Only in Houston

Houston may be home to ten trillion tribute bands aping everybody from Pat Benatar to Pantera, but even with not one but two Concert Pubs giving the people what they want on a weekly basis, there's not a lot of opportunity out there to hear a local group covering more offbeat acts like Air or Nile Rodgers. The fine folks over at Fitzgerald's are setting out to change that this Saturday — and they're doing it for a good cause.

Pegstar, the local promoters behind Free Press Summer Festival and the partial owners and operators of the historic Heights club, are turning eight of their favorite local bands into the city's hippest tribute acts for one night only on March 22. H-Town faves Featherface and New York City Queens will be appearing as Big Star and Tears for Fears, respectively, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The goal will be to raise $10,000 with one show to benefit Be the Match, an organization that has created the world's largest marrow registry in the fight against life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.

The event is the brainchild of Pegstar head man Jagi Katial, a helpful way of getting back to his roots in the local scene. Katial originally caught the promoting bug by assisting some musician pals organize a Red Cross benefit in the aftermath of 9/11. Pegstar was born soon after.

"Since that first show, we've always been involved if someone needed some tickets to raffle, a promotion of an event, or someone to sponsor; we've been there," Katial says. "But since our first one, we've never really put together a benefit show. So it's long overdue."

Even with Fitzgerald's at their disposal, Pegstar couldn't do it alone, of course. Bands would have to donate their time and energy as well. That's why Katial started emailing a few of his most trusted local performers and pitching the idea of their slipping into someone else's skin for an evening.

"I thought it would be a good idea to try to get all of them to take on the persona of a different band, to give their fans a different experience than what they're used to," the promoter says. "We want to kind of make the whole night stand out as something unique, and compel people to come out and support, because it's not just a regular show."

Indeed, we're not likely to see Rivers trying on the catalog of the White Stripes or Midnight Norma Lane appearing as the Smashing Pumpkins again anytime soon, particularly for $10 per ticket. But Katial says that the Be the Match benefit is only the beginning of Pegstar's charitable plans.

"The goal is to do two of these a year: one in March, and one in September, right around the anniversary of Fitzgerald's," he says. "And each time, we'd like to get a local business to do a matching contribution to the money that's raised by the show. We're trying to tie in local businesses to get more of the community involved.

"I'm looking forward to moving to a place where the artists that are playing make suggestions, we get a list of charities going and hit 'em all, one by one," he adds. "I wouldn't be opposed to doing one every quarter, or more often. If the fans are willing to support it, we're willing to do more of them."

And we're more than willing to write about more of them, so here's hoping that the first show in what's being billed as the Fitz Benefit Show Series is a resounding success. And just in case somebody's taking suggestions out there, how about Venomous Maximus as AC/DC next time?

The benefit for Be the Match, featuring Featherface, Rivers, New York City Queens, Midnight Norma Lane and more, is this Saturday at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. Doors open at 8 p.m.; see fitzlivemusic for details.

Classic Rock Corner

Emotionally Yours
Bob Dylan's pivotal 30th-anniversary concert gets the deluxe treatment.

Bob Ruggiero

'Thanks, Bob! Thanks for having Bob Fest!" Neil Young enthuses at one point during his set at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert.

And though methinks that the October 1992 show at Madison Square Garden paying tribute to the Bard of Hibbing was due more to the planning of Columbia Records than the honoree himself, the megastar-studded event found a wide swath of performers covering Dylan's deep songbook.

It was capped off by a solo and collaborative set from the man himself, and is now available again in a two-CD/two-DVD-Blu-ray Bob Dylan: The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration — Deluxe Edition (Columbia/Legacy). As VH-1's Bill Flanagan offers in the liner notes, what "could have been a last waltz instead turned out to be rock and roll's greatest halftime show."

And indeed, starting with a fete that might have been a career-capper for most artists, Dylan — unpredictably, as usual — instead has gone on to make vital new music and performed hundreds of shows on his Never Ending Tour in the ensuing 20-plus years.

It's a testament to Dylan's catalog that this show could bring together artists from so many disparate genres. Just a sampling includes classic rock (Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, George Harrison's last major performance); rock (John Mellencamp, Chrissie Hynde); blues (Johnny Winter); soul (Stevie Wonder, the O'Jays); folk (Richie Havens, The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem); country (Willie Nelson, Johnny and June Carter Cash); and some then-young upstarts (Tracy Chapman, Eddie Vedder, Sinéad O'Connor; more on her later).

Standouts include some who had already recorded Dylan on their own records (Nelson's "What Was It You Wanted," the O'Jays' "Emotionally Yours," Winter's blistering "Highway 61 Revisited"), reinterpretations (Chapman's emotive "The Times They Are A-Changin'," Clapton's "Don't Think Twice It's Alright") and the occasional fun surprise (Ronnie Wood on a ramshackle, Dylan-sounding "Seven Days"; Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rosanne Cash and Shawn Colvin teaming up for "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere"). And, of course, Neil Young was great.

But there are a few misfires, like Wonder's sometimes-shrill "Blowin' in the Wind" and Lou Reed's rambling "Foot of Pride"; kudos, though, for picking such an obscure and challenging track.

When it was over, though, the biggest news item to emerge was Sinéad O'Connor's non-performance. Fresh off the heels of her controversial Saturday Night Live appearance, when she ripped up a photo of John Paul II, she was showered with boos upon stepping up to the mike to deliver "I Believe in You." Judging from the DVD, though, it doesn't seem quite the avalanche that was reported. Shades of Dylan at Newport '65?

But instead of taking keyboardist Booker T. Jones's musical cue to start the song and silence her critics, O'Connor stood stone-faced and pissed-off, seemingly basking in the negativity. She then launched into an a cappella rendition of Bob Marley's antiracist song "War" (which she did on SNL) and left the stage, abruptly and seemingly in shock.

It's a compelling piece of unexpected theater, and so off-kilter that Dylan himself probably appreciated it most.

Bob Dylan: The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration — Deluxe Edition is now available in stores and online.

Ask Willie D

Famous Friends
A reader's past in the L.A. high life comes back to haunt her.

Dear Willie D:

I moved from Los Angeles to Houston about six years ago to put my past in the rearview and get a fresh start on life. My cousin helped me get a good job, I bought a condo in a nice neighborhood and I made new friends. I was very selective about the type of guys that I dated. I had lived my whole life in L.A. around celebrities, and had seen enough of the lights.

So when I met my fiancé out at a bar, I was glad to know he was not in the entertainment business. However, because of his business he does know a lot of famous people. Everything was perfect until we went to a friend's house for a party. It was a small gathering, maybe 20 people — mostly couples — but lo and behold, my ex-boyfriend's old girlfriend was there. My heart just about popped out of my chest.

I mean, what are the chances of someone who lives in L.A. who used to date my ex being at a random house party in Houston? To make a long story short, as I figured, she blabbed off to my fiancé's friend about me, and the next day my fiancé drilled me about my famous ex. Then he hit me with "I can't trust you. What other secrets are you keeping?"

Our relationship was solid for two years, then just like that, poof — it's up in smoke. What can I say or do to regain his trust?

Fresh Start:

Unfortunately, many people associate women who date celebrities with being groupies and gold diggers. I'm sure you omitted that information because you didn't want to be judged, but failing to tell your fiancé that you dated a celebrity is like him failing to disclose to you that he has five kids. I'm not saying it would make a difference, but some things you just need to know.

In defense of females who date celebrities, women date men who are in the world they live in or aspire to live in. There are women who prefer to date politicians. Some women mostly date bus drivers and supervisors. Others are biased toward pastors or members of the clergy. Some women exclusively date educators, while others prefer laborers.

Are they being judged? If we're going to call the women who date famous men gold diggers, at the least, the other women have to be called copper-scoopers. I can't say that you'll ever fully regain your fiancé's trust, but you can calm his nerves by telling him you love him and sincerely apologizing for not being forthcoming. Personally, I don't see why you didn't just tell him from the start. Everyone has a past. It's not like you killed the dude...did you?

Ask Willie D appears Thursdays on Rocks Off.


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