JFK Stadium Site, Philadelphia, PA
July 18, 1993
By Alan Sheckter
LOLLAPALOOZA - noun (origin unknown) slang. Something superior or unusual; an outstanding example.
It had been long enough. Now was the time for a new era. Now was the time for a new gang to occupy the old hallowed piece of ground in South Philadelphia. The some-grimy, but mostly well- scrubbed group of 22,215 (Billboard 8/93) that danced on the prairie-dry, hard-packed dirt field, precisely at the former site of JFK Stadium seemed oblivious to the history of those coordinates.
I'm virtually certain that not one person from the 120,000-plus 1926 crowd that witnessed Gene Tunney's capturing of the world heavyweight championship from Jack Dempsey at the then Municipal Stadium was at Lollapalooza in 1993. Nor did there seem to be any fans of the traditional Army vs. Navy football games that were held here for over 40 years. And probably if polled, half of the Lollapalooza crowd didn't remember that only as recently as July of 1985, the biggest concert lineup of them all, Live Aid was held there, turning JFK Stadium into a global jukebox.
These were a new breed. Just as the former stadium was leveled, bulldozed and scraped clean, so has the hot music of today had a rebirth.
This was the third Lollapalooza tour, but the first one that stopped in Philadelphia. From noon to 11:00 PM on a hot, dry Sunday, we listened, strolled, shopped, ate, participated and danced to some not-so-alternative "alternative" bands. While the Main Stage's Tool and Front 242 as well as all of the bands that jammed the secondary stage were not household names, the rest of them were not genuinely alternative, but more of a mainstream alternative. Got it?
The festival was headlined by California's quirky, thrashing Primus and featured a lineup of Alice In Chains, Dinosaur Jr., Fishbone, Arrested Development, Front 242, Tool and Rage Against The Machine.
Philadelphia's own The Goats opened the music at about 1:00 PM on the second stage with their irreverent, energetic hip-hop. Some watched and grooved to the sounds while the majority of the growing crowd strolled around "The Village," a huge area of the festival grounds that provided several points of interest. There were the vendors, temporary tattoos, body piercing, tye-dyes, as well as Cannabis Action Network's pro-hemp supplies and propaganda.
Also offered in "The Village" were amino acid and vitamin powered "smart drinks," as well as stands offering much more than the standard hot dog and soda. There was the natural fruit and juice bar, the Italian Kitchen, whose menu included grilled eggplant and cacciatore, a turkey drumstick booth, as well as Chinese and Thai food stands.
Another area had hands-on fun. For a dollar, you could enjoy the cosmic prismatic rainbows created when wearing the "LSD Flight Simulator," or for a small fee one could ride on a gyroscope chair encased with metal contraptions which offered 360º roller coaster movements while staying in place.
Then there was the "cyberpit." Here were six or eight workstations where one could obtain info on any of the performers, choose what cause their 50¢ would go to (50¢ of every ticket went to charity), or leave a marquee message to later appear over the main stage (I never did see these marquee messages materialize).
There was also the "Forum Tent." People would mill around in the psychedelic-art filled tent to listen to or participate in informal debates and discussions on the small round platform about things like chauvinism, racism and other political discussions. The tent also offered shade, a priceless commodity on this sun-baked 88º day.
Some milled around in "The Village" all day, some went back and forth between areas. At 2:00, most of the crowd moved toward the main stage as the main lineup of music was scheduled to begin. A half circle of about 500-1000 people started moshing, crushing and crowd-surfing with each other, and activity that would last throughout the entire afternoon and evening.
Rage Against The Machine appeared in the City of Brotherly Love with the well documented gesture (see last issue's "Gray Matter" section ) of standing on stage nude with their mouths taped shut and the letters PMRC on their respective chests to protest the Parents' Music Resource Center, the folks who are responsible for the warning labels on potentially offensive recordings. K-Mart and Walmart stores are now famous for not carrying albums with these labels.
That little episode over, Tool and Front 242 kicked some musical ass with inspired, hard-rocking sets. The popular, funky Arrested Development was next, churning out some great beats to the popular "People Everyday" and "Mr. Wendell" among others. Perhaps the biggest musical effort of the day was given by L.A.'s Fishbone. Although they have an annoying habit of repeating song lyrics dozens of times, they worked the hosed-down crowd up front into a moshing frenzy. After that, J. Mascis and Dinosaur Jr. pushed out a 45 minute medium tempo set.
Next came perhaps the climax of the show-- Alice In Chains. A huge webbed chain/curtain of rope was lifted to the crowd's mad approval to reveal the band and its (fake) pot leaf-adorned drum set. Singer Layne Stayley and guitarist Jerry Cantrell led the Seattle band in an hour-long heavy rock/grunge set of tunes, many from their debut album Dirt. Many of the exhausted crowd filed out after Alice's set was finished.
Many also stayed and brought the final band out with the traditional cries of "Primus sucks." Primus entertained the rest of the battle-weary audience with their wacky, innovative, funky sounds for another hour or so. Leader Les Claypool at one point acknowledging what city he was in, announced, "It's nice to be here in the land of cream cheese."
The traveling carnival called Lollapalooza made a successful stop in Philadelphia. Perhaps most amazing was the fact that the festival played in Providence, RI the day before and Charlestown, WV the day after, a logistic feat even the Grateful Dead would be envious of.
Though met with critics who say that the bands were too mainstream
and not alternative enough, I'd say the show was a accomplishment,
a forum for not yet household name bands and an environment of
expression and participation, a festival free of corporate sponsorship.
Unlike most concerts, where being close to the front row is desired,
the idea behind Lollapalooza was different. Printed on every ticket
was the motto, "WHEREVER YOU GO... THERE YOU ARE."