So, Metallica is headlining Lollapalooza 1996. I think I like this, especially since the cries of “Blasphemy!” are already in the air.
The multi-band Lollapalooza tour - which kicks off in late June and runs through August - is all about alternative rock. Metallica is a metal band, and the twain are not meant to meet.
Besides, doesn’t Lollapalooza stand for exposing new young bands? Metallica is a grizzled old multi-platinum-selling vet band that survived the early 1980s speed-metal wars. Even if most of the members sport short hair now (really!), hair does not an alt-rocker make.
Third: If the Metallica fans flock to this thing - and they will, even if heavy metal in general is in freefall - the nature of the audience will differ from previous Lolla crowds.
Finally, Perry Farrell - formerly of Jane’s Addiction, currently of Porno for Pyros and a co-conceiver of Lollapalooza - has severed his connection to the project, sputtering about its over-commercialization.
Balderdash, I say to most of this. First and foremost, Metallica has more connection to punk rock - in terms of edge, dynamics and aggression - than nine-10ths of what’s marketed as punk rock. Metallica was the key band responsible for the near-destruction of the so-called “hair metal” wing - the Warrants and the Poisons. They also may present an alternative audience with a bona fide alternative.
Alt-rock now occupies a huge chunk of the market. Unfashionable metal doesn’t. Let’s put the best metal act in the world in this pool and see how they swim. My guess is they’ll cut through the water like barracuda and bite like a piranha. Bonus points: They turned many metal-heads on to the nearly forgotten New Jersey punk band the Misfits, a far superior outfit to what it evolved into, Danzig. And, yes, they’ll have a new album to promote, which translates (thankfully) into new material.
Then there’s Soundgarden, also on the bill. These guys have already played Lollapalooza, thereby making them the first-ever repeat performer - and that, supposedly, was a no-no. But they do bridge the metal/alt-rock divide. Not only that, it was their coaxing that landed their pals the Ramones on the tour - a long overdue payback for starting American punk back in 1974 and not falling prey to senility or Sting-like sensitivity. Don’t consider this a charity gesture on the promoters’ parts. If the Ramones don’t make sense to you, you’ve got no reason to call yourself a Lollapaloser.
The fourth confirmed booking is Rancid, a standard-bearer of today’s punk-rock resurgence and a band heavily indebted to old style anti-heroes the Clash and Stiff Little Fingers. This is fine: What band doesn’t have roots?
Rancid - there are two spikeheads among them - is a convincing, colorful carnival of punk, even if the “danger” is muted and the rebellion a bit by-the-numbers. As to the other acts, who knows? There are no Brits on the bill yet (unless you want to call Rancid honorary Brits because of that curious singing accent). There are no women. There are no hip-hoppers. No doubt, the bookers will consider plugging these gaps in time.
We’re looking forward to it. Except for one thing. Organizer Marc Geiger is making noises about returning Lollapalooza to mostly “fields, as opposed to permanent standing structures.” Oh joy! To be part of 30,000 to 50,000 tightly packed, mosh-mad, Metallica-crazed headbangers on a July evening at a barren, dry, godforsaken field or airbase when it’s 90 degrees and humid.
Why fields? Inevitably, organizers will say “because the kids want it.” As if the kids have a choice. As if profit margin doesn’t enter into it. Hey, Lolla guy, give the concert-goers an option of reserved seats or field access. Create a mosh pit area in the front, if need be. But remember, there’s nothing un-punk about a smidgeon of logistical order.