|James' Lollapalooza 1994 Tour Diary|
|December 31, 1993, 11:00 pm|
JAMES' LOLLAPALOOZA '94 TOUR DIARY
James Iha. Sassy. 1994. [No Specific Date]
Now that Lollapalooza is over (there were 43 dates, running from July 7 to September 5), all I can think is, "Why, why, why in my incomprehensible babble did I agree to write this article, Christina?!" All whining aside (a common trait among alternative rockers), I had fun this summer. I always imagine the '70s to be kinda like Lollapalooza, when you had amazing bills like Foghat, the Steve Miller Band and Aerosmith (pre-Alicia Silverstone), and people played Frisbee, danced in the mud and wore sandals. Lollapalooza had more body piercings perhaps. This year there was no Foghat but an "electric yet rocking" array of rock, hip-hop, funk and punk.
One legendary figure to grace the stage most afternoons was Nick Cave (with the Bad Seeds). His seminal work with the Birthday Party and his solo LPs in the '80s were exemplary. What sad goth, punk or new waver didn't listen to Your Funeral My Trial? I did, at least. Always cutting a path amongst the sweatpants-and tanktop-wearing road crews, Nick and company wore suits, Cuban heeled shoes and Rolex watches (Warren G. ain't the only one) even in the most wretched heat. One great Cave moment during the tour happened when he was in our dressing room, observing this tacky, surreal painting on the wall. "I quite like this one," he said. Various people began laughing. "You might laugh at this painting, but it's laughing back at you," he said. Onstage he often threw microphones, fell to his knees screaming and stood on monitors, with feedback squealing, leading his band on a swirling, melodramatic, angst-ridden ride of love. Whew!
Another legend was George Clinton (with the P-Funk Allstars). I think every one was pretty amazed to have this old school perennial, with total dignity and credibility, doing what he does best. In the last year or so, his songs have been sampled for Top Ten hits by Doctor Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Ice Cube. When P-Funk played these songs, the mostly white middle-class audience responded quite raucously. Out of all the bands, George's was the most professional, tight group, with real musicians. Unstoppable, like God driving a path forward, George often cued members of his large band for arrangements and solos, playing the basis of the song then transmining the groove into the space-time continuum (Star Trek fans take note) then coming back to earth with the chorus for the bold finish.
One day Andre, the wedding dress-wearing guitar player asked if I wanted to come up and jam during one of their off-day shows. I said, "You must be joking. As soon as you heard my white man funk, I'm sure the band would come to a screeching halt." Again, another consummate showman and band that wouldn't be complete without the hair extensions, Body Glove wear, Phantom of the Opera masks, wigs, fake noses. Tremendous.
One super-fun thing that happened was playing onstage with the Breeders in Los Angeles. It was great. I played on my favorite song by them, "Divine Hammer," with me and Kelley doing twin leads just like the Allman Brothers Band! Another neat thing at the start of the tour was when Jim, Kim and Kelley from the Breeders, photographer Brooke Williams, Janet Billig (Breeders' manager) and I went to see the Everly Brothers at a Las Vegas hotel. We were definitely the youngest people there (I'm 17-and-a half) and we kinda expected to see this lamed-out, glitzy, geriatric song-and-dance routine, but let me tell you, this goes into James Iha's top ten concerts ever list! The voices, the songs, the sadness...they p!ayed great, sounded great and played with dignity. They also told really funny stories and jokes that were totally heartwarming. (Not,since seeing the movie St. Elmo's Fire had I felt that good.) We all walked out with smiles on our faces and then proceeded to gamble and drink our night down the toilet.
One night, about halfway through the tour, at the halfway burnout point, D'arcy, Jim from the Breeders and I went to dinner: We talked about who did what the night before, the audience threw a bottle at me last night, blah, blah, blah. After a while we noticed that since we had been touring for so long, we had nothing really interesting or important to say other than "that which is rock." Just like In the movie "The Player", I said, "Were all educated people here; we don't have to talk about music," and within two minutes time Jim started saying his stomach shrinks when he's on tour and how he can't eat, while D'arcy and I started nodding in agreement. Ah, such pained, tortured artistes.
Another night in NYC (people in the "biz" always say "NYC"), the members of Luscious Jackson taught me how to do the hustle, a gregarious, gyrating dance step. I soon found out what a world of difference there is between guitar playing and dancing. It was slow going at first (I began by running in circles, interpreting the name of the dance literally), but I quickly assimilated my body to the natural rhythm of the music, like some brazen, young Marky Mark-type character. Clearing the dance floor out in minutes, my newfound "step" stunned and cajoled the crowd of onlookers into a mob like frenzy (their curious expressions and laughter conveyed their mutual high spirits and camaraderie). Sadly enough, the members of Luscious Jackson shunned my presence for the rest of the tour, jealous perhaps of the "fire" I had caught that night.
On to the Second Stage. There were a lot of great bands this year, some of which were suggested by the headliners (we chose Shudder to Think and the Frogs; the Beasties chose the aforementioned high-steppers Luscious Jackson and the Pharcyde). The bands I liked the most were Shudder to Think, Luscious Jackson, Guided by Voices and the Flaming Lips, which brings me to Steven, who is their drummer. A total basher, with Keith Moon-like presence. The Lips have great songs, but he really takes them into some sort of super-cyber-rock mode.
Perhaps most intriguing is his obsession with Kim Deal. He's out of his mind. He has pictures of Kim all over his bass drum, and Kim written on his cymbals. He once came into the catering tent with Japanese lettering all over his arms and said: "You know what this says? Steven and Kim." He's had dreams about her for years, and when he found out the band was going on tour with the Breeders, his brain turned to guacamole. I told him that I was writing this article for Sassy, and he said, "Write about me and Kim." Even though she's engaged to another, it never seems to dampen his enthusiasm. The first time I talked to him about his obsession, he said, " You know when the Pixies were around or when the Breeders got together, didn't you totally have a crush on her?" "Yeah, uh, I used to have a crush on Tanya Donelly." He kind of got uptight. "No, c'mon! I mean didn't you totally have a crush on her." Ah! unrequited love.
Some other facts about the Lips: They had their own bubble machines and did awesome "unlikely" covers of A Flock o Seagulls' "Space Age Love Song" and Queen's "Under Pressure". On some days when the bubble machine blew right overhead, the weather was good, and they played "Halloween on the Barbary Coast", to quote Tommy Tune, "it was "spectacular." The Second Stage also had "celebrity" guests. During the Lips set, Nick Cave and L7 made appearances, the Black Crowes played a set in Atlanta, Porno for Pyros played In Florida, and the Breeders and we both played sets featuring early songs and B sides.
On the main stage, Courtney Love performed twice, doing "Miss World" and "Doll Parts" with just her and a guitar. Really minimal, but powerful and cathartic. On the last day of Lollapalooza, Mike D organized a go-cart race. Most of the bands were there: Mike from Green Day, Jennifer from L7, Kim and Josephine from the Breeders, and me from the Pumpkins, and the Beasties' friends and crew. I became a co-pilot with Max Perlich (famed character actor from Drugstore Cowboy and Cliffhanger) and everyone just sort of piled on all these carts and screamed and laughed. We drove around the concert site sort of aimlessly and found the indoor track and set up the race there. Max and I had the fastest cart, taking the lead, and after half a lap or so people started cutting across the track, signifying the end of the race and all sportsmanship. After that, all the carts began chasing each other with much alternative rock star exuberance, banging into each other like bumper cars, faking headon collisions. In one bad hit, Mike D was thrown from his cart (kinda like that guy in the Dinosaur Jr. video).
Unscathed but intent on revenge, I believe he drove the culprits off the track, splashing them with water bottles. It would have been perfect for some sort of slow-motion montage commercial for Lollapalooza with the Breeders' "Cannonball" playing in the background. "In the shade, in the shade", cut to Jennifer and Mike laughing, hair flying in the breeze, cut to grainy black-and-white of AdRock commandeering the steering wheel, cut to Kim in slow motion, waving as the cart fades into the sunset. It would be sort of like that melodramatic Forrest Gump trailer.
Well, there were a lot of good things that happened, but I don't have space for them all: The Revival Tent, with great poets and writers like Liz Belile and Maggie Estep. The Tibetan Namgyal Monks, who opened up the Main Stage, and closed the Second Stage, also had an amazing presence on the tour and were friendly and open minded, and played basketball extremely well. Other highlights were, obviously, the Beastie Boys, who made it pretty hard to follow up every night with their mixture of hip hop, sexy slow jams and rock. They're also super nice, articulate, funny guys who have great people around them. I don't know, there's probably a lot I'm forgetting about the tour, but then again, I guess I'm trying to because we'd toured for 14 months straight. Overall, it was just great to have good bands and people around on an amazing bill. Years from now, people will kinda remember how the Pumpkins played with Beasties. Or was it Foghat with the Doobie Brothers?
Credit: James Iha