Open War

Former friends host closed-mikes at opposite ends of town, but their pasts keep crossing

"Shayne has a thing about loyalty which is really weird, 'cause in a musical community it doesn't really work that way," says Lonna the next night. "Andrew once came up to me after a show and told me I did a good job and all of a sudden Shayne dropped me from a show he'd asked me to do. It took me a while to get it out of him and he said it was because I didn't have the loyalty for him. But there's a fine line between loyalty and wanting complete control over everything I say and everyone I talk to."

March 28, Songwriters' Ball: No surprise, Lonna turns up here with Mike to talk to Andrew about performing the following month. Now that the Trailer Park Disaster is defunct, Jonny Bionic is back on the Ball again. Since Optimist has portrayed Lockwood as a major backstabber, the Songwriters' Ball seems to be everyone's logical first stop on the Optimist deprogramming tour. Lockwood knows everything they're going to say, and his previous episode of losing himself in the Optimist way of doing things is eerily replaying itself with Lonna and Jonny, Optimist's two most championed discoveries. "It's a predictable pattern. People get fed up and walk away," says Lockwood.

In this study of contrasts, Lockwood comes off less colorful but more comfortable, like Casual Friday at the office. He adjusts the sound during the performer's first number and stage manages without a dress jacket and sometimes with a drink in his hand. Granted, it's a far cry from Optimist's professionalism, but that wouldn't befit the relaxed living-room vibe Lockwood wants the Emerald shows to have. Generally, acts intermingle and play with one another more readily at the Songwriters' Ball. Most are already playing in bands so there's more a sense of community than competition. "I didn't have a battle plan behind Songwriters' Ball except booking artists I wanted to hear like Chris Doyle from Big Blue Couch, Jocelyn Fox of Rain Rose Alchemy and Shelby James of Truckers on Speed. And a rarity like Brian Smith of the Beat Angels playing an acoustic gig," says Lockwood. "I wanted to steer clear of open-mikes. Even if you build a good one, anyone can sign up and clear the room."

Singer-songwriter Lonna, left, and Optimist, before their acrimonious falling out.
Kevin Scanlon
Singer-songwriter Lonna, left, and Optimist, before their acrimonious falling out.
Andrew Lockwood (top) is the MC/organizer of Songwriters' Ball. Bluesman Jack Straw (above) performs at Acoustic Alley with a guest vocalist.
Kevin Scanlon
Andrew Lockwood (top) is the MC/organizer of Songwriters' Ball. Bluesman Jack Straw (above) performs at Acoustic Alley with a guest vocalist.

It's curious that Lockwood, lead singer of several well-respected, now-defunct Valley pop outfits like The Lemmings and Danny, has subsequently formed three bands in which he has chosen a secondary role playing keyboardist and arranger for female singer-songwriters. Although his side project with Jim Miles called X-Offender features some of his own songs, he's quick to emphasize that Velveteen Dream is "clearly the best band I've ever been in, and the songs are all Sarah's."

"Velveteen Dream are recording with Bob Hoag at Flying Blanket at the moment," he says, "and I'm also working on a collection of my own songs from as far back as 1988, just to clear the deck." One wonders if his Pygmalion desire to form female-fronted bands has tapped him for new songwriting ideas. Many of his Ball performances are of songs he's squirreled away from previous bands, like "Me on Your Drugs," which are quite good and deserve more exposure than filler in between other acts.

Epilogue: With more bands than he can shake a stick at, Lockwood can hardly be expected to form another one, so his patronage of Lonna and Jonny at the Songwriters' Ball has no other bearings beyond "ass kissing." And true to his chosen name, Caraway is still optimistic about the open-mikes, and the bands he continues to champion, like Briefcase, Fatigo, Until August, and Sweet Bleeders. He's also content to cheerlead Lonna's songwriting ability from a distance, although he doesn't sound hopeful now that she's collaborating with an ex-boyfriend who didn't support her efforts in the first place. "Once you're in a band, you settle for other people's ideas," he says. He's less sure about his relationship with Bionic. "Jonny can do what he likes, but he can't expect preferential treatment from me anymore," he says.

"All one can hope for," says Optimist, "is a little gratitude. I believe that sometimes all someone needs is for just one person to believe in them. For Lonna and Jonny B, that person was me. For quite a while. So why do I want to do all this work, not make any money and be harassed and abused on top of that? 'Cause artists can be demanding and weird and you have to baby-sit."

It's just like Optimist's song "Pigs." Sample lyric: "Sing song bird, just pass by/Leave me out of reach like passing sky/Well you know what they say how we can't fly/Fuck you all, this pig had to try and try."

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