This Week In History: Lollapalooza is Born

Summer music festival history was made when the very first Lollapalooza tour kicked off this week in 1991.

It started as a farewell tour for one of the 90s’ most beloved bands, and grew to become one of the biggest and most influential musical events of all time. Conceived by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, Lollapalooza began as an attempt to do something big for the band’s final tour. Thanks to the massive surge in alternative rock’s popularity in the early 90s, Lollapalooza soon became a major event and cultural touchstone for alternative music.

The inaugural festival traveled across the US and Canada, and featured Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails, Living Colour, Butthole Surfers, Rollins Band, Fishbone, Violent Femmes. The second year of Lollapalooza was even bigger, and featured legendary performances by some of alternative rock’s biggest acts such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. The tour continued until 1998. A key feature of the festival was the inclusion of non-musical acts like the Shaolin Monks, and the Jim Rose Circus Side Show.

From ’91 to ’95 Lollapalooza featured the biggest acts in alternative rock, including Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains, Dinosaur Jr., Tool, Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, L7, Green Day, Sonic Youth, Hole, Pavement, and Beck. Nirvana was set to play on the ’94 tour but dropped out due to Kurt Cobain’s waning health. They also maintained a tradition of hip hop acts and featured A tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube, Ice-T & Body Count, and Cypress Hill.

Farrell worked with the tour until 1996, when he suddenly quit in protest when Metallica was featured as a headliner. Farrell saw Metallica as “macho” and counter to the festival’s tradition of featuring “non-mainstream” acts. Lollapalooza was cancelled soon after, signifying to many the decline of alternative rock’s popularity. The final Lollapalooza of the original series of touring festivals took place in 1997 featuring Orbital, Devo, Prodigy, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Korn. Waning interest and low ticket sales lead to the demise of the festival.

The festival was briefly revived in 2003 before being cancelled again in 2004. But in 2005 Lollapalooza found a new life when the festival was transformed into an annual weekend destination festival held at Grant Park in Chicago. It has since become an immense success and hosts more than 160,000 people over a three-day period. A decade after its resurrection, Lollapalooza made its first incursion into foreign land in 2011 when it launched in Santiago, Chile. Over the next few years the festival also expanded into Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Berlin, and Paris.