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Moby Catches the Music Festival Bug

March 25, 2001|STEVE HOCHMAN

Exercise regularly and eat well and in half a century, you might be able to join Moby at Area 51.

But first the electronic rocker has to succeed with Area 1. That's the name he's given to a touring festival he's putting together for this summer in conjunction with his managers and SFX, the world's largest concert promoter. His long-range hope is for annual editions, each one numbered to match the year.

The idea is for Moby to join the ranks of artists who have put their stamp on summer festival tours, beginning when Perry Farrell initiated Lollapalooza in 1991. Some have already dubbed this venture Mobypalooza. Like Farrell with his creation, Blues Traveler with its '90s H.O.R.D.E. venture and current festival king Ozzy Osbourne with Ozzfest, Moby is trying to design something that will both reflect his own sensibilities and connect with a large audience.

To do that, though, he has to get a lineup in place.

"So far the only confirmed performer is me," he says, declining to name other acts in discussions until contracts are signed.

However, sources in the concert business name Beck, Fatboy Slim, French techno-jazz combo St. Germain, English DJ Paul Oakenfold and a reunion of English electronic-rock pioneer New Order among those who have been approached. Rock bands At the Drive-In and Incubus are also candidates to give the tour some harder-edged elements. There also will be a second stage for emerging acts, and various pavilion attractions--standard elements in the Lollapalooza model.

A lot of people in the music business are rooting for Moby, who earned goodwill via years of hard work and intelligent, genre-crossing music before his commercial breakthrough with 1999's "Play" album.

But some observers, who asked not to be named, have reservations about the focus and direction of the proposed venture, wondering whether electronica fans drawn by a St. Germain or a Paul Oakenfold would be interested in an Incubus or At the Drive-In.

Moby, though, says the focus is no mystery.

"For me it's a simple philosophy," he says. "My primary criterion is asking musicians I really like. Ideally I would want the festival to be eclectic and of high quality. But really, just representing the, hopefully, more interesting side of contemporary music will be the result.

"There's an awful lot of contemporary music that's slightly less than noble, but I'm hoping to showcase acts that can appeal to people at the same time as maintaining a great deal of integrity. The subtext is to consciously not go for the lowest common denominator. I'm not saying I have anything against it, but that's already catered to."

He also has no illusions about Area 1's potential to launch and define a whole new era of rock, a la Lollapalooza.

"I can't be presumptuous that I will have the same impact," says Moby, who was on the Lollapalooza second-stage bill in 1995. "My hope is I can put something together and go for a month on the road. If we can also broaden the cultural milieu, then that's a bonus. But the music world is different than it was when Lollapalooza started. People are more open-minded now. I don't think I'll be able to surprise anyone [the way Lollapalooza did]."

The tour is expected to be brief this year--fewer than 20 dates at this point--starting in mid-July. A Los Angeles-area stop likely will come in early August.


FAMILY FUN: Those Judds! Once they start with the reunions, it seems they can't stop. Wynonna has written and recorded a song, "You Are," for the movie "Someone Like You," which stars little sister Ashley--and features a cameo by mom Naomi. This is the first time Wynonna has contributed music for one of her sister's films, and she took the gig seriously.

"The song started out as a statement," she says. "It became something more powerful . . . a beautiful anthem of love. This song and its inspiration will outlive other testimonials from my catalog and find new color every day."

Adding to interest in the project is the presence of the film's producer, Linda Obst, who has an impressive track record for film soundtracks, including such landmarks as "Flashdance" and "Sleepless in Seattle," along with "One Fine Day," "Hope Floats" and the album tied to the 1999 miniseries "The '60s." Each has sold more than a million copies.

"She knows how to marry music and movies better than anybody," says Dana Millman, who served as music supervisor for "Someone Like You."

A soundtrack album, also featuring previously available tracks from Annie Lennox and others, is due from TVT Records on April 3.

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