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Sage Francis
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Billboard Magazine's article on the Rock the Bells shows  Reply with quote  

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Rage, Wu-Tang Add Heft To Summer Hip-Hop Tour
By Mitchell Peter, L.A.

With a lineup catering to the b-boy, backpackers and graffiti art culture,
this summer's traveling Rock the Bells festival could be the rap community's
answer to the Vans Warped tour.

Rock the Bells, which went down in the hip-hop record books in 2004 after
reuniting the Wu-Tang Clan (including Ol' Dirty Bastard) for an onstage
performance, will revisit history by hosting the recently re-formed Rage
Against the Machine at Randall's Island in New York (July 28-29); the NOS
Events Center in San Bernardino, Calif. (Aug. 11); and the McCovey Cove
Parking Lot in San Francisco (Aug. 18).

Although Rage Against the Machine, which played its first show in seven
years at last month's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, is slated to
perform on only four of Rock the Bells' 19 cross-country dates, founder and
organizer Chang Weisberg of Guerilla Union is hopeful that the political
rockers' involvement "spills into other markets. The fact that Rage Against
the Machine is playing these shows has made it a big deal not only
nationally but worldwide. So, you try to leverage that and be thankful for
that awareness."

At press time, these remain the only shows on Rage's schedule.

New York rapper Nas will co-headline the majority of the trek along with the
Wu-Tang Clan, which has signed on for the entire festival to promote its
upcoming reunion album "8 Diagrams." Cypress Hill, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe
Monch, Immortal Technique and Jedi Mind Tricks will perform on all fest
dates, while the Roots, Public Enemy, Sage Francis, Mos Def, EPMD, MF Doom
and others will play select shows.

Ticket prices for each of the four bicoastal festivals range from $75 to $80
and expect to draw approximately 40,000 concertgoers. Prices for the
remaining 15 dates, which will visit primarily outdoor venues, range from
$40 to $45, and Weisberg says that between 8,000 and 10,000 people are
expected. So far, Rock the Bells has teamed with several hip-hop media
partners, and SanDisk signed on as the title sponsor.

Although the festival's 15 U.S. dates without Rage have a solid lineup of
"established touring acts," according to Weisberg, some industry observers
speculate that the absence of a mass-appeal urban headliner could make high
attendance draws challenging. And with virtually no other large-scale
hip-hop package tours going out this summer, rap looks unlikely to crack the
Billboard year-end list of the top 25 grossing tours, which it hasn't done
since 2005's Eminem/50 Cent Anger Management tour, which pulled in $22.7
million from 23 shows, according to Billboard Boxscore. Prior to that, in
2003 50 Cent rang up nearly $23 million in ticket sales, much of it
co-headlining with Jay-Z on the Roc-the-Mic tour.

But Weisberg, who through the years has promoted one-off festivals and
dozens of club gigs under the Rock the Bells moniker, doesn't compare his
festival to mainstream rap. "Even if Eminem, 50 Cent or Jay-Z were touring
this summer, that wouldn't be an indication to me that this is the right
time for Rock the Bells," he says. "The indication for me is the music and
growth of it in the markets we've done it in."

Last summer, a one-off Rock the Bells drew an impressive crowd to Concord,
Calif.'s Sleep Train Pavilion, says Rick Mueller, president of Live Nation
San Francisco, which is co-producing the Aug. 18 date. "For a lineup that
didn't have 50 Cent, Eminem or a flashy headliner, we did 10,000 people at a
$50 ticket," Mueller says, "which is a great number."

As opposed to chart-topping rappers who "might be really good in the studio"
but "not really able to perform," Weisberg says that the bottom line with
Rock the Bells "is that everybody on the show can fucking perform. People
want to go to a show and be entertained," he says. "They don't want to go to
a show where six dudes are onstage running around not knowing how to project
their voice correctly."

Indie rapper Sage Francis, a self-declared "road warrior," will perform on
the Paid Dues stage on select Rock the Bells dates. He says his indie
hip-hop contemporaries like Atmosphere, Brother Ali, El-P, Cage and Buck 65
aren't strangers to drawing respectable crowds and commanding the stage.
"We're all people who've been out for 10 years developing our fan bases,"
says Francis, who will embark on a 40-date club/theater trek later this
month to promote his latest Epitaph effort, "Human the Death Dance."

"We stay focused on what we do, how we do it and make sure it continues to
grow," the rapper continues. "Our shows entail a lot more interesting
elements. I don't think that a lot of other hip-hop acts have the tenacity
or fuel that we do."
Post Thu May 31, 2007 2:39 pm
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