LOLLAPALOOZA '96: THE FANS' REPORT
JULY 10, NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Now that I m well rested, I can write this lengthy Lollapalooza 96 review. I worked like a zombie from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. today, after getting home at 2:30 a.m. The toll it takes on the average fan seems incomparable to the toll it takes on the performers, who often perform on consecutive days. After the July 10th show at Downing Stadium, Randall s Island, it s hard to believe that everyone can pick themselves up for another huge show at the facility. Between the intensity of the music, thousands of fans with huge expectations, and deluge of garbage, it s hard to imagine a show taking place the very next day. Even though the festival has its shortcomings, many of which were pointed out by former planner Perry Farrell, formerly of Jane s Addiction and now frontman for Porno for Pyros, it is quite an experience. To be listening to such a variety of performers along with 50,000-60,000 fans (by my estimate), is the ultimate high.
Because of my morning job, and my friends other obligations, we left suburban NJ at about 1:30 p.m. (usually only 15-20 minutes from the city). Because of exorbitant traffic and a lack of familiarity with the Randall s Island area, we finally parked in an open field at 2:40 p.m. We were in high spirits as the trek began, tossing pennies at each other (2 vehicles on the road) and salivating over the music of Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, and Metallica (in particular). Unfortunately, we had to stop several times for a friend s car, because we planned on playing cat and mouse on the way to Downing Stadium. Getting through NYC is like finding your way through a maze, and we planned on using the follower technique, rather than sheet instructions. Bad move. As it turns out, we took the wrong route, missing the South Deegan and wound up at 179th street in the Bronx. Fortunately, we found our way back and arrived at our destination.
Truthfully, Downing Stadium is a shithole. Except for a mini-golf course and driving range, the area s seen better days. The stadium is overlooked by a highway. Personally, if I was driving by, I would stop and jump in to see the show. All you need is a wire or bungee cord to lower yourself down, and you re in the concrete donut for the time of your life. After chilling in the parking lot (we were convinced that the shit acts would be on or the Shaolin Monks), we walked down to the entrance. Damn, we were herded like sheep or fucking cattle into these 7 rows where metal detectors were. It was such a ridiculous system that we waited for 40 minutes, finally landing in heaven at 3:40 p.m. In the meantime, I was dying a slow death during ˘Dying Days,÷ the Screaming Trees awesome new song. I missed Lanegan and CO s entire set, anticipating a 5:00 performance, instead of an early start. I mean, these are the Screaming Trees, arguably the 3rd best act to be seen at Lollapalooza 96. They actually were placed behind the Shaolin Monks in the rotation. I enjoy seeing flips and knife fights, but come on! The stupidity of the situation is easy to understand -- the officials finally decided to can the metal detector idea after everyone with a belt or metal plate in their head caused it to beep uncontrollably. Only bags were checked. In all honesty, the thousands of fans came for music, rather than a cheap shot at a musical artist. There are assholes out there, who throw their shoes on stage and get in fights, but who would bring an Uzi to this festival? Too much paranoia going around these days, I guess.
Once you enter, you know that Lollapalooza is cool, but overly commercial. Money is the number one concern, and planners have developed a sure fire cash pit. The only area where water was available free of charge, was at the very entrance, where a truck was set up. This truck supplied a few fountains, many of which had little or no water pressure because of a poor design. However, the three or four rain rooms were a good idea, considering how easy it is to become dehydrated when it s 80 degrees out and some metalhead just chucked your head to the turf. As for food, smuggling is highly advisable. Sneak your own food in, or submit yourself to the will of the robber barons. Want a nice personal pie, that would normally go for $3-5 at your friendly neighborhood pizzeria? That will be $8, sir. How about a 16 oz. cup of lemonade that is actually 75% water, 25% lemonade (I think?)? That will be $2, sir. After being herded like cattle through metal detectors and paying $6 for a gyro, we were all pretty fucking pissed. Of course, the musicians soothe the savage beast inside. I think the officials intentionally caused all this hardship to turn us into raging beasts. The mosh pits reflected this untamed rage. The first act I really paid attention to was Rancid, the new wave punk band. I m just getting into punk rock, after being a fan of Alice in Chains, the Foo Fighters, Neil Young, Smashing Pumpkins, and Soundgarden. Coincidentally, I just bought the Sex Pistols first album, and am beginning to like this sort of music which coincides with my anti-establishment sentiment and liberal rants and raves. Rancid incorporated some new elements into their average all out attack, using some jazz musicians to mix dance with punk moshing and crowd surfing. I was troubled by the number of kids in the pits during Rancid s performance. I know that teen rebellion begins at either age 12 or 13, but I saw these little brats in the pits, and many got hurt. I think that moshing is ok when it is regulated to certain songs (not every song, because not every song is tremendously uplifting), and people are courteous and know their own limits. What happened in Dublin (Smashing Pumpkins 5/11 show) is a tragedy. Truthfully, the same thing could ve happened at Lollapalooza if not for the fans who would pick each other up and show concern for one another s well being. As Dave Grohl said (not an actual quote, my paraphrasing) during the April 6th Foo Fighters show at Roseland, ˘You guys can have fun and everything, but just be responsible. If you see somebody fall down, pick them up. We don t want to stop playing on account of some asshole.÷ Thankfully, the moshing dynamics changed tremendously during the much anticipated Ramones performance (an older, beer belly group). As was the case during Rancid s performance, I stayed on the fringe of the action, preferring to listen and admire. I m not a big fan of either of these groups, but the Ramones played some good old stuff (not all the preppy, Z-100 groupie ˘Hey Ho, Let s Go÷ stuff) and Rancid had tremendous presence. Of course, both bands played popular singles and all the groupies went crazy. If I hear that song ˘Sedated÷ ever again, I swear I ll go ballistic (it sucks to begin with). Anyway, I think both bands were good, but I just don t share the same passion for their music as I do for Soundgarden and Metallica. My main concern during this portion of the show was a 1 foot partition, which was placed upon the ground at a 60 degree angle to the stage. I don t know what the purpose of this black slope was, but it became covered with beer, and often divided the masses from the moshers. Thus, it was a slippery hell hole, where people would constantly lose their footing. I would advise the Lollapalooza planners to chuck this nefarious structure.
Wu Tang Clan was the mystery guest, and they came on stage around 5:30 p.m. Truthfully, I will have to listen to this shit in the future, in order to be an objective journalist. I m writing this review as a fan, with the casual language of a young ruffian. My friend Serko and I passed on this ˘Whoop There It Is÷ type debacle, and waited to meet Screaming Trees lead singer Mark Lanegan. He had already met Van Conner, the bassist for the band, and had hopes of getting a backstage pass through some contacts. Serko s a visionary, for sure, but he didn t wind up back stage. We did manage to see Rancid s lead guitarist and bassist, who are pretty down to earth in my opinion. I didn t know what to say to these guys, so I decided to chuck the phony, ˘Boy, you guys rock÷ routine. Jason Newsted, bassist for Metallica, became visible for a brief period of time, but did not converse with the fans. I still have a ringing sensation in my right here, which was probably caused by the bass boom of Wu Tang Clan. I was nowhere near the speakers, but the repetitive thumping annoyed the shit out of me. I used to listen to rap, which I still can t fucking believe. All the clan does is say ˘Wu,÷ and the crowd retorts ˘Clan÷ like a bunch of brain dead zombies. Then they all give peace signs to one another and shout ˘Better not fuck with me, booooooyyyyyy.÷ As if I have not seen this before. Sounds hackneyed and boorish? Indeed it is. Supposedly, the crowd became very raucous during this crap, and a naked lady emerged. I m kind of upset I missed that, but the music was annoying enough to keep me away. I guess Lollapalooza has to attract a rap audience, too. I guess if I liked rap, I d be pissed off with Soundgarden. This brings me to one of the festival s strong points: a diversity of tastes. Whoever says that Lollapalooza 96 is metalpalooza is both right and wrong in their assessment. True, the festival has gone in a different direction with Soundgarden and Metallica headlining, but diversity is still the name of the game. Where else would one see the Shaolin monks, who combine music with amazing physical feats, that require years of dedication and practice? The bottom line is that no matter what music you like, you will be accommodated. This holds true unless you re a classical fan, because Mozart is not performing this year. It s bad enough that I have to listen to classical stuff in Humanities class -- I can only tolerate Vivaldi s 4 Seasons.
I was in the perfect position to see Soundgarden -- my main reason for coming to Lollapalooza 96 . My friends and I were about 30 feet away from Kim Thayil, the subdued, amazingly cool lead guitarist for Soundgarden. The band came on stage and immediately began playing ˘Spoonman,÷ and all hell broke loose. A few of my pals could not breathe, so they got out of the area. I m tall and lanky, plus I m used to the crushing feeling. Thus, I never felt queasy, until my shoulders began to give out during ˘Rusty Cage.÷ The setlist is here, but not in the right order. I do know that the band played ˘Pretty Noose÷ near the beginning with the characteristic wah wah, and a crazy version of ˘Let Me Drown÷ as its third track. I crowd surfed during this song and went all the way to the front, where I was dragged down. Unfortunately, I was dropped during ˘Outshined.÷ I wasn t hurt, but it pissed me off because it was the 3:30-4:00 part of the song when Cornell screams and says ˘Oh yeah.÷ That is perhaps the best segment of a Soundgarden song, in my opinion. Here s the setlist, with a few comments:
Down on the Upside
I m tired of writing now, but I ll finish the review tomorrow (July 12th). Then I m off to see the Pumpkins on Saturday (MSG) and Sunday (Continental Arena -- home to the lowly Nets)
Note: I m home writing this because I have to watch my 9-year old brother. I do have a life -- just not tonight. Pardon my casual jargon and excessive cussing. I m just trying to duplicate the mood of Lollapalooza. Remember that the almighty dollar is all that matters in the grand scheme of things. Sorry if I let the movement down, but I bought a t-shirt. Hell, it looked cool, even if it cost $23.
July 13, 1996
I m bummed that the Pumpkins aren t playing, but understand their decision. I had tickets to tonight s MSG performance (Section 7, right behind the GA area), and for the Meadowlands on Sunday (nosebleed heaven). Anyway, here s what I remember about Metallica s performance. I m not familiar with the names of a lot of their old songs, but I ve heard all of them on the Cross Country team bus. I do know that they either opened with or played ˘Ain t My Bitch÷ second. James Hetfield s vocals were perfect and there were no feminist groups to complain about the song (BTW, the word bitch is used as a synonym for ˘complaint÷ -- I m surprised Tipper Gore hasn t caused a ruckus). Metallica also played a brilliant version of ˘King Nothing÷ and ˘Until It Sleeps.÷ Preceding the latter song, Hetfield asked the crowd what it wanted to hear. About 100 different songs were mentioned by the audience of 60,000, so Hetfield gave a signal to everyone to play the popular single. My favorite performances came during ˘Nothing Else Matters÷ and ˘One.÷ The special effects were incredible and Metallica s performance almost made it sound as if the albums were actually playing. In other words, no luster was lost because of the live performance. There were fireworks, flames, synchronized lights (amazingly in sync with the nature of the music), and Hetfield s characteristic spitting every 30 seconds. Hammett looked pale as hell, but his guitar work was phenomenal. Even though I m a huge Soundgarden fan, I felt that Metallica was equally impressive. Lars must have thrown out 10-14 drum sticks, which really riled up the crowd. Unfortunately, he looked like a wuss with those gay bicycle shorts. The only Metallica album I actually own is ˘Load,÷ but that should change. I used to hate these guys, but I guess I had a closed mind ˘back in the days.÷
Note: Anyone else pissed off with the freaky spectacles? They re so cheesy. The headless woman? It s probably just a plastic Resuscitation Annie Doll without a head. Then I saw this setup for the 4-foot long, 100 pound rat. The guy working the booth said, ˘You ve never seen anything like this in your entire life.÷ I retorted, ˘Hell man, I had to bring stuff out to the Burger King dumpster. I probably saw rats that are bigger than that one. Besides, I know that you just dressed up a possum to look like a rat. I m not an ignoramus