How Metallica with the main name Lollapalooza in 1996 killed ‘Alternative’

When Lollapalooza revealed this week that Metallica will star in the festival this summer, the announcement reminded some fans of the drama that resulted when the Bay Area bangs were first headlined there in 1996. At the time, Lolla was still premiered. showcase for so-called “alternative” bands; Top-picture acts in the first five years had included Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins.

Metallica, on the other hand, represented the mainstream – their best-selling Black Album still dominated rock radio with singles such as “Enter Sandman” and “Sad but True” – although the band members were outspoken fans of all-rock brands The Misfits, Killing Joke and Fang, and had by that time moved away from the bang-your-head-until-it-bleeds thrashathons of the past. By 1996, Metallica had even cut their hair, worn eyeliner and switched to more boogie hard rock sound for singles like “Until It Sleeps” and “Hero of the Day” (a song that band members compared to the music of ex-Hüsker Dü leader Bob Mold) at this year’s load album.

“I think we fit in [with Lollapalooza], ”Said drummer Lars Ulrich at the time. “Because I think we’re always been against mainstream stuff. When mainstream came to us, you know, it was very clear that they came to us.”

Despite all this, fans – and even some Lollapalooza organizers – did not.

The idea for Lollapalooza was born when Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins and booking agent Marc Geiger saw “40,000 children screaming ‘Debaser’ together” during a Pixies set at the England Reading Festival. Jane’s frontman Perry Farrell took on the role of adviser and christened the party after a Three Stooges movie, shaping the party as something of a traveling side show – a true alternative to the mainstream parties of the day, such as county fairs. After five genre-defining years, Farrell resigned his role as advisor for lineups in 1996.

After the party’s organizers asked Metallica to write headlines, Spin the magazine brought reports that critics scornfully called Lolla “Metal Fest ’96.” That year was also the first time there were no regularly touring hip-hop artists on the tour, and fewer female artists and coloreds than previous lineups.

When Farrell heard Metallica would be the main name that year, he felt “very angry.” “I helped create the genre alternative, and the alternative was against hair metal, teased hair, spandex, bullshit rock music,” he said. Rolling stones in 2015. “In my opinion, Metallica was not my thing at the time. I was into alternative and punk and underground. My friends were Henry Rollins and Gibby Haynes and Ice-T. … So I was not sure about Metallica back then. It’s my damn party, and I want whoever I want. ” (At the time of that interview, with almost 20 years of hindsight, he had come around. “I like their music,” he said.)

“[In 1995]we took a risk and pushed bands like Jesus Lizard and the crowds did not respond, “Geiger said Spin in the Metallica message. “A lot of music is so imitated these days. We had to reach back to find what’s exceptional and believable.” Geiger also refused to book Metallica just to make more money, even though tickets rose from $ 27.50 to $ 35 that year. (Tickets for this year’s four-day event range from $ 350 to $ 4,200.)

The booking agent got even harder out of the state of alternative rock in a 1996 Rolling stones interview. “We think the majority of what’s called alternative music is shit,” Geiger said. “Listen to any metropolitan radio station in the country – you will hear the same 10 to 12 bands. We do not want to become a radio station festival.” He went on to say: “[People] wondering what kind of signals we send out by having a few heavy bands – ‘What’s up with alternative music?’ I can give you a very simple answer: The alternative is dead. It has been dead for years. It’s been dead since ’93, if not ’92. It’s dead. It is over. It’s full of imitation bands and we’ll be looking for great bands, period. “

In 1996, Ben Shepherd, bassist for Soundgarden, jokingly called the tour “Larsapalooza” in a Spin profile. “I had my critique of Lollapalooza the first time we did it – all the performances, the notion of alternative culture,” said the band’s Kim Thayil in the same feature. “But it’s not that trip.”

The guitarist explained his philosophy more in one Rolling stones features at the party. “Lollapalooza was a big alternative lie to begin with,” Thayil said. “They had a specific target demographic, and they hit it very well – white suburbs ages 18 to 24 – which does not seem very alternative to me. If you go to a Metallica or Guns n ‘Roses show, you will see, that the audience is actually more diverse socially and economically. “

When Spin reported the Kansas City stop in Lollapalooza in 1996, they gave Metallica the benefit of the doubt, pointing out that bands like Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine and Alice in Chains also had long hair and played loud, heavy riffs. “Metallica’s call and answer ‘Hello! Hello! Hello!’ fist-yelling was not that far from Rancid’s’ Oi! Oi! Oi! ‘, and James Hetfield came out more cordially than I would have ever predicted, “the magazine wrote.” The introductory bass sections of’ One ‘… and’ Fade to Black ‘was more beautiful than anything else ruled by unfortunate Kansas City Lollapalooza’ special guests’ Cocteau Twins. “

Rolling stones was more critical. “‘Die! Die! Die! Die!’ shouted Metallica and their followers [during ‘Creeping Death’], as if saying goodbye to the original idea of ​​Lollapalooza, ”the magazine reported the same year. “The main stage had a pronounced debt not to the pioneers of the nineties, but to the punk, metal and psychedelia of the seventies. and is in the process of the scurvy again.

The next year, perhaps scarred by confused press clippings, Lolla’s organizers tried to correct and booked the electro duo Orbital as main names along with Devo, Prodigy and Orb. Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Octagon brought hip hop back to the party, whose biggest heavy offering that year was alternative-friendly acts Tool and Korn.

At the time, many heavy-handed actions had drawn to Ozzfest, which Sharon Osbourne started after Lollapalooza rejected the idea of ​​putting Ozzy Osbourne on the line-up in 1995; Osbourne later made headlines Lollapalooza as part of Black Sabbath in 2012. Metallica, who had nothing but good things to say about Lollapalooza after the tour, returned to the party in 2015 and hosted three of the party’s South American events in 2017. They launched also their own Orion Fest in 2012, which featured eclectic lineups for two years.

After the electro-focused outing in 1997, Lollapalooza took a break until 2003, when Coachella emerged as the hip new festival. Since Lollapalooza returned as a destination event, Lollapalooza has opened its doors even wider to include mainstream pop alongside cult heroes, and its lineups now include more of a diverse, Kim Thayil-approved definition of “alternative” than the original Lolla lineups – even though the big festivals all seem to be competing for the same mainstream music these days. Now it seems that it is important for bookers for parties to be eclectic than alternative.

“The idea that we should not be here is the reason I agreed to make Lollapalooza in the first place,” Hetfield said. Rolling stones in 1996. “There was absolutely no way I saw us play Lollapalooza before this year. Now I do not think it matters.”

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