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MUSIC: Ventura County | ROCKTALK

Out of the Coffeehouse

The local folk duo Zelig gets away from the sound of espresso machines for a plush gig Saturday at Civic Arts Plaza.


That big square thing by the Ventura Freeway is the place for acoustic music fans to be when Zelig plays a Saturday night gig at the 400 seat Forum Theatre at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks.

Named for a Woody Allen movie, Zelig is Brian Wurschum on guitar and voice and Laurel Hoffman on vocals. In another night-life configuration, these two comprise two-fifths of the folk-rock group majority DOG, the most famous band in Newbury Park.

This show will only be the third time in the venue's history that local bands have played the Civic Arts Plaza, and having priors didn't hurt Zelig's resume; the DOG band was the first local band to play the venue two years ago. Since no one was killed and the joint didn't burn down, this show was no brain twister, Wurschum said.

"We were up for a new challenge, so we called them up," he said. "We'll be doing two 50-minute sets, some new stuff plus some of our usual stuff."

Zelig started when Wurschum and Hoffman got tired of staying home because the DOG band doesn't play that often. Zelig generally plays three times a week.

"We started Zelig because we wanted to sing different kinds of songs than we did with the band," said Hoffman. "We do mostly covers by the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, the Everly Brothers, Peter, Paul & Mary, but there are original Zelig songs. Zelig does majority DOG songs and majority DOG does Zelig songs."

Usually Zelig is beyond low budget. It is in fact the consummate no-budget band. It's Wurschum and Hoffman and an acoustic guitar on that endless coffeehouse tour, gamely fighting without amps or mikes to be heard over the whoosh of the espresso machines. Not this time.

"This time we will have incredible sound and we'll be all miked for a change and there won't be any espresso machines," promised Wurschum.

In another mother of bad timing maneuvers, the band's debut CD, "Race For the Sun," probably won't be available for this gig, since the artwork for the 22-song disc is incomplete. The DOG band, meanwhile, is in the studio working on its fourth album.

And as the Big Event draws near are the musicians getting excited? Is Wurschum going to wear a tie?

"No, no tie, but maybe I'll just wear a majority DOG T-shirt and that's all."

He'll be the tall guy.

* Zelig, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, Saturday, 8 p.m. $10. (805) 449-2787.


New Wavers: Gene Loves Jezebel, that group of sartorially splendid New Wave fashion plates from 15 years ago, will have a Saturday night stopover at Nicholby's in Ventura as part of the band's Greatest Hits tour. The Uninvited, goofball rockers deluxe, will open the 9:30 p.m. show.

Featuring neither a Gene nor a Jezebel, the band was started by twin brothers Jay and Michael Aston in 1982 in Porthcawl, Wales. According to their bio: "Due to his looks, Jay was nicknamed Jezebel. Michael became Gene because he'd hurt his leg and was limping like the seminal rocker Gene Vincent. Putting the names together, they decided Gene Loves Jezebel was a great name for the group they were planning." Whatever.

With hit singles such as "Screaming For Emmalene," "The Sweetest Thing" and "Heartache," Gene Loves Jezebel has been a staple of alternative radio since their 1983 debut album. Despite the fact that Michael Aston left the band in 1989, the band (Just Jezebel?) has continued to record and tour.

The Uninvited are no strangers to local rock fans. They usually play monthly at Nicholby's, and the band has recently signed with Atlantic Records. Soon they will put out a new album, which will be basically a best-of collection culled from their three independent releases, plus some new stuff. Brothers J.T. and Steve Taylor harmonize as well as any and are funnier than most on such tunes as "Temporary Vegetarian" and "That's What You Get."

* Gene Loves Jezebel and the Uninvited, Nicholby's, 404 E. Main St., Ventura, Saturday, 9:30 p.m. $8. (805) 653-2320.


Musical heirs: One of the happiest people in the Ojai Valley, a valley full of happy people, has to be Jim Calire. Not one, but two of his sons, Mario and Jamie, are up for Grammy Awards, which will be awarded on Feb. 25.

"Yes, it's true," said Calire. "It's just wonderful--they're both a couple of hard-working guys."

Jamie Caliri earned his nomination in the best short form video category for directing a video of a very surreal song, "Early to Bed" by a very surreal sax-driven band called Morphine. He graduated from Cal Arts in 1992 and has been making commercials and, so far, maybe a half dozen videos for such bands as Cypress Hill, Soul Coughing and those kings of the brokenhearted, the Eels.

The young filmmaker can spell well, according to his dad.

"Jamie actually spells our name correctly. When grandpa Caliri was at Ellis Island, he forgot to dot the "i" at the end of "Caliri," so it became "Calire," a name most people frequently mispronounce. Anyway, I think Jamie got his talent from my wife--she's an artist."

Mario Calire, the drummer for the Wallflowers, is nominated in the best rock song category for "The Difference."

The elder Calire himself is certainly no stranger to local music fans. The gray-haired keyboard and sax player has been in countless local blues and jazz bands, and his night job remains his main job.

"I'm always playing and performing. My primary band is the Pontiax, out of Santa Barbara, plus I do a jazz trio and a solo piano thing," he said. "Right now I'm writing the words and music for 'The Beggar's Opera' which will open for five weeks at the Ojai Art Center on Feb. 20."

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