Nic Harcourt, music director of public station KCRW-FM (89.9), got an early Christmas present. He asked Coldplay to headline the station’s annual fundraising Sounds Eclectic Evening concert, and the English band has just said yes.
It will be the group’s only U.S. performance in 2004 and only concert before it starts officially promoting its third album, due for a spring release, and will likely feature the first chance for fans to hear some of the new songs. And the Nov. 20 show will be an increasingly rare chance to see what has become one of the pop world’s biggest acts in a relatively intimate setting -- this show is in the 6,000-seat Universal Amphitheatre, whereas the last Los Angeles Coldplay appearance was a sold-out, two-date engagement at the 18,000-seat Hollywood Bowl in spring 2003.
It’s also the first show since Coldplay singer Chris Martin and actress Gwyneth Paltrow became an official tabloid-favorite family with their December marriage and the May 14 birth of their first child, a daughter they named Apple Blythe Alison Martin.
“It’s a huge thing to know you’re going to sell all your tickets before you even put them on sale,” Harcourt says.
Given the scope of Coldplay’s success, the band could have headlined any number of the seasonal concerts put on by top-rated commercial stations, including such L.A. events as the Almost Acoustic Christmas hosted by modern-rock giant KROQ-FM (106.7) and the Jingle Ball of Top 40 titan KIIS-FM (102.7).
So why the show of support for the noncommercial station?
“Nic and the band have had a long-standing relationship,” says Coldplay manager Dave Holmes. “They’re friends. Nic asked, and they didn’t have to think twice.”
Harcourt was in fact the first U.S. DJ to play the band on the air after being turned on to it by members of fellow English group Travis. “It’s wonderful that they are the type of people that remember their friends, and it’s cool that they want to play something like this, not just a stadium,” Harcourt says. “They don’t want to be known as just this huge band.”
Other confirmed acts include L.A. band Rilo Kiley and young New York singer-songwriter Nellie McKay, with more to be added. (Last year’s acts included Beck, Liz Phair, Damien Rice, Jurassic 5 and the Polyphonic Spree.)
There is a catch: Initial ticket sales, starting Sept. 28, will be for KCRW subscribers only. The general public won’t get a shot until Oct. 11. (The station’s on-air summer subscriber drive ends Monday.)
Harcourt says that as many as half of the tickets have been sold before the general sales started, and he expects Coldplay’s presence to increase the subscriber demand.
A second chance for the Coup
One of the most notorious (if inadvertent) musical associations with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is going to get new exposure. “Party Music,” the album by Oakland rap duo the Coup, originally was to have featured a cover depicting an exploding World Trade Center with member Boots Riley pushing a detonator button. The art was designed before the tragedy and changed to a shot of flaming gasoline in a martini glass before the album’s November 2001 release. But especially given the duo’s lyrical stance against modern capitalism in such songs as “5 Million Ways to Kill a C.E.O.,” the image stuck.
That attention overwhelmed the music and lyrical content of the album, which ultimately saw only limited release before going out of print. But Epitaph Records is giving it another chance. The label has signed the group and will reissue the album in November (with the different artwork) and then will release a new Coup album in the spring.
“The album ‘Party Music’ is a beautiful album, and people need to hear it,” says Riley, who wants fans to be able to get a sense of continuity between it and the next album.
While the album languished and the duo has been without a contract for two years, Riley is not charging that the Coup was blacklisted, though he says he has heard of stores and distributors that would not carry the group’s albums. Epitaph president Andy Kaulkin, who made the deal and is a big Coup booster, does not expect negative repercussions over the signing.
“There’s a time people need to be politically outspoken, and if there’s a time people need to hear what Boots Riley has to say, now’s that time,” Kaulkin says.
Riley, though, notes that his politics are always put in a personal context, and he hopes people will be drawn as much by the music as the words.
“I’m not trying to make a speech on CD because who wants to buy that?” he says. “I talk about my life and how it intersects with the system. And musically, this album is harder than the last one, but always funky. It’s more Funkadelic than Parliament, more ‘Dirty Mind’ than ‘Purple Rain,’ if you know what I mean.”