Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Jane's Addiction plans "helicopter trick" for Lollapalooza

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Jane's front man and the festival's founder-turned-corporate figurehead Perry Farrell doesn't offer many details in his interview with Melinda Newman of Hitfix.com, but he does hint at some sort of spectacular flyover:

"We're doing a helicopter trick... I'm going to be emotional. I know when the helicopter flies over Grant Park, people are going to be emotional."

He also dropped the tidbit that the concert is being filmed for possible theatrical release (in 3D, no less); that he can't envision what the festival will look like by the end of its long-term deal with the city in 2018 ("I can't go down the road that far") and that he "doesn't even think about" criticisms of the fest that have been made by this blogger or Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune ("When they look at it, when they try to put it down, it's like the Olympics: You to take out the highest and the lowest score"), though that has been all too obvious for the last five years.

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This last comment of yours makes me think they've made no changes in five years. I haven't gone every year, but it seems like they have done better with sound bleed issues between stages. I'm wondering what are your other main critiques of the festival since you haven't actually spelled them out this year. Is it mainly booking (I agree the headliners are a bit less mindblowing than in years past or other fests this year (Springsteen at Bonnaroo, Jay-Z at APW, McCartney at Coachella - but I also wonder how these three would go over with the usual Lolla crowd)). But I do think offering six top tier bands gives plenty of options (and most all of them have headlined fests recently, except maybe Jane's and the YYY's as replacement). It seems like they've held up their end of the bargain with the Parks District and even making donations beyond what's required. The radius clause is standard for all the fests, so if we're going to have a big fest in Chicago, that's not going away. Is it the lack of Chicago bands like Kot pointed out? I'm just trying to remember the primary critiques you have that result in strong derision towards the festival.

Thanks for posting those points again, Jim. Corporate sponsorships are a challenge. I've been to Coachella the last two years and it is a nice environment (granted the surroundings there are tough to beat). They do have the Heineken tents (and a silly dance tent in the beer garden next to the main stage that drowns out performers there and on the other primary outdoor stage). And it must be pointed out that after TM fees, the tickets cost about $100 more than for Lolla (with significantly fewer bands, although guys like Prince and McCartney aren't cheap). So, for the price difference I'm willing to put up with some signage. Coachella actually gives up a decent amount of revenue by precluding festivalgoers from walking around with beers (must remain in the beer gardens), but it's also more of a pill-poppin' fest than Lolla.

Not sure what to say about the quantity issue. I think for a lot of the younger concertgoers (I'm no longer in the target demo), the wide variety and number of newer bands is exciting while the older headliners draw folks like me. So, trying to appeal to a wide swath of people probably results in some cacophony relative to a more focused fest.

Honestly, the VIP areas always seem quite lame when I walk past. If they can get more revenue from people who like that to reduce ticket prices for the rest of us (or get more expensive acts), then I'm all for it. The viewing angles aren't great from those spots and I think there are still plenty of spaces to stretch out (granted most of the shaded ones are next to the porta potties where a ton of people still hang out).

I think a compromise on the radius clause for smaller acts (those starting before 3:30, maybe?) would be reasonable since they're not selling many 3 day or even single day passes due to those bands.

Reaching out to local audiences is a valid critique, I think. I've noticed more advertising this year on CTA and elsewhere, probably due to slower ticket sales from the economy and the headliners. I don't know that you can price discriminate between local ethnic groups, but perhaps a discount for Chicago residents (even just $10 off a single day pass) could be an easy idea to show some love for the city hosting the festival. They could even propose it as an environmental initiative since my carbon footprint while attending Lolla is a lot smaller than heading to Coachella.

I think the Sunday night show at the Metro is an example of a unique experience that Lolla is bringing to town (granted it's limited to the lucky 500 folks or so who got tix this morning) and I think Depeche Mode is making their only domestic festival appearance here. It's going to be 3 days with lots of great music. I understand a lot of your criticisms, but I do feel fortunate to have what I feel is a high quality music festival just down the Red Line from where I live. It does provide a lot of opportunities for seeing new bands playing in front of the biggest crowds they've ever seen. I guess sometimes I wish you'd focus on the positives and not always be snarky when referencing it.

Jim, I think most of your critiques of Lolla are valid. But the biggest problem I have with Lolla (though you may not see it as such) is that it's an enormous festival with no camping. Now, I know that camping festivals are not universally beloved, and I know I'm biased because I love them, but there are several pretty legitimate reasons that Lolla would work better as a camping fest.

1. Grant Park is freakin' huge. Unlike Pitchfork, which is in teeny-tiny Union Park, Lolla is hosted in Grant Park on about 320 acres of land; it's about a mile from the furthest end of Lolla to the other. Now, I'm not complaining about the walking, but consider that the actual viewing area of the stages is approximately as big as any similar area for a camping fest. If there was an additional camping area, people could do what they do at other fests -- take a break from the crowds and hang out near their pads, maybe take a nap, or at least get away from what can be stifling crowds. Which leads me to...

2. Grant Park is too small. No, I'm not contradicting myself. Lolla attracts a LOT of people. That's not a bad thing; Lolla's stated goal is to become a marquee fest akin to Coachella. The problem is that there's nowhere to go if you don't want to be around the masses of people for a little while. Grant Park is simply too small, too confined, and too stifling for the numbers the Lolla organizers seem to want.

3. Where do people go after the show? Lolla sells an awful lot of liquor, and I've never been able to take more than ten steps without seeing some blissed-out teenager (or, honestly, non-teenager). Frankly, I don't really care about that, because they're usually just having a good time (and those who aren't need medical attention, not lectures). But with so many people around, the chances of something bad happening are much, much higher. Wouldn't the chances of something bad happening (say, a kid getting hit by a car) be mitigated if everybody didn't have to leave after the last show? I realize that the Lolla organizers can't be held responsible -- nor should they be -- but alcohol- and/or drug-related accidents caused by people coming back from Lollapalooza would not exactly be good publicity for the fest. Couple that with the cost of hotels in the city. If the organizers want Lolla to be the size of Coachella or Bonnaroo, wouldn't it behove them to, at least, consider limited camping?

I think the city of Chicago made it pretty clear that they don't like people camping in Grant Park back in 1968.

Brendan- Lolla is an urban, city festival. If you want to camp, i would suggest one of the many other fests around the country geared for that type of environment. Lawn chairs and blankets are bad enough as it is; tents are simply out of the question. This idea is 100% logistically unfeasible. If you are an out of towner, use this experience as an opportunity to soak in everything a world class city like Chicago has to offer. Also, its not written you need to book a hotel on Michigan Ave. The L goes to dozens of neighborhoods which contain far more affordable options (not to mention Metra, which goes to the burbs). Again, you need to accept the unique experience of an urban festival for what it is.

Matt:

I think you've missed my point entirely. Pitchfork is an urban festival, too, but they have relatively manageable crowds and a completely manageable park. Lollapalooza does not.

What exactly is "unique" about Lollapalooza? The City of Chicago hosts many open festivals, many of them in Grant Park and a majority of them for free, every year. Each of these somehow manages to not only provide top-quality music free of charge to the public, but to have enough space for people to relax and enjoy the music. Why is it so difficult for Lolla to do so? Because they want to be a world-class destination festival on par with Coachella and Bonnaroo, both of which have attendances that absolutely dwarf, say, Jazz Fest or Celtic Fest. The problem there is that both Coachella and Bonnaroo offer camping of some sort.

I've lived in Chicago my whole life, Matt. Obviously there is no way Grant Park could hold camping. My point was that Grant Park is the wrong type of venue to hold a show on the scale Lolla organizers seem to desire. The crowds are overwhelming, and there is no escape. Because concert-goers have to pay a bundle of money as it is to get in, the fact that there is little respite and nowhere to really chill out seems to indicate a complete lack of imagination on the part of the organizers.

I don't really know what your point is about the hotels on Michigan Avenue. Obviously, people can pay for hotels elsewhere if they're coming from out of town. The thing is, why bother? Consider that an out-of-towner would have to look up an inexpensive hotel, plot a course via public transit or pay a buttload of money to take a cab, then figure out an unfamiliar city late at night. Is a lineup whose biggest stars are Depeche Mode and Jane's Addiction playing twenty-year-old sets really worth all that? For the time and expense to do it that way, I'd just as soon go to a better festival.

And as for non-Chicagoans using this opportunity to soak up what a wonderful city Chicago is, etc., etc. ... What a load of hooey! Chicago is a great city, the best on the planet, IMO. But what about Lollapalooza affords someone the opportunity to soak up how awesome Chicago is? As Jim has pointed out on several occasions, there is practically no year-round Chicago presence by the Lolla offices, and the fest itself is less about Chicago and more about the image of Lollapalooza, which might as well be the concert-goer's Walmart. Besides all that, when exactly do you suggest attendees soak up all Chicago has to offer, before they get in line at 9:30am to ensure that they get in at the fest's opening so they get their money's worth, or after 10pm, when they're so knackered from walking back and forth through Grant Park all day that all they want are their beds? Are you suggesting they come to Chicago a few days early or stay a few days late? Because that's not a festival, sir, that's a vacation. I'm sure there are those who treat Lolla as just a part of a larger vacation; but to me, a destination-based music festival should be the destination, not the side-dish.

I think Lollapalooza has several problems. But as long as they are running the fest and people are going and they are making money and there are no major problems, what does it matter what any of us think?

This year, there are many Chicago acts - Andrew Bird, Rise Against, and others.

As a fest goer, the main problems are that they don't let you bring in sensible stuff like water - they insist on forcing you to pay for it or brining in one small empty bottle and waiting in line at a fountain.

I thought it was a joke at this year's fest how they brought in ethnic acts. There was no audience for them. I think this is related to C3's bid to run the Olympics. The fest goers are 90% white boys and men. That is who the acts are aimed at and who can afford it. Why pretend this is some neighborhood festival? The tickets for this cost what most families spend on groceries for an entire month.

ALso, I think that even in their efforts to seem fair-minded- they forgot to book any women acts at all. Except Care Bears on Fire, which is a jokey teen girl act. There are no female rockers at this fest. This is one giant white male sausage fest. They use the City park space, but forget 51% of the population.

Coachella has enough sense to have cooling tents, misters, misting tents, etc. Lollapalooza has people with heat stroke instead.

So, just to let you know that if C3 runs the Olympics and it is like this, those attending will suffer.

RADIUS -- This is COMPLETELY unreasonable. SXSW does not allow bands to play WITHIN Austin DURING the fest. Lollapalooza is saying within 90 miles for 60 days before and 30 days after. That is ridiculous and disgusting. 90 miles is all the way up to Milwaukee. It makes no sense whatever to have ANY limits -- because no one goes to a fest just to see one band. ANd if they like a band that much, they will go see it twice.

The real victims of this are up and coming local bands that might be invited to play at the fest on a small stage -- but have to say no to 3 MONTHS of paying gigs in the Chicago and suburbs in order to play the festival. I do not think Chicago should give C3 the park space if they are harming our local music artists in this way. It is very mean and greedy.

Also, the one that suffers most with this policy is the fest itself. With a stupid policy like this, most bands that reject corporate greed are going to say no.

How does someone go from being a presumably cool band member to being a corporate greed meister, keeping the peons in the sun, denying them their water jugs, providing no shade or misters for the masses, having VIP areas for rich fat cats, etc. This has become really the creepiest festival yet. What is wrong with Perry Farrell to be running it this way? He is so unhip.


Corporate sponsorships are necessary in concert events, especially one the size of Lollapalooza. They help minimize costs to these already fairly costly events. I have no problem seeing corporate sponsorships as long as I can still enjoy the shows. Everything from stage naming rights to pre-printed wristbands with corporate names can’t take away the energy I get from the music. It also ensures that the events will continue to come back to my city.

Well, I would have been emotional with the helicopter trick, if Band of Horses hadn't still been playing.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on August 6, 2009 6:25 AM.

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