Without Lollapalooza, it feels like we’d be missing an entire generation — a huge void between The Simpsons and the Gathering of the Juggalos. The iconic summer bacchanal — a touring concern from 1991 to 1997 and a fixture at Chicago’s Grant Park since 2005, with only a brief hiccup or two in between — deserves at least as much credit as Nirvana (who themselves never got to play it, as they were booked the year of Kurt Cobain’s death) for not just defining what we ’90s kids called “alternative,” but for the inclusiveness it gave the term. Here’s where so many of us got the idea that alternative rap, alternative country, and alternative metal all belonged somewhere; many a cassette-collecting teenager used Lollapalooza as a huge part of the discovery process.
When the touring incarnation finally shut down (after a successful 2003 reboot led to a canceled 2004 fiasco), the festival’s cultural import might’ve waned a bit, but it’s still providing a showcase for a new generation of musical inventors, from Lady Gaga to Kanye to Daft Punk. (This weekend, the 2013 edition graces us with Nine Inch Nails, Kendrick Lamar, Disclosure, and at least 27 other must-see acts.) Unsurprisingly, those old enough to remember its original, self-contained touring form still prefer those days, but the Chicago years have their champions, too. So here’s a guide to the premier touring festival’s greatest peaks and most quizzical valleys.