“I haven’t said this before, but after the first year, I went on my merry way, thinking it was done,” Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell says. “It surprised me anybody wanted to do it again. I didn’t see it going on without me (as part of the headlining band). But it took on a life of its own.”
- PHOTOS: Lollapalooza 2011 lineup
It got sillier as other reactions poured in.
Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston, a veteran NFL reporter and commentator, lost his grip a tad when he wrote that this was detrimental to Reed's ability to take care of his family. The fine for the one-game suspension, were it to hold up, was hefty, no doubt. But the $423,529 Reed was to lose would still leave him with a remaining annual salary of $6,776,471.
Clearly, even with the price of junk food likely to increase with the departure of Hostess Twinkies, Reed would be still able to feed his kids.
Then, of course, the NFL ran a reverse. The suspension was dropped and the fine reduced to a paltry $50,000. Reed is a three-time offender of excessive helmet-to-helmet hits. This most recent opening of his checkbook brings his total in fines to $71,000 since 2010. Still, bills will be paid at the Reed household.
If you watched the hit Reed made on the Steelers' Emmanuel Sanders, you were probably less horrified than usual. We are becoming immune to this because there is so much of it. This was a probation-and-pay-restitution hit, not a five-year-prison-term hit.
There was also the sarcastic view. Perhaps having seen the uniforms the Steelers were wearing — they looked like the result of a union between a rat and a bumblebee — Reed was reacting to ugliness, not the ball.
Still, upon less cynical thought, two things become apparent: Reed doesn't totally get it and the NFL really has no idea how to fix it.
Reed is a 34-year-old defensive back. These players are bred to hunt and hit. If it isn't in their DNA when they are drafted into the pros, they acquire it or they don't survive. After the decision was changed by the NFL, Reed was tracked down by reporters, and he said, "C'mon, man. It's a contact sport. I'm going for the ball."
Then he went on to poke fun, at least indirectly, at the NFL's desire to turn attempted murders into simple assaults.
"Maybe I'll start my own flag football league," Reed said.
It is understandable that Reed should embrace the present, that somebody who has been an All-Pro eight times and is still separating balls and shoulders from receivers would spend little time looking to the future. One wishes he had read a recent series of articles in the Washington Times about the aftermath of playing days in the NFL and the barrage of lawsuits that has triggered.
Especially poignant was one quote. Mike Bass, a former Washington Redskins defensive back, now 67, said, "You're not so macho when you need help to go to the bathroom."
No one can blame Reed for doing his job well. But one hopes that, when he's 67, he doesn't need help going to the bathroom.
One also hopes he is not spending his time in court, facing his former employers, as are about 4,000 of his aging peers. The current number of former NFL players suing the league, some separately and many more as part of joint action, is 3,962. The total number of plaintiffs in those cases, including family and others, is 5,450. Players suing range from an 84-year-old whose career began in 1949 to four who retired just last season.
The lawsuits generally say the same thing. The NFL knew of the sport's dangers and didn't warn or protect players enough. Then, when the ramifications — such as dementia, Alzheimer's, ALS and useless knees and ankles and shoulders — came to pass, the NFL's response was to lie, deny and hope the players died.
The NFL's answer is usually some version of "safety has always been our concern and remains a high priority."
There are reminders everywhere of that not being an adequate answer.
Three former prominent players — Ray Easterling, Dave Duerson and Junior Seau — commit suicide, and the NFL cannot halt the horror of them taking their own lives. Nor can it ease the perception when, in one week, three of its stars get taken out with concussions. Michael Vick, Alex Smith and Jay Cutler are sidelined and the legal briefs get thicker.
Preston said in his column that, in the Reed ruling, the "NFL crossed the line."
Nope. It can't find where the line is.
Ray Anderson, executive vice president of football operations for the NFL, decried Reed's hit on Sanders as "missile-like." Ted Cottrell, the NFL hearings officer who eventually reduced the penalties against Reed, called the hit on Sanders "egregious and warranting significant discipline."
The cynical would look upon the NFL's actions and stance as lip service, mere public relations, so that in years to come it can stand in front of the judge and be able to say, "Look, your Honor, this is what we have done the last few years."
Preston was correct when he wrote: "The NFL is on a mission to prove it cares about players. We know they don't, because they play Thursday night games."
Yes, the short turnaround between games doesn't give the players sufficient time to rest and heal, but in the end, money rules. And for the foreseeable future, so will the NFL in sports entertainment.
But will the league and its 32 richer-than-Rockefeller owners have the same swagger marching into courtroom after courtroom in the next decade?
The idea of packaging those seemingly mismatched bands sounded preposterous from the vantage point of a homogenized music industry. None of them was receiving much airplay on commercial radio or MTV, but the festival proved to be a huge hit anyway, consistently playing to capacity audiences in cities across the United States.
In its inaugural year, Lollapalooza attracted an audience that became a movement and eventually a commercial radio format: “alternative rock.” It became a gathering place for a community of outsiders, a daily hangout for 20,000 misfits and their favorite cult bands.
Just as the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1967 had alerted the record companies to the moneymaking potential of rock, Lollapalooza proved just how lucrative underground music could be. A few weeks after the first Lollapalooza tour ended, Nirvana's "Nevermind" would be released and eventually hit No. 1 on the Billboard album chart.
Rock with a certain edge and a skeptical attitude broke through on commercial radio. It didn't last, as a parade of clones and second-tier bands were marketed as "alternative" alongside genuinely inspired oddities such as the Melvins, the Jesus Lizard and the Flaming Lips, all of whom scored improbable major-label deals. But for a few heady years, the freaks felt like they were in charge.
After fading away in 1997 and then briefly returning in 2003, Lollapalooza was resurrected as very different kind of festival in 2005 in Grant Park. Farrell and the William Morris Endeavor booking agency, including original founder Marc Geiger, have partnered with Texas-based C3 Presents to produce and reinvent the festival, one with less of a focus on the cutting edge and more on wide-screen smorgasbord of bands, artists and DJs from many genres. Last year the festival expanded to Santiago, Chile, and next week the promoters are expected to announce another overseas destination where the festival will expand in 2012. But in a week the focus will be on Chicago, where Lollapalooza will draw the largest crowd in its history, with 270,000 people expected to watch 130 bands perform on eight stages over three days.
Here’s a timeline of the festival’s up-and-down 20 years with comments from Farrell and Geiger, and some excerpts from my Tribune reviews:
1991: ‘We were gonna tear it up’
Farrell: “I never feel anything I do will fail. I wasn’t worried about the other bands on the lineup not being accepted, or not being popular enough. They were my peers. They had credibility in my world, anyway, and I knew we were gonna close and tear it up. I didn’t see it as a risk doing this at all.”
Geiger: “MTV was dominated by ‘hair bands’ and very commercial, mainstream artists. But there was a new area of artists coming up, and we saw increasing attendance, interest. The Pixies turned us down, but we knew with Jane’s, Siouxie, Living Colour, we would get people out. Perry was always looking to push multiple envelopes … his thoughts around performing have to do with touching all the senses. We had one conversation where he wanted everyone coming to Lollapalooza to walk through a giant, dark tent, and it would only be about smells. (Agent Don Muller) and I tried to put those ideas into a realistic context. We wanted a European type festival, but make it American: Put it on the road, so we didn’t have the travel issues. In England, everyone can get to a festival like Reading from any point in the country in six hours or less. That’s not the case here, so let’s take Moses to the mountain.”
Tribune review: “Pop historians may look back at Lollapalooza as the most broadly ambitious music festival ever staged, because even such extravaganzas as Woodstock and Live Aid weren’t turned into road shows. Unlike those affairs, this caravan of alternative music and thinking was mercifully free of ‘We are the world’ preachiness.”
Instead the festival got a blend of hedonism and confrontation, with Farrell and Ice-T teaming up to swap taunts and punch-lines on a Sly Stone song designed to provoke a conversation on race.
Farrell: “It was a very blurry world back in those days. I bonded with Ice — Ice and I had some wild times together. It started to feel like summer camp for musicians, and it created this atmosphere where you felt like you could take chances.”
1992-95: Alternative rising
Farrell: “I was invited (by Geiger and the Morris agency) to do it again. It surprised me, but the (Red Hot) Chili Peppers wanted to (headline in 1992), and that was enough for me. I was very involved with planning the next few Lollapaloozas. I would plan all the extra things, the ‘mind field,’ the DJ tower, the dancers, the giant grande burrito for five bucks, the bookings. But I didn’t want to go on tour with it and compete with the Chili Peppers. I wanted the Chili Peppers to feel it was their time, their year, their tour.”
But it was Pearl Jam, performing early in the day with singer Eddie Vedder climbing to the rafters, and Ministry who made the biggest impression in ‘92:
1992 Tribune review: “Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, a ‘Mad Max’ biker in the midst of some pagan ritual, tossed what looked to be animal skulls and bones into the audience while howling into the night. Even scarier was the furious sod fight that the band’s music inspired among the overzealous faithful.”