It starts with a dictionary definition: “a wonderful thing or person or a swirly lollipop”. Cut to the director NAME discussing his original impulse to create this festival – to bring what people so infamously experienced at Woodstock, to an urban environment. The screen is suddenly filled with still images from concerts, of bands, promotions, and fans. This footage, combined with a self-proclaimed connection to Woodstock fool us into believing that Lollapalooza is not just a concert, but a political and social event.
Looking at the lineup for this year’s festival, Lollapalooza’s 20th Anniversary, I am, quite frankly, confused. Are Eminem and Coldplay truly the most politically important music artists Lolla could find?
There’s no doubt that when the Michigan-born rapper first hit the billboard his music elicited political and social debate about homophobia and abuse – but now? “Love the Way You Lie”, a single off Eminem’s newest album Recovery, exploded on the charts because it was such a surprise for the rapper; Rihanna’s beautifully yearning hook that rides the flow of the beat makes the track nothing short of a modern love ballad. Perhaps if Lollapalooza had hosted “The Real Slim Shady”, I’d be more politically satisfied.
With this lineup (http://lineup.lollapalooza.com/), Lollapalooza deviates from their original goal to be a modern, urban Woodstock. The festival is clearly more interested in ticket sales than creating a communal experience. The key to success? Inviting divisive artists who bring the festival their mass fan base for just one day.
Last year we had Gaga. I stood in Grant Park surrounded by “monsters” and immediately felt the communal vibe established throughout the day drained out of me. Virtually thousands of people gathered in the park to gawk at Gaga and only Gaga, buying a day pass and ignoring the rest of the music playing since 11am.
But the last time I checked, Gaga tours on her own. And so does every other top-chart artist. So why not buy a ticket for that? Why the music festival? Community.
There is nothing quite like sweating for three days at Indio, California’s Coachella Music Festival unshowered, smelly, sunburnt and thirsty. The fans are there not just for the music, but for the three-day camp-a-thon where we make new friends, disagree about lyrics and the meaning of life, spend too much money on over-priced Gatorade and dance until 3 am.
By hosting Eminem, Coldplay and Muse as a package of headliners, Lollapalooza solidifies the fears Gaga instilled in me last year: Lolla has abandoned their original promise to be a true festival.
In fact, the lineup implies not only a deviation from “festival” but a new interest in developing “Perry’s”, Lolla’s DJ stage. This year Perry’s amps and speakers will pulse with countless big names: Pretty Lights, Kid Cudi, Modeselektor, Girl Talk, Super Mash Bros, and Busy P (to name a few). The dance music scene is taking over college campuses and bars everywhere, and so it makes sense for Perry Farrell (the director/creator of Lollapalooza) to have his sights set on making Perry’s the place to be (once again, to boost his sales, rather than his socio-political stance).
But to say the artists on this year’s lineup aren’t worthy of being heard would be wrong; Muse, My Morning Jacket, Cold War Kids, Nas, Manchester Orchestra and Delta Spirit certainly all have something to say about the world either lyrically or aurally. However, when put together in one festival one thing becomes clear: Lollapalooza is more invested in selling day passes and targeting individual music demographics than creating a collective music experience that when assembled in one lineup makes for a weekend of political and social import.
So Perry, as a true and devoted music fan I have to tell you that you’ve sold out. And that’s ok. You’re certainly providing fans a way to see their favorite artists in the beautiful Grant Park; and that’s a valid reason for Lolla to continue to happen. I had a good time at Lolla last year, eating Chi-dogs, bouncing beach balls over my head with Matt & Kim, and watching Foxy Shazaam redefine spectacle in a short forty-minute set. So long as you acknowledge that Lolla is redefining itself, deviating from its history and tradition.
When I have my choice of festivals this year, from Pitchfork to Bonarrroo, Lollapalooza won’t be mine.