TOURING & FESTIVAL NEWS: Laffapalooza! Set For October 21-24 (more news)

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Laffapalooza!, the Urban International Comedy Arts Festival '04, will be held October 21-24 in Atlanta. Hosted by Jamie Foxx, the centerpiece of the multi-day festival will be "Live From Laffapalooza!”, which is being taped over two nights for a network television special. Another feature is the "New Faces in Urban Comedy International" talent search for which Foxx will head a panel of judges searching for the next breakthrough urban comic.

Laffapalooza!'s "New Faces in Urban Comedy "International" talent search began in 10 key urban markets in the U.S. as well as in both the U.K. (London) and Canada (Montreal). Winners from those preliminary events will perform for judges during the "New Faces in Urban Comedy" showcase.

Laffapalooza! sponsors include Cingular Wireless, Comedy Central, Coors Light, Four Seasons Hotels and Image Entertainment. Executive producers of the festival are Foxx, Marcus King and Ron Wilson. –Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

Jimmy Buffett Still Plans To Tour

NEW YORK (AP) — Jimmy Buffett is far from "wasting away in Margaritaville." At 57, he continues to tour and record, with no plans to slow down.

"Well, I always said that I wouldn't use a teleprompter and if I start to sing real flat, I'll hang it up," the singer says in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" to air Wednesday night. "I'm having more fun now."

Early in his career, Buffett wanted to be a country singer. He moved to Nashville, Tenn., where he wrote for Billboard magazine.

He relocated to Key West, Fla., in the early 1970s and adopted his laid-back, toes-in-the-sand persona. His songs include "Margaritaville" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise."

Now Buffett has a new relationship with country music. He won a Country Music Award this year for his collaboration with Alan Jackson on "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," and recruited some of country music's biggest names to help him record "License to Chill," which includes a cover of Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin.'"

"I love the fact that we chose a Hank Williams song, put a little bit of a Cajun, zydeco feel to it and got Hank Williams back on the country charts today," Buffett said. "I … think Hank would like that."

Did country music rediscover Buffett or did Buffett rediscover country music?

"I think (country music) rediscovered me," he said. "I really don't think I changed much."

He added: "I'm still here. Didn't have to go to rehab and I'm not broke."

R. Kelly And Jay-Z Reluctantly Unite

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — The handwritten script appeared slowly at first, unspooling across the wide-screen video monitors inside the Allstate Arena as if scrawled by some giant, invisible hand.

"Dear Fans, Thank you," it began, as the 23,000 people inside the suburban Chicago stadium cheered each word. "So many times I started to quit and walk away …" another line read. False friends were excoriated, loyal fans praised. "For those of you wondering how I'm doing … I'M ALL RIGHT," the note added. It was signed: R. Kelly.

As Kelly and Jay-Z kicked off their long-awaited Best of Both Worlds Tour, this was the first and only time the R&B icon acknowledged that, in his world, things could be better.

Kelly is facing felony child pornography charges stemming from allegations that he videotaped sex acts with a girl believed to be as young as 14 years old. He has also been accused of maintaining a pattern of sex with underage girls. His next court date is Nov. 4.

But on Thursday night, much of the Chicago audience seemed unconcerned with the hometown star's legal troubles. For three-plus hours, they sweated and swayed to the string of hits unleashed by Kelly and Jay-Z, the purportedly "retired" hip-hop capo.

After waiting more than two hours past the scheduled starting time, most fans seemed elated that the show — slated to visit 40 cities over the next few months to promote Kelly and Jay-Z's second collaboration, "Best of Both Worlds: Unfinished Business" — was finally underway.

However, Kelly's performance was considerably tamer than what he'd offered the night before. At the previous show, the tour's first, Kelly appeared to make light of the charges on several occasions. During one segment, the giant video monitors displayed a mock text message from Kelly seeking a female partner who "MUST be down for anything." Then it added: "She must be 19 or over." He also performed a skit in which the singer dressed in a prison-style jumpsuit and simulated intercourse with two women inside of a cage.

After critics decried these segments as inappropriate and callous, Kelly quickly removed them from Thursday's performance, with only the "letter" serving as any overt reminder of his ordeal.

Chicago newspapers have suggested that Kelly's changes led to the two-hour delay in the second performance and may have angered Jay-Z. Reports also said the resulting tension between the two stars may have led to the cancellation of the show's third date in Cincinnati.

A statement released by tour organizers blamed the Ohio cancellation on "logistical and production concerns from last night's show in Chicago."

Although the two Chicago shows were generally regarded as a success — they were expected to gross a combined $1.6 million — they was not without their flaws. Jay-Z stumbled over a few of his lines; Kelly created a few lulls in his show with excessive posturing.

Nonetheless, both gave long glimpses at the stage presence and talent that has helped them sell a combined 70 million records worldwide. Even more impressive was the sheer breadth and power of their repertoires.

Jay-Z and R. Kelly both have been stars for more than a decade now, and the warm reception that greeted each of their performances was less an affirmation of the show itself than a testament to the staying power of their music. With hit after hit, from Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life" and "Big Pimpin'" to Kelly's "Bump & Grind" and "Ignition," the artists relentlessly hammered the audience with a lineup that ran a thematic gamut stretching from the lascivious to the luxurious.

The tour was originally planned for 2002, to promote the artists' collaborative album "Best of Both Worlds." But just before the album dropped, the notorious videotapes surfaced, showing a man who appears to be R. Kelly engaged in a variety of graphic sex acts with a young woman.

After that, Jay-Z shunned the pop crooner like a disease. He refused to promote the album in any way or even be photographed with Kelly. Sales for "Best of Both Worlds" suffered, and the album was largely forgotten. But that did nothing to slow either of their careers.

Jay-Z scored hits with "The Black Album" and "Blueprint 2: The Gift And the Curse." R. Kelly kept pace with "Chocolate Factory" and now has this year's "Happy People/U Saved Me," a chart-topping double album.

Judging by Thursday's show, the residual fallout from Kelly's troubles still has not subsided. The most glaring proof: Except for two sets of about 20 minutes each, Jay-Z and Kelly never appeared onstage together. Instead, they mostly took turns commandeering the set, Jay flanked more often by protege Memphis Bleek than by the man with whom he's sharing top billing.

And while the sheer heft of their discographies rescued their performances, it seemed painfully obvious that the artists' solo turns were not about being generous with the spotlight. Their apparent reluctance to jam together made for a handful of awkward moments during the show, such as when Jay-Z wound up performing one of the duo's most popular hits, "Fiesta," by himself.

As the much-anticipated tour designed to combine the best of R&B with top-shelf hip-hop winds on, it will be interesting to see just how much these collaborators remain apart.

CMJ/Rock Hall Music Fest Set For Cleveland June 9-11

CLEVELAND, OH (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — CMJ/Rock Hall Music Fest, a major, multi-day music event featuring as many as 100 bands, will rock Cleveland June 9-11. "This is the type of major festival that Cleveland has talked about for years," said Terry Stewart, chairman and chief executive officer of the Rock Hall of Fame and Museum. "It will showcase both established performers and emerging artists that could become tomorrow's stars, and it represents unprecedented collaboration between all the major music venues in town."

The music festival will kick off on June 8 with an opening-night concert at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. From June 9-11, a full lineup of concerts will be featured each evening at House of Blues, the Odeon, Peabody's, Beachland Ballroom, the Agora and the Grog Shop. Back-to-back daytime concerts will also be scheduled at the festival village at Nautica on the West Bank of the Flats. In addition, a series of educational programs, panel discussions and workshops will focus on the artistic and economic aspects of today's music scene.

Stewart emphasized that Music Fest events will be affordable and widely accessible. "We are especially pleased to be partnering with CMJ, which has a solid track record for featuring the best in new music and for breaking unknown acts," he said.

"As we shine the spotlight on rock's future, we're very excited to be bringing so much outstanding entertainment to the rock and roll capital of the world," said Bobby Haber, founder and chief executive officer of CMJ. "With such a rich heritage dating back to the earliest days of rock and roll, Cleveland is a natural place to hold this event."

Stewart said Music Fest, among the events that will celebrate the Rock Hall's 10th anniversary, supports the institution's mission to educate people about rock and roll and to serve as an economic engine and tourist attraction for Cleveland. While the CMJ/Rock Hall Music Fest will be part of the Rock Hall's 10th anniversary celebration, the Museum plans to make the festival an annual event.

"Upwards of 20,000 people will be staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and performing or being entertained in our clubs," he said. "What's more, they will have a unique opportunity to better understand and appreciate a unique art form that has had an impact on several generations."

Miller Genuine Draft has signed on as a corporate sponsor of the event. –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

XM Satellite Radio To Broadcast Last Vote For Change Concert On October 11

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — XM Satellite Radio will broadcast live the finale of the Vote For Change concerts on October 11, starting at 7 pm (ET), and presented by MoveOn PAC to benefit America Coming Together (ACT). All 13 artists participating in this fall's 33-city Vote For Change tour, including Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Dave Matthews Band, the Dixie Chicks, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Jurassic 5, Keb' Mo', Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds, Pearl Jam, and R.E.M., will be performing at Washington, DC's MCI Center and heard live in its entirety on the four-hour broadcast on XM. A team of XM on-air personalities will be reporting before, during and after this landmark concert.

"Our mission is to provide XM's listeners the best in live music whether it is an emerging artist playing an acoustic set at a small club, or the country's biggest names rocking a stadium stage," said Lee Abrams, XM's chief programming officer. "We are fortunate to have all of these great artists performing right in our backyard here in the Nation's Capitol. On October 11, our more than 5 million XM listeners coast-to-coast will feel like they are here, too, sitting right in the front row."

The Vote for Change concert and the performer interviews will be broadcast on XM Live Channel 200. XM is the national live concert leader providing its listeners with the live broadcasts of performances from the Bonnarro Music Festival, Phish's Coventry Festival, Willie Nelson's Annual Fourth of July Picnic, the Telluride Folk Festival, the MerleFest Bluegrass Festival, the Shortlist of Music Awards Concert and the XM Live Performance Theater. –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

'Better Than Ezra' Helps Open Library

LITTLE ROCK, AK (AP) — Southern pop trio Better Than Ezra will play at a free concert on Little Rock's riverfront the night before the Clinton Library opens.

The New Orleans-based trio will be joined Nov. 17 at an amphitheater two blocks from the Clinton Presidential Center by the North Mississippi All-Stars and B-Side, an up-and-coming band at the University of Arkansas, it was announced recently.

All three groups were inspired by Delta music, which President Clinton loved as a child.

Clinton's collection of Delta music, including early Elvis Presley recordings, is the subject of the Clinton Library's first temporary exhibit.

On the Web: http://www.clintonpresidentialcenter.org
http://www.betterthanezra.com

Springsteen Brings Vote For Change Concert To New Jersey On October 13

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will perform a single New Jersey concert for Vote For Change on October 13. Jackson Browne, John Fogerty and Patti Scialfa are also on the bill. Springsteen's manager Jon Landau said, "The Vote For Change experience has been so wonderful that we couldn't let it end without taking it to New Jersey. The Meadowlands is going to be shaking."

The concert is being produced by MoveOnPAC to benefit America Coming Together. The Vote For Change tour kicked off in Pennsylvania on October 1, and will include twelve states with the addition of the New Jersey show. Vote For Change artists were brought together by a single idea – the need to make a change in the direction of our country at the federal, state and local levels. The artist coalition includes Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Bonnie Raitt, Bright Eyes, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Dave Matthews Band, Death Cab For Cutie, Dixie Chicks, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Jurassic 5, Keb' Mo', Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., and My Morning Jacket. <./P>

Ticket prices are $100-$75 plus additional service fees. There is a six ticket limit for each transaction. –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Vote For Change Finale On Sundance Channel

WASHINGTON, DC (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The Vote for Change Concert Tour will finish up on October 11th with a sold out show at the MCI Center in Washington, DC. Don’t have a ticket? You can still catch the finale on the Sundance Channel at 6:30pm ET/PT.

With performances by Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Dave Matthews Band, Dixie Chicks, Jackson Brown, James Taylor, Jurassic 5, Keb' Mo', Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Pearl Jam and R.E.M. the show promises to be one to remember.

In addition to the Sundance Channel’s presentation, entitled National Anthem: Inside the “Vote for Change” Concert Tour, RealNetworks ( http://www.real.com) will web cast the event live.

The concert will also be broadcast over the radio, with such companies as XM Satellite Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio and Music Choice already confirming that they will carry the show.

MoveOn PAC (http://www.moveon.org) is getting involved by organizing house parties where local residents will be able to come together to watch the concert and discuss both the political and musical aspects of the event. — by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers

18th Annual Merlefest Set For April 28-May1

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC will present MerleFest 2005, the 18th annual festival in celebration of the music of the late Merle Watson and his father Doc Watson, on its campus on April 28-May 1. Those joining Doc Watson and Merle's son Richard Watson for MerleFest 2005 will include BR549; Sam Bush; The Chieftains; Vassar Clements; Eustace Conway; John Cowan Band; Rodney Crowell; Donna the Buffalo; Jerry Douglas; The Duhks; Bela Fleck; John Hiatt, Corey Harris; John Jorgenson; The Kruger Brothers; Jim Lauderdale; Robert Lockwood, Jr.; Loretta Lynn; Del McCoury Band; Buddy Miller; Allison Moorer; Tim O'Brien; Railroad Earth; Tony Rice Unit; Peter Rowan; Darrell Scott; Earl Scruggs; Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder; Joe Thompson & Bob Carlin; and The Waybacks.

MerleFest 2005 will offer a reunion of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys featuring Earl Scruggs, Vassar Clements, Bobby Hicks, Roland White, Tater Tate, Roland White, Del McCoury, host Peter Rowan, and others. The festival will also present two nights of The Chieftains with guests from the Down the Old Plank Road sessions including Doc, Douglas, Fleck, Hiatt, McCoury, Miller, Moorer, O'Brien, Scruggs, Skaggs, and more. MerleFest 2005 plans to announce at least two more major artists for its lineup. Tickets go on sdale on November 9. –Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

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