Lollapalooza. What began as a one-off traveling party for Jane’s Addiction’s farewell tour has morphed into an American festival institution — one that’s thrived, faltered, survived, and evolved during three decades of travel across the music world’s ever-shifting cultural landscape. As we continue to celebrate the festival’s 30th anniversary year (and wait patiently until Lollapalooza 2022), it seems only fitting to get some perspective from the guy who got this all going.
This weekend, as the sounds of live music cannonballed around us, I sat down with Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell to get his take on what the festival’s post-COVID return means for live music, how Lollapalooza retains its cultural longevity, and where the next 30 years might take Chicago’s biggest party of the year.
Check out the Q&A below, and read our coverage of the 2021 festival here.
Judging by the crowds so far, it seems like everyone’s excited to be back at Lollapalooza. Last year was the first year since 2004 without a festival. What was that year like for you, and what are you feeling right seeing things return?
My sentiments are probably the same as everyone’s in that I was astounded. I was overwhelmed during the course of the pandemic. Just seeing the world actually come to a stop — the world had never stopped simultaneously, together, and then we did it. I want to mark that moment in time. To me, that felt like the end times. And now we’re crossing the threshold, and getting back.
I think that now more than ever, this is the magic moment when we start to come together. Everybody is going to come together and there are people that are going to try to mess with that. We’re going to vanquish them with love.
This year’s Lollapalooza is one of the first major festivals of the COVID-19 era. How do you think Lollapalooza 2021 is going to be remembered?
I think that we are all showing great empathy. We care so much about each other, and we’re showing that from the vaccinations. I know everybody in varying degrees is nervous about being vaccinated, but if we’re going to go forward, this is how we’re going to do it. We want to be a community and a culture. Are you up for it?
Lollapalooza is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. What differentiates this festival from all the others out there?
So what makes Lollapalooza unique? It’s not bragging if I say it was started by an artist who still owns the festival in part and still continues to contribute and care and love the festival. But we can also start to talk about the location. Chicago is a place that I think affects and changes the world. It’s that crossroads thing where people come together want to know and be a part of each other.
Music culture has evolved significantly since 1991, and Lollapalooza along with it. What parts of the festival still remain the same?
That the great messengers of the world, the musicians and the artists, have a platform here, and they thrive. They understand their role and their importance in this world, and I think that they really look forward to getting on that stage where they can announce who they are. It’s really amazing when you see people of all different walks of life, sizes, shapes, colors, denominations, and sexual preferences getting cheered for being themselves. That’s what I like the most. It makes me want to cry!
Where do you see Lollapalooza heading in the next 30 years?
I would like the festival to continue to go around the world to places that are ready for contemporary music, because music dissolves hatred. It dissolves the things that are keeping us apart. A hundred thousand people are in this park today, and they came because there’s something that they want to hear, but they also came because there’s something they want to experience.
I don’t know what’s on everybody’s mind, but I know that deep down inside, there’s a great desire. We are human beings and we need each other. We need to share life experience. We need to love each other. We need to share love and kindness. This is it. This is the story.
You’ve been in attendance for more Lollapaloozas than almost anyone, and played more Lollapaloozas than almost anyone. What’s your favorite memory of the festival?
I would harken back to ’91, of course. That was innocence. I wasn’t even smart enough to worry, you know what I’m talking about? Now I call myself an elder statesman, and that comes with a lot of concern.
If you could go back in time and give young Perry Farrell one piece of advice on that ’91 tour, what would it be?
I’d say, “Don’t let those motherfuckers get away with it! You hang in there, man.”