Publication: L.A. Times - Calendar
Date: August, 1997
Monica Hoffman (Monty22@aol.com)
Monica Hoffman (Monty22@aol.com)
page: 60 title: A Tool for a Change author: Sandy Masuo Sunday, August 3, 1997 Home Edition Section: Calendar Page: 60 POP MUSIC; A Tool for Change; Forget labels, the Lollapalooza band says of its own work --and the festival in general. The idea is to help listeners expand their horizons.; By: Sandy Masuo Sandy Masuo writes about pop music for Calendar Unlike the slew of music festivals that have cropped up in its wake, Lollapalooza isn't based on a cut-and-dried theme. Dedicated to music outside the mainstream, the annual summer tour has morphed as much as alternative music since the festival began in 1991. Criticisms of Lollapalooza, which makes its Los Angeles-area stop Friday at Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion in Devore, have followed suit. Last year the hard-rock content of the bill, which featured Metallica and Soundgarden, disgruntled many supporters. This year an air of skepticism wafts around an almost recklessly eclectic lineup that includes Tool, Prodigy and Snoop Doggy Dogg. It is perhaps the least commercial Lollapalooza to date, a fact reflected in sluggish ticket sales in many cities. "It really does stick to the definition of what alternative is," says Maynard James Keenan, the singer for L.A.-based Tool, which also played Lollapalooza '93. "This year takes it to a whole new level," he says. "There's not the two or three bands on the bill that everybody likes. There's completely different flavors, and that's a little unfortunate in some instances because the kids--their hearts aren't open enough to allow the music to move them, because they're kind of putting labels on things. Like the Marley brothers: 'They're reggae, and I'm not into reggae, so I'm not going to listen.' When in actuality they're a solid band, and who better to play Bob [Marley's] tunes but his kids?" Yet the need for labels has increased as the alternative scene has grown and diversified. Such tags as drum-and-bass, trip-hop and grindcore are necessary to make subtle distinctions in subgenres that seem to crop up daily. The idea behind Lollapalooza, h owever, is to celebrate the spectrum of music outside the mainstream, not the labels. "This Lollapalooza demands that you get involved," Keenan says. "If you sit down and get into that head space where you're there to really listen and feel and experience what's going on, you're going to enjoy this tour. If you're there because it's a hip thing to do and you're there to mosh or whatever--go to the Ozzfest." That challenge has even proved true behind the scenes. Between-band bonding is commonplace on package tours, and Lollapalooza is no exception. Tool drummer Danny Carey wanted to join Orbital onstage for the English duo's last night on the tour in Detroit, but Orbital's sound system, geared toward techno-style electronics, was incompatible with the rock configuration of Carey's drum setup. The collaboration didn't happen. "It was an awkward thing," Keenan says. "The desire is there, but we're trying to do the math. It's not as easy as it would seem." Tool has never done things the easy way. When the quartet formed in 1991, competition in the hard-rock world was fierce, spurred by an onslaught of such grungy Northwesterners as Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains and the cresting careers of such established a cts as Metallica, Ministry and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Yet Tool established its presence with an obstinately distinctive sound that has sustained the band through an EP and two albums: sinewy, dynamic rhythms, Adam Jones' searing, incisive guitar work and Keenan's vocals, brimming with nuances not normally fo und in the realm of hard rock. Coursing through the volatile compositions are dark themes of sex, violence and alienation as well as a certain oblique yearning for redemption, though Keenan scrupulously avoids overt statements that could be construed as any kind of political manifesto. It's music that is as elusive as it is impassioned. In Tool's view, making music easy to digest lessens its effect, and the group has always maintained close control of its output. The musicians have turned down high-profile television appearances and soundtrack opportunities. They are leery of the press a nd unwilling to explain their songs and videos. Rather than being a display of rock star egotism, it's a strategy to keep the music in sync with Tool's objective, which is to provoke ideas--not necessarily plant them--in the minds of their fans. "I think of [our music] in terms of, like, a river," Keenan says. "If you just want to look at the turbulence on the top of the water and stop there, [you can]--or you can go down in there and start to see that there's layers of silt, and you can go down deeper, and the deeper you go the more you discover, like layers of paint. A lot of the lyrics don't have anything to do with the song. They're a distraction. They're meant to be a distraction." Such ambiguity complements the intense, concrete execution of the music. Tool draws heavily on metallic stylings, and when the band plays live the synergy between the musicians crackles. The group could probably out-jam half the bands on H.O.R.D.E. and ro ck as hard as the mightiest Ozzfest constituents. Yet Keenan says the only other festival bill he would have liked to share is Sarah McLachlan's all-female Lilith Fair. "Absolutely," he says. "That's the hugest thing missing from this Lollapalooza: feminine energy, and it's disappointing. But it's not for lack of trying. I had my wish list: Meshell Ndegeocello, Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Luscious Jackson." (ALol lapalooza spokeswoman says that DiFranco and Luscious Jackson were both approached this year but had prior commitments.) As provocative as a Tool appearance at Lilith Fair might have been, Lollapalooza will serve its purpose just fine. The group had the option of playing its own headlining tour this summer but joined Lollapalooza to reach people who might not know about the band. Though he remains committed to the idea of broadening people's musical horizons, Keenan is circumspect when it comes to the question of how great an effect Tool and Lollapalooza have had. "I think there's a whole group of people who have expanded their tastes and interests, but at the same time there's a huge group of people who have narrowed it," he says. "We're trying our best to present the opportunity for [people] to have that experience for themselves, where they really are opened up. For example, when I was talking about the Marleys--I'm not a fan of reggae, but it doesn't mean that if I open my heart the music isn't going to move me. It's music--a higher form of language."
Posted to t.d.n: 10/06/97 16:04:24