My admiration for Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction has always run deep. I owned two copies of the Triple X Records live debut (the first one, a cassette, fell apart from over-playing) and though it took a while, Nothing’s Shocking, grew to be a favorite as well. I still have that cassette. I saw some of their earliest gigs at the notorious glam/goth haven Club Scream in the late ‘80s and have watched the band perform many, many shows (some “secret”) at festivals and parties over the past two decades. I wrote a homage to the band when they got their Hollywood Walk of Fame star and I’ve interviewed Dave Navarro and Farrell in depth on multiple occasions.
But when I drive up to Irvine from Hollywood this Friday afternoon to see the band perform and celebrate the 25th Anniversary of both Lollapalooza itself and Ritual’s release (as part of the Jack’s FM’s “11th Show”) it may be the biggest deal of all. I’ll never forget the experience of attending the first Lollapalooza, twice, in the Summer of 1991. The very first Lolla lineup included Nine Inch Nails, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Body Count (Ice-T’s punk band), Rollins band, Fishbone, Living Colour, and Butthole Surfers (who went by “BH Surfers”), and Irvine Meadows’ open-air vibes proved the perfect place for the myriad of varied amusements Jane’s Farrell had envisioned. For fans of the then dread-headed, LA boho-punk rock band, it just fit. So did the Lolla concept which sought to circumvent the genre-segregated concert model by bringing together artists of all styles for an-all out, alt-jamboree like no other.
These days, crazy lineups are de riguer, but back then, being able to see the bewitching queen of darkness that was Siouxsie Sioux alongside vibrant ska homies Fishbone (whom me and my friends used to hang out with in LA sometimes) alongside new-ish industrial-esque stompers Nine Inch Nails, punk legend Rollins and my then favorite band headlining, was a true gift. I was barely out of my teens and had to save up for the ticket. All I could afford was the shit seats, which weren’t actually seats but spots on the grassy hill in the rear of the venue. But I had a big, fun posse including all my besties and my then boyfriend (who’d many years later become my husband and father of my child).
Sometimes the worst seats in the house are the best. The people in the back party hardest because they kinda have to, and when you’re young, it comes naturally to live in the moment and absorb the entirety of your surroundings. At least that’s how it was back then. Millenials are all about their phones and let’s be honest, technology has made a lot of them lazy. Gen-Xers just didn’t have the same distractions. We danced and sang and smoked out and watched each and every band give their individual sets everything they had. NIN were the revelation that day. They were nothing more than a cool sticker to me before Lolla, but Trent Reznor (whom by the way, rocked a dreaded do like Jane’s back then) was on fire and I finally understood what all the fuss was about. My admiration for the band never stopped from that moment.
Giddily exhausted after my first big festival experience, a funny thing happened the next morning. I had been interning at the LA Weekly for a few weeks and the writer I’d been working with was set to attend and cover Lolla’s second day. Her plus one flaked at the last minute and she asked me if I’d like to join her, this time with full VIP/backstage pass action!
On that magical day, I drank free booze and ate amazing catered food. I hung out with Body Count, Fishbone and Rollins in their dressing rooms (Henry and I would both go on to have our own columns in the Weekly, paper and online, years later). I’ll never forget the vision of gothic makeup majesty that was Siouxsie sashaying past me to the stage, nor the utter surrealness of watching Jane’s from the pit. That was the day that I decided I had to be a music journalist for real, and that I really would never be happy doing anything else.
Everyone who was at that first Lollapalooza –no matter if they had the crappy grass seats or pit passes- seems to have romantic recollections about it. Irvine Meadows will be closing for good soon, which makes it all the more bitterweet. Lolla went on to thrive throughout the ‘90s, but after low ticket sales in 2004 (shockingly, with a great lineup that included Morrissey, PJ Harvey, The Killers, Wilco, The Flaming Lips and many more heavyweights) it was canceled and then moved to Chicago. Many music fans were bummed it didn’t remain a SoCal event, but Coachella and other hodge-podge genre mega-shows (FYF, Beach Goth, etc) filled the void for a new generation.
I covered many Lollapalooza tours after the first and twenty-five years later, I’m still doing what I love. I went on to write about and attend a decade’s worth of Coachella Art & Music Festivals, which were arguably the most inspired by Farrell’s fests. This Friday’s Jack FM lineup featuring Jane’s, The Cult, Garbage, Violent Femmes and House of Pain is an eclectic little Lolla-style sampler. It should conjure nostalgia for the original event, but it won’t really touch Lolla’s legacy. Only a real Lollapalooza reunion in So Cal would do that, and even if it were to happen one day, sadly, it will never be at its legendary inaugural locale. So this, and more importantly, the memories are all we got for now.
Jane's Addiction performs at Jack's 11th Show on Friday, September 23 at Irvine Meadows. For tickets and full show info, click here.