If you haven't figured it out, I'm old. And I'll tell you something else: I have a tough time getting it up for great, big rock n' roll shows anymore. But I've had my fun in the past, sure.
For example: I got smashed against the front wall, stoned out of my mind, at the Stones show in Philadelphia in 82. I looked up into Bill Wyman's face, and he just shook his head. My feet were lifted off the ground as the crowd swayed as one, and I realized through a sheen of sublime panic that I was both going insane and dying of thirst. And listening to "Shattered." Somebody next to me hoisted one of those Davy Crockett-type animal-skin canteens and began drinking; I begged for some, envisioning a quick jolt of life-giving water, better than mother's milk. The guy complied (people were so friendly back in the 80s) and filled my gaping maw with about four shots' worth of Jack Daniel's. I've got thousands of rock war stories like that--as does everybody--and they all kind of sound the same after a while, but that's the best I can do to reveal my frame of mind going into Lollapalooza 1994.
There are two very good reasons they named the Lolla location Desert Sky Pavilion: 1. It is out in the desert. 2. It is under the sky.
Which meant that it was hotter than hell, a fact that had us bitching and whining the minute we stepped from the car and trudged over to the half-mile-long line to get into the thing.
Then something happened. I noticed three girls walking in front of us, all dressed in that hip kind of Cat in the Hat, pants-too-big, neon-color style. They were laughing loudly, euphoric, dangling off each other. Looked to be about 14. One of em said, "I can't believe we're here, we're really gonna see Lollapalooza!!"
And then it hit me. The beauty, the whole damned simple essence of rock n' roll and why people want to experience it live. More than just listening to music, it is a rite of passage, a sacred thing to fortify each generation against the authoritarian world of parents, teachers and bogeymen. Those three girls embodied the purity of a musical spirit that had left me 300 hangovers ago, something, perhaps, it wasn't too late to recapture. I looked over at Tim the photographer. "It's too fuckin' hot," he muttered.
Who was I kidding? This was gonna suck. Me and 19,000 sweaty teenagers.
But it wasn't that bad after all. Green Day did its Clash-cum-Ramones thing and threw out verbal barbs to the crowd between songs. The crowd threw back--among other things--a Birkenstock sandal (or is it a shoe?). L7 put on a passionate set, the mosh pit packed, the Breeders (whom I like) played what amounted to a bad rehearsal, but you can read about stuff like that in the Republic. I know you want to hear the good stuff.
The pit cleared out after L7, and I went down to watch Nick Cave strut and bellow his songs of doom. I looked down and right there at my feet was a used condom. Somebody was getting it on during L7! Lucky bastards--but at least they used protection. Lollapalooza offered music, rides, shopping stalls, poetry slams, interactive exhibits, computer dating and a bottomless pit of young, nubile flesh. Hey--not like I was lookin', but when a few thousand teenagers parade past you in bikini tops during a six- or seven-hour period, they're hard to miss. Another highlight was stepping into a Port-O-San and being engulfed in clouds of pot smoke. Right on!
We made our way over to a tent where a performance artist named something like Grumbo or Gibbo was onstage in ripped nylons (he was a guy) and tangled string around his neck. He was in the process of screaming into the mike, his voice distorted and accompanied by a guy producing some fairly atrocious feedback on an acoustic guitar. At the end of his "act," he mumbled something about "talk to friends or something. You don't have to kill yourself." Nothing like a positive message.
Let's see, what else . . . I ate a chicken gyro (good), and while I stood there chewing it, a girl behind me gagged up a mouthful of beer and lightly splattered the back of my legs (not good). We saw Shonen Knife on the Second Stage, cute as ever, stood in the misting tent for about five minutes--a great feature--and decided to head out.
I told you the audience was young, but get this: On the way back to the car, we passed a boy and a girl, I would guess about age 5 and 3, respectively, talking to a couple officials in a golf cart. No adults around. This official was saying, "Look, you're too young to be out here all alone," and the kids just stared at him, bored. "How old are you?" he pleaded. My last glimpse, my last vision of Lollapalooza was George Clinton's music pumping into the dusk as this little boy held up both hands and began rhythmically sticking out different combinations of fingers.
And I felt old again.
Sorry: Well, I goofed again. After lauding Jonathan L. and his work at the newly revitalized KUKQ-AM, I wrote that his Virgin Vinyl show would continue on KUPD-FM. No. It is actually on KDKB-FM on Sunday nights.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.