No one has ever accused Marc Norman of being a bad-ass. Maybe of being a dead ringer for Peter Brady or Donny Osmond, but never of acting like the kind of rock 'n' roll animal that would throw fear into the hearts of standards-wary TV producers.
But the curly coifed singer and Ghetto Cowgirl front man more than earned his punk-rock stripes last week with a brilliantly chaotic appearance on KTVK Channel 3's NewShow. Members of the group (Norman and guitarists Thomas Laufenberg and Phil Beach) were on hand promoting their appearance at the Hard Rock Cafe's "Hometown Band Search."
The incident began when Channel 3's resident piece of eye candy, Claudia DiFolco, held up a copy of the band's debut album, Excuses for Losers, with her hand obscuring the cover photo which depicts a dolled-up cowgirl giving the camera the "finger."
DiFolco sought to explain away the situation by jokingly asking Norman, "She's giving the peace sign, right?" At which point, Norman, wide-eyed and apparently oblivious to the fact that he was not on HBO, gave his own very pronounced version of the single-finger salute to the mass viewing audience.
As far as sheer entertainment value goes, we can't stress just how funny the image of a panicked DiFolco -- breathless gasps and all -- knocking down Norman's hand like an angry schoolmarm was (trust us, we've watched the tape enough times to know).
After a brief and uneasy exchange, the band launched into a song before the feed was sent back to the studio and to a sufficiently bemused Liz Habib commenting, "Guess we're living on the edge tonight." (These oh-we're-so-shocked platitudes continued for much of the program, with NewShow talking heads wringing their hands about the "out of control rock 'n' rollers.")
But the incident didn't end there. Norman claims that after the cameras were off, DiFolco chastised him with a litany of "That was not cool" reprimands. For her part, DiFolco says she was not personally offended by the gesture, but that her concern "was for the children that might be watching at that time." A valid point in theory, but it's also safe to assume that anyone over the age of 6 already knows what the middle finger means.
Afterward, Norman says he abruptly left the set when it was made clear that the band was done for the evening -- even though the original plan called for them to stay on for a later wrap-up segment.
Apparently, the producers had not counted on Norman actually departing and were left scrambling when cameras panned back to a lonely DiFolco, seated by herself and looking quite naked (not literally, you fiends), introducing a taped piece.
Beach and Laufenberg, still in the building packing gear, were reportedly asked to play out a shtick where they would get on their knees and beg DiFolco's forgiveness for their on-air transgression, an idea to which Beach replied with a belly laugh and a hearty, "No fucking way!" The pair were whisked back on-camera briefly, where they offered up a couple of guilty grins and little else before the program signed off for the night.
It would be easy to point to the inherent hypocrisy in a program (and a section of the show in particular) that specializes in what some might deem as tawdry subject matter -- one recent DiFolco remote at a Tempe shoe store was a soft-core-porn bonanza for foot fetishists -- yet turns pious at a relatively inane and juvenile exhibition like Norman's.
Not to mention that an unedited version of the segment aired all night on KTVK-3's cable news channel. "That's what I couldn't understand," says Norman. "They showed it all night long uncut. Every hour on the hour, it's like, 'Hey, look, there I am flipping off Phoenix -- again.'"
But enough soapboxing about censorship; the issue of greater importance (to us, anyway) is the cult of personality that has sprung up around the coquettish DiFolco.
Her live-music remotes, running regularly for most of the year, have been a relatively significant development for the local scene. Admittedly, Valley bands haven't been afforded such frequent opportunities for mass-broadcast exposure in years, if ever. Still, that doesn't excuse DiFolco for introducing acts straight-faced with frighteningly trite descriptions like, "Are you ready for some raw whiskey vocals?"
Of greater concern is that the show has largely chosen to focus on a number of marginal local acts, passing them off as representative of the city's general talent pool -- a disservice by any measure.
Still, there seems to be a legitimate and interesting story buried in DiFolco and the NewShow music morass, and our intrepid staff is already on the case. Look for the results of columnist Brian Smith's night out with DiFolco and crew in an upcoming edition of New Times.
Pub Rock: The local Latin scene gets a much-needed boost next month with the return of Equilibrio. The weekly club night, once a staple at Toolies, will be making its new home at the Big Fish Pub in Tempe.
Billing itself as "Equilibrio II: An evening of Latin alternative live and DJ music," the showcase is set to become a regular Tuesday-night happening in the East Valley.
The debut bill, kicking off on August 1, will feature a performance from SoCal combo Materia Gris. Local hard-rock faves Casa de Locos will open the show. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Mariachi Time: As Laura Bond notes in her fine piece on Tucson desert eclectics Calexico, the group recently returned from a European tour that saw the duo of Joey Burns and John Convertino augment its trademark sound with a seven-piece mariachi combo.
The outfit, Luse de Luna, will also be with Calexico as they return to the Valley (they played the Arizona Roadhouse in May) to perform at Nita's Hideaway on August 4. We would be seriously remiss if we didn't strongly urge everyone to make it out to see this very rare big-band incarnation of what is, arguably, Arizona's most engaging group.
The concert will also include an appearance from Morris Tepper -- guitarist for Tom Waits, Frank Black and others -- who will be performing an opening set (see next week's issue for a preview).
Local Insurgency: Chicago "Insurgent Country" label Bloodshot has some deep roots in the Valley. After all, its original roster of acts included Tempe's Grievous Angels, while local twangers Flathead also gained their first national exposure on the label. The long-lamented Grievous (currently split up -- more on that in the coming weeks) is duly represented on the recently released Bloodshot five-year anniversary comp, Down to the Promised Land (see Recordings).
Marking this austere occasion, a trio of the label's best and brightest will be part of a special concert at the Arizona Roadhouse this week, with singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo tentatively scheduled to headline the show.
Escovedo is no stranger to local audiences, as he made several visits to the now-defunct Balboa Café over the past year.
The duo of Sally Timms and Jon Langford -- both of the legendary Mekons -- who are touring together in support of a special limited-edition eight-song disc, Songs of False Hope and High Values, will open the show. Accompanying them will be former Grievous Angel pedal-steel whiz and current road warrior Jon Rauhouse.
In the last year, Rauhouse has been a tireless touring mate of a bevy of Bloodshoters including Neko Case, the Waco Brothers (another of Langford's side projects) and others -- while still finding time to play with a pair of local outfits, Jim Beach's band and Sleepwalker.
Rauhouse also plays all over the new Timms/Langford disc, supplying banjo, Hawaiian guitar, mandolin and -- surprise -- backing vocals. False Hope features five originals, plus deft reworkings of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," Dolly Parton's "Down From Dover" and the folk classic "Joshua Gone Barbados." However, the album is not available in stores, but only online or directly from Bloodshot, and presumably at the upcoming show.
Last year, Timms earned some well-deserved praise for her stellar Bloodshot collection Cowboy Sally's Twilight Laments. Meanwhile, Langford has proven to be one of the most diverse talents working in rock 'n' roll. His artwork -- normally dark images of country music icons like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash -- is a permanent fixture at the Yard Dog Gallery, one of the must-see destinations during the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin.
His work can also be seen in the 1992 book, Mekons United, an in-depth history of the Leeds art-punks. But Langford's greatest contribution to the world might just be as a cartoonist/satirist with the book Great Pop Things (co-written under the pseudonym Chuck Death, with Colin B. Moron). A savage, silly, and oftentimes penetrating dismantling of rock mythology, the volume collects the duo's best strips and is easily Bash & Pop's pick for book of the decade -- as far as comics go, anyway.
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The Escovedo/Langford/Timms bill is scheduled for Wednesday, August 2, at the Arizona Roadhouse in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Pop Tops: International Pop Overthrow, the annual 12-day festival celebrating all sounds pop -- jangle, retro, power, Swedish and otherwise, kicked off last week in L.A.
The only Arizona attendees among the IPO 2000 roster are the Beat Angels, though past years have seen a number of Valley acts make it to the event, including the Jennys, who were also featured on the 1998 IPO compilation disc.
One other local note: This year, the trail back from IPO brings an appearance from Illinois gloss-poppers Supermint. The band will be returning from a festival slot at the famed Spaceland in Silverlake. Supermint hits town on Saturday, July 29, playing at Boston's in Tempe. The concert will be a triple bill, also featuring the Piersons and Sugar High. Cover is only $5.