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Lollapalooza: It's different this time around

Chris Cornell, front man for Audioslave, entertained a White River Amphitheatre crowd Saturday. Photo by Teresa Herriman -
Chris Cornell, front man for Audioslave, entertained a White River Amphitheatre crowd Saturday. Photo by Teresa Herriman
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By Teresa Herriman, For The Courier-Herald

Lollapalooza began as a combination alternate music festival and social experiment - a kind of concert and home show for the alternative music set. It was also intended as the swan song for Jane's Addiction, a popular indie band that had decided to call it quits. The concept survived after the band and, following a six-year break, Lollapalooza is back on the road, the 2003 edition headlined by the same band that used the original show as farewell tour - the recently reunited Jane's Addiction.

The concert certainly strikes a chord with those who have spent more than a decade in Enumclaw. The debut tour made a stop at the King County Fairgrounds, leaving music fans thrilled and many locals aghast.

This time around, things were much different.

The Seattle-area portion of the 2003 tour took over the new White River Amphitheater Saturday. Headline musical acts included The Donnas, Jurassic 5, Incubus, A Perfect Circle and Audioslave. Appropriately, Jane's Addiction closed the show.

A second stage showcased up-and-comers, who follow a long list of popular bands that got their start playing to the receptive Lolla crowds.

The fun on both stages was contagious. To the crowd's delight, band members often crossed band lines, joining each other on stage to play or just to hassle each other. The highlight was an unannounced set by members of the defunct group, Porno for Pyros, on the second stage.

Along with the music, Lollapalooza-goers are typically treated to a variety of booths peddling tattoos, piercings, wheat grass and hippie-influenced clothing interspersed among earnest young people espousing political messages. This year, however, corporations hawking products from Car Toys, Xbox and Sirius Satellite Radio outnumbered body art and the political booths were relegated to the far corner of the second stage area. One of the oddest additions this year was a very prominent recruitment booth for the Marines and one of the most fun was the gamers tent. Lollapalooza is the first fully-wired interactive music fest and the game geeks were the big winners. Some of the hottest new video games were found on the amphitheater grounds, including many unreleased titles.

Sgt. Kirk Merril, stationed out of the Washington State Patrol's Enumclaw office, said the Saturday show brought nothing momentus.

"Traffic was kind of tedious going in, and it was tedious going out," he said. Concert-goers are continuing to take advantage of alternate routes, he said, and allowing plenty of time, preventing gridlock near the venue.

Merrill said there were some arrests for driving while intoxicated, along with a few traffic accidents, but the WSP encountered nothing out of the ordinary.

He said he has spoken with those who were on duty when Lollapalooza came to Enumclaw in 1991 and, apparently, "it was a little tamer this time around."

Memories of Enumclaw

In 1991, when Lollapalooza began, the carnival atmosphere had an anti-commercial vibe and fans were distinctly less mainstream - a fact that created a culture shock among Enumclaw residents who found themselves host to the event. One local was quoted as saying that on the day of the event, "It was like hell opened up and spit on Enumclaw."

The festival was booked at the King County Fairgrounds by then-manager Shirley Heen, who has vivid memories of the '91 event. "We were reaching out for something different," the now retired Heen said last week. Police logged overtime and Enumclaw Community Hospital increased its staff in anticipation of the onslaught. But one of the biggest problems turned out to be concert goers who camped in yards or in parking lots - using whatever they could find for restroom facilities. In addition, traffic from the 21,000 attendees snarled roads as cars were abandoned and the crowd continued to the fairgrounds on foot. Nearby residents complained of the noise and obscene lyrics, but inside, concert-goers were calm, despite unfounded rumors of stabbings and shootings.

Heen regrets her decision even though, "people are entitled to have an event at the county as long as they obey the rules." For Heen, the recriminations were severe. She said that she was unable to go downtown or even shop at the grocery store for a month following the concert, fearing reprisals. Despite everything, Heen reports that the fairgrounds made money on the event.

This year, 14,500 were expected to attend the White River Amphitheatre show. Security was tight and limited incidents were reported, in spite of the amphitheater's policy to serve alcohol. The facility was surprisingly adaptable to the carnival atmosphere. The open-air theater hosted main stage acts, booths dotted the main walkway and a side area was used for the second stage, which was powered exclusively by pure biodiesel (B100), an alternative fuel source.

Ironically, there was never a line at the one and only tattoo and piercing trailer this year; however the wait at the ATM machines was long all day.

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