1999 – Tibetan Freedom Concert

Tibetan Freedom Concert is the name given to a series of rock music festivals held in North America, Europe and Asia between 1996 and 2001 to support the cause of Tibetan independence. Tracy Chapman performed on the 1999 edition (June 13) on the Alpine Valley Music Theatre scene in East, Troy, Wisconsin. The concert was schedule in 4 different cities this same day: East Trop, Amsterdam, Sydney & Tokyo. Over 55,000 attendees and $50,000 raised.

Tracy Chapman was scheduled to performed on the 1998 edition but severe thunderstorms cancelled Saturday’s June 13 concert. Both Beck and Tracy were not able to reschedule for Sunday because of a prior concert commitments.

Her band was composed of: Denny Fongheiser (Drums), Andy Stoller (Bass), Steve Hunter (Guitar) and Patrick Warren (Keyboards).


  • CHICAGO VENUE: Alpine Valley Music Theater

Promoter: Jam Productions
Date: June 13, 1999
Performers: Run DMC, The Cult, Beastie Boys, Blondie, Tracy Chapman, The Roots, Live, Eddie Vedder, Otis Rush, Cibo Matto, Handsome Boy Modeling School, Rage Against the Machine, Wu-Tang Clan, Chaksam-pa
Speakers: Xiao Qiang of Human Rights in China, Lhadon Tethong of Students for a Free Tibet, Nawang Pema- Tibetan Nun


Promoter: Mojo Concerts
Date: June 13, 1999
Performers: Urban Dance Squad, Alanis Morissette, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Luscious Jackson, NRA, Gangchenpa, Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros, Thom Yorke
Speakers: Erin Potts – The Milarepa Fund, Ama Adhe – Former Political Prisoner.

  • TOKYO VENUE: Tokyo Bay NK Hall

Promoter: Smash Corporation
Date: June 13, 1999
Performers: Buffalo Daughter, Brahman, Audio Active, Kan Takagi, Scha Dara Parr, Kiyoshirou Imawano, Nawang Khechog
Speakers: Alma David – Students for a Free Tibet, Jurme Wangda – Liaison Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

  • SYDNEY VENUE: Sydney Showgrounds

Promoter: Pav Corporation
Date: June 13, 1999
Performers: Regurgitator, Spiderbait, The Mavis’s, The Avalanches, Neil Finn, The Living End, Celibate Rifles, Not From There, Gerling, Jebediah, You Am I, Garpa, Blackalicious, Eskimo Joe, Trans Am
Speakers: Lobsang Lungtok – Former Political Prisoner, Jo Shaw – Students for a Free Tibet, Australia, Dorji Dolma – Australia Tibet Council


Rage, Eddie Vedder Impress at the Tibetan Freedom Concert
– By Blair R. Fischer for RollingStone.com – June 14, 1999

East Troy, WI — On a day of tolerance, there was plenty to tolerate. For the second straight year, the rain in Spain fell mainly on those protesting in vain at the Tibetan Freedom Concert. Last year’s two-day event in Washington, D.C., made national headlines primarily because a girl was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm, overshadowing the festival’s goal of raising funds for Tibetans and creating awareness about China’s vigilant occupation of Tibet. This time around, there were four festivals, in Amsterdam, Sydney, Tokyo and E. Troy, Wisc., all staged for the same purpose of freeing Tibet, with organizers still praying this year will be the last.

Still, with heavy rain ravaging the morning disposition of an estimated 31,000 patrons at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisc., nothing was gonna rain on their parade, except maybe some bulls. Rage Against the Machine, a last second addition to the East Troy, Wisc., lineup and subtraction to the Amsterdam show, were clearly the force to be reckoned with. If any band can rattle the despotism of a country, it’s Rage. Filled with their normal vitriol, the politically charged quartet stampeded through a forty-minute set of rap-metal favorites (“People of the Sun,” “Freedom”) and a new tune, “Testify,” which incorporated taut feedback swirls and a wave-y guitar crunch. Without prompting from frontman Zack de la Rocha, the crowd screamed “Now you do what they told you” with de la Rocha answering “Now you’re under control” during “Killing in the Name Of,” stirring the pot of mudsliders and moshers high on the hills of Alpine Valley.

Earlier, Eddie Vedder, making his third consecutive appearance at the TFC, used some chicanery to attempt to make a point about the U.S. After performing the Pearl Jam cover of the J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers’ “Last Kiss” all by his lonesome, Vedder began soliciting audience members for a drummer and bassist to help him forge ahead. After selecting Brad and Jon to play drums and bass respectively, the makeshift trio appeared to slog through the opening to Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” before Brad kicked it into high gear leaving the crowd in goose-pimpled astonishment. The average Joe, however, knew something was amiss when Jon started singing back-up to the obscure, punk-rocker “Watch Outside” by Mono Men and added the appropriate energy to the bass-savvy Police cover “Driven to Tears.” Vedder then confessed the troupe had been practicing (Brad and Jon are actually Jon Merithew and Brad Balsley of the Seattle duo C Average). “You live in America,” Vedder explained. “You get lied to all the time.”

You get Live all the time, too. Frontman Ed Kowalczyk vowed he’d play the TFC every year (this marked the band’s second straight appearance) until Tibet was free. The group then went into its polished repertoire of gyrating poses and leaps during their “greatest hits” set (“All Over You,” “I Alone”), which included one new song, the gut-wrenching “The Dolphin’s Cry.” From the intensely dramatic to the introverted, Tracy Chapman provided the smoldering folk rock that echoed the protestation hymns of the early Seventies. In this setting, “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” with its lyric “Poor people gonna rise up/And take what’s theirs” was re-directed from the plight of ghetto dwellers to the freedom of a nation.

Not everything was that poignant, however: Run DMC proved you can go home again, but you look like a jackass doing so. Five minutes into the seminal rap trio’s set and it hadn’t rapped a thing. Instead, Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay spent that time giving props to each other and telling everyone how great they were about to be. And they so weren’t. Sure, they can still rock a rhyme, but Run DMC took hand-waving and ho-yelling to a new and utterly ridiculous level, squeezing in only truncated versions of “Rock Box,” “King of Rock” and “It’s Like That” among the hackneyed cheerleading.

And then out came one-time Run DMC openers, the Beastie Boys, still the main reason anyone braved the two-hour car ride from Chicago and inclement weather. This time without their monochromatic jumpsuits (Adrock wore a Knicks T-shirt in Bulls land), the Beasties did their typical set of lickety-split rhymes and wacky beats, featuring songs like “Super Disco Breakin’,” “Sure Shot” and “Sabotage,” with the occasional hip-hop hugging funk rock interlude for balance. Only if and when Tibet is free will we ever know what good the Tibetan Freedom Concert did to help the cause, but if it happens, the Beasties must headline the celebration.

Beasties, Rage, Vedder and Others Rally in East Troy to Free Tibet
Alpine Valley Music Theater – East Troy – June 13, 1999
– By Tony Bonyata

Despite the torrential downpour last Sunday morning thousands flooded onto the muddy slopes of Alpine Valley to listen to some of the most vital music happening today, along with a few nostalgic and roots-related acts as well. What they probably didn’t realize, however, is that they were going to learn that there was a lot more to this all-day gathering than just music.

Otis Rush Now in it’s fourth year the Tibetan Freedom Concert is going as strong as ever raising money through donations and educating the world to the plight of the Tibetan people who have been oppressed by the Chinese government for the last 50 years. Co-founded by Adam Yauch, of The Beastie Boys, the Tibetan Freedom Concert has helped bring worldwide awareness to the Tibetans situation through the help of music. Compiling some of the most talented and influential artists around the world, The Tibetan Freedom Concert has turned out to be one of the few summer concerts that is guaranteed to have a blockbuster lineup. The CultPast artists involved in the charity concerts have included U2, REM, The Smashing Pumpkins, Patti Smith, Alanis Morissette, Pearl Jam, Blur, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Lee Hooker, Sonic Youth, Porno For Pyros, among many others.

Its no wonder then that this year’s concert in East Troy, which was somewhat unfairly billed as Chicago for marketing reasons, filled the hillside with thousands of music lovers hoping for some of the same musical enlightenment that has graced previous shows. Although it was held on the same day last week in three other cities throughout the world – Tokyo, Sydney and Amsterdam – the Wisconsin show had the strongest, and most diverse, array of artists.

Live Opening the all-day music-fest was the quirky, aggro-hip-hop of Cibo Matto. Joining this cuter-than-a-button Japanese girl-duo on bass was Sean Lennon, son of John & Yoko. Lennon added an ominous, heavy bassline to the girl’s eccentric melodies and Japanese black-faced rhythms that would have been welcomed with open, tattooed arms at Osbourne’s Ozzfest.

In between music sets videos on large monitors around the stage and throughout the venue continued to educate the audience while scads of youths clad in “Free Tibet” t-shirts handed out thousands of pamphlets describing how the peaceful Tibetan people, under the Dalai Lama’s spiritual and political guidance, have been tortured, exiled from their homeland and even killed for their religious and political beliefs. Eddie VedderIn addition these youths – all part of a non-profit organization called “Students for a Free Tibet” – also encouraged concert-goers to sign postcards and petitions to President Clinton to bring immediate and unconditional negotiations between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.

The often underappreciated Chicago bluesman Otis Rush walked onto the stage looking as crisp as a new hundred dollar bill in his black suit and stetson with flame red shirt and guitar. Backed by a strong band which included a rousing four-piece horn section Rush showed off his searing, emotionally charged guitar solos along with his deep, soulful voice that helped define Chicago’s West Side blues sound during the fifties. The 65 year-old bluesman, who was born in Mississippi, dug deep into his Delta roots, as well as performing a number of smoking urban blues numbers and even adding a hint of reggae rhythm to one of his songs. Unfortunately, Rush’s spellbinding performance fell on many young, deaf ears that were more in-tune to hear something more current.

While not exactly current, The Cult, an English band that brought hard rock back full-force into a meandering new-wave eighties, hit the stage with guitarist Billy Duffy churning out power chords over singer Ian Astbury’s howling-at-the-moon vocals on “Wildflower”. The band raged through heavy numbers such as “Peace Dog”, “Love Removal Machine” as well as the psychedelic metal of “She Sells Sanctuary” as Astbury flung his long black locks and careened across the stage in his skin-tight black leather trousers, conjuring visions of both Jim Morrison and Toxic Twin Steven Tyler.Blondie Ironically, just as Astbury sang out, “Here comes the rain” on a shimmering version of their 1986 hit “Rain” the adverse weather conditions that day took a turn for the better, making way for a sunny, if not muddy, afternoon.

One of the biggest draws to this concert was Eddie Vedder. Performing without his band Pearl Jam, Vedder, with shoulder length dyed-blonde hair, solemnly stepped out on stage amidst a vacant drumkit and bass guitar and proclaimed, “This place (Alpine Valley) holds fond memories from the past few summers”, as he began to perform a gentle version of the 1964 hit “Last Kiss” alone on electric guitar before inviting anyone from the crowd who could play drums and bass to join him. Tracy ChapmanAfter picking two lucky participants Vedder informed them to jump in mid-song on Pearl Jam’s “Better Man”. After a slightly rocky start these two ‘newcomers’ hit a groove and won the audiences hearts as they pounded out a rhythm worthy of the best of garage bands. As fate would have it Vedder ask them to stay around for a couple of more songs stating, “The rest of the show is gonna be called ‘songs that we all know’. As the threesome broke into a punked-up “Watch Outside” and a raucous version of The Police’s “Driven To Tears” it became increasingly suspicious that these two novices were a little too polished as they played with Vedder. It was after that song Vedder admitted that it was in fact a “playful lie”, and that he’d actually rehearsed with these two before. Ultimately it was a bit of a letdown to think that Vedder would be so daring to bring two unknowns from the audience and allow them a chance to play with him, but it was apparently easier for him to deceive the audience then to pull off a grand gesture. (Note to Eddie: save the charades for a lesser cause).

Rage Against the Machine Following Vedder’s prank was the Philly-based rappers The Roots who, on their last couple of albums, have helped put the ‘hip’ back into hip-hop. Without the aid of turntables, or, for that matter, human beat-box Rahzel who was not with them that evening, The Roots performed their deep-groove inner-city music with conventional rock instruments – drums, bass, and keyboards – without losing the core sound of rap and hip-hop. Highlights included the songs “The Next Movement” as well as “Step Into The Realm” from their latest album Things Fall Apart.

Mixing eighties arena-rock with the more distressed sound of nineties alternative, the Pennsylvania-based band Live, lead by vocalist Ed Kowalczyk, put on an impassioned, emotionally charged set with songs such as “Let It Go”, “I Alone”, “The Dolphin’s Cry” (from their upcoming album) and “Lakini’s Juice”, with sinister guitar, deep-tribal rhythm and Kowalczyk’s vein-bursting screaming, before Blondie, featuring Deborah Harry and original bandmembers, tore into early new-wave chestnuts such as “Dreaming”, “Hanging On The Telephone”, “Call Me” and “One Way or Another”, as well as “Maria” from their latest album. Slightly overweight and aging, Harry nonetheless oozed cool. With a voice that sounded stronger then ever she purred, moaned, cooed and shouted along with her band which sounded as if they’d never left the seventies scene at New York’s CBGB’s.

Tracy Chapman brought things back down to earth with a set that featured her rich, soulful voice and folk / blues-flavored rock. “I’d like to dedicate this song to all the people who worship freedom” she said as she broke into the reflective “Crossroads” before stepping things up on a rousing R&B cover of “Hound Dog”, which was spiced with a zydeco accordion.

It was the the raw angst of Los Angeles-based industrial / rap / metalists Rage Against The Machine that slapped the entire audience upside the head. Although they were originally slated to perform at the Amsterdam show, they had a last minute schedule change and switched slots with rap act Outkast, who took their place in Amsterdam that day. With songs to tenderize meat by The Rage broke into manic versions of “People Of The Sun”, “Know Your Enemy”, “Bulls On Parade”, “Killing In The Name Of” and the funky metal of “No Shelter”, from last year’s Godzilla soundtrack. The crowd went berserk, bouncing up and down, head-banging and pounding their fists in the air in time to their bombastic rhythms, making this late addition to the bill the most appreciated of the day.

Run DMC Billed as old-school rap Run DMC came out and hoarsely screamed over JamMaster J’s turntable scratchings on a few old numbers which included “It’s Like That” and “King Of Rock” as well as a respectable version of “Walk This Way”, which they originally recorded with Aerosmith. With more stage banter than music, they proceeded to lather the crowd with stadium atrocities such as, “Let me see your hands”, “Let me hear you say yeah” and other inane crowd prodders through their set, proving that hip-hop is better left in the hands of ‘new-school’ rappers like The Roots and the headlining act of The Beastie Boys.
Beastie Boys Adam Yauch (MCA), Mike Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad Rock) of The Beasties flounced onto the stage in casual attire that made them look more like the road clowning around on stage than a major act. With flailing limbs and more chaotic movement than the keystone cops the threesome opened with a solid version of “Body Movin'”, backed only by the turntables wizardry of DJ MixMaster Mike. The B-Boys had the crowd worked into a pogoing frenzy on “Super Disco Breakin'”, “Three MC’s and One DJ”, “Intergalactic”. Although their show was dominated by songs from their latest album Hello Nasty they managed to squeeze in the punky “Heart Attack Man” as well as the hip-hop anthems “Sure Shot”, “So What’cha Want” and a couple of funky instrumentals that not only saw the threesome playing their own instruments – Yauch (bass), Horovitz (guitar) and Diamond (drums) respectively – but also added to the texture of their set. In between numbers Yauch and Diamond kept reminding the crowd why they were all there that day. “Keep thinking about Tibet! Not only today but every day of the year, and maybe one day they’ll be free!”, Yauch yelled into the audience, who by that time had all graduated their ‘Free Tibet 101’ all-day seminar.

Now if they could only make learning at school this much fun.

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