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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

She Began With Bach but Turned to Rock

Trained in classical piano, Gina Barsamian now makes her living booking bands. She'll leave Bourbon Square to work at Blue Saloon.

July 11, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gina Barsamian does not look like a rock-music maven. Certainly, being one was never her intention.

"The last thing I thought I'd do was rock and roll," she says. "When I got in this, I said, 'Oh, my God!' "

Despite her trepidation, Barsamian started booking rock bands at West Hollywood's Troubadour back in 1984 and stayed there--through the club's heavy-metal period--until 1992. Now, after more than two years at Bourbon Square in Van Nuys, she's leaving to assume the Friday night programming chores at the Blue Saloon in North Hollywood. Barsamian declines to give any reasons for the move, but says her last shows at Bourbon Square will be July 26 and 27.

Prior to her Troubadour job, Barsamian was more likely to listen to Mendelssohn than Metallica. A fashion designer by trade, Barsamian played classical piano as a child, but as an adult did not aspire to a career as a performer.

"My mother had me taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old," she says. "I used to practice five or six hours a day."

So, in judging bands, Barsamian goes with her strength. "I look at the music," she says. "Image is important, but music is more important. I like to hear them live."

Over the years, Barsamian has brought some impressive acts to Bourbon Square, including Mike Keneally, Tony MacAlpine and Finn Mac Cool. Her tastes in rock music vary widely. In addition to presenting metal, blues and soul bands, Barsamian has also promoted a monthly acoustic night at Bourbon Square, which she hopes to continue at the Blue Saloon.

"There's lots of great talent out there, but not too many clubs give them a chance. Followings need to be built up, but club owners are impatient."

Tonight's last acoustic night at Bourbon Square has turned into a going-away party. Featured will be D.Z. Stanz, an L.A. band with its roots still firmly planted in its home state of Alabama even after 10 years in the Big Orange. They'll perform music from their new CD, unplugged.

* D.Z. Stanz, Swan Montgomery, TodCQ Richards and others at 9 tonight at Bourbon Square, 15324 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys. $5 cover. Call (818) 541-1522.

*

Shake Your Booty: That musical corporation Boogie Knights Inc. is comin' at ya from all sides, making the Valley the veritable hot zone of a disco fever epidemic.

First, the Polyester Pimps, one of an ever-expanding number of bands performing under the Boogie Knights corporate banner, now appear somewhat live on stage Wednesdays at the Hollywood Athletic Club on Universal CityWalk. I say somewhat because they, like all the Boogie Knights bands, are a half-band, half-karaoke act.

All 10 (count 'em, 10) Boogie Knights bands perform to the same one-size-fits-all official Boogie Knights prerecorded backup tape of horns and keyboards.

Meanwhile in Canoga Park, another Boogie Knights disco stage show, Le Freak, performs Wednesdays at The Rock on Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Add that to the Boogie Knights ensemble, Disco Inferno, that's been holding down Wednesdays at FM Station in North Hollywood for over a year now.

Different bands. Different locations. Same music, wigs, schtick and horn tracks. Seems Wednesdays are--cue the prerecorded fanfare--"Disco Night in the Valley."

I liked it better when it was just Hump Day.

And if that's not enough, a different Boogie Knights band will rear its collective head each Sunday afternoon throughout the summer poolside at the Warner Center Marriott Hotel. Starting at 1 p.m., you can dance the afternoon away, make a spectacle of yourself and get heatstroke, all for only a $5 cover.

Defying the laws of time and space, The Boogie Knights play Wednesdays at:

* The Rock, 7230 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park; $5 cover; (818) 347-7668.

* FM Station, 11700 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood; $6 cover; (818) 769-2220.

* Hollywood Athletic Club, Universal CityWalk; $7 cover; (818) 505-9238.

*

Rock the Vote: Media City Center in Burbank is hosting Rock the Vote's "Voice Your Choice" celebration of the 1996 elections. Bands slated to appear include Tijuana No!, Down by Law, Samiam, Supernova, Mr. Mirainga, Mealticket, Kids of Widney High and Aztlan Underground.

Along with the bands will be various politicos telling you what they hope you want to hear. Representatives from the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Peace and Freedom, Natural Law, Socialist, Green, and Reform parties as well as the League of Women Voters and others will be on hand.

* Rock the Vote's "Voice Your Choice," noon-8 p.m. Saturday at Media City Center, 201 E. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. Call (818) 566-8617.

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