For the second year in a row, organizers of the Lollapalooza summer festival are in discussions with shock-rocker Marilyn Manson about playing the pioneering multi-act tour.
But according to tour co-founder Ted Gardner, the bigger question is whether the tour --which took a year off in 1998 due to a lack of a strong headlining act -- will happen next year at all.
He remains optimistic about returning in 1999 with a strong lineup, and said Tuesday, "I still believe there can be a tour, but the extent of what it will be, the size, the time frame, is completely unknown."
Lollapalooza organizers had been in discussions with the high-profile, multi-platinum shock rocker about playing the main stage on last summer's aborted tour, a prospect the ghoulish Manson passed over to finish work on his namesake band's recently released album, Mechanical Animals.
"We've had ongoing discussions with Manson's management and [tour] agent," Gardner said, "but it hasn't progressed anywhere beyond that at this point."
Gardner also confirmed that British grunge-rockers Bush and critically acclaimed experimental-rockers Radiohead already have passed on a chance to play the festival.
"Their representatives said both bands were either not touring or had other things going on," Gardner said.
Tour organizers also are said to be in talks with half a dozen other acts Gardner termed "major," but he would not reveal their names.
Along with Manson, electronica-quartet Garbage and San Francisco punkers Green Day turned down the festival in '98, citing previous commitments.
In late October, Gardner said his "gut feeling" was that the tour would happen next year, possibly rebounding from the decision to forgo a 1998 tour. As the founding summer rock-festival tour, Lollapalooza had been held every year since its 1991 inception, until this year. In addition to the lack of a major headliner, the tour was coming off 1997's summer of slumping ticket sales and negative reviews.
"I've never been concerned whether Lollapalooza goes out or not," Gardner said. "My concern is to not put a piece of s--- out there, which I will never do. If it doesn't happen this year, it doesn't bother me."
Gardner said that the absolute deadline for organizing a 1999 tour was Dec. 10, when he has plans to leave for a month-long overseas trip.
The news of the talks with Manson were enough to capture the attention of at least one fan, 18-year-old Evan Moore. Moore runs the website "SeemsLikeSalvation," dedicated to bands on Nothing Records, the label founded by industrial-rock band Nine Inch Nails' leader Trent Reznor. One of those bands is Marilyn Manson.
"I haven't been to a Manson show all year," Moore said, "and I would definitely go if they were on Lollapalooza, because it would be more than just Manson, and I'm influenced by a lot more bands than just his. It's a great chance to see a lot of cool bands."
Lollapalooza was co-founded by Gardner and ex-Jane's Addiction leader Perry Farrell in 1991. Farrell, who had not been involved with Lollapalooza for several years, returned to the tour in 1997, due to his interest in erecting tents for poetry, art and environmental displays. At the time of the 1998 tour's cancellation, Gardner placed some of the blame on Farrell, suggesting that the singer had waited too long to tell organizers his reunited Jane's Addiction would not be able to play.
At the time, a source close to Farrell denied the reports.
Gardner reiterated his desire to "get the front-of-house crap" out of the festival, referring to the things Farrell held dear, as well as placing more of an emphasis on second- and possibly third-stage acts.
Among the other factors interfering with tour booking is what Gardner described as the "wait-and-see" attitude gripping Los Angeles as the music business girds for expected cuts from the $10 billion Universal/PolyGram mega-merger. The planned merger could delay or scuttle the release of albums by a number of artists.
"Everyone is sitting back to see what happens and what releases are coming," Gardner said, "who will get bumped or dropped and who will have albums out during the summer."