Since most of the Poor Scholars staff calls Chicago home, Lollapalooza is usually kind of a big deal. With the announcement of the lineup for this year’s three-day music festival in Grant Park, Poor Scholars staffer and grizzled Lollapalooza veteran Scott Phillips shared some thoughts on this year’s lineup.
My question to Lollapalooza is:
“What the hell are you supposed to be now?”
We know Perry Farrell created Lollapalooza as an alternative music festival at heart, (and Jane’s Addiction’s original “farewell tour.” Jane’s Addiction farewell tours are similar to Roger Clemons comebacks: They happen every few years, surprise nobody, are done for monetary and subtle pride reasons, and they’re usually surprisingly more effective than you think.) but why the unexpected change back to the original roots? The top 11 acts on the Lolla poster this year are, generally speaking, white males with rock influences (or folksy, but you get the point).
If you look at the last few years of Lollapalooza, headlining spots on main stages have been occupied by non-alternative (or rock-minded, at least) acts. Kanye paved the way for rappers in 2006 and Daft Punk for electronic acts in 2007 and since then other non-rock acts like Lady Gaga have also headlined Lollapalooza on a main stage.
Lollapalooza always had elements of hip-hop and other entertainment, dating back to Ice-T (and his “rock band” Body Count, but still, it’s fucking Ice-T) at the originial Lollapalooza in 1991, but the headling acts were generally white rock dudes from ’91 to ’05.
So what changed?
The times and the money, of course. Music festivals became huge business and since 1991 hip-hop and electronic music have become big business in their own right. Lollapalooza was always near the forefront of innovation for touring festivals and then stationary music festivals, so it was only natural for the festival to evolve and include previously backseated or disregarded genres more over time.
But the lineup this year just leaves me baffled. I mentioned the top 11 of mostly white rock dudes, the first time since 2006 that’s been the main and total theme, but after that hip-hop and EDM acts are noticably down this year at Lollapalooza.
Kendrick Lamar is obviously a very appealing leading rapper, but Jay-Z was a rumored headliner, so this is a bit of a letdown. Then the rest of the hip-hop lineup includes one of three worst concert sets I’ve previously ever seen (2 Chainz) and mostly underground rappers like Azealia Banks and Theophilus London. I’m cool with those artists, but the scale for the hip-hop scene is much smaller this year compared to year’s past.
The EDM change is confusing too. EDM festivals — particularly in Chicago — are exploding, and Lollapalooza adapted to this change in the musical landscape by taking a tent (Perry’s Tent) and making it an actual stage (Perry’s Stage). Last year in the inaugural year of Perry’s Stage, Lolla had the acts to make its debut an exciting place to be. Avicii, the biggest EDM act at Lolla last year, was also headlining on the main stage a night after Black Sabbath’s reunion.
So this year Lolla comes back with Steve Angello, Knife Party and Steve Aoki? Again, good acts, but Chicago saw those three at North Coast Musical Festival LAST LABOR DAY! So Lolla expects people to want to see those three as the premiere three EDM acts on this year’s poster after they weren’t even the three premiere EDM acts at a (cheaper) mid-level musical festival in the same city last year?
That’s not a good look, Lolla.
Lolla’s electronic cupboard is probably bare because the brand-new Electronic Daisy Carnival Chicago and year two of the Solider Field-held Spring Awakening Music Festival, is just bleeding Lolla dry.
Then there’s the baffling inclusion of country star Eric Church.
No disrespect to Eric Church or his fans, but Lollapalooza is not for country music. Since when did Lolla include country music?
What the hell are you, Lolla?