Summer music needs the Lollapalooza tour back. Ozzfest and Warped have their appeal, but Evan Serpick says no current festival comes close to the diversity and excitement of Lollapalooza in its prime
Perry Farrell
Credit: Perry Farrell: Jay Blakesberg / Retna

Summer music needs the Lollapalooza tour back

The Beyond 2002 festival in Miami April 12-14 featured a killer lineup (OutKast, Busta Rhymes, the Offspring, and Fatboy Slim, to name a few), impressive action-sports shows, specialty hip-hop and electronica tents, and special areas for DJ, breakdancing, MC, and graffiti exhibitions. Tickets were affordable and the weather was beautiful.

So why didn’t anybody show up? Organizers spread the festival out over Miami’s expansive Bicentennial Park, hoping for attendance upward of 100,000 over three days. When receipts were counted, though, paid attendance hovered closer to 10,000.

As the summer-tour season gets under way, Beyond 2002 offers a blueprint of failure for organizers to avoid. The increasingly routine Ozzfest and Warped outings offer little salvation, and Moby’s valiant Area:Two is far too limited to have an impact. In short, America needs Lollapalooza, now!

In January, Perry Farrell announced the festival he founded in 1991 would return in 2002, but then he canceled it last month, citing a lack of planning, and promised the tour would return in 2003. Let’s pray it does and let’s hope it returns with all the vigor and diversity it had in its prime. Since Lolla signed off in 1997, no tour has succeeded in becoming a true summer event the way it did.

In recent years, many entrepreneurs have tried to fill Lollapalooza’s void with one-off festivals like Beyond 2002 and the upcoming Coachella Festival and Rolling Rock Town Fair, which are modeled after European festivals like Reading. But America isn’t the U.K. For one thing, we’re a much bigger, more spread-out country. While hordes of kids from London and Birmingham will gladly make their way to Reading for a great show, few New Yorkers or Angelenos can skip down to Miami for Beyond 2002.

Also, one-off events often suffer by spreading impressive lineups over multiple days. At Beyond, Friday attendees got Busta Rhymes; Saturday’s got Ludacris and Offspring; Sunday’s got OutKast and Snoop Dogg. And while tickets were relatively cheap ($45 per day; $100 for three days, in advance), few fans were willing to spend three days of their lives for a lineup that could easily have been condensed into one (Unknown bands like S1, Dubkat, and Jackal ‘n Hyde filled out the swiss-cheese bill).

Other traveling festivals, like Ozzfest and Warped, have also tried to replace Lollapalooza and failed. This year, Ozzfest features solid headliners System of a Down and Andrew WK, while Warped recycles aging punk favorites Bad Religion and Pennywise. While metal and punk diehards may rejoice at lineups like those, the rest of us who yearn for a diverse, interesting grouping will have to look elsewhere. Area:Two boasts Busta Rhymes, David Bowie, and of course, Moby, but probably not much else. Plus, Moby’s tour plays amphitheaters with one stage, instead of multistage fields.

None of these tours or events can even come close to a prime Lollapalooza lineup. For example, 1994 (my favorite) featured the Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Nick Cave, George Clinton, A Tribe Called Quest, the Breeders, and L7 on the main stage, plus stellar second-stage talent like the Flaming Lips, the Verve, the Frogs, Guided By Voices, Stereolab, and the Pharcyde.

Unlike any dates currently on this summer’s music agenda, Lollapalooza was an event. Kids in all of America’s corners could anticipate the day it would come to a town near them and the festival became a national talking point, with media speculation as to the lineup and performances. Others tours will surely come up, but none will have the cultural importance of Lollapalooza. Because of its diversity, its ambition, its burrito stands, and its piercing, hemp, and political booths, the tour felt like a youth cultural event. It was something to celebrate, something kids could be proud to attend.

Do you have a favorite Lollapalooza memory?