By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
At 6 o'clock every Lollapalooza morning, a little village is erected. It includes miles of fencing, three stages, three sound booths, and countless food stands, toilets, and showers, and people to set them up. Add the seven main stage and 10 indie stage bands and their separate crews and management, and you have a lumbering circus that's an incredible thing to see; but is it worth it? Do kids need to see 17 bands in one day, bonding in the blistering heat? Tour manager Ross, involved with Lollapalooza since its birth, thinks so.
"The problem," he says, "is that the press takes Lollapalooza from rock concert to lifestyle, assumes that we have an agenda, and criticizes us for wavering from that. We don't have an agenda. We produce the best rock show we can, give people a lot of things to do: see a wide variety of music, get political information, shop the little stands that are out there...at the end of the day they can say, 'I had a good time, it was safe, I'll come back next year.' That's our agenda."
That said, there is a sense that Lollapalooza has lost its constituency, that by combining punk and metal, the festival has allowed H.O.R.D.E.--with its raft of pseudo-'60s impersonators--to take over the Zeitgeist. On the coasts, Lollapalooza is oft-criticized for an equally fake vision of "alternative," but in New Orleans, The Times-Picayune still covered the show as if it were exotic and bizarre, sending a reporter into the crowd to report snidely on piercings and weird clothes. In Ferris, the local paper called Lollapalooza's arrival an invasion by "a nest of Satan-worshippers."
In places like these, the necessity of Lollapalooza becomes clear. To kids who live where rock is the devil's music (everybody cut footloose!), the opportunity to see the Ramones is still special. Fans in New Orleans moshed to Waylon Jennings and the Ramones; in Ferris, they came out in 100-plus-degree heat and sang every word of "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker." Then there were those fans in Newport who camped out all night blasting Nugent, then responded rabidly to Psychotica.
Even the artists are being enlightened. "I was with some friends," Joey Ramone reports. "We were watching Soundgarden, Rancid, and Metallica, and we kept saying, 'Oh! I didn't know they were like that.'"
Psychotica's Briggs has done three tours with Lollapalooza. "When I went out that first year, I realized that what I'd been told--that the Midwest was very closed-minded and stuff--wasn't true at all," he admits. "We were really making rash judgments [and] had no idea what we were talking about. These kids pay $40 to come and be entertained, and if you provide that, they're pleased. It's a very simple arrangement, really. Even a staunch Metallica fan wants to be entertained."
Briggs reminds us of the good in Lollapalooza: Whether you're a Smashing Pumpkins fan watching Jesus Lizard for the first time or a friend of Joey Ramone's being converted by Soundgarden, you'll have your judgments challenged. What constitutes alternative has been a moot subject for many moons, but now that Metallica is sporting eye make-up and facial piercings--and the Ramones are Monsters of Rock--those questions are less than irrelevant; they're dim. There are no Monsters any more--only hard-working people, undisguised and undistinguished, playing their workmanlike songs, doing a job and doing it well.
As Soundgarden takes the stage in Ferris, Armstrong decides to take a bike ride through the goldenrod and bluebonnets around the venue. "Outshined" fills the sky around us; the arena glows in the distance. Tim is silent for a second. "You know what?" he offers. "In 1986, when I worked at La Val's Pizza, James Hetfield came in with some friends and ordered a pizza. The next night I saw him at the Berkeley Square, and he yelled out, 'Hey, pizza boy!' Pizza boy. That's an insult, right?"
Tim pauses. The light from the sky has suddenly become achingly beautiful. "Back then, I wasn't even in Operation Ivy," he continues, referring to his first band. "I never thought I'd ever go to a concert like this, much less be on stage and be like...popular."
He ducks his head shyly. "You know, in a way I feel like this is sort of my revenge. Revenge of Pizza Boy!" He laughs, standing up on his pedals and tearing off into the dust, back into the arena and the belly of the beast.