CHICAGO — On Thursday, the day before Lollapalooza 2012 officially got under way in Grant Park, co-founder and figurehead Perry Farrell was already acting very official indeed, surveying the grounds in his golf cart, making last-minute stops at each of the fest's eight stages and attempting something that, during Lolla's early years, would have been practically unthinkable for him.
"There's a lot going on this year, so I'm going to have to be sober the whole time," Farrell laughed. "I don't know — I'm going to try it."
And though it would seem that there's always a lot happening at Lollapalooza, this year they're taking things even further. Because in addition to the 150 acts that will play in the park this weekend, for the first time, Lolla has gotten into the after-party business too, branching out into the city itself and sponsoring late-night shows by the likes of Frank Ocean, M83, the Afghan Whigs and Farrell's own Jane's Addiction (to name just a few). So, yes, Perry's going to have to keep his wits about him because this is truly going to be one epic weekend.
"I kind of have this vision of an octopus, because the tentacles of Lollapalooza — now all of a sudden this octopus goes really out until 4 a.m. in the city of Chicago," he said. "It was great to have it here up until 10 o'clock, and I know we're all out in these incredible hotels, but now we're really raising the bar when it comes to these after-parties. ... It's really stretching."
Of course, back in the park, there's the matter of balancing the Lollapalooza lineup to reflect both its roots (rock and hip-hop) and the current tastes of the ticket-buying public, which has come to embrace dance music, too. Luckily, Farrell's had plenty of practice — after all, even since the early days of Lolla, he's been championing electronic music. And now he can reap the benefits of being ahead of the curve.
"Dance music, in this country anyway, in the early '90s, it was really exciting but very underground, and so we had acts like Prodigy and Orbital on Lollapalooza. But then I guess it grew up, and the bubble kind of burst around the millennium," he explained. "But I always had a love for it, so I said to my partners, 'Let's get an area for DJs.' And our first DJs were people like DJ AM, or Samantha Ronson, and they were party DJs, but the very following year, we had the Kaskades and the Wolfgang Gartners coming in, and the crowds just kept getting bigger. And this year, two of our headliners are dance artists, Justice and Avicii, and they're performing on the main stage, man."
And with Lollapalooza 2012, Farrell hopes he's struck the right balance, bringing in both established dance artists and up-and-coming dance acts like Nero and Porter Robinson and pairing them with rock heavyweights like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Black Keys. Like we said, he's had plenty of practice putting together this festival, though not necessarily in the ways you'd expect.
"I'll give you an example; I just got myself a new popcorn maker, a professional popcorn maker, like you could see my popcorn maker in a movie theater," Farrell said. "Now, every day, my family and I make popcorn, but we throw a twist on it; we've got lemon pepper and butter, and Himalayan pink salt, and that is such a delicious way to make popcorn, but it's still popcorn.
"So that's the same with Lollapalooza; you're choosing all these groups and you want to find a nice balance, and sometimes you're counter-programming things. Like if you're having a hard sound over here, you have to have a softer sound because not everybody wants that hard sound," he continued. "And it ends up we have 150 groups over three days ... and we don't stop there, because now we're programming the after-parties, too. They're going out into the clubs and the dancehalls all around the city, and I really love it."
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