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death to lollapalooza

Posted on 22 June 2004 by Caryn Rose (2)

I was pretty sure this was going to turn out to be an urban legend until I went to the Lolla web site and read the press release:

Even with what has been touted as the best line-up since its inception in 1991, with such eclectic and respected artists as Morrissey, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, and The Flaming Lips, among others, and the most competitive ticket prices in the marketplace for a tour this size, it was not enough to counter the weak economic state of this years summer touring season. Therefore, it is with the utmost regret that due to poor ticket sales across the board, the Lollapalooza, 2004 tour has been cancelled.

Okay, let me read between the lines for you:

“Even with what has been touted as the best line-up since its inception in 1991”

Are you smoking crack? What about ’96? Devo, the Ramones, Soundgarden, the MELVINS?

“with such eclectic and respected artists as Morrissey, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, and The Flaming Lips, among others”

…SPLIT BETWEEN TWO DAYS, so I have to spend $100 and take two days off work (unless you are LA or SF or a city they like).

“and the most competitive ticket prices in the marketplace for a tour this size”

You know, no one buying a ticket cares about the size of your tour. We care about value for money. They deliberately split the acts so we’d have to go both days, but there weren’t enough bands both days to make it worth it for me.

Also, the bands I *really* cared about – like the Datsuns – do I want to spend $100 to see them at Randall’s fucking Island and the inherent hassle and mud and weather and heat, or do I want to wait until they come back and do their own headlining tour? Do I want to see them performing at, like, 2pm, while I alternately squint or hold my hand over my eyes to dodge the sun, watching a band that does not want to be awake at that hour performing to a bunch of people who don’t want to be awake at that hour? Do I want to try to enjoy a band I like while some emo kid stands next to me scarfing a slice of pizza while they wait for Morrissey’s set? Do I want to watch Morrissey on a huge-ass festival stage, behind a crash barrier, from miles away? Do I want to sit through every single band that day just to see Morrissey? (Keep in mind, the only thing I gave a damn about in the Smiths was Johnny Marr and the only thing Morrissey ever had going for him in my opinion was his obsession with the New York Dolls, something we shared as teenagers. But I digress.) Do I want to deal with sub-par sound (even the best soundperson has challenges with outdoor sound, come on) and sub-par conditions?

(You realize these are all rhetorical questions, right?)

Marc Geiger, co-founder of the tour stated, “I am in utter disbelief that a concert of this stature, with the most exciting line-up I’ve seen in years did not galvanize ticket sales. I’m surprised that given the great bands and the reduced ticket prices that we didn’t have enough sales to sustain the tour. Concert promoters across the country are facing similar problems. Many summer tours are experiencing weak ticket sales.”

I am in utter disbelief myself that you thought we would pay you $100+ and have to take two days off work to see a handful of bands better experienced indoors, at night, in a rock club, with a beer in my hand. I am in utter disbelief that it didn’t occur to anyone why the original Lollapalooza was so successful: it was because IT WAS THE FIRST TIME ANYONE PUT THOSE KINDS OF BANDS TOGETHER IN A LINEUP! Guys, it’s not 1992 any more! Heck, some of the bands on the lineup are almost mainstream.

The two-days-off-work-thing is a concept that these promoters don’t seem to understand. The audience has to put together ticket price, service charges, parking and/or transportation of some sort (in New York, the hell of getting to and from Randall’s fucking Island without [or even with] a motor vehicle is part of what earned it its middle name), overpriced food, poor conditions, portapotties… and THEN we have to either take vacation days or days unpaid or find someone to cover shifts or who knows what rigamarole (if you can even manage to get the time off in the summer). And do even you want to spend two precious days off to go to Lollapalooza?

I had completely planned on going. Going to see the Pixies. Psyched. Then I went to the site and got the rundown on how the shows were broken out. I wasn’t giving them two days. I wasn’t going day two JUST to see the Pixies (since I didn’t care about anyone on that lineup and in fact run screaming from the Polyphonic Spree). I wasn’t going day one to see SY and the rest of the bands on the lineup, all very fine pop combos, don’t get me wrong, but all of whom, without exception, are better experienced somewhere I don’t have to worry about sunscreen.

I do not feel bad for the promoters. I do not feel bad for the organizers. I do not feel bad for the venues. I don’t even really feel bad for the bands, most of them can put something together, even the second stage bands can do better than this. I *do* feel bad for the roadies and other behind-the-scenes crew who are effectively out of work for the summer. But that’s it.

Now, maybe I can see the Pixies and the Datsuns in a halfway decent venue this summer. And maybe concert promoters will have a learned a lesson or two about myopia and greed and ego.

Finally, Lollapalooza is dead. Thank god. Maybe this will be a harbinger of the death of crowd surfing and “moshing” too?

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2 Responses to “death to lollapalooza”

  1. pookiedrawers says:

    I heard an interesting theory, that Clearchannel is behind these tour cancellations (I hear Cure/Interpol/Rapture was cancelled, too) for political reasons – because most of these bands are anti Bush and would bring that up in their banter to the crowd. I don’t know the details but I certainly wouldn’t discount this theory.

  2. pookiedrawers says:

    oh, and I agree w/you on seeing bands in clubs w/a drink in your hand, it’s much better. But that could be a factor of getting old and becoming a crotchety, jaded, rock scene vet.

    They say the arena shows for the younger kids, with bands I’ve never heard of, still sell well.

    One of the best medium scale shows I saw was Terrastock in Boston a couple years ago. It happened over three days at two connected venues, both indoors and it featured Sonic Youth as well as a lot of lesser known bands on the more psychedelic tip. It wasn’t that crowded, either (except during SY). Comfort is definitely a factor for me, which is why I’m prepared for the worst at Randall’s, even given my excitement over the bands in the line up.