A look at the season's winning 'Loozas

By Chris Nashawaty
Updated April 05, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

Is the end of Lollapalooza nigh? Ever since the alterna-rock festival first let its freak flag fly six years ago, awaiting Lolla’s star-studded lineup has become a sort of annual rite of spring. But this year, no one really seems to care.

With fist-waving metal band Metallica, Lollapalooza ’92 veterans Soundgarden, neo-punkers Rancid, and the once retired Ramones on the ’96 bill, the festival has been accused of trading its industry cred for ticket sales (last year’s lineup of Sonic Youth and Hole left some mosh pits empty). ”It’s becoming more mainstream,” says one indie label spokeswoman. ”It has nothing to do with being alternative anymore.” Lollapalooza cofounder Marc Geiger counters, ”Alternative is just a marketing term, so if this year is not seen as alternative, great. Alternative sucks right now.” Festival founding father Perry Farrell apparently feels that something sucks. He’s disassociated himself from the concert and is launching an environmentally conscious musicfest in September. ”Perry felt Lollapalooza was like painting the same canvas over and over,” says Geiger. ”It was a turnoff for him.”

Like sharks smelling blood, concert promoters have circled in to fill the voidapalooza by booking everyone. The alternatives to the alternative:

Lollapalooza’s heir apparent could well be Blues Traveler’s H.O.R.D.E. tour. Now in its fifth year, H.O.R.D.E. ’96 looks to be repositioning itself away from cultish acts like Phish and toward higher-profile performers like Dave Matthews Band and Natalie Merchant. ”Last year it took off,” says Bob Grossweiner, New York bureau chief of the concert-industry trade magazine Performance. ”In some cities it even beat Lollapalooza.” H.O.R.D.E.’s promoters are so confident about their new roster, they’ve doubled the number of shows from 23 to 40.

Of course, those who can, go it alone. In addition to such multiplatinum Grammy darlings as Alanis Morissette and Hootie & the Blowfish, Joan Osborne, Garth Brooks, the Cranberries, Vince Gill, and Sting will hit the road. However, the really heavy artillery will be spending the summer working on their golf game. Such stadium-stampede bands as the Rolling Stones and U2 are sitting it out. Even Bruce Springsteen is downsizing to amphitheaters for unplugged gigs. Meanwhile, Pearl Jam, whose next album is due in July, are keeping clear of the tour van too. ”There’s nothing set up,” says the band’s publicist, weary after last year’s on-the-road crusade. ”They could play some non-Ticketmaster dates, but not a tour.” And hell will freeze over again when the re-reunited Eagles play seven shows in six cities.

If this all seems a bit too ’90s, don’t fret. Promoters are serving up boomerfest value-paks as well. Some of the rockers-with-walkers acts include the Legends of Motown show, the triple bill of REO Speedwagon/Foreigner/Peter Frampton, the unlikely duo Steve Miller and Pat Benatar, and a Styx/Kansas show, which should finally end the rumors that they were actually the same band. Why the odd twofers? ”We get more people to come out than any one of us could on our own,” says REO’s Neal Doughty. ”Package tours are what you do if you haven’t had a record in five years.” Then there’s the revenge of the living Dead — Grateful Dead members Mickey Hart and Bob Weir will cross the country with a series of dates to show off their post-Jerry bands. ”Deadheads still need to come together,” says Dennis McNally, the band’s publicist. Even the ubiquitous R&B franchise House of Blues is joining the VH1 fray, sponsoring a tour this summer with such Geritol journeymen as Buddy Guy and Joe Cocker.

Another draw for tongue-in-cheek twentysomethings may be the veritable kitschfest of comebacks. In addition to the Arthur tour, swagger meister Neil Diamond is comin’ to America, as is the reunion of KISS, who will return to their Kabuki-painted antics of the ’70s. Also, the Sex Pistols will hit the States in late July with their 20th-anniversary tour. Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten admits the return is a shameless grab for cash. ”Perhaps this is daylight robbery — but who cares?’ And for those who like their cheese a little more, shall we say, aged, the 3 Tenors will take their golden throats to New Jersey’s Meadowlands for one night July 20. So if you’re in the aria…