At about 4:35 p.m. on Friday August 15th an email appeared in my inbox stating “lollapalooza tickets respond soon”. Somebody a friend of mine knew had extra tickets for the Irvine California Lollapalooza. The show had been sold out for weeks ahead of time and I had long resided myself to the notion of not being able to attend so naturally I was ecstatic at the last minute chance to go. A quick email to another friend and then a quick phone call and 65 bucks later the tickets were mine. So after a nice long drive down the delightfully packed 405 freeway I was in for a historic day of music.Lollapalooza was a tour started in 1991 as a sort of farewell extravaganza for Janeâ€šÃ„Ã´s Addiction since the band had pretty much decided to break up at the end of the tour. It boasted a lineup including Nine Inch Nails, the Rollins Band, Siouxsie and the Banshees and many more. It became a super festival boasting the finest in alternative music that the Nirvana generation had ushered in garnering millions of dollars in the process, in spite of the Janeâ€šÃ„Ã´s Addiction break up. It launched many a musical career as well as gave the disenfranchised youth a place to congregate in the summertime. For whatever reason I only had the chance to attend the last of the Lollapalooza tours 1997 which featured Tool, Korn, Tricky, Snoop Dogg and a confusing set of rotating headliners that thankfully for me ended up being Orbital in Hartford Connecticut. The tour went dormant for six years after that with alternative music being all but dead and rock and roll taking a back seat to mega-pop teen gloss. Now in 2003 Janeâ€šÃ„Ã´s Addiction had reformed (unfortunately without Eric Avery) with a new super line up of bands.
As I arrived I rushed past an army of security guards and three sets of security checkpoints where calls of “no water, no cameras, no backpacks” could be heard over and over again. Lollapalooza not only had the typical pat down search but also metal detectors and bag checkers. Anyone who had bottled water was told it could not come in and every single girl with a purse had it searched thoroughly. Once in I made a beeline for the main stage making it just in time to catch the end of Rooney. From what little I heard they sounded like a souped up retro garage rock band that boasted a bit more keyboards.
I booked for the 2nd stage only to find it empty so I meandered on through the booths and attractions littered throughout the Irvine Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. There were many political booths including Tom Morelloâ€šÃ„Ã´s Axis of Justice as well as free condoms, video game tents and mini Dominoes Pizza and Del Taco stands with 6 dollar meals. Speaking of which, in the middle of the desert the temperature was right about near 100 degrees so that bottled water was essential. It was however conveniently priced at $3.50 per small bottle. By the time 6 oâ€šÃ„Ã´clock rolled around I had drank 5.
At any rate, upon returning the main stage the Donnas had begun their set and proceeded to rock like an all female Motley Crue despite having roughly only one fiftieth of the crowd actually there. Even the pit had a mere 15 people thrashing along. Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m not a huge fan of the Donnas personally. I appreciate their music but never found it all that engaging past their gimmick. The Donnas made a fan out of me this day. The four girls rocked through an awesome set with a fantastic no b.s. attitude. It wasnâ€šÃ„Ã´t about gimmick; it was about rocking out. Drummer Donna C. was a spitfire smacking her drums repeatedly much in the way Animal from the Muppets would play. Donna R. stood still while her flopping mop of hair banged around as she wailed on the guitar. The beautiful Donna A. led the crowd control playing old favorite and new songs such as “Take Me to the Backseat” and “Not the One” a song she dedicated to all the women in the audience. The Donnas closed out with the Kiss classic “Strutter” that featured a phenomenally impressive solo from Donna R. I was blown away but couldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t help thinking, “This isnâ€šÃ„Ã´t really an alternative music festival any more is it?”
Another mad dash back to the second stage and 30 Seconds to Mars was already on stage. 30 Seconds to Mars is a band whoâ€šÃ„Ã´s main members are drummer Shannon Leto and guitarist (thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s right the one youâ€šÃ„Ã´re thinking of) Jared Leto. 30 Seconds sound like a cross between Monster Magnet and the super heavy Devin Townsend of Strapping Young Lad. Jared Letoâ€šÃ„Ã´s vocals howled over grinding heavy rock but then also ambient progressive textures with surprising precision. The band is a tad more ambitious than the garden variety heavy band making the airwaves today and judging by the near total saturation of promo posters and banners of the bandâ€šÃ„Ã´s logo all around the Irvine Amphitheater expect to see them make waves in the next year or two.
No time to waste I darted back towards the main stage and just in time as Jurassic 5 had begun. Every Lollapalooza has at least one rap act going back as far as the first and the slot has seen acts such as Ice Cube, The Beastie Boys and Arrested Development. All tough acts to follow but Jurassic 5 did not disappoint. J5 is a group consisting of 4 MCâ€šÃ„Ã´s (Chali 2na, Marc 7even, Akil, Zaakir) and 2 DJâ€šÃ„Ã´s (Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist). The MCâ€šÃ„Ã´s display a confident yet playful demeanor as the DJâ€šÃ„Ã´s tear up the turntables. A refreshing change of pace from most mainstream hip-hop where the rappers never appear to enjoy what they do. J5 did much to interact with the audience, at one point the MCâ€šÃ„Ã´s instructed the audience to stand up because it was “exercise time” as the DJâ€šÃ„Ã´s spun an old fifties record stating to open and close your hands to the beat. About half way through the set 4 MCâ€šÃ„Ã´s left the stage telling us to get ready for “the Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark show” which was an amazing interlude that highlighted the 2 DJâ€šÃ„Ã´s using a plethora of experimental electronic devices including sequencers, old school samplers, a sideways turntable and even a real drum kit at one point. The rest of the band then came back to finish out the set. For their finale the MCâ€šÃ„Ã´s brought out Zube Tubeâ€šÃ„Ã´s. Thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s right Zube Tubeâ€šÃ„Ã´s, the long hollow tubes that you spin around in circles and it sounds like a fast wind tunnel. The DJâ€šÃ„Ã´s cut up a storm while the rappers furiously spun the Zube Tubeâ€šÃ„Ã´s around the head. It not only looked awesome but it sounded really cool.
Back at the second stage I just managed to catch the end of The Musicâ€šÃ„Ã´s set which can (from what little I heard) best be described as a slightly jammier British version of Janeâ€šÃ„Ã´s Addiction. Sort of an upbeat funky rock with some psychedelic spacey moments. I helped myself to some free Sprite Remix and then zipped pass a tremendous line at the FYE tent where the Donnas were signing autographs.
I returned to the main stage just as A Perfect Circle began introducing themselves. For those of you keeping score the line up for A Perfect Circle is now Maynard James Keenan of Tool on vocals, founding member Billy Howerdel on guitar, the ubiquitous Josh Freese on drums and since Paz Lenchantin has left for Zwan and Troy Van Leeuwen has left for Queens of the Stone Age, the band has now been joined by Twiggy “Marilyn Manson” Ramirez (now known as Geordie White) on bass and last but certainly not least James “Smashing Pumpkin” Iha on guitar. Howerdel announced Geordie as being “fresh from the bad decision department”. When he introduced Maynard predictably the crowd went nuts. A Perfect Circle utilizes the same anti-rock star stage persona, not playing to the crowd and hulking with sheer perfect accuracy through tracks from the first album such as the hit “Judith” and a bunch of new songs from their upcoming second album “Thirteenth Step”.
I saw tool at the last Lollapalooza before they became a giant multimedia spectacle so it was nice to see Maynard again just playing great music without all the bells and whistles. Best described as brooding and epic I found myself more interested in sitting and listening then dancing or singing along. Maynard was positioned on a platform at the back of the band and raised slightly higher flanked slightly lower on two platforms at each side of him by Iha and Freese while White and Howerdel played in front on the level stage. Freese White and Howerdel pounded out the melody while Iha added the sweetener with a well chosen arsenal of guitar noise as Keenan belted out vocals in the art metal wail only he could do. There were a few atypical moments as Keenan stopped at one point to say how wonderful it was to be sharing the same stage as Audioslave members Brad, Timmy C. and Tom, which he called “a real honor”. Also Keenan announced how A Perfect Circleâ€šÃ„Ã´s new album Thirteenth Step would come out in September and than handed the mic to James Iha who began singing the worst rendition of a ballad you could ever imagine. It was a hilariously uncharacteristic move that had the whole crowd cracking up.
Hustling back to stage 2 The Mooney Suzuki was already playing rocking in their own new school retro style much akin to early Who music with a smidge of happy punk rock. It was nice to hear The Mooney Suzuki again playing energetic songs from their recent album such as “In a Young Manâ€šÃ„Ã´s Mind” and “Oh Sweet Susanna”. After only a handful of songs though I realized the crowd was looking sparse and seeing what time it was I yet again rushed back to the main stage. Upon entering the crowd was now at max capacity and the unmistakable sounds and theme music from the first level of Super Mario Brothers blasted over the loud speaker. In mid stride passing the midsection marveling at just how packed the place was now, the lights went up and Incubus appeared with the opening flanger guitar of Warning.
Brandon Boyd sang the appropriate opening lyric “let your eyes girl, be other worldly” as the crowd (especially the females) went crazy. Incubus played a remarkable set including songs from most of their catalog including three old favorite from S.C.I.E.N.C.E. “Vitamin”, “New Skin” and “Nebula” which I was ecstatic about. Morning View is Incubusâ€šÃ„Ã´s most successful album to date however I was not as fond of it. Seeing them live this time was one of those great moments where an album worth of material I was only lukewarm on had new life breathed into it. Songs like “Nice to Know You” and the closer “Wish You Were Here” seemed fresh and exciting. Brandon Boyd didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t play to the crowd much but heâ€šÃ„Ã´s the kind of rock star whose charisma is so huge he doesnâ€šÃ„Ã´t have to. The typical moment of him taking his shirt off sent the women in the audience into a frenzy. By and large the music spoke for itself. The last time I saw Incubus on the 2000 Sno-Core tour they jammed a bit more stretching some songs out but this albeit different played well too. Sometimes thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s nothing more impressive than seeing a quality rock and roll band have an audience feeding off their every note.
By this point thoroughly exhausted from enjoying the music and the hot desert sun, I took part in another bottled water and took time to wonder who in the hell spends $8 dollars for a plastic cup of champagne. The Bellydance All-stars (that coincidentally I missed on the second stage) took the stage for a brief but beautiful and shall I say flexible display. The sun was going down so the lights went down and then burst on as Audioslave jumped into their set and a big rock star curtain came down. Drummer Brad Wilk faced away from the audience into a panel of mirrors that reflected the audience behind him. Confusing but effective I suppose. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s shocking even to me but Audioslave was the band of the day. Rockers such as “Set it Off”, “Shadow of the Sun”, “Show Me How to Live” and the radio hit “Cochise” exploded in the evening air with the crowd frantically singing along. The band left the stage as Chris Cornell picked up an acoustic guitar an invited a fan onstage to join him for a song. Cornell asked the kid what song he wanted to sing and the kid squeamishly said, “I donâ€šÃ„Ã´t know.” Cornell (who I should point out even talks like a rock star with a raspy voice) said, “you wanna freestyle rap?” The kid nodded uncertainly and Cornell busted out a monotonous rhythm and the kid started freestyling about how much he loved Maynard and Audioslave. The crowd ate it up and gave him a standing ovation.
Cornell then went into a majestic cover of Elvis Costelloâ€šÃ„Ã´s Peace Love and Understanding all by himself. Then he began the opening melody of the super ballad “I Am the Highway”. The rest of Audioslave suddenly jumped back in during the chorus for what was a predictable yet incredible rock and roll moment. As soon as that song finished Brad Wilk started a thundering beat and Timmy C. broke in with none other than the opening bassline of The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”. Cornell commanded, “Clap your fucking hands!” as the audience went full board ballistic. It was the last song I ever thought Audioslave would cover but it worked for every reason. The crowd loved it, the band loved it. It was just different enough that it added the perfect spice to a stellar set. It made me think of the way bands were well before my time where covering a song that absolutely kicked ass was common, not for the trend of it but out of mutual respect and appreciation.
So it might seem unfathomable for a band to headline such a day of excellent music. For me after 13 years of fandom and zero actual times seeing them live, thankfully Janeâ€šÃ„Ã´s Addiction magnificently pulled it off. Janeâ€šÃ„Ã´s had the closest thing to a set on the day with an arched staircase and a phallic pole extending into the audience. The band took the stage minus Perry Farrell and blasted the classic instrumental “Up the Beach”. Dave Navarro then immediately began the fast picking intro to “Stop” and as Perry ran out of nowhere up the staircase and jumped to the stage floor screaming “Here we go!” Janeâ€šÃ„Ã´s showed the brilliance a headliner should in such favorites as the “Mountain Song”, “Been Caught Stealing” and “Ocean Size”. The tunes from Strays were kept to a minimum, only 3, and Perry only occasionally went on one of his famous rants.
I felt somewhat complete when the band showed the full scope of its talent in the classic “Three Days”. I truly did miss Eric Avery but the finesse of Dave Navarro and the overwhelming ferocity of Stephen Perkins has to be one of the greatest gifts in all of the history of alternative music. Perry roamed like an elder statesman that refused to acknowledge he was anything but 22 years old. Perry spoke how happy they all were to be back home in southern California to play this next song as the band closed with the only song they possibly could have: “Jane Says”. On the sides of the stage you could see veritably every single person from the whole days affairs watching along. I couldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t help but think it was very special. Lollapalooza was the place for new and rising talents in music thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s only flag was to be different. It definitely wasnâ€šÃ„Ã´t that anymore but it was wonderful to see that most everyone on the bill came from the spoils of that early 90â€šÃ„Ã´s time. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s not the same kind of wonderful, just a different kind.