Is Lollapalooza fading?
This year's Lollapalooza, with somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 tickets sold, has to count as the traveling carnival's worst-ever commercial showing in Chicago, where just a few years ago twice as many fans turned out. Is Lolla fading? Yes and no. This year certain festival organizers--most notably former Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell--vetoed big draw Stone Temple Pilots on the grounds that the band (a) was too popular and (b) sucked. Sonic Youth and Hole ended up as coheadliners. Organizers have worked hard to diversify the fest in recent years. It would be easy to sell a lot of tickets to lunkheads for bands like Primus and Alice in Chains or the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ministry. Last year the decidedly more femme-friendly Smashing Pumpkins headlined, and this summer Hole and Sinead O'Connor provided highlights and none of the supporting acts exuded too much testosterone.
All that said, some fans, particularly Chicagoans, can be forgiven for yawning at the bill: Hole was touring for the fourth time in the past year, and too many of the groups lending alternative credibility to the concert have done diddly lately. Beck is a has-been at 24; Sonic Youth's wan Experimental Jet Set is a year old, and Pavement's Wowee Zowee is a dud both commercially and aesthetically. Otherwise, the mist tents worked well on a hot day, the second stage was fine, and Jam's decision to again fence off part of the parking lot to ease crowding made things immensely more pleasant.
Scalpers Update: Carson's is innocent!
Three weeks ago Hitsville wrote about a strange series of events that occurred at a Ticketmaster outlet at the Carson Pirie Scott in Merchandise Mart the day Grateful Dead tickets went on sale. Fans who were waiting in line for tickets and who scrupulously follow procedures designed to ensure fairness were shocked to see what appeared to be scalpers and Carson's employees working together to subvert the rules. Just minutes before tickets went on sale, a group of interlopers, breaking several of the posted procedures, pushed to the head of the line and bought chunks of tickets with cash handed out by a man on the scene.
It certainly looked as if some monkey business was afoot. A Carson's employee present that day went on record insisting that "nothing unusual happened"--a statement that didn't exactly deny the fans' charges. Now Carson's exec VP Ed Carroll says that the store's manager, Sue Singer, did a "thorough investigation" and concluded--surprise!--the store did nothing wrong. "She didn't find any improprieties in the way we handled things," he says. Carroll would not specifically answer the fans' charges. "I understand the crowd was pretty raucous," Carroll responded.
That's a cheap shot: the crowd was complaining because the store's personnel on the scene were not stopping the irregularities.
We've been hearing a lot about the high cost of newsprint these days, particularly from the Tribune, which has cited huge increases in the cost of newsprint as justification for severe space cutbacks, most notably in the arts section. The current Columbia Journalism Review puts the issue into perspective. An article and accompanying chart by Chapel Hill journalism prof Phil Meyer demonstrates that the trend in newsprint prices, in constant dollars, has been steadily downward over the past two decades--from an average 70s price of $800-plus per long ton to an early 90s average of about $600. How to explain the current sharp increase? Simple: in 1992 and 1993 newsprint prices bottomed out, down to just above $400. They began climbing back this year, and that's when we started hearing about it. In fact, prices are only now returning to their 1990 level in constant dollars. The article makes one other salient point: prices rise and fall with demand. The more advertising that papers have, the more newsprint they need, and the higher prices go. When advertising drops, less newsprint is needed, more is available, and prices go down. "Because [these] cycles are opposing," writes Meyer, "they tend to have a leveling effect on a newspaper's bottom line."...Joel Whitburn's Record Research chart books--The Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, and so forth--are as important for their reliability as their comprehensiveness. Details that perennially trouble fact checkers--correct titles and punctuation of songs and albums--are answered by Whitburn, who with his staff obsessively takes the info for the book directly from physical copies of the albums and singles. Much to the organization's chagrin, however, a computer glitch has forced a reprinting of the new Top 40 Albums book. Whitburn's publisher, Billboard Books, introduced the error, which rendered one bit of info--a marker indicating if the record was a live set, a greatest hits album, or so forth--inaccurate throughout the book. The publisher is pulling the volume from the shelves and reprinting it; corrected copies should be available next month. A spokesperson at Record Research says that you should be able to get a refund at the store where you purchased the book. The company later found out that another programming glitch created another class of mistakes: albums with long titles have their multiplatinum designation incorrect. The company has a list of the small number of albums affected. Call them at 414-251-5408. . . . Hitsville salutes Lounge Ax booker Sue Miller on her upcoming marriage to Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy next weekend. . . . Request editor Keith Moerer has been named the new music editor of Rolling Stone.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Perez.