Maybe Kurt Cobain’s death really did mark the day alternative music died.
The magic is definitely gone from the Lollapalooza tour, leaving just another rock concert in its wake. Lollapalooza ’94 is like an aging boxer, flailing away in search of past glory but failing to realize that some things are better off burning out than fading away.
Although Lollapalooza ’94 is sold out in all but three cities of the 25 or more sites it plans to visit, including stops in Los Angeles in early September at Cal State Dominguez Hills, the show’s safe, mainstream vibe will likely leave little reason for impresario Perry Farrell to keep it alive for future editions.
That the bright promise has dimmed is not really anyone’s fault. Any concert venture hoping to capture the spirit of the alternative music world would have to be much smaller than Lollapalooza ’94.
For this, the initial date of the tour, the official count of tickets sold was 15,000; however, the extreme heat of the day, which tour personnel estimated at 115 degrees on the asphalt surface of the Silver Bowl, may have cut walk-up attendance.
Early line on the bands indicates A Tribe Called Quest and L7 should win the most new converts thanks to the tour; the Beastie Boys, the Breeders and Smashing Pumpkins will do nothing to hurt themselves; while George Clinton and Nick Cave are a convenient break in the nine-hour day and a chance to visit the midway without missing much.
Of special note from the second stage: Warner Bros. Records’ act the Flaming Lips absolutely blew away their audience, and would have been right at home on the main stage.
The Boredoms delivered a forgettable set under any circumstances to start the day. The Japanese band, touring in support of “Pop Tatari” on Reprise Records, specializes in screaming rock best-suited for small clubs and the lunatic fringe.
L7 actually stirred a mosh pit in the blazing heat, and shows every promise that the Tuesday release of their sophomore Slash album, “Hungry for Stink,” will mark the beginning of their ascension to a new level of stardom.
Cave’s slogging style, usually at home in the gothic clubs, was a total mismatch for his midday spot.
With the crowd starting to arrive, Jive’s A Tribe Called Quest took advantage of the moment and produced the day’s first sustained excitement. Reminiscent of Ice Cube’s scene-stealing appearance on the second Lollapalooza tour, the jawbreaking beats caused the crowd to race out of the stands and onto the infield.
The main stage was draped with gold cloth for 4AD/Elektra’s the Breeders, whose fractured but accessible songs are in perfect synch with alternative music’s mainstreaming. The band’s impact may have been blunted by circumstances — its 4:30 p.m. start catching the crowd at a heat-sapped moment — but a decent amount of pit action greeted the MTV-powered singles “Cannonball” and “Saints.”
Clinton’s usual slow start and meandering set, augmented by his usual army of musicians and dancers, was notable only for its historical significance. Even his signature song, “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” did little to stir the audience.
While Clinton failed to ignite Lollapalooza, his legacy was much in evidence in the set by Grand Royal/Capitol’s the Beastie Boys. Considered a co-headliner on the tour, the Beasties were more than up to the challenge of rocking a stadium.
The Beasties showed a versatility that augurs well for their long-term career , mixing the hard-hitting “Do It” from the new disc with the funky “Tough Guy.” The house was totally in tune by the set-closing “So What You Want.”
Many audience members chose to exit at this point, but a healthy majority opted to stick around for the Smashing Pumpkins’ closing set. They were not disappointed.
The Pumpkins, whose double-platinum Virgin release “Siamese Dream” marked their big breakout from indieland, were facing their biggest show ever. The band has graduated directly from large clubs to stadiums in the U.S., and had yet to prove that its brooding, guitar-washed style can translate to the big stage.
Happily, the Pumpkins confirmed they are worthy of the big room and a larger place in the rock pecking order. The band’s raging set lost little of its intimacy in the transition from smaller venues, as leader Billy Corgan took command over the show.