Wrong foot

Musicians' superstore stumbles out of the gate

Entrepreneur Mark Begelman--the man who answered the question "I wonder what a 75-foot-high stack of calculators looks like?" when he was in charge of Office Depot--has taken his pallet-intensive retail philosophy and applied it to MARS, which is now to be known as the Musicians' Planet. Planets are usually quite large--Jupiter, our solar system's largest, is 88,000 miles in diameter--and MARS, while not quite that big, does sit imposingly along Walnut Hill Drive.

MARS--which stands for Music And Recording Superstore--will probably inspire more than a few combinations of deeply thoughtful and utterly unreadable articles on its mixture of art and commerce, service and instrument sales, equipment for staging, and myriad other accoutrements of the biz as well as a "Learning Center." Just as in War of the Worlds, however, the Martians have already alienated and aggrieved the natives, first while talking to a bunch of local acts about playing at their gala opening, a process with which the Observer assisted, then deciding--without notifying any of the hopeful acts--not to use them after all.

The Tomorrowpeople and Colin Boyd were among those left hanging. "When a certain amount of time goes by and you don't hear anything, you just know," says veteran Boyd, who finally called a Martian named Chuck. "He talked for a real long time," Boyd reports, "So finally I just asked him, 'are ya tryin' to tell me that I'm not playin'?' and he said 'Yes.'"

Apparently a decision made at higher levels did not filter down to the Dallas location in time to prevent the mix-up. "Chuck said that in the past, at other openings, the bands had been too much of a distraction," Boyd explains. Well, it is nice to get the pecking order established right off the bat.

The Martians' version is slightly different. "Our Tampa store was our first opening," explained Mark Clark, national director for advertising and marketing. "We had two tents set up in the parking lot, one for giveaways and other promotional stuff and the other for local bands. Most people went to the giveaway tent, and it was embarrassing for the bands. I'm very sorry about the whole thing and am currently writing a letter of apology to the bands involved, and we want them to play indoors--under different circumstances--real soon." Clark also added that it was his understanding that the bands had been notified.

Whatever. To their credit, the Martians want to make nice. "They said something about a gift certificate, but they didn't mention for how much," Boyd says. "The whole thing was kinda weird." Everybody screws up, to paraphrase Mikey Stipe, but these Martians need to reassure us that they will do what it takes to make Earth a true musicians' planet, and adapt to our ways. Especially when their retail department seems to have no problem functioning with the awesome efficiency of an Australian sheep-shearing station.

Shannon's return
Jazz guitarist Jim Shannon's back on the area club scene after a few years of head cleansing with zen, motorcycle maintenance, and martial arts.

With playing that is most readily compared to that of traditionalists like Jim Hall and Herb Ellis, Shannon's technical finesse is warmed with passion, a quality rare among local jazz guitarists since the days of hard-drinking Lee Robinson. Shannon's formative years were spent in organ combos of the sort that never gained approval from jazz intelligentsia but are ever-so-hip now, the ancestors of "acid jazz." After half a decade backing Al Green, he did a two-year stint with B3 master Clyde George, playing sublime "barbecue jazz" (often with James Clay on sax) at the hallowed Cotton Candy club on MLK.

In the early '80s, making an album was a more arcane art than today; few local productions were as good as Shannon's Street Talkin' that year. But by the decade's end, he'd curtailed recording and club work, confining himself to teaching guitar privately and at El Centro College. He'd take the occasional champagne gig at a country club, but the '90s found him taking martial arts courses and going on long, self-seeking motorcycle sojourns through the deserts of West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Fit and repellingly flat-stomached, Shannon got back into the loop accompanying Eric "Scorch" Scortia--another organist--at Sambuca and Terilli's. He was on Scortia's Vital Organ album on the Heads Up label last year, along with Marchel Ivery and Claude Johnson. Presently, Shannon fronts a trio with Pat Glenn on drums and bassist Jeff Pickering; they play from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Natchez (2810 Henderson), covering such standards as "Angel Eyes," "Bluesette," and the Miles classic "All Blues," and really cook on a bluesy Shannon composition, "Blue Eyes." They play at comfortable volume, in a room with fortuitously good acoustics. Shannon's return to club work will be welcomed by those who love pure-hearted jazz.

--Tim Schuller

Eye on Lenz
That sounds like one of the intermediate steps in a microscope's instruction book, or perhaps a report on busy rockabilly bee Kim Lenz, who is currently down one Jaguar. A bass Jaguar, to be specific. Blackie Graham has departed, and Lenz is looking for an upright bass player "who likes rockabilly slap bass and wants to play," preferably before several signed-for gigs, including one at the Red Jacket. In a couple of weeks, Lenz will journey to Los Angeles to record a four-song 45 for Denver's Warm Tone Records with Deke Dickerson, formerly of the Dave and Deke Combo. Kim and Deke will be using rare vintage equipment to capture as authentic a tone as possible, not exactly the kind of approach that attracts droves of big-label attention. "I don't want to impress a bunch of A&R people," Lenz says. "I want to impress the people who love this little musical sub-group."

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