Classical gas

Paul Slavens goes from Freak Show to trio to solo

Paul Slavens, still known to most Dallas music fans for his now-suspended band Ten Hands, has been busy since he folded that particular tent. Dr. Paul's Freak Show saw Slavens taking over the stage at Club Dada on Wednesday nights and playing with a rotating lineup of area musicians. Now he's solidified things, deciding on a steady trio format with Reggie Rueffer (violin) and George Dimitri (bass) as his accompanists.

Well, he's kind of solidified things: An evening with Dr. Paul is still the epitome of loosey-goosey, with Slavens soliciting requests, improvising on lyric suggestions tossed out by audience members, and learning (or making up) songs on the spot. Old Ten Hands tunes, tangos, demented Brechtian barrelhouse, pop standards, the theme song from Three's Company, the western swing classic "Big Ball's in Cowtown" (complete with Scottish falsetto third verse), and more are all part and parcel of a Wednesday evening with the trio. Rueffer--noticeably sunnier than he's been since the dissolution of Spot--plays one of the most soulful violins in town, full of tone and passion; Dimitri--who plays for the Dallas Opera and Fort Worth Symphony and met Slavens through a Dungeons and Dragons pal who managed the pizza place Slavens delivered pizzas for--coaxes notes out of his double bass that have the gently buoyant grace of undersea mammals, then switches to a rapid-fire burble.

But Slavens has long enjoyed playing the piano by himself, often putting aside the goofiness and performing modern classical numbers that he's written. Now he's collected 16 of these compositions on Absolute. "It was funny when I read in Street Beat about this being a whole new direction for me," Slavens said between sets recently at Club Dada. "Because actually, it's where I was before rock and roll. I wanted to do rock, but like Frank Zappa--who used his rock to trick people into listening to classical. When Ten Hands was winding up, I realized that it was time for me to move on and up to this."

Absolute is the result, nothing but Slavens playing his compositions on piano--no bass, no voice, no percussion. "I guess it's classical, for lack of a better term," he says. "Maybe 'serious art music.' What I wanted to do was to make something that was as free as possible from any commercial considerations, and to expose people to this kind of music in little chunks." Indeed, tonight is a particularly good night at Dada, and Slavens has given away--that's right, given away, as in free of commercial considerations--more than 100 copies of Absolute. "A lot of these compositions are too hard for me to play. I mean, I can play, but I know what's possible from a really capable player.

"The music on the disc is meant to be documentary," Slavens continues. "I don't take a whole lot of liberty with tempo or anything. What I'd really like to do with this is get it to someone who really can play and get them interested; I'd love to get a copy to Andrew Litton and Keri-Lynn Wilson."

Corn Mo on the Crue
As no one else could bring themselves to go see Motley Crue's show at the Bronco Bowl this June 12, we deputized the inimitable Corn Mo to make the scene. Mr. Mo, who plays Crue songs on the accordion, files the following report:

Until the ninth grade, I hated metal because--like turnip greens with pepper sauce--I had never given it a chance. I was really into Kenny Rogers and Survivor, which are good lubes with which to slide into metal. I had just moved to Kentucky when my best friend, Alvin, sent me pictures from San Antonio of the Crue's Shout at the Devil tour. They frightened me a bit with their pentagrams and whatnot, but I was quickly sucked in. I had the balance of good and evil with my Crue tape in one hand and my Stryper tape in the other, but my Crue hand just got heavier, and now that hand shoots man-o'-war flames when I'm playing accordion.

John Freeman and I went to see the reunited Crue at the Bronco Bowl. The girls were sporting the "Dallas City Limits" look (tight leather outfits and tank tops) and set a good foundation for a great rock 'n' roll show.

They opened the show with a song from their new album, Generation Swine. Their idea was to play the whole album in its entirety. Vince was hanging from a huge chandelier with electric-candle lights that you find in dark seafood restaurants in Annapolis. He's got orange hair now, and there was a giant set of lips that were pierced with rings from which hung butchered pigs.

Lots of folks enjoyed their new songs including me. About five songs into the set, Vince said, "Let's kick it up a notch!" and played "Wild Side." Tommy Lee played a grand piano and sang, accompanied by string players who were silhouetted behind him on oriental screen blinds. Vince sang a ballad called "Glitter," which I hope becomes popular, because proms and homecoming dances need that song. After they played all the new songs, they played a few old ones, including "Dr. Feelgood," "Kickstart My Heart," and a fast version of "Shout At the Devil."

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