13 Aug Not So Famous at Lollapalooza
Last night, I was looking for a trailer for one of our projects and I stumbled on a video that i put together for a song off of Sleepyhead’s first Homestead album “Starduster”. It’s a super nostalgic video made from photos I shot in the early 90’s when we were touring a lot in the US.
Near the end of the video there’s an image of Royal Trux playing the side stage at Lollapalooza in Philadelphia in the summer of 1995. I was there because sleepyhead also played the side stage. I think that Royal Trux were still touring on their album “Cats and Dogs” and hadn’t yet become the bloated major label mess. I really liked this era of the Trux a lot so it was a thrill to get to see them.
By 1995 sleepyhead had been together for 6 years and had put out 2 albums and a half dozen singles. I was no longer a guy who had recently graduate, I was a bike film PA who was in a band. I think our third album was recorded and we were trying to figure out what to do with it. We’d toured quite a bit but we had never sold a lot of records. In the post Nirvana gold rush we had a couple of labels interested in us but we were just a little too odd for them. We had a contract with Homestead but hoped that someone else would come along and save us from it. We loved Steve Joerg who ran the label, but not so much the label.
Though we had toured with some really good bands like Polvo, Half-Japanese, Codeine, and Yo La Tengo we hadn’t ever played a festival or opened for anyone really big, so we didn’t exactly know what to expect. The year before we had made the film “Half-Cocked”* and we almost got it booked as part of Lollapalooza but it fell apart. Later that summer while touring rock clubs with the film we formed an improv band with Tim Foljahn of Two Dollar guitar. He and I played guitar and Suki played drums. By our third show, at the Lounge Ax in Chicago, we’d figured out how to play together. A guy named Adam Jacobs recorded it on DAT. I used some of that music to make the video below of a train trip from NY to NC. On that tour we hit the Detroit Lollapalooza because Tim also played in Thruston Moore’s side project and had recorded Psychic Hearts with him. We had a little trouble getting past security but got him to the stage just in time. They were fantastic and there was a big downpour in the middle of the set. Afterwards we head to the backstage with Tim and we were soaked. David Yow, of The Jesus Lizard, immediately jumped up to get us towels. I think we stayed to see Sonic Youth, but honestly I just don’t remember as much as I’d like from those years. It wasn’t just the drinking. It was also the lack of sleep and the sameness of things. Even though the clubs were different they all ran together like wet paint. While we would have loved to amble down the blue highways, our shows were often hundreds of miles apart so we had to hot foot it on the highway. It’s lucky that I took so many pictures. I might have no memories at all.
I digress. As I said, I posted this last night, and this morning I saw an article about the 1995 Lollapalooza tour in the Washington Post. Small moments connect to small moments. One reason I clicked on the sleepyhead video last night was that I had been corresponding with my old band mates about doing a project together. This morning I was wrote to them about perhaps doing a book of photos that contained a kind of oral history with our conflicting memories building upon each other- and built around my photos of that time. This article is kind of like that, and it’s quite good.
I remember driving up to the nearly empty parking lot outside RFK stadium in Philly. We had to get there pretty early, like 11am, which meant we had to leave our homes by around 7am to get to our practice space on time. Even at 11am it was hot and there was no shade. At least it was a gravel lot. I don’t think we played first, that honor went to a local hip-hop group The Goats. They got the crowd pretty hyped. I think we went on second. Our good friends Cell were also playing that day. We were used to playing small loud clubs and it was disorienting to set up behind a big curtain. We got no sound check. I don’t think we even got a line check. We certainly didn’t get a dressing room. So when I decided to put on the fake leather body suit that a friend had found in the trash in the West Village, I just threw it over my boxer shorts. Fred Brockman, who had a studio in our practice space and recorded perhaps our best covers “Salad Days”, grabbed my camera and shot while we played.
I think we did ok. We didn’t wow them, but we certainly confused them. I am going to imagine that we played this cover because we figured it would go over pretty well. Maybe that’s when we got the mosh pit going.
I kind of remember hearing Dinasour Jr.’s wailing guitar coming across the parking lot from the main stage, but I don’t think they played that day. We stayed around the side stage and saw the small acts. We all loved Pavement and Sonic Youth, but after the side stage ended in the late afternoon I think we just took off. We were wiped out and none of us were all that interested in bands on big stages. It was a fun experience on some level but as Pavement points out in the article above, about the tour, the crowd wasn’t really our audience, so it wasn’t all that inspiring of an experience. We went on to have a pretty good run. I met incredible people, got to photograph them, got to travel around Europe, and got to keep making films. I won.
*on the Half-Cocked wikipedia page there are about 10 bands mentioned. Sleepyhead is the only one that doesn’t warrant a wikipedia page