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Lollapalooza adapts to stay relevant

This year’s big names: Chili Peppers, Kanye West, Wilco, Flaming Lips
/ Source: The Associated Press

Lollapalooza is now a teenager — and one that’s certainly suffered its share of growing pains.

It’s been 15 years since the first version of the festival — once described as a “bizarre bazaar” of music, politics and artwork — toured cities nationwide for daylong events with multiple acts.

It’s been 10 years since the choice of metal band Metallica as a headliner upset the festival’s traditional alternative music base. Just two years ago, the revived festival (it was on hiatus from 1998 until 2003) was canceled weeks before it was to get under way because of poor ticket sales.

But after a surprisingly successful weekend version of the event last year in Chicago’s Grant Park, it returns this year double its size, running Friday through Sunday, will feature 130 musical acts on nine stages.

“We had to come back and prove that we’re not only credible but a quality festival, and I think we did that Year One in Chicago,” said festival founder Perry Farrell, the lead singer of Jane’s Addiction.

So far, organizers say they’ve sold about 45,000 tickets for each day (capacity is 75,000). Among the big names performing are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West, Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie and The Flaming Lips.

The sheer number of artists, and the fact that the show is not touring, are not the only changes from the 1990s.

The festival will feature an area aimed at children called Kidzapalooza; an interactive scavenger hunt-like game will employ text messages on cell phones; and one unsigned band — out of 2,000 competing in an Internet-based competition — will get to play a Lollapalooza stage.

‘Always been a diverse lineup’Three-day passes for the event are $150. For $1,250, two concertgoers can be treated to spots on elevated seating platforms, food and beverages and a “LollaSpa” with massages and facials.

Self-described “music hound” Liz Montgomery has been to nearly every edition of Lollapalooza, including the first one in 1991.

Asked how it’s changed over the years, Montgomery, 38, said she thinks it’s become less political and less infused by the counterculture. The music, however, has remained the same “because it’s always been a diverse lineup.”

Staying off the road cuts down on overhead touring costs, as well as avoiding collaborations with giant promoters that Farrell maintains would suck up money now used on extra features that don’t generate cash.

“Nobody would pay for Kidzapalooza. We had to pay for it ourselves, but we’re happy to do it because we know the experience in the end is going to feel really good,” he said.

Montgomery drove the 120 miles to her first Lollapalooza concert in her 1988 powder blue Chevy Nova. Now she and her husband figure the concert into their annual vacation budget, flying from their Jupiter, Fla., home.

“I went to my first Lollapalooza as a punk and I’m going to this one as a stay-at-home mom,” she said with a laugh.