On the heels of its flagship Chicago event, Lollapolooza Festival has announced it will expand to the streets of Tel Aviv next year as reported by Timeout Chicago, Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal and Haaretz. According to founder Perry Ferrell, best known for fronting Jane’s Addiction and Porno for Pyros, it will take place August 20-22 2013.
Asked whether Tel Aviv had any “personal significance” to him as a choice of venue for Lollapalooza, Ferrell gazed as he struggled to give a non-committal response, “Let’s just say that I think that it’s a place that needs good music. It deserves it, it demands it, and so it shall be.” Elsewhere he has cited Tel Aviv’s geography, lack of an international festival or a curfew… Very nice, but is that all?
Ferrell’s connections to Jewish life and the Jewish state are a bit stronger than he lets on. Born Peretz Bernstein to Shoah survivors, he has performed in Israeland visited several times. DJ’d a couple Purimpolooza parties at Makor NYC starting in 2001 and organized another himself in 2006 at San Francisco’s Ruby Skye. His affection for Israel is well documented, having raised funds for Israel and the IDF with Dersh.
Hey, that’s all cool in a way for the kids who are down with that, so why hide it? This is Hasbara 101, dude! Its unclear why if he didn’t wish to outline his personal connection to Israel for commercial reasons or what, but hey, it will be Israel’s first major import of an international music festival. So who cares?
Well, a few people might actually. Here in Chicago, there’s quite a few naysayers about various aspects of the Festival, ranging from those upset about backroom sweetheart arrangements between producer C3 and Mayor Rahm, whose brother Ari owns a stake in the company to local club and venue owners unable to book acts due to restrictive blackout clauses to Park advocates who deride the damage down to public lands and the profit c3 earns from their use.
With all that in mind, it will be interesting to see what happens when plans start in earnest for Lolla-TLV. While this is a coup for the Ministry of Tourism and will likely be a boon for Tel Aviv’s economy and image, it presents a few logistical and philosophical challenges.
In Chicago this summer before the Lolla, we had NatoFest, which drew a significant amount of largely peace protest. The social protest movement in Israel is more vocal, active and is likely to seize the opportunity to use Lolla-TLV as a stage for elevating their message to a sympathetic audience. Their message will be that while people are partying hard in Yarkon Park, others are struggling to survive not far away. Mind you, the spin doctors will use this to promote Israel’s image of free speech and democracy, but should anyone decide to set themselves alight, it might get uncomfortable.
Here in the Windy City, we view the lakefront as sacred ground. Aside from large swatches actually having once been cemeteries, there’s been an unwritten law about keeping the entire lakefront unfettered of significant commercial activity for nearly a century. There are a few notable exceptions, but Lolla has been criticized for occupying and profiting from the people’s lakefront. Lolla-TLV is planned for Yarkon Park, and its pristine environs hear the heart of the city may also draw ire of some folks. Complicating matters is that the site is reported to have been built on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Jarisha. I imagine there are some other people who will view this as problematic. There already are. It will be interesting to see if some artists refuse to perform on these or other grounds, or if those who have publicly declined previously will be unable to resist the Lolla effect.
Most interesting will be the security and logistics issues it presents. An event gathering 150,000 people in the midst of any city strains its resources. Sure, its great to swamp a city with tens of thousands of tourists, but will Tel Aviv, an open city, be able to protect citizens and guests alike by those who would by aim to strike at such an irresistible target? Or might Lolla-TLV present the first real opportunity for music fans from all over the middle east- Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians and others to rock out together.
Maybe there IS a hidden agenda…. Discuss!