Labor Day weekend is usually a slow time for the Sunset Strip rock clubs, but this year they'll see a lot of activity--not necessarily inside, but on the sidewalks. Rockers Against Pay-to-Play (RAPP), an organization founded by local musician Mark Mason, will be out in full force Sept. 1-3, picketing the five-block section of the Strip that contains the Whisky, the Roxy and Gazzarri's.
Those three clubs are among the most visible houses featuring the pay-to-play policy, in which acts are required to purchase as much as $1,200 worth of tickets in order to be booked.
"More than 200 bands have agreed not to do play-to-play shows that weekend," Mason said, noting that the Guitar Center music stores have donated 100 picket signs for the protest. The group is also making plans for future picketing of Orange County and South Bay clubs that book on a pay-to-play basis.
This is a follow-up to a RAPP-sponsored picketing of the Strip pay-to-play clubs last June. That protest did not appear to harm the clubs' business, but a good deal of media and rock community attention was focused on the demonstration, which Mason said was only the beginning of the campaign.
The promoters who book these clubs were reluctant to speak on the record about the protests--Sally Mishkind of Creative Image Associates refused to identify acts she has booked Labor Day weekend because she said bands have been harassed by telephone by anti-pay-to-play forces. But the promoters say they've had no difficulty lining up acts to play that weekend.
"I don't know what the solution for pay-to-play is," Mishkind said, suggesting that bands are always free to rent out other clubs and put on their own shows if they don't like the current system. "If every band brought in a lot of people, no promoter would would want to keep pay-to-play. But there are thousands of bands."
Jeff Lord of Jungle Productions agreed that pay-to-play is not the ideal situation, but dismissed the protests as ineffective. He said that most of the acts involved in RAPP "can't guarantee their own draw anyway."
DREADLOCKS AND DRY DOCKS: The odd couple of the year has to be . . . Perry Farrell and Gavin MacLeod. What got the dreadlocked singer of Jane's Addiction together with "The Love Boat's" Captain Stubbing is "Hollyword," the upcoming spoken-word project from producer Harvey Kubernik. Farrell's participation is easy to figure--he's one of the most articulate and creative spokesmen for the Hollywood mind set around these days. On the album he reads a nine-minute excerpt from a long "letter" describing the world around him and in his mind.
MacLeod's contribution may be more surprising, but is just as incisive about the dark alleys of Tinseltown. For his cut on the record, MacLeod reminisces about playing a junkie in a 1960 Hollywood production of the play "The Connection," which featured a smoky jazz score by Dexter Gordon.
MacLeod's not the only surprising participant on the project. Among those joining such Kubernik regulars as poets Michael C. Ford and Wanda Coleman will be Jefferson Airplane co-pilot Paul Kantner, "Married With Children's" Katey Sagal, actress Patti D'Arbanville, "Days of Our Lives" star MacDonald Carey (a respected poet) and--if Kubernik can work out the logistics--N.W.A rapper Ice-Cube and Dodger rookie pitcher John Wetteland, who keeps a poetry journal on road trips.
PICKY PICKY: There are a couple of fun surprises in store for Trotsky Icepick fans. One is that John Talley-Jones has signed on as lead singer, joining his former 100 Flowers mate, guitarist Kjel Johansen and solidifying the outfit as one of L.A.'s best. And on the CD of "El Kabong," Icepick's new SST album, the group proves itself to be a witty vinyl supporter to the bitter end. Literally. Tacked on at the conclusion of the last song is about 17 minutes of the sound of a needle at the end of a record. You remember what that sounds like, don't you?
BUZZWORDS: Mike Giangreco, who booked shows for the resurrected Ash Grove last year and now does the Breakaway, is now also handling the Bohemian Cafe at Bogart's. The acoustic-oriented showcase takes place every Friday evening in a 200-seat room separate from the regular concert room. This Friday's lineup includes Dave Zink and Lisa McEwen, Sept. 8 features Purple Turtles, and Sept. 15 has John Trudell, Jason Luckett, the Inclined and Dickies offshoot Il Culto. . . .
Milo Binder is recording a debut album, produced by the Balancing Act's Willie Aron and Red Sneakers/Satellites Four veteran Casey Dolan. Milo's also represented on two (count 'em) anthologies of acoustic singer-songwriter material, one from Windham Hill, the other from the New York-based Fast Folk organization. The Fast Folk collection focuses on L.A. talent, with Peter Case, Victoria Williams and project producer Marvin Etzioni also among the performers. . . .
The most unusual press release so far this year came in preview of Russ Tolman's recent Club Lingerie show to launch the American release of his "Down in Earthquake Town" album. The missive dealt with Tolman's choice in footwear for the show, suggesting that those who wanted more information call the shoe repair shop where his boots were being resoled.