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Torch Song Trilogy

One woman's mission, and a three-night stand, benefits AIDS organizations

Torch and standards singer Mignon Rae isn't the only person in Houston to have watched helplessly as friends died of AIDS, but when yet another friend was diagnosed HIV-positive, it struck home. "I wanted to make sure I did something. I wanted to get as many people involved as I could, so we could all say we did something. I owe my friend that much."

What Rae, a 25-year-old HSPVA graduate, has done is organize an AIDS benefit, with the help of local venues and musicians to benefit area AIDS charities. "I spent a lot of time researching the various charities, and the big point was to make sure the money was going to where it was supposed to go -- and not to support administrative costs." Rae chose as her beneficiaries The Omega House, a housing facility for AIDS patients in need of hospice care; The Colt 45s AIDS Trouble Fund, which provides financial assistance to AIDS and HIV-positive patients; and Stone Soup, a food-assistance program operated by the AIDS Foundation of Houston.

Rae -- who describes herself as "not a member of an organization, a celebrity, or an AIDS victim" -- booked and organized the benefit over the course of the last six months and found Houston's over-benefited local venues and musicians for the most part supportive -- though she admits that "I didn't realize that it [the AIDS issue] was so politicized when I started. The rejection I've had, there's been a lot of bitterness there, but mostly from people who've been burned before by benefits where the money didn't go to the right place. But it seems like it was meant to happen because it's been a lot easier than I thought it would be."

The benefit in question takes place over the course of three days, at three venues, with all performers volunteering their time and all admission charges and donations going directly to the three charities. Thursday, July 21, Murrell featuring Mignon Rae, Tony Vila, and Tomorrow play at the Pig Live for a $5 cover. Friday, July 22, guitarists Paul Chester, Mike Sunjka and Todd Vullo perform at Dizzy's for a $7 cover. Saturday, July 23, jazzers Cy Brinson, Joe Locascio and Bill Murrell play CŽzanne for a $7 cover. "You always want to use your art if you can give something back with that," says Rae. "You might find a better way to spend your music budget, but I can't think of it right now."

Not that I haven't been trying, but due to time constraints there are a few traveling shows this week that I probably would've written more about if I'd had a bit more time. You get this instead. Thursday night at Billy Blues features a 25-year-old white Canadian woman named Sue Foley whose demo once convinced Antone's owner Clifford Antone -- no slouch of a blues judge -- to mail her a plane ticket on the spot. The result, a few years later, is Without a Warning on Antone's Records, a blistering slice of Texas blues that shows that Foley may have grown up a million miles from the music's roots, but she listened hard to the right records.

Also on Thursday night, boring industrial band Machines of Loving Grace headlines at the Abyss; interesting-but-not-overwhelmingly-so Jewish rap band Blood of Abraham opens, and super-bitchin' Jon Spencer-ish fast-ass guitar rockers Surgery holds down the middle, which might well be worth the price of admission itself.

And by the by, go see Silkworm at Harvey's Sunday night.

Best joke (overheard from a disgruntled horn player) this week: Q: What's the difference between a moose and a blues band?

Local Stuff: Thursday night, The Rounders play at the Satellite, but don't go see them there, because we want all you Rounders fans to show up at the Houston Press Music Awards come Monday, where they kick off the ceremonies at 7:30 p.m. Also Thursday, Miss Molly is at Party on the Plaza, and I guess it'll be okay if you go, just remember that she's an announcer at the awards, too, and she'll be dressing especially snappy. Vibist Harry Sheppard's favorite jazz conglomeration, Necessary Tension, plays Rudyard's as always, and Humungus, featuring punk semi-legend Cheetah Chrome, plays Fitz.

Friday night's got Pierre and the Zydeco Dots at the Satellite and honky-tonker Clay Blaker at the Mucky Duck. The Joe Locascio Trio's at Cezanne and the Paul English Group opens a two-night stand at Ovations. Charming Rice feel-gooders Bee Stung Lips make the stage warm and fuzzy for charming Austin feel-gooder Dah-Veed at Fitzgerald's. Meanwhile, on the East End, Monoshock and The Mike Gunn rock Harvey's.

Saturday night, The Basics are at the Satellite. Banana Blender Surprise -- which sure as hell has been getting a lot of press in Austin -- plays Rudyard's and Trish and Darin make an increasingly rare appearance at the Mucky Duck. R&B soulster Aubrey Dunham is slated for the European, Vice Grip plays Emo's and Constant Buzz celebrates a CD release at Fitz.

Come Sunday, Houston rapper Papa Chuk opens for the Miami bass sounds of 2-Live Crew's Luke in what's sure to be an eye-bulging feast for the senses at Zazz. On the other end of the spectrum, the absolute-ly astounding 17-piece jazz Big Band sets up camp downtown at Soulstice, which, I've told you once already, you should check out.

Monday night, of course, the Earth stops while we hand out awards to all the popular musicians at the Music Hall, and Houston recovers until Wednesday, when part-time Houston guitarist Eric Avenger unplugs at Ovations, Skastafarians skank at Fitz, and Zwee and the Graveberries continue their mission to play in every single live music venue in Houston with a stop at The Duck.

A: The moose has the horns in front and the asshole in the back.

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