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Thomas Wolfe once said, "You can't go home again," but he never ran into Perry Farrell. Repeatedly given up for dead, both literally and career-wise, the 44-year-old singer is darkening our doorstep again. This summer finds Farrell resurrecting both Jane's Addiction and Lollapalooza, the traveling festival originally conceived as the vehicle for the famed L.A. band's 1991 swan song. The carnival of music, arts, and activism ran for seven editions, boosting the careers of numerous bands and helping define the Alternative Nation generation before fizzling out in 1997 due to a lack of vision and a host of newly spawned competing package tours.
Its return has sparked both celebration and pessimism among fans and music-industry types. It seems that for every person thrilled to have the chance to experience the sights and sounds of Lollapalooza again or for the first time, there's a skeptic insisting that the magical vibe of the first go-around can't possibly be duplicated (while invariably pointing to Woodstock '99) or complaining that it's all just about filling the Jane's frontman's coffers once more.
Farrell may be esoteric, but he's not oblivious. He's heard all the negative voices yet declares he's brought back the festival for all the right reasons, and he won't allow the naysayers to get the best of him. "The way you rise above it is that you just gotta know in your heart that what you're doing is wonderful," Farrell says. "We got some spectacular live talent, and we're doing all kinds of amazing groundbreaking things. You just go forward, because the people that will try to mess it up can't."
You have to admire his indomitable spirit, but on paper, it's hard to look past the narrow scope of this year's bill: It's primarily heavy-duty rock acts and, as such, not distinct enough from Ozzfest, Warped, or even Metallica's Summer Sanitarium tour. Only hip-hoppers Jurassic 5 deviate from that norm on the main stage, and there's nary an electronic act to be found.
"That's the one thing that was so hard to do right," Farrell admits. "This year, the tour promoters did not have a good feeling about electronic music. [Moby's] Area:One and Area:Two didn't do well. So I just couldn't get any money from the promoters for those kind of artists."
Still, Lollapaloozas don't happen on paper -- only when the crowd has gathered and the music's pouring from the speakers can anyone know if it's a success or a dud. And from top to bottom, tour virgins to tour veterans, all the musicians on the bill seem genuinely psyched to be a part of the revived festival, which bodes well for the quality of the day's performances.
"I used to mow my parents' lawn listening to Ritual de lo Habitual in, like, ninth grade, so now it's pretty unreal to me to be on tour with Jane's Addiction," laughs new Distillers guitarist Tony Bevilacqua, who hopes to generate the same excitement for this year's fans that he experienced seeing the first Lollapalooza 12 years ago. "I grew up in the woods of Rhode Island, and I didn't have a cool older sister to get me into college music or whatever. So it was awesome seeing all those bands and just having this crazy fun time."
"I don't really think too much about what people are saying about it either way -- I've always thought the idea was cool," says Queens of the Stone Age's Mark Lanegan, who appeared on the 1996 edition of Lollapalooza with his former band, Screaming Trees. "It's a great day of music, and I definitely enjoy playing it."
That despite one memorable incident from seven years ago.
"At one show, I got hit in the head with a sandwich," he deadpans. "It was a big one. I'm not sure what was in it, but it was a foot-long, and luckily it was wrapped. Josh [Homme], who was playing with the Trees at the time, actually got roughed up by the bouncers -- he went out in the crowd after whoever threw it, and apparently they mistook him for a troublemaker. This time should be a little different."
"Oh great," Lanegan snorts. "Maybe I'll get my balls stapled to something."
Here's a look at this year's lineup:
JANE'S ADDICTION: They've "relapsed," only this time Perry and company insist it's for good and have offered up a new album, Strays, as proof of their collectively recharged engine. They've also got a new bassist --onetime Alanis Morissette low-end rider Chris Chaney -- in tow. (Original Jane's bassist Eric Avery now plays with Ms. Morissette. Ironic, don'tcha think?) Of course, purists and cynics will scoff, saying that the real band died in 1991 and that this is a sad attempt to recapture past glories after watching their solo careers fall upon deaf ears. Granted, these types of reunions usually reek of greed and mediocrity ('sup, Axl?), but Strays is actually surprisingly good, with at least a handful of songs that will hold their own in the quartet's classics-laden set. Jane's might not be the mysterious and dangerously depraved juggernaut of old, but they're still more than able to conjure up the epic, arty, hard-rock bombast that's cemented their icon status.