Not every day 28,000 music fans pack a venue in Surrey, but that’s what happened on Aug. 30, 1994.
That late-summer Tuesday, when the Lollapalooza music festival landed at Cloverdale Fairgrounds, it represented one of the largest ticketed concerts in Surrey history, eclipsing the 25,000-strong crowd that saw Mumford & Sons at Holland Park 19 years later, in 2013, but not the FVDED festival dates of recent years.
To clarify, we’re talking concerts for which tickets are sold, not free-festival gatherings.
In 1994, Lollapalooza-goers each paid $35 to see the travelling roadshow of alternative-rock bands in the middle of the harness racing track, including main-stage entertainers The Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, George Clinton & the P-Funk Allstars, The Breeders, A Tribe Called Quest, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, L7 and Green Day. Second-stage artists were Stereolab, The Boo Radleys, Shudder to Think, The Pharcyde and Shonen Knife.
As a young journalist I covered the festival for a Vancouver-based magazine, and was even invited backstage to interview Green Day singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstong.
Sadly, I no longer have my notes or the published story from that day, but I do have a photograph I took of Armstrong standing outside his band trailer, munching on a sandwich. At that moment, the Beastie Boys were jamming in the next-door trailer. It’s an amazing memory.
Green Day’s breakthrough album, Dookie, had been released only a few months before, and Lollapalooza was a coming-out party for the pop-punk band from California.
Chicago’s Smashing Pumpkins, on the other hand, headlined the festival, and that day in Cloverdale is universally remembered as a horrible one for singer/guitar player Billy Corgan and his crew.
My pal Cory Raven remembers the Pumpkins as “the worst live performance I’ve ever seen, to this day.”
“Corgan wasn’t great live at the best of times, but I think he was intentionally singing horribly that night,” Raven recalls. “It sounded like a wounded bird with a bad cold. It was shockingly bad to the point where when you saw people in the days and weeks after and Lollapalooza came up in conversation, someone would often mention how bad the Pumpkins were.”
Wish I had video or audio of it, but I can’t find any on Youtube. Anyone?
The ‘94 Lollapalooza was a first-concert experience for White Rock-raised guitar player Jim Black, who was 12 at the time.
“That was such a good time to hear those bands,” he told me a few years ago. “My parents took me to so many shows. My parents were pretty hip.”
White Rock resident David Geertz, who books concerts of his own now, took in the Lollapalooza fest every year until 1994.
“For me,” Geertz said, “that was my last Lollapalooza and I paid to see some bands that I missed in the clubs, like Boo Radleys, Stereolab and The Breeders. My defining moment was when everyone was at the main stage watching A Tribe Called Quest and I was introduced to my first of many live Stereolab sets. Maybe 100 people laid out on the grass watching. It was mesmerizing!”
Kevin Statham spent the day photographing the show as an accredited member of the music press.
“I thought Lollapalooza 94 was a bit of a letdown,” he says. “The previous two years at Thunderbird Stadium (at UBC in Vancouver) had been stellar. Both shows were packed with relevant, amazing bands. The lineup for the Cloverdale show was OK, but not amazing.
“The only thing I remember really clearly was Nick Cave leaving the stage early” due to having “crap thrown at him, Statham recalled.
“It just wasn’t the most memorable Lollapalooza for me,” he continued. “Part of the problem may have been the Cloverdale Racetrack. It was just a weird place to see a show. I was glad that in 1995 Lollapalooza was back with a really cool lineup and was again at Thunderbird Stadium.”
Cory Van Ieperen lived in Cloverdale at the time, and continues to base his Corycatures drawing business there. On the day Lollapalooza rolled through town, Van Ieperen rode his bike to the fairgrounds with a friend from work; he stacked lumber at a mill while going to art school at Kwantlen College.
He didn’t buy a ticket.
“I sat on the Lord Tweedsmuir hill,” Van Ieperen recalls. “I saw the crowds but that was it.… I thought the Beastie Boys sounded great but the Pumpkins sounded awful. Musically (the band) sounded awesome, but Billy’s voice was terrible. It turned me off to subsequent visits by them, which is too bad as I’m a big fan.”
Now a White Rock-area realtor, Andrew Hudson remembers a festival that “had so much to offer by way of artists.”
It was his first and last Lollapalooza, Hudson said.
“It was also my last festival show. I wasn’t too old for them, just too tired of the sensory overload. Well, I also didn’t leave with the tingles, or at least, not tingles from the music.”
He remembers “lots and lots of drugs” at the fairgrounds that day.
“My party consisted of a couple of us on ‘shrooms, another on X, one on acid and one completely messed up on all three (he’s now a school teacher in Ontario). I know for a fact, he doesn’t remember any of it. Truth be known, the show was a distance second to the ambience and party-favours.”
In retrospect, Hudson said the concert was “insignificant due to the contraband. The trip home… consisted of a stop just prior to the old Port Mann bridge and a passenger stating that the last thing any of us wanted to do, on whatever we were on, was to spend a night in jail. I sure wish I’d enjoyed Nick Cave the way I should have. Festival concerts are for the uninterested.”