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Throwback Thursday: When Lollapalooza Played Reston

by Karen Goff August 7, 2014 at 3:00 pm 1,340 15 Comments

Twenty-two years ago, sleepy and suburban Lake Fairfax Park was the place to be — if you were a grunge fan in the mosh pit with other Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers fans.

The Fairfax County Park Authority Park in Reston was the venue for two Lollapalooza festivals, in 1991 and 1992. That was back when many of the acts, their fans, and the music festival were young.

Nothing like that has since been held at the park, now home to The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole, sports fields and a skate park, as well as bucolic scenery, trout fishing and lots of trees.

There is a reason for that, says Hal Strickland, who joined the board at the Sully District representative in late 1992 in the aftermath of the concerts.

Lollapalooza, founded by Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell, went on hiatus for a while, but now has a permanent location in Chicago’s Grant Park. In its early years, the show traveled around the country, attracting up to 50,000 at some venues.

In Reston, the shows had estimated crowds of 25,000, and many attendees were treated for heat-related illnesses. Tickets for the all-day shows were $32.50.

1992 Lollapalooza Lake Fairfax ticketAfter the first HFStival — a smaller show sponsored by former alternative radio station WHFS — took place at Lake Fairfax in 1990, Strickland said the park authority was pitched by Lollapalooza organizers.

The park authority was was under the impression that the festival would be somewhat family friendly, said Strickland.

“We were somewhat befuddled over the conduct of the attendees, ” says Strickland. “There was quite a bit of alcohol. And weed. And drugs. At no time did the park sanction that kind of event.”

Nearby residents were not too pleased, either. Traffic jams went several miles down Route 7, Baron Cameron Avenue and other major arteries. One neighbor told the Washington Post she was “enraged” at the concert being held here.

“They went ballistic,” Strickland said of nearby Reston residents. “They called the park authority. They called the Supervisors. Police got involved. Traffic was backed up for miles. [Concertgoers] were wandering into backyards.

Still, the show returned in 1992 featuring Soundgarden, Ice-T, Stone Temple Pilots, Cypress Hill, and Pearl Jam, among others.

The Lake Fairfax shows remain among some of the best Lollapalooza moments in history, according to the Lollapalooza website. Among them:

1991: Lollapalooza Is Born

It wasn’t a perfect day [at Lake Fairfax]. Hours into the festival, the heat had turned so bad that water was a necessity. The choices were slim, with vendors selling either watermelon slices or water bottles for $3-4. Some waited in long lines for a small paper cup of water or near the water cannons on the off chance that they would hit them-not the optimal conditions of today.

1992: Pearl Jam Defines Grunge in Fairfax, Va.

With Dave Abbruzzese on drums, the performance is already a rarity unto itself; however, there are other factors that turn this into something “unreal.” Fans toss mud onstage, a few make their way on (only to jump right back off), bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Mike McCready spring off the monitors countless times, Eddie Vedder dives into the fans (and chucks his mic into the floor), guitarist Stone Gossard smashes his guitar to pieces, and Abbruzzese disassembles his kit with his legs. This is the band that solidified themselves as a must-see forever onward-and it happened at Lollapalooza.

By 1993, Lollapalooza was banned from Lake Fairfax. The noise complaints and traffic issues were just too much, said a park authority spokesman at the time.

“We used some poor judgment,” said Strickland. “We did not do our due diligence. The park authority is always looking for new revenue, but we have pretty much steered clear of this kind of thing ever since.”

  • jeffrey0scott

    “Lollapalooza, founded by Nine Inch Nail’s Perry Farrell”, should be Jane’s Addiction, not Nine Inch Nails.

    • Karen Goff

      you are correct and i am fixing it now. The 90s are somewhat of a blur to me still 🙂

      • jeffrey0scott

        For most of us 🙂

  • TH

    “Traffic jams went several miles down Route 7, Baron Cameron Avenue and other major arteries.” So…a normal day in Reston.

  • CH

    The 1992 lineup included bands named “Sweaty Nipples” and “Porno for Pyros.” It shocks me that fans of those bands would act in the manner described.

    • TBird73

      Yes, Jane’s Addiction (Porno for Pyros) is so hardcore : /

  • timmytva

    WHFestival, not Lollapalooza.

  • jmsullivan

    They had two Lollapaloozas there? Whoa! I was at the ’91 HFStival at Lake Fairfax. It was a great show, but even the HFStival had to move on after that. (To the PG Equestrian Center, which was an awful venue. No shade, no water. Worst sunburn I ever had in my life. Still amazed I haven’t developed skin cancer. One year there and it moved on to RFK stadium where it stayed.) So I’m kind of amazed that after that the powers that were went ahead and greenlit Lollapalooza. Twice.

    • TBird73

      I’m thinking “Lollapalooza at Lorton Prison” sounds pretty awesome.

  • Foxxylew

    I was there in 1992 and as I recall, Pearl Jam was late getting to the stage because they got stuck in traffic.

    • gmr2048

      Just Eddie Vedder. The rest of PJ was on stage and played a couple of Temple of the Dog songs with Chris Cornell singing.

  • Forrest Church

    The 1992 show was Lush, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ice Cube, Ministry, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Eddie Vetter was definitely late for the show and said he had to run the last mile or so. That is still one of the loudest and best shows I have ever seen. It was epic before epic was cool. And we did think enough to care about traffic jams. Great TBT!

  • jkrew

    That was my first festival. I got there when Lush was playing and I still listen to them this day because of the memories it brings back. I remember I brought some fireworks that emitted a lot of harmless flashes and lit them off on the ground during the RHCP set. Anthony Kiedis actually stopped singing and pointed to the area and gave it the thumbs up. I was so stoked =) Best highschool memories ever.

  • jkrew

    That was also a really special day for music history. Pearl Jam members and Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell sang a song from their old band Temple of the Dog. The only time they played after the breakup.

  • Pat mcMaster

    Remember the “mud people” who grew from 3-4 around noon to 25-30?(in 1992) The only color they had was their eyes. Once ya committed to the mud via a slid, the mud people would immediately ‘attack’ with kicks and splashes until the newby was completely covered and I mean covered with light tan sludge!! The water cannon helped ruin those grounds and I remember talking with friends about how they’d NEVER have a concert there again…Great day!!

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