Without his below-the-waist band, the Road Kings, Jesse Dayton's just a good ole contemplative singer-songwriter.
Without his below-the-waist band, the Road Kings, Jesse Dayton's just a good ole contemplative singer-songwriter.

Off the Road Again

Missed shot. Rebound. Slam dunk. Shaq Diesel! (Yawn.)

As the TVs beamed the L.A. Lakers' manhandling of the Indiana Pacers in game one of the NBA championship last week, poor ole Jesse Dayton stood, in the flesh, on stage, and tried to engage the crowd at Sherlock's Pub on West Gray. Not your everyday collection of open-minded, original-music folk, just a bunch of strivers in sweatshop-manufactured Gap goods fascinated by the high drama of bounce, boing, slam.

"Play somethin' good," one joker shouted at Dayton after the performer had just ripped through the rowdy, double-time "Train of Dreams."

"Oh, that's original," Dayton said, his eyes narrowing in anger. "Somethin' good? I don't know that tune."

Dayton had clearly prepared himself for hostility. Sherlock's usually plays host to cover bands, and the clientele reflects this. Dayton, an original scorcher who has temporarily shelved his successful psychobilly Road Kings project in favor of solo work, was a curio, an artifact, like a steer skull along the highway that out-of-state imports could observe, then e-mail friends about: "I touched a piece of Texas :)" But by the end of the three-hour set, the crowd was as content as coon dogs after supper. Like Shaq Daddy over Rick Smits, Dayton had cut through the defenses of about 170 Sherlock denizens. A couple folk within earshot mentioned "how fuckin' good" this guy was.

And Dayton was. He and his band -- Charlie Sanders on bass; Brian Thomas on Dobro, lap steel and electric banjo; and Road King Eric Tucker on drums -- mainly stuck to Dayton's brand of singer-songwriter country-rock, occasionally veering into Roy Orbison or Merle Haggard territory. Everything was delivered crisply and excitedly.

Dayton with the Road Kings had just finished some East Coast tour dates with BR5-49 and X when he got the call to play Sherlock's, a solo Marlboro-sponsored gig, promising nothing but ka-ching. It was his first performance sans Road Kings in a few months. Dayton thanks God. "I said, 'This is drivin' me crazy,' " Dayton commented the day after the solo show. "I said, 'If I see one more pompadour, I'm gonna shoot myself in the head.' "

"It's just so much different," said Dayton of Road Kingless work. "The Road Kings are a party band. Everything's below the waistŠ.There's nothing," pause, "intellectual there."

Being freed from his old contract with Justice Records is allowing Dayton to begin recording his first solo work in five years this summer. "It's been long overdue." Dayton hooked up with Houston-based Justice in 1995, releasing Raising Cain that same year. Work on his second LP was completed, but the album was never issued. Dayton hopes he and Justice owner Randall Jamail can freshen up the material soon, possibly for release on Jamail's new BMG-affiliated boutique label, Buddha Records.

Proverbial guinea pigs, Sherlock's patrons were the first to get a taste of Dayton's new direction. By most accounts, they seemed to like it. Never mind the token dickhead who, standing in front of the bar, opened his arms wide as if to embrace everyone in the club and said, "You guys suck." (Dayton, thankfully, didn't respond.) Some couples were two-stepping in the minuscule dance space. Uncharacteristically sedate frat boys were tapping beer bottles in time on tabletops. And people kept filing into the place, expanding the crowd in the room to near capacity. (The adjacent pool area remained sparsely populated.) The results, for Dayton, had to be encouraging.

Dayton left Dodge last week for a West Coast tour with Chris Isaak. Young Jesse won't return to these parts till August, when he -- minus the Road Kings -- plays a CD release party at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge.

'Round Town

Most of the knuckleheads who have e-mailed or written KPRC-TV in outrage after the station's story on illegal drug use at raves aired in early May got it all wrong: News organizations gauge their significance by viewer response, good or bad. No matter what could be said about the sensational KPRC investigation, the fact that something was being said at all put smiles on KPRC's brass.

Not everybody had the insight of Jason Walsh of Population Zero, a one-man live-PA outfit. Walsh has transmogrified KPRC's words into song. Called "Tipline," after the phone number by which KPRC gets all its hot news tips, Walsh's dance tune is a pastiche of sound bites from KPRC reporters. Among others, the voice of KPRC anchor Linda Lorelle has been manipulated to say: "We lied about raves. They're really just a place to go for kids to have fun." Another voice says: "It's a family of friends."

Walsh has been performing the tune over the past month at area raves. He says he plans to release the song, which is strong with or without the samples, as a seven- or twelve-inch, probably without the inflammatory voice-overs. "We're all pissed off now. In the future, I don't want to be known as Population Zero, the novelty act."

Being pissed off is what moved Walsh to pile together the song initially. "KPRC had a point. There are drugs at raves, and all promoters, well, all conscientious promoters, are aware of that. Promoters are doing things about that. But KPRC was sensationalistic in its presentation."

In response to the response to the investigation, KPRC held a public forum later in May. The debate will continue as long as Population Zero continues playing "Tipline."

Next time you and the space boys get done pushing ten Gs in flight-simulation training and hit the Outpost Tavern in Clear Lake, across the street from work at NASA headquarters, you'll find -- if you land there on any Wednesday night in June -- live music has returned. It has been about five years since the tavern hosted these jam sessions. If successful, sources say, it could become a regular gig. The Outpost is located at 18113 Kings Lynn Lane. For more information, call (281)333-1235.

After winning the Debra Duncan show talent competition last week, Solar Slide is finally feeling like it has arrived. "It's a step in the right direction," says manager Rick Haas. "It's very encouraging." Out of about 160 acts, from dancers to vocalists, Solar Slide was chosen for its R&B fare. The three-year-old band performs at the Freedom Festival, Monday, June 19, at Miller Outdoor Theatre. "We're being patient and trying to do things right," says Haas. "Like the saying, 'Do it the wrong way, you'll pay; do it the right way, you'll get paid.' " Yowzah.


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