When Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell began the traveling festival Lollapalooza in 1991, music felt alive. Bands played instruments and made important social and political statements. In its initial years, Lollapalooza was on the pulse of music, featuring relevant bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, and Soundgarden. These bands were featured at the height of their careers. Lollapalooza had a cool, consistent vibe with the bands sharing a common musical genre.
For the past 10 years, Lollapalooza has become a destination festival, held annually at Chicago’s Grant Park. In addition to losing its traveling status, Lollapalooza has lost much of its early allure and cohesion. While the official lineup won’t be released until next week, industry insider Greg Kot recently generated early buzz for this festival by leaking the rumored headliners. These artists include Eminem, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, and Skrillex, adding up to a disjointed, underwhelming leading line-up.
While Eminem has released recent singles, including his Nate Ruess collaboration “Headlights,” even Eminem knows his music doesn’t hold the same relevance it did when he released his first studio album in 1996. When ESPN asked what most excited Eminem about his recent album, he responded “nothing.” Like Eminem, both Kings of Leon and Arctic Monkeys are past their prime as well. Kings of Leon saw their greatest success in 2008, and Arctic Monkeys had their most popular single in 2006.
With the headlining bands all leaving the highlights of their music careers in the rear-view mirror, Lollapalooza fans are left with very little to look forward to. For some, Skrillex seems to be the redeeming act in an otherwise disappointing line-up. However, most fans of early Lollapalooza performers like Trent Reznor and Eddie Vedder would rather listen to past jukebox favorites like Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire” than be subject to the synthesized and sampled electronic music of Skrillex. Those early fans want to hear some face-melting guitar and gut-wrenching vocals, played brilliantly live as opposed to music produced and remixed inside recording studios.
While Lollapalooza used to be worth traveling for, if the leaked line-up is any indication of the forthcoming announcement of confirmed acts, music fans shouldn’t bother with the travel this year. Lollapalooza itself, like its leaked headliners, is an event that has seen its greatest days, and will never recapture the musical glory of those early years.