25 years of music with Lollapalooza

1991: Lollapalooza was never supposed to be a long-term music festival. It was conceived by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell as a one-off farewell tour for the band, which included performing with bands they liked. He coined it Lollapalooza, using the word meaning “an extraordinary or unusual thing, person or event.” 

1992: One of the more memorable events on this tour actually happened at the D.C. area date, which saw the festival return to Reston, Virginia’s Lake Fairfax. Eddie Vedder, lead singer for Pearl Jam, got stuck in traffic on the way to the venue and wasn’t there when Pearl Jam started their set. Chris Cornell from Soundgarden came onstage to fill in just as Vedder ran through the crowd to join them. Cornell later joined Pearl Jam during the set for the Temple of the Dog song “Hunger Strike.” The park authority and residents of Reston were not expecting the traffic and not so family-friendly things happening at the festival and by 1993, Lollapalooza was banned from performing there.

1994: Nirvana was slated to be a headliner for the traveling festival before pulling out on April 7, 1994. The next day, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home. The show went on with the Smashing Pumpkins as headliners with Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, making surprise appearances along the way to pay tribute to her late husband.

2005: After years of waning attendance, the festival goes on hiatus in the late 90s. Farrell brings it back in 2003, but many dates are canceled due to low ticket sales. Tickets sales were also the reason the festival was completely canceled in 2004. In 2005, along with William Morris and Austin-based Capital Sports Entertainment, Farrell brought the festival back, but no longer as a tour. It set up camp at its permanent home, Grant Park in Chicago, and became a must-attend event, expanding from two days to three days in 2006.

2011: Lolla goes international with the addition of Lollapalooza Chile. While festivals in Brazil, Argentina and Germany were added in later years, this year’s inaugural Lollapalooza Colombia was recently canceled when headliner Rihanna pulled out in fear of the Zika virus.

2016: 25 years later, we’ll see Jane’s Addiction return to the Lolla stage after a seven-year break. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are making a record-breaking fourth appearance as headliners. The festival is contracted to Grant Park through 2018.


CHICAGO, Ill. — For the 12th year in a row, the Lollapalooza music festival takes over Grant Park in downtown Chicago July 27-31. This year is a special one — it marks the 25th anniversary of the festival.

Conceived in 1991 by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell as a traveling festival/farewell tour for his band, Lolla has taken on a life of its own — but not without its ups and downs.

The festival ceased to exist between 1998 and 2002. It came back to life in 2003, but suffered a setback in 2004 when, due to lack of ticket sales, all tour dates were canceled. Farrell then joined forces with Capital Sports Entertainment (now C3 Presents, the group also behind Austin City Limits Festival) and set up home in Chicago where the fun remains to this day.

Lolla has also gone international with festivals popping up in Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Germany. To celebrate this notable anniversary, let’s look back on some festival highlights from the past 25 years.

To follow along with the celebration in real time, WTOP’s Reada Kessler will be live at this year’s festival live — on Twitter (@WTOPReada) and Instagram (@luvlyreada) — throughout the weekend.

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