Updated: This story was originally published July 23, 2014 and has been updated to reflect this year's festival.
It's been more than two decades since Perry Farrell, of Jane’s Addiction, founded Lollapalooza wayyyy back in 1991. It was to serve as the band’s farewell tour, as well as a venue for a few like-minded bands.
But then it kept on going.
Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, The Rollins Band, Beastie Boys, Primus and plenty of other legends of American grunge, alternative rock, hardcore, metal, and hip-hop graced the festival in its early years, scorching earth across both parks and parking lots until 1997, when the festival folded.
Then Lollapalooza was revived in 2005, still with Farrell’s involvement, but it became a stationary weekend-long festival in Chicago. It’s been a staple for touring bands ever since. Along with Glastonbury and Coachella, Lollapalooza is one of the most important music festivals of our time.
To celebrate Lollapalooza’s rich 25-year history, we gathered eight moments that best represent the truly unique history of the festival. From the angry, early days to the triumphant returns, this is Lollapalooza.
8. A Chicago Homecoming For Kanye West (2008)
Kanye West’s recent experimental, high-concept detours have helped distract the fact that, at his core, he was just an ambitious rapper from Chicago. In 2008, he was finally at the peak of his pop powers, and he came through that year’s Lollapalooza (his second appearance) like a man who knew he owned the place. Does it make you nostalgic for a time when "Flashing Lights" was the hottest thing in the world? When Kanye wanted to be a famous musician in the mainstream airwaves? It should. That's now a bygone era.
7. Red Hot Chili Peppers Played Lollapalooza Before Your Mom Knew About Them (1992)
Below is a great interview, because we get to see a very young, very zonked Anthony Kiedis talking about peace, love and happiness. We get a seemingly ageless Flea mentioning how he’d like to tie up George Bush and... well, watch to find out. And we also get a stark reminder that once upon a time, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were a band cool kids loved. Yup, it's true. Never forget.
6. The Second Time's The Charm For Lady Gaga (2010)
Lady Gaga first played Lollapalooza in 2007. Then, she was a mostly unknown songwriter out of New York with a shock of brunette hair. Three years can change a lot of fates, as she returned in 2010 as the opening night headliner. I was there: I remember a stampede of kids rushing towards her stage as soon as the doors were opened, and they were prepared to camp out until nightfall. The evolution was complete, and it was impossible not to feel happy for her.
5. The Strokes Make Their United States Return (2010)
I was at this show! I remember it distinctly because the rest of my family went off to watch Lady Gaga, and I was standing alone amidst the waning bastions of Strokes fans for the much-touted FIRST AMERICAN SHOW IN FOUR YEARS. There was a sniff of the new album, which would be 'Angles,' but the set focused almost entirely on early-millennial nostalgia. Pretty much every song off "Is This It" and "Room on Fire," a very cursory glance towards "First Impressions of Earth," and you send a crowd home happy. Weary, crusty, and still determined not to go down without a fight.
4. Pavement Get Showered in Mud (1995)
A lot of things went wrong here. First, you’re in West Virginia. Second, you have mid-career Pavement, which means a lot of stoned, jammy songs, and Stephen Malkmus’s detatched voice. Third, you have a really hot day. Fourth, you get the bright idea to hose down the crowd, creating a huge mud pit where people are standing. It’s simple mathematics, really. Next thing you know, you have a crowd full of drunk, uppity West Virginians showering arguably the most iconic indie-rock band of all time with a whole lot of mud, and inadvertently creating one of the greatest Lollapalooza moments of all time.
3. Rage Against The Machine See The Walls Come Down (2008)
There’s a very dangerous alchemy to being in Rage Against the Machine. You’re making angry, politically charged rock music for the masses, and you can ride that gravy train to the top of the world. But then you might find yourself in a situation like they did in 2008. Zack de la Rocha had to pause the show on three separate occasions to calm the rowdy crowd down. We might not ever see Rage again. (Or will we?)
2. One of the Last Ramones Shows Ever (1996)
Tommy, the last living original Ramone, passed away last week. The hands that hewed the band’s most famous songs, "Blitzkrieg Bop," "I Wanna Be Sedated," "Judy is a Punk," have all shuffled off this mortal coil. So let’s look back to the summer of 1996. It was only a precious couple of weeks before the Ramones would officially end things in early August. This was the farewell, under a hot sun in a park somewhere in America at Lollapalooza.
1. Pearl Jam Become Legends (1992)
This was not the first time Pearl Jam has ever jumped off of monitors, or played songs from "Ten," or endured the joyous mud of a giddy audience. But this was rock and roll, and it was huge. Lollapalooza in 1992 represented a time when a band like Pearl Jam could knife their way to the top of the pop charts, to actual ubiquity. Will something like that ever happen again?