Almost tickled pink... As aging rock icons go, the guys from Aerosmith don't look half-bad -- a little weathered, maybe, but they're hardly the waxy, embalmed superstars one might expect, given the band's history. Last Thursday, as four members of the group sauntered into a private party to the screams of some 50 ecstatic contest winners, I couldn't help but cheer them on. They're survivors, after all, having endured the sort of rock and roll excesses that leave most of us awestruck, if also a little disgusted.

The band blew into town last week to plug their current single, "Pink" (from their latest CD, Nine Lives), before moving on to San Antonio for a concert. The publicity event -- held at downtown's Doubletree Hotel and billed as a Christmas party of sorts -- was sponsored by contest-happy KRBE/104.1 FM. The KRBE morning crew of Sam Malone, Maria Todd and Psycho Robbie played host, broadcasting live from the soiree, which took place in a room festooned in the shade of the day. There were pink balloons, cutout pink flamingos, pink carpet and even pink eggs at the free buffet. Attendees were presented with pink T-shirts to wear, leaving only a few cameramen and the band members themselves to clash with the color scheme.

"The last time I saw a sight like this, I think I had a hangover," said Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton as he sat down in a living-room-like setup in front of about a dozen rows of folding chairs.

Noticeably groggy after a red-eye flight from Las Vegas, Hamilton, lead singer Steven Tyler and guitarists Brad Whitford and Joe Perry (drummer Joey Kramer couldn't make it) showed little interest in the inane questions tossed their way by the KRBE DJs. In one particularly lame instance, Malone asked the band if they ever steal things from their hotel rooms, an inquiry the band wouldn't justify with a direct answer. The foursome did, however, gladly endure dumb inquiries from the fans, the bulk of whom were female baby-boomers. One woman swore that it was only after seeing Aerosmith's October show at the Compaq Center that she and her husband were finally able to conceive. The group was suitably impressed.

Aerosmith also humored the audience with a few impromptu acoustic numbers, including a rather sloppy rendition of "Pink." Toward the end of the party, the group briefly -- and reluctantly -- reprised the tune as a strained duet with local performance artist/dance diva Pinque, who's apparently heading off to Hollywood any day now to find her fortune.

Not his typical animated self through most of the morning, Steven Tyler spent most of the party viewing the proceedings through the viewfinder of a small video camera.

"It's my new obsession," he said, gesturing toward a lady in the front row. "And with the zoom function, I can see right up your dress."

So much for growing old gracefully.

Last gasp... If all goes as expected, Jesse Dayton's New Year's Eve gig at Rockefeller's will be the club's final show open to the general public for who knows how long. Rock's management has every intention of closing up shop January 1, and future plans for the Washington Avenue institution remain hazy, though the immediate notion is to rent the space out for private parties and events.

Meanwhile, the folks at the next-door Fabulous Satellite Lounge can only speculate about how the closing will affect their business. And there's no word yet on whether Rockefeller's Concert Company president Branan Huthnance has secured legitimate sponsorship for his Rockefeller's Tonight project, a concert program somewhat along the lines of Austin City Limits that would be taped at the historic bank building. It sounds like a fun idea, but don't hold your breath.

Raves and wave-offs... You've got to hand it to Mark May: The guitarist is fiercely loyal to the city that gave him his start. So loyal, in fact, that not only did he name his new CD after a shady southeast Houston thoroughfare, but he went and attached "Houston, TX" to the title, just so there was no question as to which Telephone Road he was singing about. Telephone Road passes through more than a few Hispanic neighborhoods, and keeping true to that feel, May tainted his simmering blues with a decidedly Latin twist on the title track. In doing so, he comes off sounding like a Telecaster-wielding Carlos Santana with an Albert Collins fetish.

Surprisingly enough, it works -- as does most of Telephone Road -- Houston, TX. The disc veers effortlessly from Southern-fried boogie ("Mercury Blues") and horned-up Stevie Raystyle raves ("Sweet Spot") to whole-hearted Collins tributes ("Lights Are on But Nobody's Home," "Icehouse Special"), slicked-back rhythm and blues ("Back in the Joint") and introspective back-porch picking ("Helena Hangover"). Full-throated and assertive, May's singing has never sounded better, and he's obviously learned a thing or two about the importance of variety, sprinkling in unexpected instrumental elements and effects (horns, organ, dobro, slide guitar, wah-wah pedals, even talk box) to give his blues-rock formulas a fresh zing. May plays live at the Hard Rock Cafe's New Year's Eve celebration; the Sonnier Brothers open.

Etc.... Well, it appears as if Houston's Secret Sunday will be continuing as a four-piece after all. The group had originally planned to replace recently departed guitarist/vocalist Paul Lapuyade, but after a few frustrating tryouts, the arty, self-sufficient modern rockers decided it would be best not to toy with the present chemistry, leaving Chris Hungate the task of switching off on keyboards and guitar while continuing to sing lead. Hey, it's been done before.

-- Hobart Rowland


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