This article originally appeared in the August 14, 1992 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
As the Red Hot Chili Peppers bounded through an encore of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” to extinguish the first day and night of Lollapalooza ’92 last Friday, flames danced atop their helmeted heads. A gyrating go-go dancer blew incendiary kisses into the air from twirling torches, and the sweaty throng under the Great Woods shed twisted to catch a glimpse of massive bonfires raging on the lawn as the mosh pits turned to circles of fans dancing around flames. It was a fitting closure – with appropriate circus sideshow overtones – to an event that sputtered and raged under the alternative-music big top.
For the record, security people with fire extinguishers watched over the audience-ignited blazes on Friday; the next night, the flames were extinguished by firefighters. But with those fires, and the sod-throwing that accompanied them Saturday evening, Lollapalooza was also extinguished as a Great Woods event, Bruce Montgomery, the site’s general manager, announced on Tuesday.
“It was two days of great music and activities,” Montgomery said, “but it’s not appropriate for this venue. We really tried to embrace the event and the patrons, but unfortunately a few people on the lawn spoiled what was a very good thing.”
Last year’s concertgoers at Lollapalooza also ripped up sod, but the venue found the damage acceptable, especially in terms of the event’s great success. Montgomery decided that events had accelerated from last year to this, and also over the course of the two days. In fact, reports are that the sod-throwing and fires (three or four large fires each night) have become general on the tour.
At Great Woods, sections of fence were used to feed the fire. Despite this mayhem, Montgomery characterized the crowd, overall, as peaceful. “They weren’t violent, just exuberant, and they weren’t hurting each other. They left peacefully, but it’s unfortunate that they went a little too far on the lawn.” Overall damage was estimated at $3000 dollars.
Montgomery credits Ministry with stopping Saturday’s five-minute sod-throwing episode when the band made a plea from the stage. Between sets, personnel from the tour went into the crowd asking that Great Woods security be allowed to extinguish the fires. Only one was relit, near the end of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s finale
“We would have had a serious problem if we’d gone in with force or called the concert off,” said Montgomery. In fact, when the Great Woods managers met on Monday morning to discuss the event, they even asked whether there might be some way to create bonfires that would be controlled by the facility. But that idea was nixed.
“We need to operate day-to-day in this town in a routine fashion, and the town is very uncomfortable with this sort of activity,” Montgomery concluded. “We need to be predictable. It’s not appropriate to be building bonfires in a facility.”
Back to the show. This was the second edition of Lollapalooza, which was kicked off last year when Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction mounted a tour with his band, Nine Inch Nails, Living Colour, Henry Rollins, the Butthole Surfers, and Ice-T with Body Count. The idea was to gather some of the strongest non-mainstream bands available and inform the whole thing with a broader cultural/political slant – with an art show, political-action booths, and other events.