Lollapalooza ’95 was a mess. The line-up hosted a strange range of artists from different walks of the musical landscape for an eclectic travelling circus. It saw the likes of Sonic Youth, Hole, Cypress Hill, Pavement, Sinead O’Connor, Beck and Coolio make their way around North America for six weeks. The wild-on stage antics of the Stephen Malkmus led tribe, however, almost put a premature end to the whole tour.
Although Pavement are almost universally adored today and can headline pretty much any festival on the planet, it was a different story in 1995. While they were firmly in their pomp that year following the release of Wowee Zowee, they were remarkably still relatively unknown to most people in attendance. It’s staggering to think that a band like Pavement would be met with hostility at a festival but they were somehow flying under the radar and, painstakingly, had to win over audiences on every night of the tour who would rather be watching Cypress Hill than listening to their ‘Gold Soundz’.
Most nights of the tour saw Pavement end up triumphant by the end of their sets but August 3rd was a completely different story and the audience in Charles Town, West Virginia, were not having any of their lo-fi fuzz. The crowd only wanted to do one thing that day and that was moshing which, it’s safe to say, put Pavement in an unfavourable position. As the set went on, so did the hostility from the crowd with the situation turning more toxic with each song.
“We were the misplaced band on a failing bill. I think that was pretty clear to everybody,” Pavement member Bob Nastanovich said in the documentary Slow Century. The band were critically acclaimed indie darlings and loved by a very specific clientele but the mind-90s residents of Charles Town were clearly more of a Cypress Hill location and Pavement had some issues.
“This band Pavement takes the stage, that 20 per cent of the crowd’s heard of, maybe. And they’re like to hell with these guys,” Nastanovich added. The scene got ugly fast when ‘fans’ had enough and started bombarding the band with mud bombs, rocks or anything else they could get their hands on. Pavement tried their hardest to continue and get through the set, collect the paycheque then go to the hotel. However, frontman Stephen Malkmus was then struck square in the chest by an unidentifiable weighty object.
Guitarist Scott Kannberg was fuming that his bandmate had been targetted so cruelly and his anger got the better of him when he not only flipped off the crowd but began mooning them before the band emphatically exited the stage. “Quite frankly, I think it could be safely said that Pavement is the band that effectively did in Lollapalooza,” Nastanovich defiantly stated.
The footage is truly bizarre, it’s beyond strange to see a generational band like Pavement get treated like nobodies and the ungrateful West Virginian crowd deserve everything that Kanberg gave to them.