Welcome to the M-Machine
Fenix TX's ship has come in. And it's called the S.S. MTV.
Homeboys just better know where the life preservers are.
"All My Fault," off the band's 1999 self-titled Universal debut, will appear on the soundtrack to MTV's first made-for-TV movie, Jailbait! A dark comedy in which an 18-year-old high school senior, Adam Fisher, impregnates an underage sophomore, Gynger, the telepic premieres Sunday, April 16, at 8 p.m. Its plot and food-for-thought theme ("What exactly is statutory rape?") nicely dovetail with the main idea of the Fenix TX track: "And I know I deserve to be alone / 'cause everything's my fault." Can't you just hear these words coming from Adam's mouth now?
The video for the song is also getting major play. Featuring the band -- vocalist Will Powers, guitarist Dumpster Dan, drummer Donnie Vomit and bassist Adam Atomic -- the video shows Fenix TX as it pseudo-performs/lip-synchs in some comfortably dank basement or garage. Clips from the movie, including drool-inducing close-ups of said jailbait, are interspersed between shots of the band. The video, and assorted movie clips, can be seen at www.mtv.com at its Jailbait! link.
The video debuted Monday, April 3, on MTV's Total Request Live (or, in coolspeak, TRL) at the end of the hour-long program, not as part of the show's Top Ten voter-requested countdown (of which the Backstreet Boys' new one was numero uno).
TRL, cablecast daily from MTV Central, in Times Square, reaches about a million watchers, nearly all of whom are impressionable teens, the kind of kids who say "how high?" when host and heartthrob Carson Daly says, "Push your father's MasterCard limit on new CDs by these bands." Just having Daly breathe the name "Fenix TX," which he did and almost screwed up last week, is exposure nonpareil. Imagine the hordes of teenyboppers repeating these words like a mantra all the way to the record store: "Fenix TX, Fenix TX, oh, Carson, Fenix TX"
The danger an upstart act such as Fenix TX faces in appealing mostly to MTV-heads is that the band may get the CD sale but not the heart. Today's teens, MTV's target audience, become yesterday's grown-ups as today's Backstreet Boys become yesterday's New Kids on the Block (or N.K.O.T.B., if you're nasty). The two go hand in hand.
Though teen and young-adult spending on music is down, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, dropping from 33 percent in 1997 to 28 percent in 1999, teens remain the driving force in the music biz. Many sources point to teens as the reason album sales are at an all-time high. A teen will purchase an entire CD for one song. One song! Apparently discretion among teens as to how discretionary income is spent barely exists.
This disposable attitude toward music hurts those who envision careers as musicians. Band allegiance, like following the Grateful Dead through disco, diminishes among teens like crushes after graduation with every TRL pick of the week or "Who's Hot?" teen mag column ('cause you know right next to "Who's Hot?" is "Who's Not," which is usually filled with former "Who's Hot?" faves).
And since teens are avid consumers, they set the pace for all of pop culture. You think Time magazine or the Today show would devote so much attention to the likes of Ricky Martin and the Backstreet Boys without all those screaming teens, credit cards aloft, in the background? The United States' three million teens spent $153 billion on movies, clothes, music and other assorted goodies in 1999, according to Teenage Research Unlimited, an Illinois-based marketing firm.
This may explain why a music channel promotes a movie (in which the characters wear way-cool clothing) that promotes a soundtrack. It's the synergy, stupid.
While MTV has helped make icons out of some artists, including Madonna, Dr. Dre and Nine Inch Nails, it has helped create bad impressions of many others, such as Milli Vanilli, Cyndi Lauper and the Go-Go's, some of whom didn't deserve the stamp of disapproval.
Assuming Fenix TX wants to become a success, it will have to do more than piggyback on MTV's programming. For now, the band is taking a step in the right direction by touring with Bad Religion and labelmates Blink-182. The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion will host these bands Wednesday, May 17.
The Jailbait! soundtrack, which also features Blink-182, Methods and Mayhem and Powerman 5000, is available at all major record stores.
Got Austin Envy?
Houston lacks a good venue or section of town to see quality roots music. Or at least that's the opinion of Steve Wertheimer.
As owner of Austin's most renowned live music outlet, the Continental Club, Wertheimer will be opening up a similarly themed and named club here. Houston's Continental Club should be in full swing by the first of May. The building at 3700 Main will house the hangout, which Wertheimer says occupies 3,700 square feet. The layout of the nightspot will resemble Austin's: There will be a main room for music and a back room for pool and chitchat. Wertheimer also says he plans to hire up to 20 people.
Wertheimer expects the venue to hold about 300 people, though construction has just begun and the exact maximum capacity is only a guess at this point. Austin's Continental Club holds approximately 200.
"Basically I've been bugged to do this for a long time," says Wertheimer, who has owned the 43-year-old Austin hot spot since 1987, "to give a little flavor of what we have here in Austin in Houston."
Once Austin club manager Pete Gordon relocated here in December, Wertheimer says, going forward with the plan became easy. With help from area investors, Wertheimer purchased the space in March, though he won't say for how much. Gordon will be head honcho.
Born and raised in nearby Rosenberg, Wertheimer says every time he comes back to this area for a visit he finds himself scrounging for decent roots music. "There's a void in what I look for when I go out."
Houston's CC will be "an export business of Austin," he says. Houston's calendar will resemble Austin's, though Wertheimer is not sure whether Houston's club will be open six days. "I'm not familiar with the nocturnal habits of Houstonians," he says. "In Austin, you can go out every night of the week."
Damnations TX, Dale Watson and Jimmie Vaughan have already been penciled in as inaugural springtime headliners.
Some of the best commercial radio in Houston happens at The Box. And it happens when the "hot" hit singles stop.
During various on-air interviews with local and national acts, and specifically during DJ Mad Hatta's daily afternoon show, freestyle rapping, or ciphering, takes place. It's unrehearsed and exhilarating -- and as close to live, engaging radio as Internet-generation listeners can get.
Every weekday, from 5:30 p.m. till about 5:40 p.m., area listeners phone Hatta's show and freestyle over in-house beats. Hatta takes at least three calls, passes judgment, then gives the winner a $50 savings bond. "Roll Call" is one of the station's best-known bits.
Touring acts or rappers are also usually allowed (or, more to the point, expected) to freestyle. Last Thursday during DJ T. Gray's nighttime slot, national talent Common delivered a Houston-specific rhyme that probably earned him points among those unfamiliar with his name or work.
The phenomenon overall is a nice blend of talk, music and live performance energy. Houston radio could stand more of it.
E-mail Anthony Mariani at email@example.com.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.