If you live in the United States and haven’t heard of Lollapalooza, it’s possible that you live under a rock somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Lollapalooza is one of the most iconic American music festivals currently running. But, even with what it’s become now, it has some deep roots. So, let’s take a look at the first Lollapalooza 1991 lineup and how things have changed over time.
Lollapalooza began in 1991 as a farewell tour for alternative rock band Jane’s Addiction. Perry Farrell, the band’s frontman, took the tour to over twenty US cities and brought along acts like Violent Femmes, Siouxie and the Banshees, and Nine Inch Nails. It was a rebellious departure from mainstream shows.
With a lineup of heavy metal, punk, and alternative acts, the first Lollapalooza looked a lot different than the acts on the bill this year. Let’s talk about where Lollapalooza came from, where it went, and how different it looks today thanks to mainstream management from C3 Presents and Live Nation.
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Who started the first Lollapalooza?
Looking at the massive, mainstream event Lollapalooza has become, it’s hard to wrap your mind around how exactly Lollapalooza got its start.
Lollapalooza was started by Perry Farrell, frontman for alternative rock band Jane’s Addiction. They were big in the 90s, and when they decided to go on their farewell tour, they branded it Lollapalooza and invited some other big names to play as well. The show was a hit, so the band did it every year until 1997.
Originally, Jane’s Addiction was supposed to play the Reading Festival, but when Farrell got sick, they needed to hatch a new plan to say goodbye to the scene. The show toured in US cities historically, but in 2005 settled permanently in Grant Park, Chicago, although they have put on international festivals in places like Brazil and France.
Ticket sales ebbed and flowed, and the show wasn’t always popular. They called it quits in 1997 but were revived again in 2003.
When was Lollapalooza canceled?
Lollapalooza has had a rocky ride over the years. And, for making such a huge splash, they weren’t always popular or financially successful.
Lollapalooza was canceled in 1997 due to poor ticket sales and a lack of interest by alternative bands to go on tour. Reporting at the time cites the growing popularity of festivals for the decline of the touring show. Farrell and company folded at the end of that year’s tour and did not come back in 1998.
It wasn’t until 2003 that they tried to come back. The show was canceled again in 2004 but has been holding strong every year since.
Is Lollapalooza mainstream?
Now, we get to the heart of the issue, at least for us. In 2005, things changed when Farrell brought in C3 Presents, a production company, to organize the festival. This may have been the beginning of their “mainstreamification”.
Lollapalooza began as a celebration of the alternative scene, but even at the time, many bands on the lineup were a commercial success. Was Lollapalooza always, secretly mainstream?
Lollapalooza may have started as a farewell tour for a mainstream alternative brand, but over the years, they combined popular artists with lesser-known, indie alternative bands in a way that made the tour really special year after year. They kept the spirit of alternative alive with indie bands.
Of course, even though there is a lot to love about the festival’s origin, we all know that isn’t the way things are run today.
The first Lollapalooza 1991 lineup
The lineup for the original Lollapalooza included some pretty choice acts.
True to its alternative roots, the original 1991 Lollapalooza included acts like Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, Siouxie, and the Banshees, BH Surfers, and more heavy metal, punk, and alternative bands. It was revolutionary as the genre wasn’t known for mainstream events even with its rising popularity.
Here’s a breakdown of the 1991 setlist.
1991 Lollapalooza setlist
- Jane’s Addiction
- Siouxie and the Banshees
- Living Color
- Nine Inch Nails
- Butthole Surfers
- Henry Rollins Band
The original poster for the 1991 festival tour included the following quote:
“The quality of mercy is not strained, it dropeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”
Indie Lollapalooza acts
Obviously, many of those headliners are big names even today, as they were back in the 90s. But what made Lollapalooza great was their incorporation of less mainstream acts over the years.
Here are some indie bands that have played Lollapalooza over the years.
- Death Cab for Cutie
- Tegan and Sara
- Glass Animals
- The New Pornographers
- Gogol Bordello
- Rogue Wave
- Cat Power
Best Lollapalooza lineup
Not all Lollapalooza lineups were created equally.
A couple of big, recent additions to the lineup that caused some lifted eyebrows happened in 2019 when The Chainsmokers and Twenty One Pilots crept onto the list. 2021 was largely considered the worst by many for being so heavy on mainstream artists. The dream of alt and indie bands seemed dead.
2014 was a dream year for rap fans with Eminem, Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, and Outkast on the list. The roster was diverse, too, with great rock sets from bands like Arctic Monkeys and pop from Lorde. EDM, too, was well-represented.
2010, too, was a banner year for Lollapalooza, netting alternative, rock, and indie acts like Arcade Fire, The Strokes, The Black Keys, MGMT, and The New Pornographers while also bringing in huge names like Lady Gaga and Devo.
What do you think? Take a look at the lineups, and let us know in the comments which year you’d go to in your time machine.
Lollapalooza 2022 lineup
Of course, one of the scene’s biggest criticisms of Lollapalooza is what a departure it is to see acts like Ariana Grande and Dua Lipa at Lollapalooza. Neither of those ladies is exactly “alternative”.
The mainstream, pop-ification of Lollapalooza is very real. However, there are still plenty of alternative bands mixed in to appease all. The festival has become something of a celebration of all genres, and it helps to think about it that way. After all, plenty of indie artists get their big breaks when they were picked up as an opener for a mainstream act.
2022 Lollapalooza lineup
Here are some of the acts coming to Lollapalooza 2022 – mainstream and indie.
- Jane’s Addiction
- Manchester Orchestra
- Glass Animals
- Green Day
- Dashboard Confessional
- Doja Cat
- The Wombats
There are seriously too many to list. Go to Lollapalooza’s official website and check it out. Who do you like? Which day of Lollapalooza would you get tickets for?
Interesting to note that Jane’s Addiction has played many Lollapaloozas over the years, which is absolutely ironic considering its inception as their farewell.
Why is it called Lollapalooza?
Something fun to know about Lollapalooza is how it even got its name.
Perry Farrell decided to name his tour Lollapalooza after the term was used on The Three Stooges, a vaudeville act from the early to mid-1990s. The term allegedly means “extraordinarily impressive”, and that’s what he wanted his farewell tour to be. He had no idea just how true that would be in time.
For Farrell, the results of his farewell tour turned social phenomenon seem pretty lollapalooza to us.
Fun facts about Lollapalooza
Here are some fun facts you might not have known about Lollapalooza!
- Jane’s Addiction missed their real farewell – The Reading Festival – after Farrell got too sick to perform.
- Like Coachella, Lollapalooza was inspired by British music festivals like The Reading Festival
- Gibby Haynes, frontman for the BH Surfers, fired blanks from a shotgun over the crowd during their set at the 1991 festival.
- Nine Inch Nails was performing with humble, duct-taped gear in 1991, and their cords actually melted in the 100-degree AZ sun!
- In 2015, Travis Scott invited fans to storm the stage during his set.
The first Lollapalooza 1991 lineup: Final thoughts
When it comes to Lollapalooza, there’s a lot to love, and a lot to hate. Fans of alternative and indie music don’t always like what they see when it comes to modern versions of the iconic festival.
But in an interview with MTV, Farrell himself addressed the issue. To him, the festival was all about celebrating his religion: music in all its forms. Jane’s Addiction may have been a capital “A” Alternative band, but Farrell didn’t confine his love of music to one genre.
What do you think? Is he right, or is that off-base? Let us know in the comments what you think of Lollapalooza.