The music festival is nothing new; it's been around for decades here in the States, whether we're talking the Newport Folk Festival or current behemoths like Coachella and Bonnaroo. The origin of the relatively recent phenomenon of traveling tours, however — now, that's a different animal altogether. While some folks seem to blame Lollapalooza, launched in 1991, for inadvertently spawning Lilith Fair, Van's Warped Tour, Ozzfest, Rock the Bells, and, six years ago, Projekt Revolution, the reality is, caravanning music festivals are here to stay. Some of these tours have become cultural benchmarks while others were manifested, it seems, to do nothing but illicit mockery and scorn. Linkin Park's brainchild, Projekt Revolution, however, defiantly embraces the tenets originally espoused by Lollapalooza — musical revolution, genre diversity, and artistic camaraderie. We asked Projekt Revolution's 2008 headliners — Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, Chris Cornell, and Sam Endicott of the Bravery — to discuss the festival's ancestry and why it's become such a sought-after tour for today's musical artists.
Shinoda: "When we started this tour, our idea was to showcase groups that were doing something revolutionary, something original, something different — either now or they [were] known for that over time," says Shinoda, 31.
Projekt Revolution's first outing in 2002, for example, included such disparate acts as Cypress Hill and DJ Z-Trip. The next year saw Mudvayne and XZibit join Linkin Park on the road, while 2004 expanded the tour into a multistage experience even more diverse. Where else could you find Less Than Jake and Snoop Dogg on the same lineup?
"The other bands on the bill, we try to pick them based on that kind of criteria," Shinoda continues. "There is no arguing that obviously Chris Cornell [formerly of Soundgarden and Audioslave] has been doing this for longer than we have. He's got one of the most original voices in rock, original style, and has done many different things that I think a lot of young kids look up to and say, 'That's really cool, that's really different, and I want to do something like that some day.' And that's really the spirit of the tour. We hope that some day, fans can look back and say, 'Oh, I remember the first time I saw so-and-so; this is a band that I knew was going to be doing something really great and different in the future.' "
Endicott: Not surprisingly, many of the acts that sign up for Projekt Revolution were as inspired by Lollapalooza as Shinoda and the rest of Linkin Park. Endicott, 33, lead singer of the Bravery, even goes so far as to call the '92 festival a key "formative" moment in his life — citing an onstage collaboration between Soundgarden (with Cornell) and Ice T's heavy-metal band, Body Count, performing the controversial song "Cop Killer" as the sort of sonic mindfuck that changed the way he looked at musical genres.
Endicott recalls: "I feel like Lollapalooza changed the face of music, because I remember going early on and thinking, 'How can you have a rock band and then, like, a rap band and then an industrial band right next to each other? That's just crazy — you can't do that.' And all these different fans showing up and mingling. I think that is taken for granted now. But back then... it blew my mind. It was, like, unheard of."
These days, Endicott and the Bravery have melded rock, punk, and, of all things, disco into their mix. As a result of their creative, um, bravery, they're gaining critical success and a legion of fans around the globe. No doubt because of the legacy Lollapalooza created.
Cornell: "Between Soundgarden and Audioslave, [I've actually] played Lollapalooza three different times on the main stage," Cornell says. After three bands and a successful solo career that's spanned almost 25 years, the 44-year-old believes festivals are the best home for his diverse songbook; he never feels boxed in by genre-specific expectations — something he loves about Projekt Revolution. "I think when you look at just the different bands [on this festival tour] and compare it to other festival tours, it's kind of the least genre-oriented. Lollapalooza originally came out that way; it wasn't genre-oriented at all; the whole idea of the tour was mix it up as much as possible. And that's the point [here]."
Whether you agree that the musical-festival-tour phenomenon began with Lollapalooza or a year earlier with the two-day fest A Gathering of the Tribes (founded by Ian Astbury of the Cult), Cornell was there for both. Consequently, he knows best why Projekt Revolution has tapped into the same spirit. "Soundgarden didn't play the first [Lollapalooza]," he says, "but I went to the first one. And then Soundgarden played the second, which" — he adds this with a bit of reverential awe — "was with Ministry and Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jesus and Mary Chain and Ice Cube and a band called Lush. A lot of us knew each other anyway, but just going out on the road, if we didn't know each other, there was just that kind of dynamic where everyone just sort of got along."
This sentiment continued with later Lollapaloozas, and Cornell has little doubt he's going to find the same brotherhood out on tour with Shinoda, Endicott, and the other acts, which include Busta Rhymes, Atreyu, and Hawthorne Heights. This is what continues to set Projekt Revolution apart from music-festival tours that seem more concerned with promoting the sponsor — liquor, cars, shoes, energy drinks, insert random product here — than any true musical spirit. While commerce will always be an important factor, most of the artists don't show up to get rich (many are already riding commercial highs). They instead show up because they want what those fabled few had during Lollapalooza's heyday — and what perhaps tomorrow's musicians will lament about Projekt Revolution's run too.
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