By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
By Chaz Kangas
By Allison Babka
Ah, summer! The days get longer and hotter, and the clothes get shorter and, well, hotter. A special type of insanity descends upon the land, with freedom ringing in the ears of schoolchildren everywhere, the smells of the backyard barbeque wafting and enticing like a siren's song, the promise of family vacations drawing closer. The palpable sense of possibility, of the future becoming endless and the now becoming a grand adventure, envelops all who would participate.
The summer, with all its trappings and traditions, also brings a cacophonous plague upon the land: the package tour. Swarming like locusts, any band worth its six strings and smoke machines tries to get on one of the various tours. Tours of all shapes and sizes crisscross the continent's large sheds and amphitheaters -- outdoor venues that can be as inhospitable as they are expensive.
These tours present an interesting conundrum for the old guard, the musical Methuselahs who have survived many a season but don't have the gravitas of the Rolling Stones: How do you get people to come stand in the sun to see you -- and, more important, pay for the privilege -- when most of your fan base is more concerned about emphysema and melanoma than about smoking up and showing off their totally awesome new halter tops? The few bands that attempt to go it alone are seldom successful. Some choose to group together for their summer-go-round, as with the recent Styx/Journey/REO Speedwagon show, or the upcoming Kiss/Aerosmith juggernaut or even the ever-popular "All the Dollar-Bin '80s Hair Bands We Could Check out of Rehab and Pay in Food Stamps and Cheap Whiskey" conflagrations. It's as if they believe that by touring together they can stave off the jackals of public ennui nipping at their heels and bank accounts -- and, although presenting that much cheese and schlock in one place is surely proof of a greater evil, it's not a crime. Even the guys from Trixter need to make a living somehow.
Thursday, July 17 at UMB Bank Pavilion
Summer Sanitarium Tour
Friday, July 25 at Edward Jones Dome at the America's Center
Unfortunately for most bands, it doesn't seem to be that great of a living. Sure, it beats the nine-to-five grind, but how can the average washed-up rock star expect to support lavish homes, fancy cars, stripper ex-wives, a prodigious cocaine habit and scores of illegitimate children on the paltry thousands and thousands of dollars he can make off these nostalgia-package ventures? In light of this harsh reality, some of the more enterprising rock & roll codgers have done what most major multinational corporations have been doing for years: co-opt youth culture. Realizing the kids are more likely to spend their parents' money than their parents are, these artists started bringing younger acts on tour with them in the hopes of reaching a demographic that's perfectly willing to shell out 40 bucks to bake in a mud-and-asphalt cesspool watching bands bust out 30-minute sets.
One of the longest running and most successful examples of this phenomenon is Ozzfest. Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne started the festival in 1996, after asking for a slot on the then-red-hot Lollapalooza festival only to be told that Ozzy just wasn't hip enough. Deciding to take these lemons and squeeze 'em for everything they were worth, the Osbournes formed their own traveling extravaganza dedicated to hard rock and heavy metal. Now on its eighth trip out, the festival succeeds not because of the loyal-but-dwindling base of hardcore Ozzy fans but because of head-booker Sharon's keen eye for spotting talent on the way up. Numerous acts, such as Incubus and Godsmack, have gone from Ozzfest's side stage to its main stage and then on to sell millions of records. This year's installment is no different, with many hungry new bands making a starry-eyed début on the side stage and some returning favorites, such as Marilyn Manson, playing the main stage.
Re-emerging this year after a six-year absence is the Lollapalooza festival. During the early '90s, when the Alternative Nation was still flying its freak flag, Lollapalooza was widely considered the preeminent place to perform. But people grew up, fortunes changed and, due to lack of interest in the tour, Lollapalooza stopped in 1997. These days the only grunge associated with most Gen X-ers is on the carpet of their SUVs or in the corners of their Ikea coffee tables. Whereas recently reunited tour founders Jane's Addiction were once a quasi-mystical force of nature akin to Led Zeppelin and worshipped like golden gods, as far as the younger siblings and children of their original followers are concerned they're nothing more than Carmen Electra's boyfriend (the one who was in those Gap ads) and that guy who dresses like Huggy Bear. Arriving at the same impasse that the Osbournes did, somewhere around the corners of Old Street and Irrelevant Avenue, the members of Jane's Addiction seem to be trying to reinvigorate their once-Dionysian powers by bringing with them a stable of younger bands and a few older favorites for the summer season under the reinvigorated Lollapalooza banner. Side-stage acts include hip-hop phenom Pharoahe Monch and space-rock-turned-corporate-rock band Cave In. Sharing the main stage with Jane's Addiction is hard-rock conglomerate Audioslave and Ozzfest survivors Incubus and Queens of the Stone Age, among others.