Lolla Look Back: Lollapalooza Moves To Chicago

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1991 was the year that began it all; the explosion of alternative rock in the music scene, and the hatching and creation of Lollapalooza. [lastfm]Jane’s Addiction[/lastfm] frontman Perry Farrell conceived Lollapalooza as a farewell tour for his band, and for years it was not a stationary festival but a very mobile one, traveling the United States and Canada, pleasing the ears of alternative rock and grunge fans across North America.

So how did it wind up in Chicago?

The festival had several years of great success, booking huge names and drawing in massive crowds at every stop. But back in those days, as it still can do today, people’s tastes can change in a microsecond and suddenly, what was the talk of the town became flatter than a sour note. It wasn’t until 2003 that a tiny breath of life was given to the festival, only to have the success be short lived due to high ticket prices and crowd disinterest.

Finally, the moment of truth came. In 2005, Farrell and a team of festival doctors, namely the William Morris Agency, jolted the fizzling festival and planted it in the Windy City. [lastfm]The Killers[/lastfm], [lastfm]Widespread Panic[/lastfm], [lastfm]Death Cab For Cutie[/lastfm], the [lastfm]Dandy Warhols[/lastfm], along with a wide array of others spotlighted Grant Park’s first hosting of Lolla, and it brought a new crowd of nearly 65,000, new fans, and new life to the festival that it so desperately needed.

The 2005 festival changed the face of Lolla to the one we know of today; a stationary, three-day music marathon that brings people from far and wide to see their favorite artists perform on five stages, crowds running back and forth between bands, trying to catch every set.

It was successful enough for it to go on again in the summer of 2006. That year’s Lolla got the guys at the Chicago Park District to talking, and by early October, a deal was signed for $5 million, and the guarantee of Lolla’s home in Grant Park every summer until 2011.

From that moment on, every summer has been a bigger smash for the festival. The beginning of August has been a smash every year, featuring artists such as Lady Gaga, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wilco, Arcade Fire, The National, and Green Day, among hundreds of other artists. 2008 was the year that told Lolla “get cozy, you’ll be here for a while.” The Park District and the brains behind the operation signed another deal, guaranteeing the festival’s Chicago address until 2018.

I think it’s safe to say that although Lollapalooza has traveled to the far corners of the country and back, its real home is the Windy City, and is likely to remain so for the long haul.


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