Lifestyle & Belief

Lollapalooza-palooza: The evolution of Chicago's biggest festival


Nearly 100,000 people attended the festival's 20th anniversary in 2011.


Roger Kisby

When Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell created Lollapalooza some 21 years ago, it's hard to imagine he could have predicted the three-day musical overload it would grow to be. Originally slated to be a 41-day farewell tour for his band, Lollapalooza is now home to hundreds of thousands of mud-slinging concert-goers for three adrenaline-filled days out of the year.

(As for the original purpose of Lollapalooza, Jane's Addiction is currently enjoying its latest world tour.)

Between its consistently sold-out shows and slew of big-name headliners, Lollapalooza appears to be living up to its Miriam-Webster definition of "one that is extraordinarily impressive" regardless of the differences from its 1991 prototype.

Here's a look back on how the festival has evolved over the past two decades.

1.) Location: From 1991-1997, Lollapalooza enjoyed a lengthy summer tour with over 20 stops nationwide. Following a five-year hiatus, the tour returned in 2003 only to be downsized to a two-day festival in 2004 following weak ticket sales. In 2005, Lollapalooza announded it would continue the two-day festival format and adopted Chi-town's Grant Park as its permanent venue.

3.) Acts: It was on the 1991 tour that Farrell coined the term "Alternative Nation," a fitting phrase considering the whirlwind of alternative rock acts that preceded his band's set each night. Such bands included Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine, but recent years have brought mega-pop giants such as Lady Gaga, Eminem and Coldplay to the Lollapalooza stage. According to today's lineup release, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Black Sabbath are a few of the bands scheduled to healdine this year's fest.

2.) Price: Tickets to the original Lollapalooza went for a cool $25 while this year's three-day passes cost upwards of 230 bones. 

4.) Stages: A single mainstage provided the platform for all of the bands featured on the 1991 tour. The 2011 festival was equipped with eight different stages each boasting a unique lineup. Overlapping performances by Coldplay, Muse and Girl Talk forced frustrated concert-goers to decide where their allegiances lied most heavily.

5.) Size: According to the Chicago Tribune, last year's festival drew in a crowd of roughly 240,000 while audiences in the early years topped just 30,000 per stop.