In the early days of rock–and we’re talking about the 1950s–the most efficient and cost-effective way to put acts on tour was to bundle them together as a package and put everyone out on the road together.
In many cases, there would be a common backing band that most or all of the artists would use. PA equipment–such as it was back in those days–was often supplied on site.
These became known as caravan tours. Guys like Alan Freed, the pioneering DJ, and Dick Clark took all these acts on the road, playing places like theatres, county fairs and wherever they could find a booking.
This package tour approach was pretty common until the late 60s when the music business was producing artists big enough to tour on their own and play arenas and stadiums. That’s where the real money was. The caravan approach fell into disuse.
But then along came Lollapalooza in 1991. Perry Farrell, frontman for Jane’s Addiction, put together a multi-act bill to support Jane’s on the last-ever tour. The net effect was very much like those old caravan tours.
The inaugural ’91 was successful enough for Lollapalooza to try again the following year. This time, things were expanded across multiple stages and multiple attractions. For the next couple of years, Lollapalooza was the touring music festival for the Alternative Generation.
This success spawned imitators: Edgefest, Lilith Fair, Summersault, Another Roadside Attraction. And for a while, it was all pretty cool.
The economics are different now. Lollapalooza is a static festival held in Chicago every August. Edgefest and the rest of them are all defunct.
But there was one traveling music festival that survived for 24 years. It’s been around for so long that no knows for sure how many acts have played it.
This is the history of the Vans Warped Tour.
Songs heard on this episode:
Jane’s Addiction., Mountain Song (Live)
No Doubt, By the Way
Blink-182, Waiting Time
Less Than Jake, Automatic
Sugar Ray, Fly
Green Day, She (Live)
All Time Low, Time-Bomb
My Chemical Romance, I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
Billy Talent, Devil in a Midnight Mass
Weezer, Hash Pipe
Ataris, Boys of Summer
Eric Wilhite has, as usual, created a playlist to go along with everything.
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The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:
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