Lollapalooza Lookback 1997: Korn Spend The Summer In ‘Hot-Ass Africa’

Korn headlined Lolla's strangest incarnation — and then the fest took six years off.

With the 2010 edition of Lollapalooza set to kick off Friday, MTV News decided to dive deep into our archives and dig up the greatest/ weirdest/ scariest/ downright rocking-est moments in the fest’s rather epic history. We’re calling it “Lollapalooza Lookback,” and we think it’s a pretty fitting tribute to the granddaddy of American music festivals. We’ve already tackled Pearl Jam’s 1992 afternoon set , Nine Inch Nails’ stage-trashing heroics from 1991 and Ice Cube’s “buck wild” goals in ’92 ; now, we’re fast-forwarding to 1997, a time when nobody seemed to know what was happening with music — not even Korn, who inexplicably found themselves on the main stage.

1997: Korn Usher In the Dark Days

To put it mildly, 1997 was a pretty weird year in music. The alt-rock heyday had come and gone, nu-metal was still in its infancy, and the freaking Prodigy had just scored a #1 album. In a lot of ways, it was the beginning of the end for rock music’s vice-like grip on young America. Sure, you had albums like Radiohead’s OK Computer, Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space and the Verve’s Urban Hymns, but those were all inherently British albums by British bands. Things here in the States were a bit of a mess.

And that’s how we ended up with Lollapalooza ’97. It was certainly the weirdest lineup the fest had ever put together (and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way), featuring electronic acts like Orbital, the Prodigy and the Orb, the seminal Devo and two of Bob Marley’s kids, Julian and Damian. Not to mention Snoop Dogg, Tool and, perhaps oddest of all, Korn. And yeah, all of this happened one year after Lolla featured Metallica in the headlining slot, but that doesn’t make any of it seem less strange, not even 13 years after the fact.

Not surprisingly, the crowds that showed up didn’t quite know how to act — they famously ripped up seats during Korn’s sets and treated the electronic acts with stout indifference. Tickets didn’t sell all that well either, which meant that this would also be the last Lollapalooza until 2003. Still, MTV News was there at the kickoff, in West Palm Beach, Florida, and we had our own Serena Altschul attempt to interview some of the headliners. When she asked Korn what it meant to perform on a fest like Lollapalooza, she got the following responses, which sort of summed up the entire experience rather nicely.

“It means, like, drink all day!” bassist Fieldy laughed.

“I think it means, like, bringing a lot of different people together,” guitarist Munky added. “I think that’s what [Lolla organizer] Perry [Farrell]‘s original idea was, to bring a lot of different styles of music together, just so everyone could have a good time and appreciate the different styles of music.”

“I think it means, like, spending the summer in hot-ass Africa,” then-drummer David Silveria chuckled.

Yow. And while this certainly wasn’t Lolla’s greatest moment, it’s certainly worth documenting, because no history would be complete without a few dark periods. And make no mistake about it: 1997 was about as dark as it got. Still, things have changed a lot since then. For starters, Korn haven’t been back since.

Make sure to come back Friday, when we reveal another Lollapalooza Lookback. Plus, MTV News’ MTV News’ Lollapalooza Live will be streaming Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5 p.m. right here on MTV.com.