By Michael TatumSummer Bruin Staff
To those who have been following it in the news, Lollapalooza
may seem less like a traveling arts fair than an all-out media
Sinead O’Connor leaves the tour due to a pregnancy. Elastica
bassist Annie Holland suddenly departs the exciting British
quartet, leaving the remaining trio scrambling for a replacement.
Courtney Love attacks Kathleen Hanna. Courtney Love attacks a
belligerent audience member. Courtney Love attacks, it seems,
anyone within range.
What’s next? Cypress Hill and Pavement to be busted by the DEA?
Beck to be kidnapped by space aliens? Sonic Youth to give up their
title as The Greatest Rock Band In The World to become street
Regardless of how much soap opera press Lollapalooza has been
receiving in the dailies, this year’s model could, musically, be
the strongest yet. For Southern Californians, the main stage show
begins at Irvine Meadows at 2 p.m. with the neo-ska of The Mighty
Mighty Bosstones, followed by cult band Jesus Lizard.
From there on out, it’s pure bliss: rollicking iconoclast Beck,
new wave throwback Elastica, stoned popsters Pavement, in-your-face
hip-hoppers Cypress Hill and the melodramatic, pyrotechnic
And oh yes, the World’s Greatest Rock Band – Sonic Youth – whose
fusing of alluring melodies, furious feedback, and 90-mile-an-hour
rhythms have inspired visions in the faithful at their shows.
With so much undeniable talent on the main stage, it might be
easy to forget that Lollapalooza isn’t about eight consecutive big
name alternative rock bands. True to founder Perry Farrell’s
original vision of the show, Lollapallooza is still a multi-media
event, featuring various side shows which showcase works from
cutting edge artists working in various media.
And for those who prefer their music more intimate, go straight
to the second stage, which in its Irvine Meadows incarnation will
feature scheduled performances from Hum, Versus and The Roots,
among others. But expect the unexpected: Beck has used the
small-scale setting to do some acoustic shows, while rumor has it
that Hoboken band Yo La Tengo might be making a surprise
For sure, indie-rock legend Mike Watt will be worth sneaking off
from the main stage to catch. Although his new Columbia album, Ball
Hog Or Tugboat?, is somewhat hit-or-miss, if Watt can reproduce its
manic unpredictability and good humor on stage (and perhaps
convince a handful of the record’s superstars – say, Eddie Vedder
and Dave Pirner, to join him), his set is bound to entertain.
Watt himself takes the Lollapalooza hoopla in stride. He’s less
bothered by the scandals and misfortunes that have been plaguing
the show than by the fact that it costs him $3 for bottled
"I’m an older guy, (the problems being faced) by these young
bands doesn’t really phase me. I mean, I’m here with my peers:
Beck, Thurston (Moore, of Sonic Youth). A lot of people make a big
deal about ‘the new rock.’ To me, its just old rock in new
"This music’s been around for 20 years. The music itself hasn’t
changed, it’s the audience. You never read about that in the
magazines. For a long time all kids wanted to hear were bands with
big hair. But they’ve gotten tired of Guns ‘n’ Roses. They’ve
become smarter, more open-minded. They want their tastes to be more
With the political contrast between Woodstock Two (with its
pretensions to liberal ideals) and Lollapalooza (supposedly a haven
for politically apathetic bohemians) it was a pet subject for baby
boomer journalists last summer. The late thirtysomething Watt’s
comments on the intellects of young twentysomethings – presumably
his core audience – illuminates.
"I don’t know if kids are politically smarter today," he admits.
"Kids today know they don’t want to follow fascist leaders, but
they don’t quite know how Washington works."
But there’s some hope. "Jerry Lee Lewis told me things are
better now than in the ’50s," he reveals with a laugh. "He told me
that in those days, kids were stupid!"