At a Toad's pace

No, the Toadies haven't broken up. They're just taking their own sweet time

As a result, Solomon and Cooper have formed their own band, Clumsy. It began as its own side project amongst roommates: Solomon, Cooper, Mike Malinin (ex of Last Rites, currently in the Goo Goo Dolls), and another rock-and-roll buddy all share an apartment in Los Angeles, which is usually a good deal, since at least one of the roomies is always on tour. But one day, the four of them found themselves at home at the same time and discovered how quickly they can get on each other's nerves. So they decided to find a studio and begin recording songs Solomon had begun writing; soon enough, they made a few tapes and gave them out to friends in the biz (which is, like, everyone in L.A.). But Malinin was too busy with the Goo Goo Dolls to make Clumsy a full-time project, so Solomon and Cooper added and subtracted a few members, and boom, a new band was born. Solomon has also been writing and recording some with another childhood buddy and Arts Magnet classmate, Aaron Comess, the drummer for Spin Doctors (who, believe it or not, have actually been signed to another label, Universal).

"The timing of it was great for me, because it was like, 'All right, am I quitting [Perfect]?'" Solomon says. "Puff Daddy ain't calling me. It's gone well. I'm happy, and I love singing and writing. It's great it happened the way it did...I'm just taking the motor [from Perfect]. Clumsy is just more pop songs [turned up to] 11. That's pretty much what I do."

Unlike Tommy Stinson, who has apparently become a musician-for-hire. Hey, a guy's got to pay the rent and feed his little kid--you can't knock him for that--but do you have to sell your soul to make the down payment? Apparently so.

Clumsy will open for Slobberbone on October 30 at Rick's Place in Denton.

Topaz or not to be
I've tried like hell to avoid writing about the debacle that was the Topaz Awards, held at the Granada Theatre on October 15. I figured enough's enough, I made my point, and drove it right through everyone's head. But I have received literally dozens of phone calls and e-mails from outraged (no exaggeration) local musicians who want to know just how in the hell did Cresta's Jenny Esping win three Topaz Awards--when she sits on the freakin' board of directors of the North Texas Music Festival, which hands out the fetching doorstops. (Which we gracefully accept.) Some of the missives have referred to the event as a "fiasco" and a "fix"; others were not so kind. If you want to see for yourself, we refer you to the One Ton Records Web site (www.oneton.com) to "listen in" to the discussion, which is cruel enough to (almost) make you feel sorry for Jenny Esping.

It's funny: No matter how hard some people in this town try to validate themselves and their "scene," they always end up shooting themselves in the foot and a few bands in the head. What began as a well-intentioned two-night showcase of local talent five years ago has evolved into one more elitist affair that alienates the very people it's meant to support and celebrate. In the words of one local musician seen wandering around Deep Ellum before his NTMF set on October 16, "I'm going to get drunk, very drunk. Why am I here? I have made a terrible mistake."

Hey, you want to give out more music awards? Fine--knock yourself out. (Though we would love to meet the 1,600 local industry "insiders" who voted for this thing. This ain't the Grammys.) You want to call yourselves the North Texas Music Festival and bring in shit bands from Austin and Oklahoma and Arkansas to play the awards (Austin's Sinus, and the mind reels) and headline local clubs for major-label A&R execs (yeah, right)? Whatever. You want to charge 65 bucks for a dinner with rock dinosaur Eddie Kramer? Ka-ching.

But even Esping, who was one of the few winners at the event to accept her award, was said to be embarrassed by the three trophies she won (including one for songwriter of the year, as if). As well she should have been, especially when the NTMF sent out a list of winners with a cover letter that reads: "The North Texas Music Festival Executive Board consists of Sam Paulos, Paula Moore, Jenny Esping, Jeffrey Yarbrough, and Teresa LaBarbera-Whites." What gall. Did anyone think of kicking Esping off the board, or taking her name off the ballot?

"I think the bottom line is, she's the only person who lobbied, who told people to go vote for her," says Paulos, who owns Crystal Clear Sound. "That's what it comes down to...But I didn't have much to do with putting it together, and I feel guilty I didn't take control of it or change it. To me, that was a mistake. When I saw Jenny on the [list of] nominations, I told Paula she shouldn't be eligible or should take herself out. I don't think Jenny or Paula realized how damaging this could be."

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