More than two decades into Lollapalooza’s history, and there’s no shortage of eyebrow-raising moments. Perry Farrell’s formally touring, now Chicago-based fest started as alt-rock’s time to shine — a fact cemented by Nine Inch Nails and Courtney Love’s presence on this round-up of incredible Lolla appearances — but in recent years, pop stars like Lady Gaga and Kanye West have brought some wide-eyed looks of amazement. In celebration of this weekend’s 23rd Lollapalooza (Aug. 1-3), we presentst 10 of the most memorable moments in the festival’s history.
Nine Inch Nails Trashes The Stage (1991)
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For a man who would “rather die than give you control,” electrical problems on stage in Phoenix during the festival’s inaugural year turned Trent Reznor’s rage, literally, against his machines. What better finale for an outdoor July-in-Arizona set full of “Pretty Hate Machine” cuts than for Nine Inch Nails to smash all of their gear before stalking off the stage in anger?
Naked Rage (1993)
Back when Al Gore’s wife Tipper was in the headlines for leading the Parents Music Resource Center, the PMRC raised the ire of music fans everywhere by pushing for the adoption of the “Parental Advisory” sticker on explicit albums and singles. Never ones to abide censorship of any kind, Rage Against the Machine let it all hang out during their mainstage set at the Philadelphia stop of Lollapalooza ’93 when they decided to stand there completely naked, with black tape over their mouths, and the letters PMRC spelled out across their chests, in silent protest of the organization.
Courtney Sings For Kurt (1994)
Nirvana was supposed to be the headlining jewel in Lollapalooza ’94’s lineup, but on April 7, the band cancelled. A day later, Kurt Cobain’s body was found in Seattle. The grunge act’s absence was noted by festival fans from coast to coast, but it wasn’t until the Philadelphia date that a surprise visit from Cobain’s wife and Hole frontwoman Courtney Love gave voice to the void. Taking the stage during the headlining set of her pals the Smashing Pumpkins, Love played a pair of Hole hits, changing the final lyric of “Miss World” to “Why’d you have to die?” and calling for “a moment of silence for my husband.”
Metallica on the Mainstage (1996)
Conceived by Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Ferrell as an alternative to the mainstream rock tours that dominated before its 1991 start, Lollapalooza’s fifth run drew plenty of rolled eyes and cries of hypocrite when monster metal gods Metallica were named headliners. Alternative? You call this alternative? “I think we do fit in [at Lolla] because we have always been going-against-mainstream. When the mainstream came to us It’s very clear that they came to us,” drummer Lars Ulrich told MTV at the time.
Lollapalooza — and Jane’s Addiction — Returns! (2003)
Following a six-year break, Farrell brought Lollapalooza back in 2003 with alt-rock mashup Audioslave, Incubus and Queens of the Stone Age on the bill. However, the biggest attraction was the return of Farrell’s own band, Jane’s Addiction, which headlined the festival in the midst of a massive reunion tour. With Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro stealing the show, the band ripped through old favorites like “Been Caught Stealing” and “Mountain Song,” reminding the crowd the band was responsible for the existence of Lollapalooza in the first place. The ’91 fest had been conceived by Farrell as a Jane’s Addiction farewell tour.
Revived Lolla Finds New Chicago Home (2005)
The future of Lollapalooza seemed uncertain after the touring festival was cancelled in 2004 due to low ticket sales. One year later, however, Perry Farrell introduced a two-day version of Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park, with The Killers, Widespread Panic and Death Cab for Cutie tapped as headliners. The festival went off without a hitch, and festival has since stayed in Grant Park while expanding to a three-day format, and been a hit ever since.
Kanye Remembers His ‘Mama’ (2008)
Kanye West brought his bombastic Glow In the Dark Tour to Grant Park in 2008, setting off an epic laser light show and rolling through hits from 2007 disc Graduation. In the midst of the giant production, West took time to dedicate the set to his late mother, Donda, before launching an emotional rendition of “Hey Mama.” Although the performance was well-received, the weekend’s biggest rumor — a festival appearance by then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama — never materialized.
EDM Dances into Lolla (2009)
Perry Farrell followers know he is devoted to dance music (he often drops bras under the name DJ Peretz). In 2009 that love was manifested in the addition of an aptly named “Perry’s” stage, Lollapalooza’s all dance stage. That summer, Bassnectar, MSTRKRFT and A-Trak all performed there. In 2011, the small stage in a grove grew to a huge area near the entrance, expanding the festival’s EDM offerings with a lineup of the world’s most lauded EDM acts and DJs. Perry’s Tent hosted acts like Skrillex, among other dance titans.
Lady Gaga Dives In (2010)
About four hours before she brought the Monster Ball to Lollapalooza’s main stage in 2010, Lady Gaga made sure Semi-Precious Weapons would have one of the weekend’s most buzzed-about sets. During the band’s afternoon gig on the same stage where she made her Lolla debut in 2007, Gaga surprised the rabid crowd by jumping on the stage, banging the hell out of a cymbal and grinding with lead singer Justin Tranter before diving into arms of squealing fans in the pit. She was the festival’s only pop powerhouse, but Gaga gave Lollapalooza 2010 its most punk rock moment.
Lollapalooza 2012 was briefly shut down that Saturday afternoon when heavy storms rolled into Chicago. That afternoon, festival organizers announced they would suspend the massive festival in light of National Weather Service reports of severe thunderstorms. Attendees were urged to move to pre-determined evacuation zones.
“Our first priority is always the safety of our fans, staff and artists,” said Shelby Meade, communications director for C3 Presents, in a statement posted to the festival’s website. “We regret having to suspend any show, but safety always comes first.” Afternoon sets from bands like fun. and The Weeknd were postponed and rescheduled for later in the evening. Buzz band Alabama Shakes was not so lucky, and lost their set altogether.
Sorry Chicago, we were really pumped to play for you all but the storm had other plans. We will be back to make it up for you!
— Alabama Shakes (@Alabama_Shakes) August 5, 2012