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Rock Insiders: Lollapalooza Could Be a Snooza

May 11, 1997|Steve Hochman

Is seven an unlucky number for Lollapalooza?

The seventh summer for the annual tour could well be the one when its preeminence among the traveling rock festivals--a format it pioneered--is challenged by the ones that have come in its wake.

That's the prediction of some concert promoters, radio programmers and music magazine editors surveyed by Pop Eye. The Lollapalooza lineup--hard-rockers Tool and Korn, rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg, indie act Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, trip-hop innovator Tricky, reggae heirs Julian and Damian Marley and a rotating slot occupied on various dates by electronica leaders Prodigy, Orbital or the Orb--generates little excitement among the experts.

Two candidates are seen as ready to rise above Lollapalooza both at the box office and in cultural leadership:

* H.O.R.D.E., which actually outgrossed Lollapalooza last year (though Lollapalooza still had the per-show edge), comes out this year with a strong, eclectic lineup. Hall of Famer Neil Young headlines, with Lollapalooza veterans Beck (for some dates) and Primus also on board, alongside such rising names as Soul Coughing, Kula Shaker, Widespread Panic, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Morphine, Ben Folds Five and Squirrel Nut Zippers. Talks are also underway for Ani DiFranco to play some shows.

* The Lilith Fair, Sarah McLachlan's all-women fest, is seen as the right show at the right time, with such artists as Jewel, Sheryl Crow and Tracy Chapman joining the Canadian performer in asserting the new prominence of female artists.

"Lollapalooza has made it easy for these people," says Spin magazine editor Craig Marks, who plans to run reviews of Lollapalooza and Lilith Fair under a "Girls Against Boys" headline. "Lollapalooza has given them all the opportunities for taking their thunder away by sticking to the testosterone-soaked rock that isn't capturing the imagination of the public."

Says Rolling Stone senior editor Mark Kemp, "I'm getting bored with Lollapalooza. It's a better lineup than last year, but it doesn't make you go 'Wow!' like the earlier ones did."

Even at L.A. radio station KROQ-FM (106.7), a stalwart supporter of Lollapalooza over the years, H.O.R.D.E. and Lilith Fair, as well as the punk-oriented Warped tour, are seen as platforms for artists more fervently embraced by listeners than Lollapalooza.

"I'm skeptical about how the masses will receive [Lollapalooza]," says KROQ music director Lisa Worden. "H.O.R.D.E. has really been hippened up, and the caliber of artists on Lilith is incredible. And Warped sounds awesome, with Pennywise and Social Distortion and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Our listeners will freak."

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