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Rhythm Room Boom

Chicks who rock and Tourbaby take the Washington Avenue stage

Washington Avenue's Rhythm Room is stepping up to the plate with two big festival-like shows, both of which come complete with a bevy of bands, not to mention high ideals and noble causes. A total of 15 bands will take the stage in the Sixth Ward bar/dancehall over the course of the next two Fridays. Chicks who rock, hepatitis C sufferers, independent local musicians and you will all benefit if you attend one or both of these shows.

This Friday, November 1, the Rhythm Room hosts Tourbaby, the performance arm of CDBaby.com. The Oregon-based Web site that sells CDs direct from independent artists to their fans with no middlemen has become the second-largest seller of CDs on the Web, trailing only Amazon.com.

Even though Houston is the 37th stop on Tourbaby's U.S. circuit, don't go expecting to find a bunch of sweaty roadies, idling tour buses and crank-fueled guitarists. In fact, to say Tourbaby is coming to Houston at all is something of a misnomer. Only the idea is traveling; the bands have been here all along. In each of the 54 cities on the itinerary, local musicians sign up as many of their friends as they can and put on a show. It's something like the Wave -- different musicians in different cities rise up at prearranged times and do their stuff.

Each city's "stop" takes on that town's flavor, and Houston is no exception. Tourbaby's local lineup is as amorphous, zoning-free and fusion-filled as the Bayou City, with the sprawling jam/blues/country/rock sounds of local organizer Guy Schwartz's New Jack Hippies, pop/jazz/funksters the Buddhacrush, E.P. Vallejo's blues rock, hard rockers Tin Henry and Beryl Grady, rapper/street poet Kool B., Austinites True Audio Outland, and two Houston bands with roots in Jamaican sounds: progressive ska band Secret Agent 8 and the dancehall lover's rock of DubTex SoundSystem. In other words, it's a little like a Press Music Awards stage, where rap follows rock follows ska follows blues.

So far the tour's been jinxed. Four days after a Tourbaby show at a club called the Hurricane in the Florida Keys, the virtual tour was hit by almost the real thing when Tropical Storm Hannah drenched the show in Tallahassee. In the deluge, the Florida rock band Poynt's tour bus skidded and crashed, sending the driver to the hospital in critical condition. Three weeks later, in Detroit, singer Tony Gioia of the band Fine Bone China was found dead the day before the show, which quickly morphed into a memorial service/benefit for the fallen rocker. Let's hope Houston's installment goes off without a hitch.

Next Friday night, November 8, belongs to "Chicks who rock," who want you to "Get Hip to Hep C," to (respectively) paraphrase and quote directly the slogans of Madalyn Sklar's Sugar Land-based national organization GoGirlsRock.com and its annual benefit. GoGirlsRock's mission is to aid women rockers and assist worthy causes along the way. Sklar founded the organization in 1996, and this will be their third hepatitis C benefit in Houston; nationwide they've held more than 30 of the liver-loving concerts.

The lineup consists of local renegade country sextet Cowboy's Nightmare, ferocious Memphis hard rocker Carol Plunk, eclectic L.A. rockers Kelly's Lot, local pop/folk/rocker Elizabeth White and Rhythm Room regular Mandy G. Smith.

According to Sklar, Plunk in particular is not to be missed. "She's the one you really, really want to see," she says. "She was in town this past June, and it was her first time in Houston, and she had the crowd on their feet in front of the stage for the whole set. It was pretty amazing."

As the founder of the world's oldest online community of independent women artists, Sklar is something of a story herself. "I grew up playing guitar," she says. "I wasn't really a professional or in a band, but it was something for fun. I always wanted to be involved in the music business, and I always figured one day I would be. It just wound up being this way: the head person of an organization that promotes women in music."

End of an Era

By the time you read this, three-year-old downtown dance mecca Hyperia will have only three more days before it shutters for good. In a statement posted on the club's Web site on October 22, owner Neil Heller announced that the club's last day would be November 2. "We still have a few more tricks and treats up our sleeves," he added, "so be sure to stay tuned in for info on the closing parties, which will be going every night till we close." Hyperia's excellent resident DJs, including Michael DeGrace, Jimmy Skinner, Andy "Champa" Moore, Sean Carnahan, Mike Snow, DJ Classic, Audio Three, UNT, Chocoholick, SDF-3, G-Wizz, Blaze and MC Swift, were one reason it was widely considered one of the top clubs in America. The fact that it regularly hosted guests such as Danny Howells, Timo Maas, Dieselboy, Goldie, Marley Marl and DJ Skribble didn't hurt, either.

Rock Around the Doc

Local blues harp ace Sonny Boy Terry has signed with Georgetown, Texas, indie start-up label Doc Blues. The label has plans to rerelease Breakfast Dance, Terry's two-year-old studio record, as well as his upcoming live album, roughly half of which he has already recorded at Third Ward juke de luxe Miss Ann's Playpen. Terry plans to finish up the raw tracks at another Miss Ann's show on November 10. "The last time we played there, it was the best crowd they ever had," says Terry. "You could cut the soul with a knife."

Terry is most excited about the live album, which he's making with bassist Benny Brasket, drummer Samantha Banks and unheralded Golden Triangle fret wizard Little Ray Ybarra. "He's the real deal," says Terry. "I really wanted to do this live record to document playing with him because he's the strongest blues guitarist I've played with since Joe Hughes, and I feel like he and I really do something special together."

Terry joins Port Arthur-bred harp player Walter T. Higgs, drum stalwart Uncle John Turner, blueswoman Joanna Ramirez and former Larry Davis sideman John McVey on the fledgling label, which was founded last year by Austin physician Jim Thompson.

According to Terry, the label's best release so far has been My Pleasure from guitarist Jeffery P. Ross. Ross has played with everybody from Rank and File, the Hellecasters and the Asylum Street Spankers to L.A. blues kings William Clarke and James Harman, and his versatility and expertise show on the album.

Lately Doc Blues has been holding regular showcases at Dominic's in the Radisson (Beltway 8 at the Katy Freeway), thus improving the city's hotel bar music scene immensely. Ross will play a special CD release show there Saturday, November 9.

An Angry Bolt from Mount Olympus

That old "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" argument has cropped up again. Two readers have taken up the cudgel on behalf of Lise Liddell, whose CD Lover's Moon was recently panned in these pages. Local musician Mark Zeus fired off a lengthy letter in which he expressed the view that the Press should reserve its barbs for national CDs. Zeus closed by writing this: "If you don't like a CD by a local artist, DON'T REVIEW IT. Find one you do and give well deserved press to someone who needs it." To which Racket replies: "He who praises everybody praises nobody."

Scuttlebutt Caboose

In addition to The Fix (reviewed on page 97), Scarface's Greatest Hits is also in stores. The compo culls from Scarface's first six solo discs, and while there are no Geto Boys tracks on the collection, there are guest shots from such names as Ice Cube, Master P and 2PacKing's X is in the studio hard at work on its tenth album, which is slated for release early next year. In the interim, the band will be touring with Hammerfall and the man who has rocked for a long, long time, he who sings of wildebeests and angels, the fiend who soars on the wings of demons: Ronnie James Dio. No Houston gig is planned at this stage…And finally, Nashville's legendary Ryman Auditorium was the scene of one of rock's great meltdowns on October 14. Ryan Adams took the stage and wowed the crowd with two stunning ballads. Then things took a sharp turn onto the road to weirdsville. In the words of Nashville Tennessean music critic Peter Cooper, Adams got "mired in the gummy muck of self-indulgence." The wine-guzzling, chain-smoking singer stopped playing and read a book to the crowd. He hushed his band and sang "Like a Virgin" and a Minor Threat tune karaoke-style, with only a turntable as his accompaniment. Then came the pièce de résistance: When a fan jokingly requested that he play Bryan Adams's "Summer of '69," Ryan ordered the Ryman staff to hit the houselights and demanded that the offending fan be pointed out to him. Adams then fished $30 (the ticket price) out of his wallet, gave it to the fan and said his golden throat would stay silent until the unlucky man was removed from the premises. Ushers came and took him away, and the concert continued. Unbeknownst to Adams, the ushers took the fan to the balcony, where he watched the rest of the concert $30 richer than he had been five minutes before.

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