On the Announcement of Lollapalooza’s 20th Anniversary Lineup

I woke up this morning and put on Krallice. You might actually know about this US Black Metal Band even if you aren’t into metal, black or otherwise. The reason you might know about them is because Nation Public Radio, or NPR as it’s now solely referred to, did a review of their new album. I’m really curious to how and why this is happening. After all, growing up, parents, teachers, peers and others looked at me like an idiot for being into Heavy Metal music. It was considered low-class and dumb, full of comic book imagery and violence. Never mind that it got me to read more, do research into alternative religions and generally made me feel good. Now, heavy metal is getting reviewed on public radio for the sweater wearing Ira Glass wanna be’s and all the Paula Poundstone innocents who like to believe they are left of center and subversive.

I get the same amount of confusion when I see that the über indie nerds over at Pitchfork start covering the LA hardcore band Trash Talk. I like Trash Talk. I think they are a pretty heavy and intense band. But, when it comes to hardcore music, they aren’t really breaking the mold. They lean towards a more palpable side of hardcore music with a slick sound, eschewing the lo-fi grit that hardcore was founded on. But the reality is, they are a pretty typical hardcore band. Why Pitchfork would even bother covering this band and giving their record a mediocre review baffles the mind. This band doesn’t have anything to offer hipsters in the world of hardcore that a myriad of other bands can’t offer them.

Clearly, this has a lot to do with the internet becoming the main source for communication these days. And we won’t talk about the economic divide which once again leaves lower-income peoples behind like always. That’s an important factor in what music gains popularity in the internet age for sure. But I am not well versed or researched enough to talk at length about that. But as information spreads easier among the internet and faster, it is also more diluted with millions of blogs and writers and critics and fan-boys like me getting hard-ons for the stupid things they like. Now, that isn’t to say that punk rock music doesn’t have some interesting things going on. There is a whole nation of bands that are popping up in smaller cities and towns that make some terrible and vicious music. It’s not pretty and it’s filled with a resigned hopelessness. Further, it’s connected not by a network of national touring and small fanzines but by personal run blogs that post the music for people to listen to. This is interesting, this subverts the mainstream, and it’s music that is, for all intent and purpose unlistenable to even the average music aficionado.

So, as I read the line up for this years, 20th anniversary edition of Lollapalooza, I laugh to myself. I remember 1991, the first year that Lollapalooza existed. I didn’t get to go, despite the show in my area being less than five miles from my house. I had to go on vacation that week. We arrived home on that Sunday night and I rolled down the windows and could hear Jane’s Addition, amplified beyond belief, cutting up the air of Fairfax, Virginia. I listened to the rest of the set from my back porch. It was that loud. Despite not being at the show and not seeing the band, I was transfixed by the power that music could have, both in its electrical amplitude and in its sure beauty.

Of course at 14, I didn’t really understand that Perry Farrell, for all his talk about self liberation and individuality was  just another cog in the corporate rock machine. Sure, it sounded a lot more idealistic and crazy than Metallica. But at the heart of it, there isn’t too much different between those bands. They were rock and roll bands. Not a movement, or part of any scene or community. At that size, they had surpassed any notions of being “alternative” even though Lollapalooza marketed itself as the alternative. The true alternative, that I would learn not too much later, was in my backyard in Washington DC. And then I would learn that it was all over the world, happening in basements and churches and other reclaimed spaces.

This didn’t stop me though for the next five years from going to Lollapalooza every summer. And I don’t have any regrets of that either. I heard ten thousand white kids scream “Fuck You, Ice Cube” as prompted. I finally got to see my beloved Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was introduced to Nick Cave and George Clinton. I saw Superchunk two nights in a row because they played at the Black Cat the night before their side stage appearance. I saw fucking Neurosis. There was also The Breeders, The Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth. These were bands worth seeing. But it was the realization, that slowly crept over me, that this was nothing more than a machine designed to sell a lifestyle and beer to kids. That lifestyle was one that I had embraced, and now it was being co-opted. Or maybe it had always been co-opted. It did, for a while, at least try to be an alternative, and in some ways it succeeded, by having a local stage, a side stage of indie acts and tents filled with information about social causes. Which back in the days before the internet was massively important. Of course those good ideas ebbed and flowed with equal rapidity.

So, 20 years later, as I look at the line-up for the three-day festival, I wonder what the point even is of calling it Lollapalooza? There is nothing remotely subversive or alternative about any of the bands on the line-up at all. None of them are DIY bands or alternative from anything that most funded media outlets report on and support. And sure, that concept is more murky what with dirty punk rock and Black Metal now being haphazardly reviewed by these neocons of music “criticism”. But really, even on Perry’s so-called side stage, Kid Cudi, a master of self loathing and women hating is featured. What’s so alternative, or even palpable and acceptable about that shit? Eminem is your headliner, so surely the gays and women are not the target market for this festival of “alternative” music. Looking at the line-up the only truly, left field weirdo band on there is Ween. Ween? That’s all you guys can come up with? I mean, don’t get me wrong, Ween is great. This isn’t a reflection on Ween, but it’s always Ween with you people. Krallice and Trash Talk would be a welcomed addition at this point.

I don’t know, maybe there is a bitterness, watching my youth being more and more run through the ringer. The older I get, the more down into the holes of off the beaten path of music I get. There’s more dissonant sounds, more vile grindcore, more black metal that’s not being covered by leftists radio conglomerates. There are vinyl records of hypnotic drone and cassette tapes of story tellers. I am actually more invested in an “alternative” to what corporations want to sell me then I was when I spoke so fervently against “the system” as a youth. For the rest of you, taking in all these festivals of music, overpriced and over saturated with more bands than you could even reasonably care about in a three-day period, I hope you enjoy it. I’ve got some Wormrot to listen to.

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