Lollapalooza is one of the world’s best known music festivals. In September, it made its European debut in Berlin. To find out more (and go back to the roots), we caught up with the festival’s founder, Perry Farrell.
Berlin, Tempelhof Airfield. Over the past five years, the former airport grounds have become one of the city’s best-loved places: Now kites, not planes, fill the air and the landing strips teem with cyclists and skateboarders.
In this spirit of reappropriation, the site also hosts many trade fairs, conferences – and music festivals. Festivals like Lollapalooza, which picked this particular spot for its European premiere. And Lollapalooza is far more than a “mere” festival, boasting a special kid’s area, flower-garland making stalls or tote bag painting workshops. And then, there is the music, with a line-up ranging from Muse and The Libertines to Seeed and Beatsteaks, performing in glorious sunshine.
Lollapalooza can already claim to be the biggest music festival of the Americas; now it is also branching out into Europe. How would you describe the idea behind it all?
Perry Farrell: Are you familiar with swirling lollipops? You know, those giant swirling sweets with all the colors of the rainbow? That’s the basic idea: We check what’s going on in the music scene, culture, or style – and when we spot something great out there, we bring it into the whole concept.
Do you still remember your very first Lollapalooza, back in 1991?
Perry Farrell: I remember being a wild child, getting into trouble, a lot of laughter, and sweating. A lot of music and a lot of conversation. Now here, in year one in Berlin, it feels just the same.
Most festivals take place in rural settings – people travelling far, camping, and wallowing in mud when it rains. What’s it like to have a festival right in the center of a major city – and why did you go down this route?
Perry Farrell: From the beginning, our attitude was quite different from other festivals. We like to support local economies and want to access the best a city has to offer: local clubs, hotels, etc. They are so much better.
Certain music styles and genres are inextricably linked with certain settings – think urban hip-hop or country’s backwood connotations. How does this play into your approach?
Perry Farrell: Hip-hop is definitely an urban sound. But true to our “swirling” approach we are open to anything – as long as the music is genuine and heartfelt, it could also be country. We don’t segregate. I think including stuff that might not seem to fit actually works in our favor.
Lollapalooza has taken over many different cities – do these have their very own sound? Does Berlin sound different from Chicago?
Perry Farrell: Absolutely. Berlin definitely has its own sound. We took this into consideration. Here in Berlin, we feature more local acts than at any other Lollapalooza and I think it’s great. Bands like Seeed and Beatsteaks are really good musicians.
What did running a festival for almost 25 years teach you, personally?
Perry Farrell: Oh my gosh, we could sit here all day. For example, it’s not about resting on your laurels and taking the credit for everything – there are so many people involved and every single one of them is at least as important as I am.
So, what makes a festival truly perfect?
Perry Farrell: A perfect festival always starts with the music. Get the best music you can because great music is going to bring in the best people. Then you look for the perfect location. That’s how to make a good party: It all starts with the music.
All the images, incl. the header image: David Daub