Big Band Bayou?

You've no doubt heard by now that Bayou City Theatre is abandoning its live music format. As far as we know, a 104-KRBE party featuring the timeless music of The Knack is still on for May 7, but that's the last one. Anthrax, scheduled for the 5th, and Phish, on the 6th, have been moved to the less roomy confines of the Tower Theatre while BCT undergoes some sort of as-yet-unspecified transformation. And since that transformation remains as-yet unspecified, I've got a suggestion. As much as I've enjoyed a good many shows at that hall, I haven't been able to walk through the doors into that cavernous, balcony-lined room without wishing I were entering a genuine '40s-style supper club with candlelit tables, full food service, lively bar, and Louis Armstrong on the bandstand. I understand that Armstrong may be difficult to book these days, but anything in the jazz/blues big-band vein will do. And while you're at it, give me some fedora-wearing gangsters sitting on that roped-off corner ledge at stageside. It's just an idea.

The closing of BCT leaves a hole in the city's venue infrastructure that you could drive a large band through, and it remains to be seen whether a venue of comparable size -- aside from the shabby former supermarket cattle-call of the International Ballroom -- will open to fill it. In the meantime, you may have noticed that European Tavern and Gardens has been working overtime to pick up the slack.

On the other end of the size spectrum, you've no doubt also noticed that Epstein's has finally closed its doors. After several weeks of running borderline hysterical ads in Public News ("Epstein's is for sale. Call for details!"), the much-loved hangout succumbed and merged its equipment and staff with that of sister club Harvey's, which'll be operating on an expanded schedule. The straw that broke the camel's back? A call from the city Health Department, which wanted to come out and inspect the place. Epstein's management estimated that at least $1,000 was needed to bring the place up to snuff, and rather than make the investment, they decided to go ahead and fold. Just hope the Health Department folks don't go calling on Harvey's any time soon.

The world may not know Houston as a music town yet, but the video kudos just keep coming. Last week's WorldFest-Houston film festival jury awarded a Gold Medal in the category of Music Video: New Artist to Sat--Smooth's clip for the "Mamma Never Told Me" single. R. Scott Budge directed for Sovereign Films, and Doug King, also responsible for the groundbreaking Geto Boys clip for "Mind Playing Tricks on Me," produced.

Local Stuff... I try to be timely, but it doesn't always work out that way. Must have been three weeks ago that the Press ran a favorable review of Atomic Opera's For Madmen Only, but as it happens, the disk's street date isn't until May 10. You could go digging through back issues (yeah, right), or you could just show up at Fitzgerald's Thursday night, May 5, when Atomic Opera themselves jump the gun with a CD release/celebration show. AO's employers at Giant Records recently mailed me a cassette of the band's vid for the "Justice" single, and it's growing on me. I know there must be a quality metal crowd somewhere in Houston, and why you're not showing up for these guys is beyond me.

The Hadden Sayers Band sets an, er, odd tone for the weekend when it opens a free show for Kansas (if all we are is dust in the wind, why haven't these people blown away by now?) at FridayFest in Old Market Square, and things aren't likely to get any less strange with Dyn@mutt, Lozenge and Woody's Jukebox lined up to open for Pop Defect at Harvey's. The Blunt Family, Face Down and Backyard Epics play Goat's Head Soup, also Friday, and big-breast cover-art boys Beef Masters crowd into Laveau's. Manhole -- MIA these last months while polishing off a CD and teaching yet another new drummer all the songs -- headlines an it's-been-too-long show at Fitzgerald's with Deth Kultur BBQ. Over at the Abyss, Closet Bulgarians are plugging the release of their self-titled four-song cassette, a rough, AOR rock affair with moody vocals.

Saturday night looks slower than usual on the local front, but you can catch Stratus' jazzy fusion at the Ale House, and Beat Temple will celebrate the release of a six-song cassette called Lemon and Honey at the Pig Live.

Sunday, Man or God kicks off at least two months of Sunday night rock at the Blue Iguana with the aural equivalent of a jackboot. Also Sunday is an opportunity to benefit Bleachbath, who took a $5,000 equipment loss about a month back when some schmuck(s) decided to rip off the band's rehearsal space. Path, Clover, Rose Bud, Man or God, Resin Day, Laughing Boy, Philo Beddo, David Rice, Smile and Beef Masters are lined up to play Goat's Head Soup. One of the most common complaints I hear in this town is that the bands don't come out to support each other often enough. This is a better opportunity than most to start turning that around.

King's X returns to Houston for a showcase at the Tower on Tuesday the 10th, and Wednesday marks the kickoff of four days of Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds' "Kitchens of the Karankawas III," a rock/performance/ kitchen-sink hybrid running through the 14th at European Tavern and Gardens.


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