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Lollapalooza Proves The Most Successful Tour of the Festival Season

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Trent Reznor, on the other hand, has more modest expectations. When asked what he figures he'll get out of the festival, he looks down at the sheet white hospital pallor of his skinny arms and says with a smile, "Skin cancer.''

A week into the tour and the Asshole Factor, as the Butthole Surfers' Paul Leary puts it, is nowhere to be seen. "I was a little worried that with all these bands on the tour it would turn into the Battle of the Tremendous Egos,'' says the band's drummer, King Coffey. "But all things considered, it's been pretty cool.''

It's still a little early for forming lasting friendships, and it's unlikely that some parties will ever really get along. The Buttholes can't help but cackle at the veddy English Banshees lounging around the dressing area apres gig in fluffy bathrobes; the Banshees, in turn, probably wouldn't find anything amusing about the Buttholes' endless store of uproarious road stories involving bodily functions. But Vernon Reid has been rapping with Trent Reznor and talking guitars with Dave Navarro. Perry Farrell sat down with Siouxsie over pizza the other night. And the Buttholes are looking forward to playing basketball with Ice-T's crew.

Everybody, however, is totally in awe of Henry Rollins. His fierce stage act is the talk of the tour, and there are often more musicians watching from the side of the stage – Ice-T, Farrell, members of the Banshees and Living Colour – than there are kids in the seats when he hits the stage. "Henry Rollins is not about whether the audience is into it or not,'' says Vernon Reid. "It's about how he's into it.''

More than any other act on the bill, Rollins embodies the street-hardened rebel moxie that Lollapalooza aspires to. As guitarist Chris Haskett, bassist Andrew Weiss and drummer Sin Cain fuse jagged riffs and choppy rhythms into a punk-jazz-metal firestorm, Rollins – in raggedy shorts and bare feet – anchors his rock-solid physique in an attack crouch, veins popping out of his neck like steel pipes as he rails against convention, complacency and fascist authority. "Next time someone convinces you that they know what you think and they strip you of your self-respect,'' he announces at one point, "pull this out of your pocket. This is called 'Brick'." Which is exactly what the song feels like when it hits you.

"It's the blues,'' Rollins says of his music. "If anything, we're an industrial-strength, urban-blues-band assault unit. I'm fueled primarily by rage, and if I don't do music and writing and a lot of physical working out, I get very depressed and very destructive. I'm not a musician. I'm the kind of person who just ended up onstage, and it was perfect for a freak like me.''

As a teenager in Washington, D.C., Rollins, who is thirty, used to work out his frustrations via street violence "with other boneheaded males.'' In 1981 he found a more productive outlet as the singer for the seminal L.A. punk outfit Black Flag. Since forming the Rollins Band in 1987 (soundman Theo Van Rock is the fifth member), he has recorded and toured relentlessly, sweating out his "unadulterated crystalline hatred'' onstage. In his spare time, he also runs his own publishing company, 2.13.61. (his birth date), and gives spoken-word performances.

Rollins recently signed with a major, Imago Records, but his no-nonsense gigging ethic remains the same. "When we do work, you get destroyed,'' he writes in his press bio. "That's just the way it is.'' And to prove it, the Rollins Band careens through a daredevil medley at one Lollapalooza show that includes his own "Fireman,'' the anarcho-hippie anthem "Do It'' by the Pink Fairies, a voodoo crawl through Canned Heat's "On the Road Again,'' and "Ghost Rider'' by Suicide. There is scattered applause in the crowd; the musicians, managers and roadies in the wings just stand there, mesmerized.

"The way I relate to people and music now is just 'Let's do it, let's let it happen,'" Rollins later says with a shrug. "If you put your soul into it all the way, like James Brown, people will see it and feel it. And today, I was all the way there.''

Perry Farrell's first Lollapalooza Festival is barely underway and already he's thinking about the next one. He's thinking small, too - more intimate surroundings, a more adventuresome crowd, a menu of "real bizarre stuff.'' Because the next time, Jane's Addiction won't be around to top the bill and draw the mainstream teens. After this tour and a handful of extra Jane's dates in Australia and Hawaii, the band is breaking up, much to Farrell's relief.

"Musicians have a funny thing that follows them – their past,'' Farrell says backstage one afternoon. "An actor doesn't have to play the same roles over and over. An artist doesn't have to paint the same picture. I, if I stay in Jane's Addiction, will have to sing 'Mountain Song' or 'Jane Says' or 'Ocean Size' every night. To try to fit Jane's Addiction into what I want to do next is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.''

It's too bad he doesn't find Stephen Perkins's bold tribal drumming and Dave Navarro and Eric Avery's thundering guitar-bass crossfire malleable enough for his purposes. At the three Lollapalooza shows at Irvine Meadows, Jane's is in blistering form, rampaging through "Stop!'' and "Three Days'' as if the band had just stepped out of the garage. With his closely cropped hair, oversize red woolen suit and jittery, stick-figure dancing, Farrell looks even more extreme and dangerous than when he had braids and wore an S&M bodysuit – like a psycho-ward cross between Mr. Natural and Groucho Marx.

"I'll probably feel a little sad when I don't have it anymore,'' Farrell says of Jane's. "But that will just make me work really hard to do something that will top Jane's Addiction. I like pushing. Singing a Jane's song now, the band could fall asleep and play it. To be able to conquer shit, that makes you bigger. To drop Jane's, man, and break that fear barrier – 'Can I top this?' - that's what gives a man power and courage. My problem is, I think ahead, to the point where I get really annoyed with the present. I can't wait to get the hell out of things.''

And into something else. Farrell is annoyed that his Lollapalooza ideal has been necessarily compromised by using an existing rock-concert infrastructure. He intends to bag that at the first opportunity. "There is so much you can do with this,'' he says. "In the proper environment, I can entertain people, I'm sure of that.

"But,'' Farrell concedes, "this is reality we're talking about. I have only so much clout and so much time. And this is a great start.''

This story is from the September 19th, 1991 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

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