'98's Best: Michigan Lawmakers To Consider Rating Concerts

Bill would allow towns to require parental accompaniment of children to shows deemed 'harmful.'

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at

1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Wednesday, May. 6.]

When 10,000 people lend their names to efforts opposing bands such as shock-rocker Marilyn Manson, politicians listen.

And -- in Michigan, at least -- they act.

On Wednesday (April 29), Michigan State Sen. Dale Shugars (R-21st District) plans to introduce legislation that would authorize his state's cities and towns to

declare certain concerts "harmful to minors" and thus require parental

attendance with children under 18.

The impetus for the bill was an anti-Manson petition drafted last year by

the Kalamazoo Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families. Although Manson

still played Wings Stadium as scheduled last April, the 10,000 signatures

on the petition signaled to Shugars that there was support among his

constituents for restricting minors' attendance to certain concerts.

For Rob Zombie, leader of the alt-metal band White Zombie, the latest

attempts at regulating rock are no different than what he said his band has

endured for years.

"We went through the same shit as Manson two years before he did," Zombie

said. "Everywhere we went we had people trying to cancel shows and ban us ... I just think it's all a joke. It's the same shit from when I was a kid, but then it was Alice Cooper and Kiss. Next year it'll be somebody else."

But multi-platinum ska-punkers No Doubt are not taking the matter of concert restrictions so lightly. In a statement issued last month, the band called efforts to rate concerts "inaccurate, unreliable and completely unjust."

"The artistic expression that comes from any artist during each live performance is unique every time," said the Orange County, Calif., group in the joint statement. "That's the beauty of playing live!" The group concluded that concert

regulation "would be a no-win situation for everyone." "It must therefore remain the individual responsibility of the parents to screen concerts considered inappropriate for their children," the band said.

Shugars plans to announce his proposed legislation at a Tuesday (April 28) night meeting of the 30-member Kalamazoo Coalition.

A late draft of the bill gives municipalities the right -- according to criteria in the legislation -- to declare particular live performances "harmful to minors" based upon the artist's past concerts or albums. To restrict minors' attendance, a town's governing board must notify the venue owner of a concert's harmful-to-minors designation at least 30 days before the show date. If children are then found at the concert without parents, the venue owner faces misdemeanor charges punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $5,000 fine or both.

Once introduced, Shugars' bill is expected to be referred to either the

Judiciary or Local Government Committee, which must pass the measure before it can be voted on by the whole Senate.

"I think it's a good bill because unfortunately a lot of parents are not

really familiar with music groups," said Jake Van Gliesen, president of the

Kalamazoo Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families and a

father of four grown children. "Before [last year's concert], I had never

heard of Marilyn Manson. It's just a name to parents, and they have no

idea what's involved in the act. This will force the parents to take notice."

Some concert promoters, however, are not so enthusiastic about the measure. David Williams, president of Cellar Door Entertainment near Washington, D.C.,

questioned who would decide whether a concert should be rated as harmful to minors.

"If it's a right-wing fundamentalist, I've got a problem with it," Williams said. "I'd probably have a problem with it all the way around. I don't like the idea behind it. If we're talking about profanity and vulgarity, I think a kid hears more of it at school than he's going to hear at a rock concert."

Michigan is not the only state considering concert-restriction measures. South Carolina State Sen. Daniel Tripp (R-28th District) has also called for the parental accompaniment of minors at offensive concerts. Although both Tripp and Shugars have in the past considered proposing concert ratings akin to those used by the movie industry, neither legislator currently supports the establishment of such a system.

Meanwhile, some artists have vowed not to perform in states that adopt concert-restriction measures. Last December, Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis, who also handles Rage Against The Machine and L7, told SonicNet Music News that Pearl Jam would boycott Michigan if Shugars' proposed legislation is enacted. "I'm sure a lot of people would avoid it, just out of principle," Curtis said.

Pearl Jam have since scheduled a tour stop at the Breslin Center in East

Lansing, Mich., for Aug. 18. At press time, Curtis was unavailable to comment

on whether the band would cancel the date if Shugars' bill is signed into law.

A representative for Republican Governor John Engler said Tuesday (April 28) that Engler had not yet seen Shugars' bill, nor had he decided whether to

support it.