News Flash: '98 Tibetan Concert Hits Nation's Capital In June

The third annual Tibetan Freedom Concert will take place this summer in Washington, D.C., over the weekend of June 13-14. Although no acts have been confirmed yet, publicist Perry Serpa said on Tuesday that organizers the Beastie Boys will be back again.

Last September, concert organizer and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch told Addicted To Noise that he planned to keep holding the annual all-star event "every year until Tibet is free."

Yauch has been one of the music community's most outspoken critics of the human-rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese government since its 1950 occupation of Tibet. As of Tuesday afternoon, the venue for the two-day concert had not yet been announced.

"Our goal is to keep raising the profile of what's happening in Tibet," Yauch said during the interview, "and to let more people know about it, because the more of us that can get together and demand that China let Tibet be free, the faster it will happen." The first Tibetan Freedom concert, held over two days in 1996 in San Francisco, featured sets from the Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine and Bjork and drew over 50,000 fans a day. Last year's sequel, held on New York's Randall's Island, featured U2, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Mike Mills, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready and punk-rockers Rancid playing to a two-day crowd of just under 50,000.

The two concerts have raised just over $1 million for the event's co-sponsor, the Milarepa Fund, which distributes funds to organizations that are working to free the Tibetan people from oppression by the Chinese government. A three-CD Tibetan Freedom Concert album, which featured highlights from both events, was released last November. Creators of a film on the first year's concert are currently seeking a distributor.

Rapper Yauch, also known by his Beastie Boys alter ego, MCA, said the seeds for holding the Tibetan Freedom Concert in the nation's capital were sown several years ago during a conversation with Milarepa director Erin Potts. "We talked about doing a concert in (Washington) D.C. to influence President Clinton on his MFN (most favored nation) status decision on China. That didn't lead directly to the concert idea, though, which came two years later."

Backstage at last summer's concert, R.E.M.'s politically outspoken singer, Michael Stipe, said that he is as good as there if the concert is in D.C.

When asked if he thought artists of his stature could impact White House decisions, Stipe said, "Yeah. Absolutely. Are you kidding? If they take this concert to Washington, D.C., next year, every intern on Capitol Hill is going to want a ticket. Every senator is going to want to be there. After they take part in something like this, after they see people, this large crowd gathered together and really honestly speaking out about something that they feel strongly about, it's gonna impact them in some way.

"Hopefully it would mean that policies will change, that discussions are started, that (Tibet's leader) Dalai Lama could actually sit down with the president of the U.S. instead of getting a pat on the back from him in the vice president's office. And they could start pressuring China."

As for R.E.M.'s possible involvement in a D.C. show, Stipe said at the time, "If they asked us to be there, I think we've already agreed with each other that we're gonna be there if at all possible. If they want us. After today, I think they will." R.E.M. have not yet been confirmed for the lineup of the D.C. show. -- Gil Kaufman [Wed., Feb. 4, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]