It’s cliche to start any introduction by defining a word, but in this case it seems appropriate. After all, how many people actually know what “lollapalooza” means? Sure, by music festival standards, we know it as the annual event put on in Chicago each August by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell. But its true definition, at least according to Merriam-Webster, is “one that is extraordinarily impressive,” and while we can’t be sure Ferrell envisioned today’s version of Lollapalooza when he first named the festival 20 years ago, its title has never proved more true.
Sure, especially recently, some criticisms are warranted. The overlapping of headliners with other festivals, weaker mid-tier acts, and overcrowding are a few that come to mind. But at the end of the day, in an era when festivals are as popular as ever, Lollapalooza continues to be among the country’s best. More than 130 acts will play Lollapalooza this year, ranging in genres from hip hop to electronica. Four of those said acts are among the biggest names in all of music, a claim few festivals on Earth could even dream of making. There will also be long sought-after reunions, as well as a slew of heralded fresh faces looking to become headliners of tomorrow.
But how’d Perry Farrell’s pet project get to be where it is today? With the festival celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer, we figured now would be the perfect time to share our favorite memories, and in the process, illustrate how Lollapalooza went from a dirty, grungy traveling festival to a three-day, stand-alone pop-tastic extravaganza.