Since Lollapalooza kicked off in 1991, fest founder Perry Farrell has witnessed plenty of wild and crazy moments, from Courtney Love's infamous brawl with Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna in 1995 to Kanye West's eye-popping homecoming show in Chicago. This year's fest promises to deliver big thanks to a headlining slot from the reunited Soundgarden and Lady Gaga's over-the-top Monster Ball extravaganza. To gear up for this weekend, Rolling Stone caught up with Farrell to hear his five favorite Lolla memories. "Obviously, there have been so many of these great moments, I feel like five doesn't quite do it justice," he says. "But my favorites have been where I've seen the audience have a special feeling of experiencing something new and there being a changing of the guard."
Jane's Addiction and Ice-T Cause a Commotion
Lollapalooza's inaugural 1991 lineup featured an eclectic mix of alternative rockers like Butthole Surfers, Violent Femmes, Nine Inch Nails and Living Colour alongside hip-hop acts like Ice-T and Body Count. "That was the first time hip-hop and rock had gone out on a tour and done really well," Farrell recalls. He remembers one moment at the Seattle stop when that vision became reality: Jane's Addiction teamed up with Ice-T for an explosive cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "Don't Call Me a Nigga, Whitey." "It was a great setup," says Farrell. "Ice crept up from behind and heard everybody laughing then the song exploded and he and I starting doing a ho-down or, like, this skank tango across the stage. The crowd was so receptive to Ice, even though they were getting harassed by the LAPD and everyone was going after him for censorship of 'Cop Killer.' "
Eddie Vedder's Dangerous Stage Dives
Pearl Jam were just about to hit the mainstream with their debut Ten and Vedder was delivering some of the fest's most talked-about performances for Lolla 1992: many Pearl Jam sets featured the up-and-coming grunge god climbing dangerously on top of the speakers and stage scaffolding. Farrell remembers one afternoon set when the band was playing "Even Flow": "He climbed up on the speakers, two stories high and he just did a swan dive right into the crowd. I was like, 'This guy is out of his mind!' He wasn't hurt — he was so elated — and then he just rocked out to 'Even Flow.' "
Snoop Dogg Dodges Bullets
Farrell took a break from his involvement with Lolla in 1996 — "I didn't agree with the lineup," he says. But he returned in 1997 with a festival that was heavy on electronic acts like Prodigy and the Orb. Still, Farrell was most psyched about scoring Snoop Dogg, who had cancelled his tour for his safety after the brutal slayings of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac. "He was having issues with the whole East Coast-West Coast thing," says Farrell. "So he did the entire tour in a bulletproof van. He'd drive right up to the stage in his bus, do the show, jump in the bulletproof van and zoom across the field. It was a huge accomplishment getting him to play that year."
Lolla Touches Down in Chicago
After canceling the touring version of the festival in 2004, Lollapalooza followed the Bonnaroo model by setting up shop for a one-weekend festival in Chicago. That year's fest featured its most diverse lineup in years, from the newly reunited Pixies to Billy Idol to the Killers. Farrell's favorite moment came from then-indie-rock-breakouts Arcade Fire, who delivered a triumphant Sunday evening set. "It seemed like they hit the stage with 20 people and they were fiddling and drumming and the guitars — it was like seeing Gabriel blowing his horn," says Farrell. "Just the texture and tapestry of their music is so jubilant. I started losing it myself — it was so fantastic."
Farrell Snags Rage
For years, Farrell had been begging his pal (and Chicago native) Tom Morello to bring the newly reunited Rage Against the Machine to Lolla. He finally succeeded in 2008. "I kept telling him, 'I really want you guys to do Lolla — it's so right for you,' " Farrell recalls. "I worked hard to bring them to Chicago by hanging out and kissing up to Tom and singing his songs when he asked me to record with him. Once they started playing it was sonically overwhelming. You could've tortured a person with the music and gotten answers. It was that loud."