahead of the curve when it came to music. Too bad it seems like he has no say over the lineup anymore.
Henry Rollins is one of the most intense guys in music. It makes sense he’d make an appearance at the first Lollapalooza. He’s like a bomb waiting to go off. Based off of this clip, he delivered one of the most aggressive and brutal performances of the festival. He spends the entire time crouched, like an animal ready to strike. In his wide-legged stance, shirtless and barefoot it looks like he’s going to judo-chop someone in the face if they look at him the wrong way.
Living Colour have always been a severely underrated band. But one look at this Lolla performance shows why they were one of the best alt bands of the 80s and 90s. Corey Glover has some killer vocals and Vernon Reid slays on guitar. Living Colour were way ahead of the music trends and their infusion of heavy metal, funk, and hip-hop wasn’t appreciated at the time. Luckily, their presence in music has grown more over the years as different generations discovered their breakthrough album Vivid featuring hit single “Cult of Personality.”
Ice-T’s heavy metal outfit Body Count were one of the can’t miss acts of the first Lollapalooza mainly due to this song. It wouldn’t be until the following year that “Cop Killer” became controversial and pissed off senators in Washington, DC. Ice-T called it a protest song, but people like Tipper Gore and Dennis R. Martin thought it was nothing but filth. They thought it would incite violence. It got so intense Ice-T’s record company, Warner Bros., received death threats. Because of this, he decided to remove the song from following releases. Listening it to it today, it’s scary how relevant the lyrics about police brutality are today.
Which is your favorite old school Lollapalooza performance?