Wax On

The question of the hour is a two-parter:
Who the hell is Mr. Mirainga, and what was he doing besting Alanis Morissette and Smashing Pumpkins in last week's list of most-added alternative-rock radio singles in the country?

MCA Records media reps in New York will tell you that Mr. Mirainga is a top band in the Tempe music scene, and that its single, "Burnin' Rubber" (off the Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls soundtrack), is sweeping the nation because (of course) it's a kick-ass little car ditty.

I've heard "Burnin' Rubber" (our own Edge, KEDJ-FM 106.3, was one of 22 rock stations across America to hop aboard the Mirainga bandwagon; KUKQ-AM 1060 took a pass), and it's a decent flake of desert rock. Spacious but aggressive, a little twangy, a quirky sense of humor--reminiscent of the Supersuckers on a slow night.

But until the Ventura publicity juggernaut got fired up, I'd never heard of a local band called Mr. Mirainga. So I asked around. The question: "Hey, have you ever heard of Mr. Mirainga?" The answers (paraphrased):

Dead Hot Workshop singer Brent Babb: Nope. Dead Hot drummer Curtis Grippe: Negatory. Planet magazine music writer Laura Bond: Sounded a wee bit familiar, but not really sure. Chimeras front man Mark Zubia: Know the name, that's about it. Serene Dominic, contributor to this publication's music section: Yeah, yeah, I did a review of its demo tape once. Great stuff. The band's from California, I think.

Three random samples from the audience at Satellite's CD release party Saturday outside Long Wong's (and here we will go to direct quotes): One: "Never heard of 'em." Two: "I think I saw them at Party Gardens this summer. One of the guys looked like the dude who used to play bass for a band around here called D.I." And three: "You mean the guy in The Karate Kid?"

No, that was Mr. Miyagi.
Mr. Mirainga, says Party Gardens co-owner Harold Morales, did indeed open for Phunk Junkeez there on July 4, and later in the summer for 311. Those are the only times Morales knows of the band playing out recently in the Valley. The only other thing he knew was that the band was from Mesa, not Tempe. A review of the past five weeks of New Times club listings shows no scheduled performance by Mr. Mirainga anywhere in these parts.

So what gives?
Money, for one thing. Oodles of it. MCA's media flacks couldn't or wouldn't give me a figure on how much cash has been put behind the Ventura soundtrack in general (the album was scheduled to hit the shelves November 15) or the Mirainga single in specific.

But if the blitz of ads for Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and "Burnin' Rubber" in music-industry trade magazines and commercial rock mags is any indication (not to mention the souped-up, rubber-tire-tread CD jewels the radio singles were shipped in), the label is deep into six-figure territory, if not over the $1 million mark.

MCA confirmed that the release of the Ventura single was timed to set the stage for Mr. Mirainga's upcoming debut album, but said there was no official band bio or contact number for the group. (To be fair, Ididn't ask them to put me in touch with the group until last Friday--too late, they said, to go through a publicity agent for an interview by Monday morning.)

Memo to Mr. Mirainga: Give me a call, man. Let's talk about this thing.

File Under "Elvis Sighting"--Elvis the Cat, Tempe's resident Elvis impersonator, is in the public eye now more than ever. His one-of-a-kind artwork is on display at the Java Road coffee house (adjacent to Long Wong's). And on November 4, the diminutive eccentric played the King before 16,000 people during a short stint onstage at the Arizona State Fair with Dead Hot Workshop, which opened for the Gin Blossoms. "I'm a big star now," a strutting Martinez was heard to boast at Wong's the week after his three minutes of fame.

That Dead Hot/Blossoms bill was likely a harbinger of shows to come: Talks are well under way for Dead Hot to tour with the Blossoms, starting in March.

Here's a quandary to ponder: A policy held by almost all high-capacity venues requires opening bands to sell their shirts, stickers, hats, etc., at or above the prices set by the headliner's merchandiser. Which means that, if Dead Hot signs on to go on the road with the Gin Blossoms, the band must charge $20 for its tee shirts. The idea doesn't sit well with Dead Hot.

Brent Babb says the opening band's shirts pose no threat to the megaband's megaprofits. "Whoever heard of somebody buying the opening band's shirt just because it was less money?" asked Babb last Friday night. "Nobody needs to make that much money on our shirts, anyway."

Curtis Grippe agreed in principle, but argued the reality of the situation is that the rock industry is a jungle.

Babb countered with his characteristic, quiet intensity: "If we really lived in [a jungle], everyone wouldn't be walking upright with their heart and genitals exposed all the time."

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