Saturday, May 20, 2017

Remembering Lollapalooza 1996 in Downing Stadium at Randall's Island (With Soundgarden)

Yesterday, when I mentioned the reviews of the three most recent Chris Cornell shows that I reviewed here on "The Charbor Chronicles," I forgot this pseudo review of a show that now took place almost 21 years ago!

But when I opened it, it was hard to miss one small detail that I may have overlooked a bit. Namely, this review sucks! 

Once I reread parts of it, I vaguely remember writing it quickly, while in a hurry to post something, with the kind of ambiguous promise to myself that I would return to it in order to get more work done on it.

Obviously, that never happened. Soundgarden is mentioned only once, and almost in passing, even though they were the band that I was most looking forward to see! It makes no sense.

What memories of this day - and it was an incredible day! - conjure up in my mind were many. There was the surreal excitement that, finally, I was going to a Lollapalooza show. There was the Lollapalooza village as we entered, just outside of Downing Stadium at Randall's Island, in New York City. There was the heavy dust hanging in the air in front of the stage from all of the people standing and dancing and the mosh pits. As mentioned below, Psychotica was the first band that played, and frankly, they were not impressive. The lead singer came out in a skin tight, silver uniform that revealed way too much, and if that were not already too suggestive, he made his point even clearer by fitting the microphone all the way into his mouth. 

The Shaolin Monks were something very different, and very impressive! This came at a point in my life when that academic interest in Buddhism was being fostered, so the whole mind over matter, doing amazing things and either being oblivious to pain, or being so mentally focused as to overcome surely enormous amounts of physical pain seemed highly impressive to me! Also, they really did put on a good show!

Next, there was a return to music. The Screaming Trees came on, and they were another band that I was really excited to see! They were one of the first big Seattle bands, and a couple of their songs had enjoyed some radio play. While they clearly had were not one of the "Big Four" Seattle bands (Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains), they nonetheless had been around for a long time, and for anyone really into the Seattle bands scene, it felt important and really, really cool to get to see them! I remember that the friend I was with was yelling at people to stop throwing things up at the stage, because Mark Lonegan was notoriously moody, and thus, his thinking went, apt to get pissed off and walk off stage at any moment. But he did not, and they played a full set. 

It was after that that he and I moved away from the stage, as other bands took over, and the crowd grew thicker. Wu Tang Clan, Rancid, and the Ramones took over. The description of the Wu Tang Clan sounded impressive to both of us, although when they took the stage, it seemed like there were a hundred guys on stage, all competing with one another to chant out some nonsense, with surprisingly little music, if memory serves correctly. Even though the crowd really seemed to get into it, we were unimpressed. Neither of us were really big into Rancid, either. But the Ramones were a thrill to see, because that was a legendary band! They played what was a typical show for them, and got the crowd riled up. I believe they broke up about a year or more later, so the final show of Lollapalooza '96 was probably their last show ever. 

Up on the side of the stadium, in the seats, things were not nearly so wild as down below. A few girls took their tops off, and later, they proved to be so drunk, that they at some point fell over while trying to get more beer, as I recall. One of them really fell hard, and the stadium seats were made of pure concrete, so it had to hurt! 

Soundgarden was the main band that I really wanted to see, having never seen them before, and was really happy to finally see. They put on a great show, although I cannot claim to remember it all that well. They opened up with Spoonman, which is a great song for them to open up to. They came out when it was still mostly daylight, although the intense heat and sunshine had gone out of the day by then. By the time that they finished, it was mostly dark. 

Metallica were the headliners, but my excitement about the show was not so much for them. That might seem strange, because I had been a fan of theirs for a long, long time, dating back to the mid-eighties! But the black album seemed to me at the time a little bit of a sellout. The music was very different, and more commercially accessible. They had changed their image, and although I have fond memories of the first Metallica show that we went to, back in 1992 when they toured with GNR (Faith No More opened), the other two shows that I went to see them, including this Lollapalooza show, were letdowns. The undeniable intensity that they band effortlessly had for that '92 show was decidedly lacking. My friend, who was one of those metal purists, yelled out that they should grow their hair out. We left before their set was done, because traffic to leave Randall's Island after concerts was extraordinarily bad, something that we would both find out a couple of months later, after seeing Pearl Jam perform there. 

So, those are some of the memories that I still recall from going to Lollapalooza '96. My own fondness for Lollapalooza, specifically, has actually grown somewhat over the course of the years, as I got older, and it makes me happy now to have actually attended one of them in the 1990's, when they felt edgy. 

It also marked the first Soundgarden show, or show featuring Chris Cornell in any way, that I personally ever attended.

However, in 2002, there was a Christmas concert (Claus Fest was what it was called, if memory serves correctly) out in Long Island, at Nassau Coliseum, that I went to with my then wife. There were a whole bunch of bands out there that I wanted to see, including Coldplay, Zwan (Billy Corgan's newly formed band), and Queens of the Stone Age, which also featured Mark Lonegan. That makes me realize, possibly for the first time, that this would be the second time that I happened to see Mark Lonegan and Chris Cornell at the same concert, although they did not take the stage together, or anything. Wonder if they hung out before or after?

In any case, the main band that I was there to see was the then newly formed, seemingly experimental band, Audioslave. This was Chris Cornell, formerly of Soundgarden, and the former members of Rage Against the Machine, save for Zach Dela Rocha. It was billed as the highlight of the show by the organizers, as well, although the crowd response seemed less than overwhelming, for some reason. To me, though, watching them was really enjoyable, and I was very pleased to see them. That show also featured Jimmy Fallon, who was amusing, but who was already growing a bit tiresome to me by then. 

In neither of those two earlier shows - Lollapalooza '96 and the Claus Fest in 2002 - was I there solely to see Soundgarden or Audioslave, although in both cases, these Chris Cornell-led bands were the main band that I wanted to see. It was always a thrill to see him, and to hear his incredible pipes!

It is still a bit of a shock to me that he is gone, far too soon! Yet, already it feels like the shock is beginning to wear off, and the depressing thought of what actually happened is replacing it, as details are emerging about his final hours. I will be writing more about that, about what actually happened just days ago in Detroit, soon enough, because it is still on my mind, and surely, on the minds of others, and it seems important to discuss it, and to honor him and his unbelievable talent. He brought joy to millions, seemingly effortlessly, for many years now! It is very sad that we have to say goodbye to him, although these blog entries of the last few days feel kind of like my tribute to him, and are making me feel better, nevertheless. Perhaps just recalling some of the joy that he and his music brought to my life has some therapeutic powers?

Who knows? In any case, here is the original "review" of that Lollapalooza show:

Hard to believe that this was a full two decades ago!

But indeed, that is what the calendar says, and I'm starting to get used to talking about what seem like fairly recent memories, but talking about them in terms of how many decades ago they were.

This one meant something to me at the time and, if anything, it has increased in meaning over the course of the years, because this was Lollapalooza, back when it was still more or less in it's heyday! I might have missed the first couple of them, which I would have really loved to have seen, but at least I did go to one, and got to experience it. For that, I am thankful, as far as concerts that I went to are concerned, anyway.

There were some acts there that I was unfamiliar with, and/or did not care about. But we hung out by the main stage, and were up close and personal for the first few acts. We got to see Psychotica (one of the bands that I did not care much about, one way or the other), and then the Shaolin Monks, who were amazing with their martial arts skills and tricks illustrating their mind over matter approach! Then there were the Screaming Trees, who almost made it big like their other Seattle counterparts, but just fell short. 

We moved back after that, because it was starting to get really crowded. But on this day, we would see some incredible acts, including Rancid, the Ramones (and I still feel grateful to have seen them!), Soundgarden, and Metallica to close the evening off. 

For so long, I had heard about Lollapalooza, and how cool it was. In many ways, I feel that this was my generations Woodstock, if you will. It had cultural significance, political significance, and there were a lot of great, young rock acts that came out of it. And I felt especially pleased to have gone to one, and now, looking back, feel that this went a long way towards making me feel like I took part in that whole 1990's music scene!

Here are some videos from various Lollapalooza shows:

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