Every day is like Christmas when you're a music editor--each morning brings a pile of packages with your name on them. Thirty-six parcels in one day is the standing record for my five-week tenure here.
Of course, as with any Christmas, some of the presents always suck. I never know if I'm getting a G.I. Joe with karate kick (the new Coltrane boxed set) or a pair of socks (Greatest Hits of the Hee-Haw Gospel Quartet).
There are two schools of mass package opening--the surgical, "gently peel off each wrapper and ease out the contents" approach, and its evil twin, "rip 'em all open in a materialistic feeding frenzy." I'm an ardent devotee of the latter tactic. If the Unabomber ever goes after me, I'm toast.
Hey, don't any of you Deadheads get any ideas. Any illusions I had about you people being a peaceful bunch were shattered last week by the slew of hostile calls I took from Jerry's kids who were livid over Serene Dominic's slightly irreverent take on their benevolent leader's passing ("No More Saturday Nights? Will We Survive?" August 17).
No overt threats were made, but having the mantra "No one's going to remember you as much as Jerry when you're dead and gone" chanted in your ear can create paranoia. I'm watching my back, man. I have my eyes peeled for Guatemalan shirts and my nostrils flared for patchouli. I only got tape on one of the anonymous callers (none would give or leave his or her name). Listen in: Yeah, are you Serene Dominic's boss? Or whatever that girl's name is? Or maybe it's a guy. I heard it might be a guy. (Thoughtful pause.) Must be a gay guy. Anyway, I'm sure his name won't be remembered as long as Jerry's when he's dead.
Last time I saw Dominic, he was about to go shopping for a Kevlar vest. A custom job, I think he said, with a tie-dye bull's eye over the heart.
So, did you hear that Dokken's attempting a comeback? All right, stop that giggling. There's a local boy in the band: Scottsdale resident George Lynch--hard-core greenie, mountain-biking madman, and, in my book, the best damn metal guitarist of all time, Randy Rhoads notwithstanding. Here's a little-known bit of Lynch trivia: A couple of years after Dokken broke up in 1988 (unraveling at the peak of its success because he and prima donna vocalist Don Dokken couldn't play nice), the guitarist pulled an Evel Knievel on his mountain bike in South Mountain Park. Lynch broke his jaw, cheek, nose and two vertebrae. He had to be airlifted out and lost an inch in height as a result of the wipeout.
What's that, you say? That's what he gets for playing in a cheesy ('80s hair band? Lighten up. Pop metal may not have been punk, but it had more guts than New Wave. I'd rather hear "Breakin' the Chains" than "Mickey" any hour of the day. Cheese metal is like masturbation--more people are into it than will admit. Dokken played the Electric Ballroom on August 14, and I thought I saw several members of the Lollapalooza nation entering the venue with the same furtive glance as businessmen going into an adult bookstore. Don't worry. I wasn't writing down license plates. Sure, seeing "Dokken" and "comeback" in the same sentence may feel like a joke, but here's the punch line: The Ballroom show sold out. The puppeteer pulling the strings on this one is John Kalonder, the new head of A&R for Columbia. Kalonder claims to have a sixth sense about has-beens primed for resurrection, and his very first action at Columbia was to sign Dokken and launch a PR blitz on the band's behalf. Industry watchers laughed and called him crazy, but then the same people ridiculed him the last time he signed a group of MIA metalheads six years after it broke up--a band called Aerosmith.
Who's laughing now?
I turn into a pumpkin at midnight when I have album reviews to edit in the morning. (I know, I know--not very rock 'n' roll of me; but gimme a break, I'm from Alaska--heat drains me like a vampire.) So I didn't stick around for the finale of Laurie Notaro's Acoustic Nightmare on August 16 at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe. Judging by the rapidly improving quality of the sets, though, I'm sure it was my loss.
August 16 was round three of the no-cover-charge, biweekly unplugged theme night that features musicians from established local acts doing short acoustic sets. Attendance was down from the first two editions, but I still counted 80 in the house when I left, directly after a fantastic set of tightly woven, three-guitar-part jamming by Scott, Wes and Steve of Flying 99. Earlier in the evening, a solo Steve Metz did pounds of justice to Mazzy Star with his beautiful cover of "Holah."
Other standout performers included Frank Mackey of Celtic Cowboys and Ned Beatty and the Inbreds, whose powerful rendering of the old standard "Train, Train" likely touched a special place in the hearts of those Tempe-sters who, like myself, live near the tracks between Ash and Farmer. Damn, that man can play harp.
Next chance to welcome yourself to Laurie's nightmare is August 30. Same dive joint, same dive time (music starts around 10 p.m.).
I don't write this type of recommendation often, so heed my call. There is a band coming to town you can't afford to miss: Weapon of Choice, a politicized funk explosion scheduled to go off at Gibson's Thursday night.
A core member of Trulio Disgracias, the musical collective formed in the late '80s by Fishbone's Norwood Fisher, Weapon of Choice comes loaded for bear with a bandoleer of heavy groove guitar, political rap, reggae, wild horns and funk, funk, funk. It's Sun Ra meets Public Enemy meets Bob Marley meets P-Funk, and the operative message is tune in, get down and wake up.
Weapon of Choice was organized in 1992 by Lonnie Marshall, a black musician from south central Los Angeles who isn't and never was a gangsta rapper. Signed a year later to Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard's label, Loose Groove Records, WOC's debut album is titled Nutmeg Sez Bozo the Town.
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Nutmeg, in the octet's lexicon, is a broad term for all things righteous and funky, as well as the name of a fictional character who embodies those qualities. Last week I had a phone experience with Marshall that was half interview, half contrived (but impressive) freestyle rapping. My first question was the obvious one: Where the hell did this Nutmeg thing come from?
"It comes from standin' on nuttin' and startin' from scratch," Marshall rapped. "You could eat my cookies; I'll just make a new batch."
Okay. Could you be more specific?
"Nutmeg music is anything glows. It is whatever whoever wants it to be. In technical terms, it's bringing in all the styles and mixing it up for nuttin's sake. That's the nutmeg spice.
"These are the 19 nutties, and you got to have the spice so you can fit in on black radio, white radio, Chinese radio, everywhere. You got to reach all the people, 'cause this is a dog-greet-dog world at odds trying to get even with itself."
Woof-woof. I could tell I was barking up the wrong tree trying get a more lucid quote from this cat. No matter. Point is, WOC is a funkenstein monster of a band. I caught Marshall's act at an acid-laced New Year's Eve ritual in Anchorage (yes, there is music in Alaska). True to Nutmeg's slogan, it was "the potty to end all potties." This band is a must see. End Notes
Early warning: The deadline for demo-tape applications for a showcase spot at South by Southwest '96 is October 15. Application forms can be obtained by calling 1-512-467-7979, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing SXSW at P.O. Box 4999, Austin, TX 78765. Good luck, kids.