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[whitespace] Limp Bizkit
Limpedendence: Thanks to some help from its friends at Napster.com, Limp Bizkit will be playing free dates this summer.

Limp Bizness

Can the free Limp Bizkit tour reverse the all pay, no go trend of today's rock concerts?

By Gina Arnold

ONCE UPON A TIME, the more you paid to see a band, the more you got for your money. Big bucks bought you champagne, great sight lines or backstage passes. Small bucks put you up in nosebleed land. Those were the rules that everybody played by, and that was the end of that. But things got out of hand a few years ago. Not only were big-name artists charging insane amounts for tickets, but the shows they were putting on were simply not worth it.

In fact, it gradually dawned on everyone that there was no guarantee that paying top dollar to see your favorite band was going to get you anything at all. Sometimes, it even got you a swift kick in the pants. Look what happened at Woodstock. No, not the free Woodstock of 1969. The other one, Woodstock 1999, held last summer on an abandoned Air Force base outside of Saugerties, N.Y.

In case you've forgotten, 200,000 people attended the three-day festival. Concert-goers paid $160 each for the privilege of entering the concert grounds, but once inside, all hell broke loose. By all reports, it was like one of those sci-fi movies set in the future where people are caged by aliens and made to fight their way out. There were eight reported rapes, 44 arrests on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to sodomy, and two deaths. Twelve hundred people were treated a day at the on-site medical facilities, and the Rome Memorial Hospital says it treated at least 123 Woodstock attendees.

But those statistics don't even begin to describe the violence that riddled this high-priced festival. The mosh pit was so dangerous that observers said there wasn't room to breathe in it. Metallica's set took place in a thunderstorm. During Limp Bizkit's set, organizers had to turn the PA off because the crowd was tearing down a sound tower, which, had it collapsed, would have electrocuted thousands. Not only that, but eyewitness accounts universally put the incidents of sexual molestation much, much higher.

In short, Woodstock '99 was one of the most violent concerts of all time, a bad hoodoo melee of sewage and sweat that made the famous Altamont concert of 1969 look a lot like a teddy bear's picnic. And it boggles the mind to know that those who experienced it actually paid $160 for the privilege. At the end of the three-day event, concert-goers literally burned the temporary structures and sound towers to the ground.

Oddly, pundits have not decried the denouement of Woodstock '99 quite as strongly as one might think. Instead, they've all but condoned it. "The scene ... will be described as a riot," wrote David Samuels in Harper's, "yet what is happening feels oddly light. [What the concert-goers have done] is no worse ... than what other people would have done in their place."

(The violence seemed unprecedented until last Friday, when the crowd at the Roskilde summer festival in Denmark rushed the stage as Pearl Jam started to play. Eight fans were killed in the crush.)

IN SHORT, at least according to some observers, the violence at Woostock was inevitable--even, possibly, cleansing. But if the violence at Woodstock was a trend rather than an isolated incident, then why now? One reason might be that Woodstock '99 was a true reflection of our culture, seen in microcosm in that strangely enclosed space.

Sure, the economy is doing well, but not everybody is benefiting. Certainly the high price of necessities like water and food and tickets at Woodstock can be seen in other aspects of society, like high gas and housing prices. Thanks in part to the Woodstock fiasco (and to slow ticket sales of other artists), concert ticket prices are actually going down this summer. Many big-name artists are charging $30-$40 per ducat, compared to $75-$100 a year ago. And some bands are doing even more than that.

Beginning July 11, Limp Bizkit will begin a tour of America at relatively small (3,000-5,000 seat) venues, and admission is ... free. (A stop at the San Jose State University Events Center, originally set for July 28-29, has been canceled, and no new date confirmed as yet.)

The only problem is, the concerts will have a first-come, first-serve policy of entrance. Patrons will line up overnight in the streets of various cities, and most will not get in. Those who do will be getting a uniquely small concert by one of America's most popular bands--and in this day and age of giant festival rock stomps, that would be quite a boon to your average Limp Bizkit fan.

As for those who don't? They should at least revel in the fact that they are not actually losing anything but sleep. By touring for free this summer, Limp Bizkit seems on the surface to be reversing the recent trend in concerts.

"Pay nothing--get something" is now the order of the day. But the truth is, there's no such thing. The so-called "Limpdependence" tour is being sponsored by Napster.com to the tune of $2 million dollars, and you can rest assured that both Limp Bizkit and Napster will be getting something out of this whole exercise. Napster will get the goodwill of Limp Bizkit's audience (the ones who get in, that is), and Limp Bizkit will earn a shred of credit for finally, after all these years, letting the savings be passed on to the consumer.

Whether the idea of a ticketless concert, paid for by a corporation, catches on, however, depends on whether these freebie concerts are run in a safe and humane manner. It could be that the whole project will merely illicit Woodstock-like fighting in the streets. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? As with other aspects of the new music economy, it's really too soon to tell what the future portends.

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From the July 6-12, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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