lollapalooza 1993

I don’t remember who had the idea, but a bunch of us decided to attend Lollapalooza that year.  It was at Waterloo Village in Stanhope; another one of these parts of Western New Jersey that I had only heard about but had a few friends who claimed to have actually been there at one point or another.  At this point in my life, I still felt like if I went too far west in New Jersey, I might actually drive off the edge of the earth.

We knew a lot of people who were planning to go – of all the Lollapalooza lineups, this one was actually intriguing to us.  The headliner was Primus, a band I discovered in college and absolutely loved at the time – I had seen them live at a club in Manhattan in 1989 or 1990 and they were amazing, and I was curious to see how they had translated their small club act to a much larger stage.  The lineup also included Alice in Chains (who I hated), Dinosaur Jr. (who I loved and still do), Fishbone (who I loved), Arrested Development (who I loved), Babes in Toyland (who I really liked), Rage Against the Machine (who I didn’t start liking until long after they were gone), and a few other bands I couldn’t stand.

The second stage also had a bunch of interesting indie bands – Unrest, for one.  Tsunami, for two.  Some of my favorite bands, like Sebadoh, Verve, Mercury Rev, and Scrawl were jumping on and off the tour for “second stage” performances at various points on the tour.

It seemed like it would be a cool day.

I recall a lot of people joining us us that day.  I know that Sandy, Rich and I went.  Frank may have gone as well, I can’t remember for sure.  Steve Bailey was there with some of the Ya-Ne-Zniyoo posse.  Rich’s friend Dave may have been there.  

Steve Bailey loaded up his backpack with Ya-Ne-Zniyoo cassettes and copies of his zine, Madcap Frontiers.  Rich, who had finally abandoned Aural Scents and started playing in an actual band (I think they were called Tabula Rasa, but don’t recall for sure), had brought some demos as well.  Sandy and I, well, we brought beer – McSorley’s Ale, which had been introduced to us by Ralph from Footstone and quickly became a favorite.  They were slowly turning us into beer snobs.

Steve had explained to us how the parking situation at Waterloo worked; you parked in a lot that was far from the site of the actual show and then hopped on a shuttle bus that would take you to the show location.  He explained that you had to get there early, otherwise you’d have a hard time getting a bus, and the alternative was a long walk.

We got there early, as suggested, and immediately met up with a crowd.  We cracked open some beers – when I say “early” I mean it may have been 8AM or so – and sat in the field behind my car, with Dinosaur Jr. blasting on the car stereo.  The sun was starting to heat up – we could tell it was going to be a hot one – and we started drinking the beers a little more quickly.

At some point we noticed people starting to make their way toward the edge of the field, and we saw a series of school buses starting to line up alongside the road, so we thought it might be a good time to finish up our tailgating and make our way to the buses with everyone else.

“Everyone else” being the operative term, because there were literally thousands of people who were suddenly lined up, waiting for these buses.  We each brought a beer with us, leaving the rest in the car, and made our way to the line, where we waited for a bus to take us to the show.

And we waited.  And waited.

When I drink beer in the daytime, I pretty much have to keep drinking all day otherwise I get a headache and fall asleep.  By the time we got to the bus line, it couldn’t have been later than 10AM, and I had already had enough beer that I had a pleasant buzz going.  But waiting in the sun, on line with a huge crowd of people, was killing my buzz quickly – and giving me a headache.  I focused my attention on the front of the line, which seemed to never come, and tried to ignore the dull pounding that was beginning in my brain.  I was also beginning to sweat from the heat, and was looking forward to getting to a place where there was a little more shade.

A topless woman (well, basically topless; she was wearing a fishnet shirt with nothing underneath) walked past in the parking lot.  She was in the company of two fat guys who seemed to be about eight feet tall, wearing black jeans and heavy black jackets.  

Rich, Sandy and I had developed this stupid hand gesture.  Try it with me now: take your left hand and approximate a pistol with your fingers like you did as a kid: index finger pointed out, three other fingers tucked into a fist underneath, thumb up.  Then, make a fist with your right hand but point your index finger out.  Then, point at something with your left hand.  Put your right index finger on top of your left, perpendicular to one another, and flick your right index finger back and forth over your left.

That means “Look at that guy.”

We used to make that gesture all the time, because of the sheer stupidity of it (it’s a “secret” hand gesture so that people don’t know you’re pointing at them, but the gesture involves an even more elaborate and exaggerated form of pointing), and Rich was frantically flicking his finger at the topless woman and her two apes.

The combination of the stupid topless riot grrl, the two gorillas on either side of her, and the expression on Rich’s face while he “pointed” at the three of them set me into hysterics.  I must have laughed for ten minutes, doubled over, half-drunk in the searing heat.  By the time we got to the front of the line I was bathed in sweat, out of breath from laughing, my head pounding.  I climbed up into the bus and was immediately struck by the stench of body odor and the heat of the bus.  I could barely stand the thought of sitting on one of the filthy pleather seats – but had no choice – and by the time I got off the bus I felt desperately in need of a shower.

If I remember this correctly, when we got to the front of the line to let us into the actual show, it was nearly lunchtime, and security would not let Steve Bailey pass into the show with his backpack.  I can’t recall if he ultimately got in or if he had to go back to the car, but I remember he was pissed.

The rest of us brought our stuff into the main area of the show and spread our blankets on the ground.  I immediately plopped myself down and went to sleep.  

I don’t know how long I slept, but when I woke up I was surrounded by people, all laid out on their blankets.  There was really no way out; blankets were surrounding me on all sides and I could smell all sorts of food, all around me.  Arrested Development had just begun their set, and there were people dancing at the front of the stage.  My head was still pounding, and my arms were beginning to sunburn.  I was thirsty.  I looked around and saw a stand where they were selling bottled water.  There must have been 100 people on line for water, and they had a huge sign stating that it was $5 a bottle – which, in 1993, was insane.

I made my way to the food stands, looking for a place where I could get a beer or a soda or a smart drink or something to quench my thirst for less than $5.  I found a stand that sold some sort of Gatorade-like juice, which I detest, but I bought a bottle anyway.  “It’s a hundred degrees already,” the guy behind the counter told me, smiling.  

I made my way to the second stage in time to see Verve play, and found Sandy and Rich waiting for them to begin their set.  They were way too loud.  The treble from the speakers was piercing my brain; the feedback was so obnoxiously loud that I thought my teeth were going to shatter like glass.  I sat there with Rich and Sandy for as long as I could stand it, and then went back to the blanket in time to see Front 242 – two guys with a keyboard playing horrific industrial music – play a horrendous set on the main stage.  I couldn’t help but think of Dieter from the SNL skit “Sprockets” while they played.  I thought industrial music is pretty stupid.

My head was spinning, I was glistening with sweat, I reeked, it was a hundred degrees.  There were guys with fire hoses, spraying the crowd.  Because there were so many people and it was so dry outside, the grass had become torn up under our feet, leaving acres of dirt underneath.  The water from the hoses mixed with the dirt and created mud, which, in turn started splattering on people – and quickly drying.  There was literally a cloud of dust hovering over the pit, the dust got in the air and created a dirty film that settled over everything.  If you stood a few hundred feet in front of the pit, you could actually see the cloud of dust above the people.  I had dirt in my nose, in my mouth, in my hair.

“Perry Farrell is an asshole,” I said to nobody in particular.

When Fishbone took the main stage I wanted to get closer and see the band better.  As I was walking toward the stage, I witnessed the single most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

As I was walking through the sea of blankets to get to the stage, I practically fell over a fat, bald man with a goatee and a shaved head who was sitting on the ground.  He was shirtless, so his man-boobs were sagging down over his fat belly, which, in turn, was sagging down over his waistband.  He was wearing shorts and sandals, and was sitting on the ground, right in the dirt.  His feet were filthy, and his legs were splayed out every which way.  His chest and back were covered with a mixture of dirt and sweat.  He was propping himself up with his left hand, which was sitting right in the dirt.  In his right hand he held a giant, greasy turkey leg.  He was gnawing on the turkey leg like a dog, sitting in the dirt, his face smothered in grease and his fat belly and back smothered in dirt and mud and sweat.  His goatee was kind of long, and he had pieces of turkey skin stuck in it.  I was that close to him that I could see the turkey skin in his beard, which was also glistening from the grease.

I nearly vomited.  I was transfixed by this monster; it was like going back in time and watching some barbaric neanderthal gnawing on the limb of a fresh kill.  I stood there for a second and stared at this guy, watching him devour this thing, my head pounding and my stomach gurgling, and I could not imagine anything more disgusting.  

Since that day in 1993 I have never eaten any kind of meat that has required me to pull it or eat it off a bone.  No drumsticks.  No chicken wings.  No pork chops, chicken breast, or spare ribs.  If it involves tearing meat off a bone in any way, I won’t eat it.  And I have this filthy, fat, disgusting man, sitting in the dirt without a shirt, covered in mud with his face buried in a turkey leg to thank.

Thanks, pig.

Eventually we ran out of money, as they kept raising the price of water as it got hotter.  My head was throbbing, I was filthy, and I was hoping that somebody would put me out of my misery.  The thought of waiting online with thousands of filthy, drunken swine to get on a school bus that would take me to my car, where I would wait on another line to get my car out of the lot, made me think it might be better to ask one of the police officers to put a bullet in my brain instead.  I convinced Sandy and Rich it was time to go – and it didn’t take much of my persuasive skills.

We got on the bus, and as it drove away I could hear the opening of Dinosaur Jr.’s set.  I wasn’t the least bit disappointed – and I was pretty sure J. Mascis didn’t mind that I wasn’t there, either.  I went to Lollapalooza 1993, and missed just about all of it.

Sandy drove home.  I got in the back seat, muttered “Never again,” and fell asleep.  To this day I have not gone to another festival show, and I never will.  It was beyond nasty.

~ by Al on February 9, 2009.

7 Responses to “lollapalooza 1993”

  1. It could have been worse. You could have written off all of west Jersey.

  2. […] Lollapalooza 1993.  The story of our miserable experience at the 1993 Lollapalooza. This one ranks so high because […]

  3. […] Lollapalooza 1993.  Nothing meaningful here; this entry ranks high because lots of people Google “Lollapalooza […]

  4. […] off legs and hammering the shells with the wooden hammers they gave you, I was reminded of the Turkey Leg Guy from Lollapalooza, which disgusted me beyond […]

  5. Too bad you didn’t have a camera handy – sounds like the monster would have made a nice album cover photo – even more provocative than the dumpster on fire.

  6. […] lollapalooza 1993 – a fat barbarian gnaws on a turkey leg and I never eat meat off a bone again.  Sadly, […]

  7. I was thinking about this show just this morning, having stumbled on some new Dinosaur Jr. videos. It was the best concert I’ve ever been too. I was able to get very close to the main stage during Primus’ and Dinosaur Jr’s sets….wish I had a camera that day.

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