By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
So this band is doing pretty well--looks that way, at least--with everyone expressing high hopes, doing that extra little bit of work that might make all of the difference in the world, pushing, prodding, trying to make it happen. And then, suddenly, disaster strikes. Or does it? The band's A&R rep, the guy who signed them, the guy they consider the fifth member of the group, and not in a way that fits into convention and cliché, is sacked by the label. Let go on the very same day the group is appearing on a prominent late-night talk show. Also on the same day, the publicist who had been working with the band on the album, arranging phone interviews, meet-and-greets, making phone calls, sending out review copies of the album, doing everything she could, is also shown the door, fired, given a box and time to collect her things.
With a keystroke, a pink slip, a management decision, this band, this critical darling with as-yet-untapped commercial potential, finds its lifelines to the corporate structure and the world outside of it severed. Gone. Replaced, yes, but will the body reject these new organs? And are they next in line, the last box to check on the company's to-do list?
Unfortunately for the Old 97's, the situation described above is not a hypothetical: On April 3, the same night the band appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, the group's A&R rep, Tom DeSavia, and publicist, Amy Meyer, were laid off by Elektra Records. DeSavia's departure is especially troubling, since he had been the band's most vocal supporter, the champion who was in the process of turning the 97's into a career band in an era when that just doesn't happen anymore. Though the 97's management was with them in New York, and though the cutbacks at Elektra Entertainment Group and its parent company, WEA (which also includes labels such as Warner Bros., Reprise, Atlantic and several others), began last week, they were all reportedly caught off-guard by the news. As they probably should have been.
Here's the part you should remember, if you're unfamiliar with the workings of major labels: Usually, but not always, when a band's A&R rep leaves a label, the band is the next to follow, often while the door is still swinging. Remember Bobgoblin? That band's deal with MCA Records went south as soon as the man who signed them, Mitch Brody, was canned. Their debut (and finale) for MCA, 1997's The 12-Point Masterplan, was in stores for a handful of months--well before it had a chance to succeed or fail--before the band was back out on the street, regrouping, retreating.
Certainly, the Old 97's have more of a history with Elektra. And by all accounts, the label is not ready to give up on the band just yet, saying they are behind the group--and this record, in particular--100 percent. But as we said before, and will always say, once you start playing in the majors, it becomes a business. End of story; close the book. The bottom line is that it's always about the bottom line. Sucks, but 'tis true...
Apparently (apparently!) a few people got a little mixed up by something they read in Scene, Heard a few weeks back. Seems they thought the pAper chAse singer-guitarist John Congleton was moving to Los Angeles. Short story probably longer than it has to be, he's not. (Anyone who saw Congleton leading a clap-along from the stage at Curtain Club--with his shoes, by the way--on April 5 knows as much, but still.) Repeat: John Congleton is not moving to Los Angeles. Is not, and probably will not, ever. However--and this is the tricky part, so you might wanna grab a scrap of paper and jot down a few notes--his sister, Angelique Congleton, is moving to L.A., in fact has most likely already moved there. Clip and save: J. Congleton = Dallas; A. Congleton = Los Angeles. And it should go without saying that we're quite happy John is still with us. Someone has to casually don a pair of bunny ears in this joint every now and then. Don't worry, someone will explain that to you at some point...
41 Gorgeous Blocks is heading into the studio--Deedle's Room in Arlington, owned and operated by guitarist Darrel "Deedle" LaCour--in the near future. Say, the next few weeks. Denton's She's Gone Records will release the results when they are ready. Say, May. And if they're anything like 41 Gorgeous Blocks' debut, An Emotional Young Person Like Yourself, they will be good. That's right, we said it...
Shows and stuff: Valve and [DARYL] are at Curtain Club on April 14; Yeti, Little Grizzly and Cobretti play Liquid Lounge on April 12; Slobberbone performs at Gypsy Tea Room on April 14, followed by The Polyphonic Spree (opening for Grandaddy) on April 18. And, because it didn't fit anywhere else, Deep Blue Something will release--after what? Five years?--its latest album, self-titled to keep it simple, on May 22. First single, "She Is," is most likely hitting radio as we speak. We'll refrain from comment for now. Need time to find our special DBS joke book...
OK, so you forgot to vote in the 2001 Dallas Observer Music Awards. No big deal; other voters picked up the ball you dropped and ran with it, picked up your slack, covered for you. Everything's fine. Really. Even though you don't deserve it (hey!), you can still participate. We'll be handing out the awards at a big shindig on April 17 at the Gypsy Tea Room, with performances by Baboon, The Toadies, The Telefones, The Deathray Davies and Slobberbone. And there will be a few special guests mixed in as well, including Mark Griffin (probably better known as MC 900 Foot Jesus), a former Telefone who will be taking the stage with his old bandmates for a set that, we can assure you, is worth coming out for. Tickets are free, so you have no excuse. Check www.dallasobserver.com for ticket info and what-have-you. And we'll see you there. But please, keep threats of violence to a minimum. Can't stress that enough.
Here's a scenario for you to think about for a second: A band signs to a major label and, over the course of five years or so, releases three critically acclaimed albums. They are not commercially successful, though--somewhat, sure, but not really successful. Each one sells better than the next, but the group's press clippings still outweigh its sales figures. While the band appears to be turning the corner, making inroads, as they say, with its latest effort, it's too soon to say if this will be the disc that will vault them to the top or even the comfortable middle. It's only been in stores for a few weeks, maybe a month, so predictions are meaningless at this point, worthless as five-day forecasts.