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.
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.
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."
Eye on Bucks
Time to wish Bucks Burnett bon voyage as he journeys across the pond to England to finish off his dream of making an album. "I guess it's been an inspiration for me since the Beatles did their rooftop concert," Bucks says excitedly, noting that since 1994 he's laid down eight songs and would like to do three or four more. "I guess this is me coming out of the closet as a songwriter." The month he's in England, Burnett--currently resting up from his anti-Pat Boone jihad--will be using the studio facilities of the Church's Marty Wilson-Piper and working with one of "the Egyptians" from the most recent Page-Plant tour. Psychic TV's Bill Breeze will also join him from Hamburg and contribute string parts.
Such a mensch
Behavioralists around the world cheered today at the success of formerly stern hardcore/spoken-word inevitability Henry "Henry" Rollins (Figure 1), who after months of practice has learned to smile. Although Rollins had a difficult intermediate period marked by earnest effort but not entirely convincing results (Figure 2), from all appearances (Figure 3) he's now mastered not only the smile but also related--and more complex--formats such as the toothy grin.
Because of some confusion at the Home Office as to when exactly The Funland Band came out (October 1995, it turns out), the album by that erstwhile band was nominated for this year's Best Album category. Although it's a tribute to the warm spot they obviously still occupy in local hearts, they won last year; they're outta there. Chad Lovell--speaking slowly and distinctly, as if to a heavily medicated person--informs us that the Lovell-Nitrons union mentioned a week ago is bogus.
Bedhead's Sturday, April 12 gig at the Galaxy Club has been canceled because of Matt Kadane's illness. Because of a booking snafu, Anson Funderburgh, et al.--recently chosen to play at the Black Top Records' 10th annual Blues-a-rama, along with Robert Ealey and Austinite W.C. Clark--had to cancel their Saturday, April 12, date at Poor David's Pub. They've been replaced with "The Texas Guitarslingers Blues Show" (or something like that) featuring local hotshot Johnny Moeller, Paul Size, and Mike Flanagan of the Holy Moellers. You may recall the H. Moellers' excellent Return of the Funky Worm, one of the best albums of last year. In keeping with the evening's theme, Flanagan--normally a keyboardist--will play guitar and steel guitar. Elmo bluesman Henry Qualls will open the show with a rare solo set...
Local label Carpe Diem Records--home to acts like pop poppins and Plebeian Monarchs--has scored something of a coup with act Kacy Crowley. Crowley's record, Anchorless, is a well-executed example of the "little bit folk, little bit rock 'n' roll" brand of female songwriting and delivery and has generated quite a buzz lately. Label prez-owner Alan Restopo just signed the female singer-songwriter to Atlantic...
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The Dallas Summer Musicals has announced its season, which will include pop hits like the Lieber-Stoller homage Smokey Joe's Cafe, Beauty and the Beast, The Music Man, and--dear God--Cats. Tickets range in price from $42 to $302 and can be purchased directly by mail order or fax. For more info call (214) 691-7200.
Lower Greenville's The Pound will be hosting a benefit for the Luv A Pet Spay/Neuter Clinic Saturday, April 12; bands will include Frognot, Crucial Fiction, and Willy, a band reportedly from England (gasp!)...Olivia Newton-John did not find her NASCAR-ready grin on the cover of One Ton's Grease tribute, Sandy Does Dallas--complete with missing tooth--very funny, and has told One Ton Records to knock it off with putting her face on the album's cover already; the alternate cover will be revealed shortly...Doosu is working on an EP at Course of Empire's studios...Bobgoblin's record release party for 12-Point Master Plan will be Saturday, April 12, at the Orbit Room, beginning at about 8:30 p.m...NYC's Piatigorsky Foundation has announced a series of free concerts to be held in Dallas starting with a Monday, April 28, performance at St. Matthew's Cathedral at 2 p.m...
The latest band name to drop--the Tomorrowpeople--have finished their debut CD, to be titled Golden Energy in Stereo. The band and manager-Last Beat leader Shaun Edwardes are entering into a co-management agreement with John Reid Enterprises, currently distracting themselves by representing Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber...Somebody's Sister plays the Barley House Saturday, April 26...and Psalm 69 is having a record release party Friday, April 11, for Happy Hour. Riddle Me This opens.
Street Beat watches the skies at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com.