The Sun-Times certainly does want Lollapalooza to return. But it wants the world-class festival this city warrants, and one that celebrates its status as the live music capital of America, especially since your five-year, $5 million contract with the city means this will be the major music event here every summer through 2011.
With the original Lollapalooza tours from 1991 to 1996, you created a new model for the industry and delivered some of the most extraordinary concerts that hundreds of thousands of fans had ever seen. Your ideal was to champion diverse, innovative sounds before a vibrant, socially aware community, and you brought that vision to life while simultaneously making considerable and well-earned profits.
The new Lollapalooza lacks any sense of mission beyond selling tickets. It offers a hodgepodge of bands performing on stages named for corporate sponsors, treating the music as mere entertainment -- or worse, just another tool for advertisers hawking their wares.
Last year, I interviewed 13 Chicago concert promoters, artist managers and industry professionals and summarized their suggestions for improving the fest. The same problems were even more noticeable this year, and once again, many members of the local music community urged the following improvements.
One of this year's sponsors, AT&T, raised serious questions about artistic freedom when its Webcast censored Pearl Jam's comments about President Bush. Artists and advertisers sometimes have incompatible goals, and Lollapalooza must choose sides.
The festival wouldn't suffer if it cut back to 80 great acts on four main stages and one smaller platform. Given the size of the park, concertgoers might even enjoy more music if they had more time to get from field to field -- or if the free trolleys served average concertgoers as well as VIPs.
The fest also continues to ignore Chicago's diversity. Last year, it failed to publicize appearances by Common, Kanye West and Manu Chao in the African-American or Latino communities, and this year, Femi Kuti played a day-closing set to a sparse crowd of 2,000, even though he's a hero to Chicago's 35,000 Nigerian-Americans. The fest is missing an opportunity to sell reduced-rate tickets to fans of performers like these who otherwise feel excluded from the concert.
Chicago has plenty of ordinary rock concerts every day of the year, Perry. What it doesn't have yet is the extraordinary festival it deserves, and we hope you'll give it to us.