Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Remember Lollapalooza?

Back in 1991, I was quite the optimist in what the future would hold. I was travelling up and down the west coast with the intent of moving to Seattle and conquering the city with my mad cartoon skills.

1991 was the year that music seemed to get out of the doldrums and silliness of the 80's. There had been good music in the 80's but it was few and far between. There wasn't a movement per see, nothing like what happened in the 60's. That seemed to change in 1991.

The Seattle scene had been rumbling under the surface with its alternative scene, Alt-Brit pop was making a bit of noise and the alt-music scene was at full display with a series of concerts around the US in the summer of 1991. These concerts were called Lollapalooza. It was formed by Perry Farrel of Jane's Addiction.

I was a fan of Jane's Addiction and some other bands on the bill. They had a concert scheduled at Waterloo Village, New Jersey. The price was right, tickets were available, I was ready to go unfortunately the date coincided with a commitment I had to do caricatures for a wedding with my friend Buck. They had added a second date, which was good news except for the fact that it was on the same day as when I would leave New Jersey to travel up and down the west coast.

I was bummed that I wouldn't see what I felt would be the closest concert to what Woodstock was.

Oh, well, I had a new life to make on the west coast, I just have to forget about Lollapalooza.

Or do I?

I was talking with some people in San Francisco who were going back to Seattle at around the same time as me. They mentioned that there was a concert in the Seattle area that would fit in nicely with my travel plans.

I was able to purchase the tickets at a Ticketmaster at the soon to be defunct Frederick and Nelsons in downtown Seattle. No problem there, now I had to figure out how to get to King County Fairgrounds which was a bit outside of the city.

I had talked to this girl Justine in Portland, OR. she had lived in Seattle and gave me her phone number after letting me know she was going to the concert. I called and she like many women I've known in my life, disappointed me breaking her promise to get me a ride to the concert.

So, now what? I had no clue on how to get there. I wasn't aware of any shuttle buses, so I had to figure out a way to get there by the bus system. I called the bus line. (I made a lot of phone calls in those pre-cell phone era times.) There was a bus that took me to a mall. (I, to this day don't know what mall it was) where we took one of those mini-buses to the town of Enumclaw.

Now, I was able to meet up with some other concert goers, so at least I had company, and perhaps a guide to the fairgrounds. Now Enumclaw is kinda out there in the sticks. In 1991, it was still very rural, very farm-oriented, which became evident when the bus we were riding on, was being held up for quite a while by a combine riding the back roads of King County, WA. There was no way to pass. Anyway, we were let out about three miles from the fairgrounds. Like I said, there was no direct shuttle.

So, we had to walk.

And it started to rain.

I was hoping to hang out with the guys I met on the bus but we had gotten separated one by one by the time we approached the entrance. Some of them wanted to get something to eat, but the concert had started. I didn't want to miss much. We were down to three when we approached the entrance. I wasn't allowed to go in with the backpack I foolishly brought with me. I didn't want it taken from me, so I asked what should I do. I was told to put it back in my car.

Ha Ha

Anyway, I wandered around looking for someplace to put my backpack. I saw a clump of trees, where I thought would be a good place to hide the backpack. My first attempt was foiled by walking into an amorous couple going at it in earnest.

My second attempt was more successful. I hung it up on a branch about ten feet in the air. One would have a hard time finding it, since it blended in with the darkness that was enveloping the overcast sky.

I finally got into the concert. I had missed the Rollins Band, which was fine. I wasn't a fan. I came in when the Violent Femmes were on stage. They had replaced the Butthole Surfers which was fine with me. I kinda liked the Femmes, and they were playing some of their familiar songs. After they were over, I wandered around,checking out the art shows and political tables that were sheltered from the rain. I also had the pleasure of witnessing the early days of the Jim Rose Circus Freak Show. I wasn't able to find anybody I had met who was at the festival. So I had to enjoy myself as much as possible in the rain by myself. Food was a drag. I had to wait on a long line to buy scrips, and then wait on another line to buy the food.

The band Fishbone was one next. They were a funk band who had a minor hit with "Everyday Sunshine". They were at their peak at they put on an exciting performance. Too bad they didn't get more success, otherwise the act would be more significant.

Next up was Ice-T. Lollapalooza was quite diverse in its first year. Having Ice-T, Violent Femmes and Nine Inch Nails on the stage was ballsy.

Anyway, Ice-T was great. His best album OG:Original Gangster had come out that year and he introduced his hard rock band Body Count halfway through the show. This was the band and the album that would create a huge amount of controversy a few years later with the song "Cop Killer". They performed the song at the festival and let me tell you, most of the audience were really into the song. The fans, (mostly white) all saluted their middle fingers in time with the refrain "Fuck The Police" .

Lots of fun, I can assure you.

Siouxie and the Banshees were next. I watched close from near the stage at first but I was getting to the point where I was soaked. It was getting cold, so I went back to the art tent where some people had started a bonfire. I got near it enough to get warm but I wasn't dry.

When Jane's Addiction came on, I went again front and center and really was into the vibe of their performance. The highlight of which was when Perry Farrel told a very racist joke.

Oh, oh. Ice-T wasn't gonna have that.

He came out on stage angry singing "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey." Farrel reacted as though he knew he was gonna get his ass kicked. He then sang "Don't Call Me Whitey------ " You know the rest of it. The duet was punctuated by some kick ass guitar work from both Jane's Addiction and Bodycount.

Despite the greatness of the performance, I was really getting uncomfortable in the rain and it continued to get colder. I had heard all the main Jane's Addiction songs I wanted to hear. I left the concert, found my backpack which was mostly dry. I walked past the venue and was still able to hear the rest of Jane's Addiction's set. I was walking with a lot of people at this point, many who parked more than 2 miles from the fairgrounds. I had walked up to the bus stop only to see that the last bus had left at 9PM and the next one wasn't until 5 in the morning.So what to do?

Wait 6+hours until the next bus?

Hitchhike like many other concertgoers?

Rent a hotel room in town?

I decide that even though I was already paying for my room at the Seattle "Y", I decide to rent a room at a hotel in town.

Too late, all the rooms were full.

I went back to the bus stop and ran into a guy from Vancouver BC who was in the same predicament. He talked about hitchhiking to Seattle. I now considered it. Especially when two girls also from Vancouver came our way. They offered to drive us to Seattle. They just had to walk to where their car was parked. They said it was about a mile away. Well, it was clear after walking 2 miles that we had a lot more to go. The girls decided they needed to hitch a ride to get to their car. They had gotten a ride to the concert from the parking lot. Anyway a VW Rabbit came by and picked the four of us up. the driver was a husky friendly guy who allowed us to squeeze us into his car. We drove a good three miles before we got to the parking lot. Finally we got into the girls car.

It was a VW bug. An old one. A really old one. It was like a Flintstone mobile. The floor of the backseat was exposed to the road beneath. I could literally put my feet to the ground. It was that bad.

Anyway, the car chug, chug , chugged along on the local roads. When we approached I-5, the chugging got more labored and we were going at best 25 miles per hour on I-5 where the speed limit was 65. this got the attention of a police officer, who pulled us over. When he asked the driver if she had a driver's license, she said she didn't have it on her. the other two passengers didn't even have a license on them. The only one who had a valid driver's license was me. Of course the license was from New Jersey, which had the officer saying

"Newwww Jerrrreey" in what I would figure out was a typical Washingtonian accent.

Anyway, the cop returned my license and stated that I had to drive.

So, it was up to me to chug chug ourselves into downtown Seattle. The girls were planning on staying at a hotel across the street from the Y. Terry, the guy asked if he could crash in my room. I said yes reluctantly. I'm always cool about meeting strangers in public but I really was wary about letting him stay. Anyway, when I entered the lobby of the "Y" I presented my key right before I entered the elevator. They asked Terry for his key but he said he was staying with me.

Well, they don't allow that at the Y, so I gave my apologies to Terry as he went to the front counter to rent a room.I went into the elevator and never saw him again.

Some night.

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