Rest assured, Eddie Vedder -- among other rockers -- is not going to stand for a measure that attempts to put tags on his live performances, according to Pearl Jam's manager.
If a proposed measure seeking to censor who should and shouldn't be attending rock shows passes in Michigan, frontman Vedder and his Pearl Jam bandmates will not make a stop there on the group's upcoming tour, PJ manager Kelly Curtis said Tuesday.
"I'm sure a lot of people would avoid it, just out of principle," said
Curtis, whose management company also handles L7 and Rage Against the Machine, two artists whose albums bear warning stickers.
When Sen. Dale Shugars, R-Mich., sponsored a resolution earlier this year to ban minors from attending concerts that were deemed offensive, he likely knew that he would return later with a bill bearing more teeth.
After all, his initial resolution only encouraged venue owners to ban minors from attending concerts without their parents when the performer's album carried a voluntary parental advisory sticker -- "and once you start talking about a voluntary industry standard to set up law it's like trying to hold onto Jell-O," Shugars' spokesman, Mark Michaelsen, said. "It just pours through your fingers."
Shugars is now working on a controversial bill that would impose fines or jail time on concert hall owners who admit minors to "offensive" shows without parental accompaniment. Throughout the country, venue operators are
discussing measures such as Shugars' as well as the possibility of adopting
a rating system like the ones used by the movie and television industry.
"If a rating system had been established 40 years ago, no one would have been able to see Frank Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones or Alice Cooper," Curtis said.
Rather than rely on such a rating system, Seth Hurwitz, owner of Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club said he thinks parents should refer to record warning labels to monitor their children's concert attendance. "I have kids," Hurwitz said. "I'd like to know what kind of show they're going to be watching. But I think that since they already rate the records, it's a pretty good bet that Wu-Tang Clan [for example] is pretty much going to do what they do on the record live. You can go ahead and use the ratings on the records as the guidelines to a live act."
Not all potentially offensive artists, however, have made recordings, and
not all who have records include parental warnings on them. Shugars' draft
bill in Michigan, which is expected to come before the legislature early
next year, is therefore not based on warning stickers but particular speech
and actions, including nudity, real or simulated sex, and use of illegal drugs. "Basically stuff that when taken as a whole, the average adult person
would consider inappropriate for minors," Michaelsen said.
If the bill is passed into law, venue owners who allow minors to witness offending acts or speech without adult accompaniment could face up to 90 days in jail or a fine of up to $5,000. But "a concert is not a scripted event," Hurwitz said. "You can't guarantee what people are going to sing or say. It would be meaningless to try to rate a live event. I wouldn't want to represent to the public a show that was going to be [rated a particular rating]."
Paul Durham, singer and guitarist for the San Francisco band Black Lab
agreed. "For us, on different nights it's different experiences," he said.
"It depends if it's cross-dressing night, or insult the audience using
multiple expletives night. It sounds like you might get stuck with a rating and
then you'd have to play that show every time, which is hard for a band like
A mainstream artist such as Bruce Springsteen is a textbook case of the
unpredictability of performers. Parents who brought their children to see
his Ghost of Tom Joad tour last year may have been shocked when the
normally child-friendly Boss began performing a new song called "Pilgrim in the Temple of Love," which depicted in graphic detail the sexual exploits of Santa Claus after meeting up with a prostitute in a strip bar.
Shugars' draft bill doesn't provide for such unpredictable instances, Michaelsen said. "You can't anticipate all eventualities," he added.
Alex Abbiss, manager for Insane Clown Posse, said band members Violent J, 25, and Shaggy 2 Dope, 23, a.k.a. Joe Bruce and Joey Ulster, who are currently touring Europe, thought that the proposed bill was another showing of how the government is trying to tell people what they should see. "If someone wants to come to a certain kind of concert and pay their money and as long as no pornography is being shown, they should be able to," Abbiss said.
Still, some said that such measures are not intended purely with the public interest in mind. According to Nina Crowley, executive director of the Massachusetts Music Industry Coalition, parental-access bills and concert ratings are offered as simple solutions but often mask more cynical intentions.
"Ratings have become a fad with the morality police," Crowley said. "They
decide, 'Here's an angle. I can get votes as a politician,' or 'I can get
money donated to my Religious Right organization if I make it look like I'm
going to solve all the ills of the parents in the world.' Their purpose is
to make money and to shut down a form of speech they don't happen to like or
they think is expendable. People need to realize [politicians] are not out for our
children in most cases.
"And once you put a rating on a concert, there's going to be a lot of parents
who think, 'I don't have to pay attention, they've rated it,' " Crowley said. "It's kids ultimately who lose out because their parents aren't going to pay attention."
(ATN's Senior Writer Gil Kaufman contributed to this report.)
[Tues., Dec. 2, 1997, 6:30 p.m. PDT]