Grumbling on Washington... A spat's been brewing between two of the city's best-known musical neighbors, Rockefeller's and the Fabulous Satellite Lounge. It appears they're butting awnings over gig rights -- specifically, who's going to book the larger-drawing acts.

Rockefeller's owner Brannan Huthnance was none too thrilled when, for his December 13 concert, Junior Brown opted to bypass Rock's 400-seat capacity in favor of the next-door Satellite, where the cover is cheaper and, due to less overhead, the opportunity exists to make more money. Problem is, the Satellite's occupancy limit is only 200 bodies, half that of Rockefeller's, which promised to make it too small for a Junior-size crowd.

That potential for overload prompted an unexpected visit from the city's fire marshal. Outside the show that Friday evening, with senior fire inspector James McMichael breathing down his neck, manager David Beebe was a bit heated up, to say the least. He'd already received a citation for overcrowding at an October 23 Cowboy Mouth show and could ill afford another. Beebe wouldn't say as much, but the implication from folks nearby was that the complaints to the fire marshal's office had been coming from Rockefeller's.

As it happens, the historic bank building that houses Rock's is on property owned by Washington Square Ltd., of which Sanford Criner, owner/operator of the Satellite, is a partner. So, if Huthnance is picking a fight, he's doing it with his landlord, a move some might consider unwise. For his part, Huthnance notes that he has no beef with the Satellite, but that both parking and crowds gathering outside the venue have become increasing problems.

"I've made one call over there -- for the Cowboy Mouth show," he says. "But I'm not out to stir the pot here. As far as I'm concerned, David [Beebe] and I are all clear on this." As for Satellite management, they've kept their mouths closed about the situation.

And that Junior Brown incident that so irked Beebe? It very likely had nothing to do with Huthnance. Inspector McMichael says he paid the Satellite a visit on his own accord, claiming he read in the paper that the show was sold out, and the news sent a red flag up in his head. "We've had some calls before, but it doesn't matter how we get there," he says. "If there's a problem, we deal with it; if not, we leave."

In the case of the Brown performance, McMichael's count was a legal 199 in attendance, and he left before the headliner took the stage. While that particular call was not complaint-based, McMichael stresses that he doesn't want to get caught in the middle of a pissing match. "I've told the gentleman next door that we don't want to be chasing rabbits," he says. "We're not here to be anybody's bullies."

The reality remains, however, that the Satellite frequently pushes its capacity limit, a situation the club hopes to remedy by upping that limit through the addition of a new sprinkler system and possibly widening access to the outdoor patio. All that could mean even more competition for shows between the two clubs, but Huthnance insists he isn't concerned.

"The simple fact is that we're 400 and they're 200; that's about all I can say," says Huthnance. "We're both here for the same reason: To bring music to this town."

It should be interesting to see how Huthnance's plans to open a second Rockefeller's in Bayou Place will figure into this tiff. Will the original Rock's stick around on Washington Avenue if the tension between the two clubs persists? Stay tuned.

Raves and wave-offs... Opening your heart to the rest of the world is never easy, especially if you're a woman (which I'm not; so bear with me, this is all coming secondhand). Vulnerability -- too much of it, or too little -- is the curse of the gender, and don't think female singer/songwriters don't know that. When a woman's too open with her feelings, she's likely to be branded weepy; if she's angry, she's considered a bitch; and if she's overly clever and mysterious, she's in danger of being dubbed coy -- or even worse, cute.

Houston's Laurie Foxx falls into the clever-to-cute category. On her four-song debut CD, Curiosity Killed the Cat, you'll find at least a quartet of Lauries: the blushing, caffeinated folkie; the insufferable naughty girl who aspires to Phairly high levels of boldness; the blustery hard-rock belter; the enigmatic, Kate Bush-style diva. And there are others. All that multiplicity proves a trap for Foxx; she sounds forced, distant, awkward. Worse yet, Foxx sings with alarming disinterest, and the vocals' stilted lack of energy isn't aided by the disc's hospital-gown-sterile production.

Etc.... In other release activity, art-schooled wackos Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds have squeaked out their first-ever release, a live CD recorded at the Satellite Lounge entitled (note the cheeky Doors reference) Absolutely Live. It looks like Saturday is the night for live music: Country legend Ray Price performs at Rockefeller's, honey-sweet crooner Toni Price is back at McGonigel's Mucky Duck and Carolyn Wonderland plays her first Satellite gig since her Justice signing. And after selling out Saturday night at the International Ballroom, shock-rock guru Marilyn Manson has tacked on a second show Sunday to deal with the demand. What a caring ghoul.

-- Hobart Rowland


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