Billboard Bits: Stooges/Hives, Natalie Merchant, Blur

News on Stooges/Hives, Natalie Merchant, Blur

IggyIggy Pop will reunite with the Stooges for the first time in 28 years on the second night of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, set for April 26-27 at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif. Pop will be backed by original Stooges Ron Asheton on guitar and Scott Asheton on drums, with rock veteran Mike Watt filling on bass for David Alexander, who died in 1975.

Long-suffering Stooges fans needn't worry, as the reunion is not limited to the Coachella appearance. The band has also recorded four new songs together, which are set for inclusion on Pop's upcoming Virgin album. The as-yet-untitled set, which also features Green Day and Pop's band the Trolls, is due out sometime this summer.

In other Coachella news, upstart Swedish rock outfit the Hives will make their only concert appearance of 2003 on the first day of the festival. The group is working on the follow-up to its breakthrough Burning Heart album "Veni, Vidi, Vicious," which last summer reached No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and has sold 371,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

MerchantFormer 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman Natalie Merchant will self-release her upcoming solo album, "The House Carpenter's Daughter". According to her official Web site, the record will feature traditional and contemporary folk songs. Song titles include "Sally Ann," "Which Side Are You On?," "Weeping Pilgrim," "Soldier, Soldier," "Owensboro," and "Down on Penny's Farm," all of which can be sampled on her site. No release date has been announced; Merchant's last album, "Motherland," was released in December 2001 by Elektra.

In a posting on the site, Merchant says that technology and the music industry are causing emerging artists to suffer. "I have long assumed that for every album I sell, three people are copying," she says. "The intimidating thing is that now there is no degeneration in the dubbing process and that the entire contents of a CD can be downloaded in minutes from a remote location, if desired. I agree that it's time to feel threatened."

-- Jason MacNeil, Toronto

BlurU.K. popsters Blur played a surprise show last night (March 13) at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. In addition to being one of the group's first-ever performances without guitarist Graham Coxon, who departed last year, the show was also pulled off without bassist Alex James, who had visa difficulties and could not make the trip to the U.S., according to a post on the group's official Web site.

"It's a good time of the year to be in England. Unless you're supposed to be in Texas," James' post read. "The American administration -- swamped as it is with subversives applying for visas -- has taken longer than expected to process my application for a work permit. Upshot is [I] can't join the band in Austin without risking being thrown on a chain gang."

The band hired Rival Schools bassist Chris Traynor as a last-minute replacement for James. Blur, whose next studio album, "Think Tank," is due May 6 from Virgin in the U.S., is also scheduled to play Sunday (March 16) at New York's Bowery Ballroom. "There is an outside chance I may be able to play the New York date from my kitchen," James wrote. "I'm talking to my scientists. Could be good."

-- Troy Carpenter, N.Y.