Dancing About Architecture

Re-Zona Rosa

With its history of openings and closings, La Zona Rosa has long been thought of as perfect for yet another reinvention. Among the players whose names had come up in connection with such a scheme were Tim O'Connor's Direct Events, the House of Blues club chain, and Liberty Lunch co-owner Mark Pratz. Pratz especially had good reason to hope to get the position. It's long been speculated that the Lunch, whose long history of near-closings makes La Zona seem solid as a Swiss bank, could be the big loser if a new city hall lands on the spot of his club or Direct Events lands a third venue. Well, as of last week, speculation (one part of it, anyway) came to an end when Direct Events' O'Connor and Charlie Jones, and Waterloo Ice House's Ted Karam reached an agreement with La Zona Rosa's most recent owner, Kelly Gruber, for the three to take over management control of the venue.

For those who haven't been following the drama, O'Connor's Direct Events already books the Austin Music Hall and the Backyard and maintains a close association with Houston booking giants Pace Concerts. With DE cozying up to the La Zona stable, the word "monopoly" has been getting a lot of earplay of late in the club scene, thanks to the fact that O'Connor will now be booking venues with capacities ranging from 500 to 3,000; this gives him the advantage in getting shows the Lunch might want, since when the same bands come back needing a larger venue, they'll already have been playing ball with the right people. "I wasn't trying too hard, to tell the truth," says Pratz, who, at one time, had talked to Gruber and his wife Tosca about booking and managing their venue. "So, I deserve anything I get." He admits to being worried, but not panicked over Direct Events' stronghold over the bulk of Austin's larger, non-arena venues, though he sees it as representative of Austin's increasing large city mentality. Still, he adds, "I'd hate to see the Lunch die."

O'Connor is quick to point out that Pace hardly has a hammerlock on Austin's venues through Direct Events, and that DE is also booking shows through other promoters, and that as far as Pratz is concerned, "It's not our style to go after anybody. We're [just] going to do what's profitable and promotes the house and is good for Austin." For those curious as to whether DE's takeover of La Zona also puts the kibosh on the House of Blues' interest in Austin, O'Connor says that if the HOB were still interested "we'd certainly talk to them, but at this moment, they're not involved with La Zona Rosa."

Realistically, to put the Lunch in its grave, La Zona Rosa would have to fight for -- and win -- the services of the louder, alternative acts that are currently the Lunch's bread and butter. Pratz wonders aloud how the DE gang would succeed in incorporating such bands into La Zona Rosa's traditionally quieter, older audience-oriented repertoire. He suggests that such a mix could turn off people who think of the club as a "place to hang" where they can expect music that generally fits their interests there on any given night. Pratz credits the Lunch's own shift from mellow reggae into the alternative market as "why we lost that crowd." O'Connor says he doesn't believe that the place-to-hang crowd has survived into the Austin of the Nineties, but seems content to leave the De La Souls and Ben Folds Fives to Pratz. "He's captured that market," points out O'Connor, complimenting Pratz's acumen further before reiterating that, "We never went up against him at the Austin Music Hall." And as for the two possibly working together in the future? "If he wanted to do a show [at La Zona]," says O'Connor, "we'd talk to him."

I Am Curious (Dino)

You know you've been wondering what the lascivious combo of Mr. Fabulous and the notorious "swingers'" club Anchovies would produce, and now that Mr. Fab aka Dino Lee has been putting on his crooning suit and heading for those hallowed halls on a semi-regular basis, he says the whole thing is "kind of an experiment," but that "the people that are brave enough to go in there are having fun." Interestingly, Lee says the Anchovies customers are an attentive crowd -- attentive to the band, I mean -- and that "for the most part they're well-behaved, at least until we start playing the Tom Jones stuff." I'll leave it to you to ask Mr. Fab about the particular moves he sees in the audience that he calls the "doggie dance" and the "Dagwood sandwich."

A Fine Martian Zinfandel

Paul "Martian" Sessums, Jr. has managed to get out of jail in time to plan his birthday bash at the Black Cat. Outstanding warrants are what done him in, says Martian, but he's heard tales that he was supposedly selling coke on Sixth or was caught pissing in public and pulled a razorblade on a cop. Of his short time in jail (he was made a trustee after two days, which dropped his time down to around a month total), he complains that while the daily paper and a number of magazines were available, the Chronicle was nowhere to be seen. (Say, it seems strange that we haven't tapped into this captive audience.) Nevertheless, Sessums says he was the hit of the clink thanks to the homemade wine he brewed up in the jail kitchen! As far as his 29th B-day party, that'll be a rockabilly free-for-all with the Flametrick Subs and assorted others, at the Black Cat on May 3. He warns that he's saving the truly phenomenal bash for next year when he hits the big 30. With that in mind, I'm expecting big things from Monte Warden this Sunday, because he's celebrating his 30th at the Continental Club that night. Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison, and many more will be on hand, so go help 'em whoop it up.

Letter From the Publisher

Well, talk about a nice Boss. The Ark 21 label's Miles Copeland, brother of Stewart and Ian, and publisher of Pat MacDonald's music, has sent out a note about MacDonald -- just a note, no mention of new product, no indication of future plans, just a note about why he likes Pat. Among the interesting nuggets contained within: "As his publisher I have now turned down over two million dollars worth of ad offers for `The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades' (Ray-Ban and most recently McDonald's). `Hairstyles and Attitudes' [are they connected] illicited [sic] a huge campaign offer for Clairol. He always says `no' -- and it's not like he doesn't need the money. To him it's selling out -- what a Putz!" Apparently, MacDonald isn't above co-writing songs with Cher, since he's done just that, with Copeland quoting her as saying, "Pat is one of the most interesting men I've ever known, and considering the men I've known, that's really saying something." The quote ends there, but I'll bet that in the original conversation, she added something about Sonny being a "Putz!"

Mixed Notes

Soak are out touring in anticipation of their upcoming Rainmaker/Interscope debut album (was there ever a better band name/label match than Rainmaker and Soak?), and report regional advance radio adds starting this week. The album itself trickles into stores on June 3... Abra Moore's Arista Austin debut, Strangest Places, comes armed with a postcard campaign similar to the one that Power Snatch perpetrated on me a couple years ago. Members of the local media have been bombarded by postcards bearing a note supposedly from Moore (the signatures are all different), and postmarks from the -- dare I say it -- the strangest places (Alaska?!?). You'll be able to find her album in the usual places come May 20. You may also find her at the big Lilith music festival (aka Lolita-palooza) alongside local faves like Shawn Colvin and Kelly Willis, and gems like Jewel, Fiona Apple, Lisa Loeb, Cardigans, Indigo Girls, Suzanne Vega, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Paula Cole, Sarah McLachlan, Victoria Williams, Aimee Mann, the Wild Colonials, Nenah Cherry, and Autour de Lucie. No word just yet on whether there will be an Austin show, or who in the above lineup would be playing that stop on the tour if there is one, but the Lilith fest is set to start on July 5 at the Gorge in George, Washington... Junior Medlow, sadly, has finally succumbed to his long battle with cancer. He passed away in Lubbock last week... Last Monday was something of a hip-hop flip-flop for slaves to the beat. Following a disagreement with Nasty's, flyers went up indicating the weekly Monday night Blow-Pop show had high-tailed it to the Electric Lounge for good. In fact, the show's hostesses Rachel and Tiffany were at the Electric while the deejays were at Nasty's. Things have been in flux all week, and at press time it appears that both gals will remain at the Lounge (with new deejays), while the old school will remain at Nasty's. Apparently, the war is on... In an interview with L7 in the latest BAM, wherein the four femmes announce that music is just no damn good anymore, Suzy Gardner offers one exception: "The Fuckemos [are] a band that I've been exposed to recently that I think is insane with their angle." Well put (I think)... This Thursday marks a double release party at the Hole in the Wall for the Vidi Vitties and the Kissoffs, both of whom have new Peek-A-Boo Records singles out. Silver Scooter are also on the bill, and while they're not sporting a new 7-incher, they'll be the subject of the label's first full-length album this fall... Speaking of local labels, the May 12 issue of US News and World Report, with a report on businesses that started up on credit cards, will features the profile on Ata Glance Records' Brian Flaherty. Meanwhile, Ata Glance is serving up the new six-song Next Door EP from Movieola as of now... Dexter Freebish have a new CD on the way in about two weeks. That disc should include the "enhanced" CD-ROM material that was intended for, but never included on, their previous release... It's time to learn more about the music biz, and you can do that next Tuesday at the Electric Lounge from 5:30-7:30pm. That's when the Texas Music Office and the Artists' Legal Accounting Assistance of Austin will be presenting a seminar titled "Protect Yourself: The Basics of Music Publishing." It's a free gig, but they suggest you make a reservation (and who doesn't have reservations about the music business?) by calling 476-4458...

-- Contributors: Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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More Dancing About Architecture
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The last installment of "Dancing About Architecture."

Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

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