COMING ATTRACTIONS Recession continues to play on Smaller venues become the rule

Economists say recessions are most likely to hurt the very successful or the extremely impoverished. But if the music business is any indication, it's the folks in the middle who feel the squeeze most acutely.

Just look at the coming pop concert season. Apart from the biggest of the big -- Aerosmith, Janet Jackson, Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross and En Vogue -- many of the bands touring this fall will be downsizing their roadshows to fit medium-sized venues. As a result, local listeners will probably be making fewer trips to the big halls, and more to clubs and smaller halls.


Of course, the key word in that last sentence is "probably." Although the list of bands likely to turn up locally over the next couple of months is fairly lengthy, the number guaranteed to be here is considerably shorter. Put it this way -- unless tickets have gone on sale by the time you read this, it's safe to assume that all bookings are tentative at best.

With that in mind, let's run through the fall's confirmed highlights. Summer goes out with a bang, not a whimper, as the Merriweather Post Pavilion closes its '93 season with Tony Bennett and the Count Basie Orchestra (Wednesday), followed by the Troubadours of Folk, an all-acoustic package featuring Joni Mitchell, Roger McGuinn and Janis Ian, among others (Friday). Also scheduled at Merriweather are shows by Def Leppard (Sept. 5) and Sade (Sept. 6), plus a gospel extravaganza featuring Vickie Winans and others (Sept. 18). Meanwhile, Pier 6 will play host to Jackson Browne and band (Sept. 22).


But the fall pop season doesn't begin in earnest until Sept. 10, when hard rockers Aerosmith hit the USAir Arena with up-and-comers 4 Non Blondes. Depeche Mode will bring its new show -- which finds the band using guitars and drums in addition to its ubiquitous synths -- into the arena two days later (Sept. 12).

Later that month, Luther Vandross brings his "Never Let Me Go" tour, featuring En Vogue, into the USAir Arena; tickets for the Sept. 25 performance went on sale last week, and a show the following days is widely expected. Want to see Luther and the ladies, but are wary of the long drive south to Landover? Then keep your fingers crossed, because a November date in Baltimore is deemed likely (an announcement is expected in October).

There will also be some strong specialty shows playing Baltimore in the coming months. Headbangers, for example, may want to mark their calendars for Sept. 11; that's when a thrash-heavy bill including Cathedral, Flotsam and Jetsam, and the reunited Mercyful Fate will rock the rafters at Hammerjacks.

Alternative rock fans, on the other hand, should circle Sept. 18, because that's when Bohager's introduces its Fall Music Festival. Although the lineup hadn't been finalized by press time, Dramarama, the Judybats, Slim Dunlap and An Emotional Fish are expected.

Finally, country fans ought to make a note to mosey down to the Baltimore Arena Oct. 1 for the Crown Royal Country Music Series. Included on the bill are Marty Stuart, Restless Heart, the Kentucky Headhunters and the Pirates of the Mississippi.

Now comes the fun part -- the point at which we leave the mundane details of definite shows and move into the realm of the possible. Although all the following are likely to make some sort of area appearance, we make no guarantees about where, when or if. And don't start pestering the folks at Ticketmaster, because if it's not on sale yet, they don't know about it.

On the arena level, look for Billy Joel at the USAir Arena in October, and maybe Madonna; expect Janet Jackson and Rod Stewart (doing a half-electric, half-unplugged show) there in November. Lenny Kravitz is likely to play the Patriot Center in the early fall, and Mariah Carey will make her local debut at the USAir Arena sometime this fall -- but not before her NBC special airs in October. And once Dr. Dre finishes his house arrest, we can expect him to hit the road with a package including Snoop Doggy Dogg, Onyx, Run-D.M.C. and others; look for this one at the Baltimore Arena.

That's about it for the big shows. We won't be seeing Neil Young backed by Booker T. & the MG's around here, nor will the much-vaunted Velvet Underground tour play this side of the Atlantic. And while it's rumored that the Ozzy Osbourne/Black Sabbath reunion may make it to the East Coast before Christmas, smart punters won't put the rent on it.


Small hall and club pickings are no less dicey, but much more interesting. Among the acts to keep an eye out for are Living Colour, Smashing Pumpkins, Squeeze, Steve Vai, Rage Against the Machine and Paul Westerberg. And don't be surprised if Billy Ray Cyrus or Michael Bolton makes a local concert appearance to benefit one or more of the city's charities.