Lollapalooza Round 4 Courts Nirvana, Beastie Boys, and More

This year, organizers are taking last year's criticism to heart

Beastie Boys perform on stage as part of the Lollapalooza tour package July 1st, 1994. Credit: Scott Harrison/Getty

Last year, Lollapalooza experienced its first backlash. The alternative roadshow's roster of acts was criticized as unadventurous and formulaic, while the appeal of the concept itself was called into question when the Velvet Underground and Neil Young turned Lollapalooza down; PJ Harvey and Peter Gabriel didn't even return its calls.

As the Lollapalooza team begins preparing for its fourth annual tour this summer, it seems to be taking this criticism to heart. At press time, Lollapalooza was courting an impressive array of bands for its main stage, including Nirvana – who spurned the festival last year – Smashing Pumpkins, the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, the Breeders and George Clinton. Insiders say that tour organizers are talking with Nick Cave, L7 and a British band – possibly the Stone Roses or Primal Scream – to round out their lineup. As opposed to last year, the festival let its headliners suggest additional main-stage bookings. "The top three bands [Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and the Beastie Boys] made distinct choices about who they want to play with, and we're respecting those decisions," says festival organizer and booker Don Muller.

Groups that are being considered to play the second stage on different legs of the tour include Stereolab, Boo Radleys, Luscious Jackson, Verve and the Flaming Lips. Lollapalooza is also thinking of adding an acoustic stage, says a source, which would feature Porno for Pyros and, on some dates, Johnny Cash. Another plan under discussion involves recruiting the British ambient-dance-music purveyors Orb to put together a post-concert party open to all Lollapalooza ticket holders.

Tour organizers are also getting a head start on this year's version of the Village, where merchandise tables and political-awareness forums are generally set up. "This year, we're going to have more environmental themes," says Muller. "We also want to incorporate local vendors – and not necessarily travel with them – along with local charities, so we can give something back to the community. We want to expand on the debate tent . . . and explore the possibility of interactive media."

One reason Lollapalooza's plans are generating a more positive response than they did last year is because festival co-founder and Porno for Pyros singer Perry Farrell has returned to the fold. Last year, he bowed out, griping in these pages: "It's your fucking project and all of a sudden you're hearing secondhand what's gonna be going on. . . . I just have to grit my teeth and pray that I don't get embarrassed." This year, according to Muller, "Perry's back, and he's given some great insight and come up with some great ideas that are going to make the festival better."

In fact, Farrell has reassembled the original team that put together the first two Lollapaloozas, including American Recordings A&R rep Marc Geiger, who sat on the sidelines last year. Other key members of the organizing committee include Muller, William Morris Agency senior vice president Peter Grosslight and Farrell's former manager Ted Gardner.

According to Muller, Lollapalooza kicks off on July 1 this year and wraps up on Sept. 7, at which point it might dip into Mexico and South America for its first dates outside of the United States. Tickets in some cities could be on sale as early as mid-March.

This story is from the March 10th, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone.