It almost hasn't seemed like Houston these past months, with Rockefeller's missing in action from my monthly rounds of local venues. As much as I loathed paying "premium room prices" for something to sip during the shows I've seen there, the old bank building still carried a certain aura about it, a sort of historical connection glaringly absent from most Houston clubs, that gave its acts a classy shine.
But now Rockefeller's is on its way back from the dead, and the building itself is getting a facelift to match. When I dropped by for a pre-opening visit last week, the old lady had her doors and windows flung open to the sunshine and a hive of workers was busy putting a spit shine on the long-neglected interior. Seen in the rare daylight, with those heavy velvet curtains removed from the grand arched windows that flank the room, you could almost see the original bank building. It's there in the backstage green room, chiseled out of the bank's original vault, and in the boarded-up teller windows that run along the building's backside, where a drive-through used to be.
But most of the spiffing was to remove signs of the building's most recent incarnation as a nightclub. The phone booth upstairs (did you know there was a phone booth upstairs?) has had to be disinfected for reasons you'd rather not know. In the third floor offices, old photos and banners and typewriters are strewn on the floor surrounding a mound of old paperwork. Resting atop one of the boxes was an unused tax form, which seemed fitting, somehow.
All that will be gone when Rockefeller's reopens this week, and in its place you'll find a brand-new sound system, refurbished bars, new carpets and a paint job that makes the old room sparkle. Check it out on Sunday night, when eclectic bluesman Taj Mahal returns for a solo inauguration. It could be something special.
Those who've been watching the ascent of former Houstonian Jessie Dayton's star might be interested to know that it looks like he's just a hair away. After recently starring as a guitarist and band leader in Pam Tillis' "Spilled Perfume" video, which promptly went to no. 1 on the country charts, Dayton was invited to reprise the role in Tillis' "Mi Vida Loco" video, shot three weeks back in Albuquerque and scheduled to premiere this week. Since Tillis was recently named the Country Music Association's female vocalist of the year, the exposure has helped Dayton open all sorts of doors in Nashville, where he's busily shopping songs to interested parties.
It's not just singers who are interested, though, and Dayton says he's mulling over offers from no less than five labels, some major and some indie. The predictable problem is they all want to sign Dayton solo, and so, he tells me over the phone from his present home in Austin, the Alamo Jets have officially disbanded.
"It's been a rough thing," says Dayton. "We've really tried to make it a band thing, but it's not working out that way."
So Dayton is officially pursuing a solo deal with contracts on the table, and in the meantime, he's been using label front money to go into the studio -- most recently Willie Nelson's -- to cut demos. Dayton won't say which label will finally get the nod, but he expects to know by the time this paper hits the streets. And if he doesn't know exactly when the inevitable solo album will hit the streets, he does promise that "the new record won't have anything to do with retro. It'll be a progressive record."
While Dayton sorts through the details, he's canceled all gigs for at least the next two months. So next time you see him in Houston, walk up and say howdy. Maybe he can help you get a deal.
Local stuff that's worth checking out... Friday night, while Manhole celebrates the release of its debut CD at Fitzgerald's, de Schmog gets busy with new guitarist and onetime Pain Teen Scott Ayers at Rudyard's, and Man or God grinds out the riffs at the Abyss. Sunday night, honky-tonker Mary Cutrufello, who we like so much we booked her to play our Christmas party, inhabits Local Charm for a combination concert and video shoot you'll be proud to tell your grandkids you were part of. And on Wednesday, the rescheduled Writers in the Round concert series renews itself with a Sean Walters showcase at Main Street Theater in the Village.
Cassette of the Week: I End Result: Demo 94. Six songs here, all of 'em sounding better than anything on a low-budget demo has a right to. Tight grooves, pummeling guitars, vocals slightly more articulate than your usual punk growl. "Silk Flowers" is identified as the first single from a rumored upcoming CD release that ought to, if the demo is any indication, blow most Houston punk out of the water. This one reminds me of something, either the Sex Pistols without Malcolm McLaren or Green Day without a hook. Not sure which, but it's good punky fun anyhow.