Well, wonder what new albums and movies are out this week. Where to find out? Let's see. Jump in the car, cruise down West Gray, past a dilapidated one-story structure in the 250 block. Here we go: Kid Rock. A bevy of suitcase-size posters for his new one, The History of the Rock, plastered on the building's decaying walls. Heard it. Sounds like some wigger's rapping over old AC/DC records. There are other one-sheets, too: posters for Boys and Girls and the campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philly cop killer. Next.
Stop at the intersection of West Gray and Taft at someplace that the marquee says was once called A&D Chinese Hamburger. (Gag!) More promotional detritus: apartment classifieds from www.viva.com, posters for Boys and Girls and for Tina Cousins's new CD, and some smaller stickers for same. Whatever. Nothing new on Travis, either, at every downtown Houston junkie's alma mater, the Hargest College building. Posters for Pearl Jam's new one, Kid Rock and Boys and Girls again. What a bite.
Return to office. Think: All this information is nice, but where does it come from and why are Houstonians inundated with it? The mouthpiece at Kid Rock's label, Atlantic Records, says postering like this, called bombing by trendy label types, is something that could come from a few different sources. One, Kid Rock himself. (Yeah, right.) Two, his fan clubs. Three, record stores. Four, any and every place other than the label itself. Of course. "I love all that grassroots stuff," the mouthpiece says, understandably leery of leaving his name, since corporate policy prohibits worker bees like him from addressing reporters. "That creates awareness for a band. Like Rage Against the Machine," a Sony band. "You saw their logos all over the place before their debut record even came out." His point: RATM's debut, Evil Empire (Epic/Sony), eventually became a multiplatinum seller.
Well, there you have it: Success is apparently as simple as tacking your band's Polaroids on an abandoned building. Developed about a decade ago by Steve Rifkin, president of Loud Records, bombing has helped sell everything from CDs to soda. Just hire a bunch of restless teenagers and in-between-semesters college folk to plaster public space no one cares about with stickers and watch the cash flow. Like urine from a drunkard.
Though not all are pleased. Cities have gotten wise, cracking down on unruly bombers like those who would dare cover yield and stop signs with pop paraphernalia. Some stickers, like the one for Busta Rhymes' new CD, Anarchy, include this disclaimer: "IT IS ILLEGAL TO POST PROMOTIONAL STICKERS ON MUNICIPAL OR PUBLIC PROPERTY." Bombers then resort to hitting private or posted property, sometimes actually offering money in return for space. Yet one property owner, whose building is loaded with promo pomp and who did not want to reveal his name, said: "It's very unattractive, everywhere you see 'em. And I don't see that big a benefit."
Okay, but who would have known Pearl Jam had a new album out had it not been for those posters?
In an unforeseen turn of events, a local commercial radio station other than the Box has been doing its part to support local music -- if not just trying to extort a virginal cultural resource: local rock bands and the people who love them. KLOL's morning crew of Grego, Pruett and the Boner has made its Band of the Week installations a can't-miss event. The station began concentrating on the segment over the past couple of weeks, hosting studio performances by locals Colour Blind, Small Craft Advisory, Hamilton Loomis and others during that time. Church of the Cartoon Heroes will perform on Thursday, June 29. Says Eric Jarvis, COTCH front man and formerly of the Sonnier Brothers, which performed as band of the week in 1998: "It's cool to be on a major-market radio show .It's a way to let people know, 'Hey, there are bands here, and they're kinda decent.' Wow, it's like, 'We might actually have a community.' "
Band of the Week has been around since the early days of Stevens and Pruett, says Jeremy Newman, morning-show producer and former Houston Press employee. Yet the segment was the red-headed stepchild of programming. The crew did it when it could, didn't do it when it couldn't. When Newman moved into his current position earlier this year, he says, he had a clear plan in mind for the space. "That [young male] demographic listens to the radio for their music," he says, "and I think they listen for entertainment and news, and if we can expose them once to local music, I think they'll like it."
"It's a challenge," Newman continues. "Live music, when it's good, it's great. When it's not, it sucks."
Case in point: Small Craft Advisory three weeks ago. Stuffing such a percussion-heavy band into a 15-foot by 20-foot space and isolating its drummer in the newsroom, as the morning show must for every guest drummer, wasn't really fair. Everything but cymbals and vocals were audible. The broadcast was a poor reflection of Small Craft's talent. Says COTCH's Jarvis: "Yeah, you got to lug all your equipment up there, then they stick you in this tiny space and you hope it goes well."
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Serious bands interested in performing on the show should send Newman a CD or cassette tape of original music. "We're making the transition from Stevens and Pruett and sex every day," says Newman. "We still wanna have a 'guy' show, but there's a big difference between Playboy and Hustler."
The day after its KLOL gig, Church of the Cartoon Heroes performs at Fitzgerald's.
Now slangin' and bangin' through the streets of South Houston will be as easy as scoring South Park Mexican's soon-to-be-released CD, Purity. Along with each polycarbonate disc of 17 songs will be a CD-ROM game, The Dope Game, which features the voices and computer likenesses of crew members of South Park Mexican's record label, Dope House. Among others, Rasheed, the Murdaholics and, of course, Carlos Coy (a.k.a. South Park Mexican) make appearances. As Coy says, good music -- like good dope -- sells itself. But packaging the shit in an attractive way doesn't hurt.