Armistice Day

Franco Gagliano and the Beat Angels lay down their arms and get down to business

Was it Debora Iyall of Romeo Void who once crooned "never say never"? Well, apparently, the chunky songbird knew what she was singing about, 'cause in the fast-paced world of rock 'n' roll, nothing is permanent.

Best friends are liable to sue each other one week and share the mike for a heart-wrenching duet the next. Consider the evidence: Joe Strummer gives Mick Jones the boot from the Clash, and a couple of years later, he's helping Jones produce a Big Audio Dynamite album. Keith Richards publicly threatens to slit Mick Jagger's throat, and a year later, they're strumming guitars in the Bahamas. In short, the zigs and zags of the biz have long been confusing enough to make the Michael Irvin scissor incident seem rational by comparison.

So it shouldn't come as much of a shock that only five months after an ugly bar fracas had the Beat Angels swearing they would never again set foot in the Mason Jar, the band is booked for a Saturday gig at the trashy rock club. But lest anyone think this is a case of love conquering all, the facts are a tad less utopian.

The feud started when Beat Angels singer Brian Smith, frustrated about a poorly attended benefit show at the Jar, began to lambaste club owner Franco Gagliano from the stage for being greedy and self-serving. Gagliano stepped in front of the stage and began to verbally tear into Smith. Suddenly, Smith jumped on Gagliano, and a wild melee ensued, with tables flying and various band members and club employees joining in.

Until that time, the band had played the Mason Jar on a regular basis, if with somewhat decreasing frequency, over the years. But after the brawl, the war of words between the two sides reached a dangerous Suge Knight vs. Puffy level

So what gives? Why did these warring soldiers of rock decide to lay down their arms?

"We owe [Gagliano] money on this van we bought from him, and we were behind on the payments," Smith says. "He called to say he was going to call his lawyer, and we were gonna get in trouble unless we made a payment."

The obvious resolution to the dilemma was for the financially strapped band to play at the Jar in lieu of payment. The band and Gagliano met at the Denny's on Seventh Street and Indian School to air their issues. Smith says he and guitarist Michael Brooks had to get "hammered" just to face the Jar czar.

"I thought it was gonna be an ambush," Smith says. "It was cool; he was civil and everything, but I don't know. I don't trust this thing at all."

Gagliano, sounding like the cat who swallowed the canary, says, "They're slaves of Mason Jar, for as long as I want." When asked how long it'll take the band to pay off its debt, Gagliano laughs and says "about 20 years." He adds, "Maybe by then, their kids can come in and pay off the rest."

Adding a bizarre twist to the story, Smith says the band entrusted the Gagliano-purchased vehicle with a friend who subsequently became a junkie and disappeared with the van.

Though the band expresses little enthusiasm for its upcoming Jar gigs, Smith seems at least slightly relieved that he can again set foot in the club, saying, "At least I can see the Knack now."

Gagliano waxes vaguely philosophical about the entire soap opera. "Because of one rotten apple, you're not gonna shoot the whole basket out," he says.

Though Gagliano has promised "no fighting" between the two camps, Smith has his concerns.

"I don't want to do it," he says. "I don't even want to play there. I'm thinking maybe it's a setup. I'm gonna bring some boxing gloves and a bodyguard."

The Beat Angels are scheduled to perform on Friday, August 21, at the Mason Jar, with Les Payne Product, Shoe Bomb, Mad At 'Em, and Population Control. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Jazz Night: The Cajun House launches its Monday-night jazz jams on August 24, with Dennis Cook, Khani Cole, Dennis Rowland, Nelson Rangell, Merian Meadows and other special guests. The show promises to be a continuation of what Cook built over a decade of Monday nights at the Melody Lounge. The show will also be a tribute of sorts to Dave DiLorenzo, the former owner of the Melody Lounge, who is widely credited with fostering the local jazz community.

For Pete's Sake: Big Pete Pearson, who last performed in Phoenix in early May, was the hardest-working man in the Mississippi Delta two weeks ago.

Pearson was heard performing in Memphis with the Beale Street Blues Band on August 5, bringing down the house with a gut-bucket rendition of "Tin Pan Alley." Then it was on to B.B. King's Blues Club, where Pearson closed the night with Ruby Wilson and the King Bees.

The following night, Big Pete was called up to the stage at Crossroads, a club in Clarksdale, Mississippi, to kick it with a few up-and-coming bluesmen.

Big Jack Johnson and the Oilers, the headliner on August 7 at the Sunflower River Blues Festival, called Pearson up to the main stage, and Pete's smooth, sweet sound could be heard for miles. Then it was on to Red's, a Clarksdale juke joint--where three of the four ceiling fans spin and the mirror ball doesn't. Big Pete testified almost until dawn to the crowd crammed in the steamy, dark bar.

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