Program Notes

A while back I had the pleasure of speaking to several hordes of high school students and teachers who gathered at FIU for a seminar with the unwieldy title of the Dade County Public Schools Student Gender Equity Conference. Leonard Pitts, Jr., and I attempted to explain to these bright kids how the music biz works (ha!) and why people get called bitches and hos and other awful things in the name of art. I thought it all worked out pretty cool, although this one teacher and I kept bringing up the freakin' Mills Brothers. The other day I received a nice thank you note from the director, Lilia Garcia, which ended with this volatile salvo: "Thank you and the New Times for your commitment to excellence...." I like that. It's a nice thought, anyway.

My colleague and pal Todd "Sloppy Joe" Anthony and I had commitment, or at least we should've been committed. It was about, geez, thirteen or fourteen years ago. We were working for the student newspaper at FIU, covering a concert in West Palm Beach. T. would write the review, I'd provide the gonzo companion piece. He drove (as usual) and I drank (as usual). We made the long haul, absorbed the show, even hung out with the zombielike members of the band backstage. And we wrote our little hearts out because it was one of those concerts, the ones you never forget and would love to relive. It was the J. Geils Band. (And a decent little opening act called U2.) Some of that magic is recaptured on the new Rhino double-disc compilation The J. Geils Band Anthology: Houseparty. Ten of the 38 tracks are live versions, and the whole thing sounds just fine (Peter Wolf and Seth Justman helped produce). "Centerfold" and "Freeze-Frame" didn't need to be included, "Angel in Blue" is sorely missing. But you get your "Must of Got Lost" and "Love Stinks" and "Looking for a Love," plus semi-obscure single sides such as a cover of Willie Dixon's "Dead Presidents." This package is a first in that it includes songs recorded for both the Atlantic and EMI America labels.

I hate to bring up major labels in a column whose theme is commitment to excellence. Oxymoronic, you know? I mean, how stupid could Atlantic be to pass on Natural Causes? Their loss, I suppose. I caught the band again recently, and they delivered an absolute presentation, the most coherent and affecting two hours of live music imaginable. Guitarist Joel Schantz was sick as a hog, but it didn't even slow him down. If the Washington Square live CD ever gets released, you can hear an excellent mix of the Causes' impossibly beautiful "Crazy Mixed Up World" there. Screw the majors.

Last week Sloppy Joe and I spent a couple of nights in the company of the big shots from all the major labels tied into the BMG conglom. He drove, the drinks were free, guess what I did? BMG took over the Confetti space in Fort Lauderdale and tossed this blast for their people and a few local sleazes who obtained tickets. The first night we caught A.J. Croce (Jim's son) playing a boogie-woogie piano and horns set. During the performance I handed Lydia Ojeda a note: "He's better than Harry Connick." Then I handed her another note: "But he sure as hell ain't no Arlan Feiles." Even Mary Karlzen, the nicest person in the world, had to nod her head in concurrence. The next night Joan Armatrading showcased, and Feiles, a big fan, actually showed up. Too weird. Unfortunately, Joanie was stifled by a listless band and an unprovocative set list. Her voice is strong as ever, and a few songs, the ones she played guitar on, particularly "Me Myself I," shone.

Mary Karlzen is still waiting for one of BMG's labels A or any other A to ink her to a deal, but she isn't sitting around waiting. Her video for "A Long Time Ago" (featuring a couple of Mavericks) was recently picked up by TNN. Radio is coming along more slowly, but it's coming along. Updates here.

Having spent a couple of nights in Broward, I feel high...um, I mean highly qualified to comment about the old county-vs.-county saw. I heard some of that bad heavy metal, and even the shots of Jack didn't help. (Thanks a lot for that one, Lydia.) But on the next night we stumbled into the Mind Shaft at Supersports Rock Lounge in Lauderhill just in time to catch the beginning of Forget the Name live. The club itself is pretty cool, FtN was totally excellent, rockin' it real hard. I forget which major label is signing Forget the Name. Yeah.

I guess FtN is a Dade band, and maybe that says something about this county conundrum. But this missive from Carol Spicer on behalf of (Broward's) Second Son says more. Noting that "there is a general belief that the Broward and Dade music scenes could never come together and that the competition between bands is at times cutthroat," Spicer goes on to commend and compliment manager Keith Schantz and the members of Natural Causes for their more-than-cooperation on behalf of Second Son. I won't go into all the details, but this is Spicer's summation: "In an industry where management is usually the worse offender when it comes to cutthroat tactics, Keith and the band are truly class acts." Oh. Maybe that's why they aren't on a major.

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