Let the tours begin — but don't expect to see the powerhouse acts of '94

By EW Staff
Updated May 05, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

For more than a week in March, Lollapalooza was dead. After many futile months of trying to slap together a lineup for this summer’s fifth alternative-rock circus, Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell decreed at a meeting that he was throwing in the towel. ”We were starting to feel desperate,” says Farrell, the Porno for Pyros frontman. ”I figured I’d rather weave baskets, I’d rather move to Amsterdam and sell flowers, than put together a lineup that was anything less than what you [could hear] at home.”

As Farrell now tells it, Lollapalooza’s habitual seesaw act between cool and commercial bands was tipping too far toward the latter, and he couldn’t take it. Then, at the eleventh hour, a lineup of hip household names began to take shape — and Farrell relented. ”When I heard Pavement and Sonic Youth and Beck, I said, ‘They sound like they’ve got the vibe we’re looking for.”’ Now, after crawling back from its near-death experience, Lollapalooza is looking to kick off in July with a bill that features those acts along with Sinead O’Connor, Hole, Cypress Hill, the Jesus Lizard, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. ”I can smile about it now,” says Farrell, ”but for a while it looked like we were going down the wrong road.”

Consider that the slogan for the summer. For the music business, as with the movie industry, the summer represents a season of blossoming bucks — the time when the biggest acts go on the road and bring back the loot. But while 1994 boasted a jaw-dropping array of classic rock and pop powerhouses — the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, Barbra Streisand, Pink Floyd, not to mention the gargantuan Woodstock ’94 — concertgoers this year will have to squeeze their biggest dose of nostalgia from a reunited Boston, and promoters will have to scrape their big money from Melissa Etheridge, such reliable veterans as Van Halen, Jimmy Buffett, Elton John, and Luther Vandross, and some fast-selling newcomers (see sidebar).

Thanks to unforeseen complications, a few of the summer’s most eagerly anticipated tours won’t be as big as planned. R.E.M.’s drummer, Bill Berry, hospitalized in March for a brain aneurysm, is on the mend, and the band will begin its Monster tour on May 15 in Northern California. But many of the early dates have been shuffled to fall. And because of its fight with Ticketmaster, the usually high-profile Pearl Jam will play towns and cities that are pretty much off the beaten path. (The group’s alternative ticket system, ETM Entertainment Network, debuted April 22 for the band’s upcoming Casper, Wyo., show, and the news is encouraging. Two EW correspondents bought tickets for $20.95 after roughly six phone calls to the 800 number. No word yet on how good the seats are.)

While Farrell might be happy with this year’s crop, don’t expect the same satisfaction from Lollapalooza’s investors. Compared with the platinum power of past fests (Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Green Day), Lollapalooza ’95 is a bit lightweight on the sales end. (Pavement’s new album, for instance, debuted at No. 117 on the Billboard charts.)