Battling Bootsy

This Bootsy's made for walkin'... I know for a fact I wasn't the only one weeping in my beer when I arrived at Fitzgerald's two Saturdays back to find that Bootsy Collins and his band, including Bernie Worrell and Mudbone Cooper, were packing up their bus without having played a note. (Hell, I had to go review Ozric Tentacles instead....) I missed what was later described by Fitzgerald's booker David Farrar as a near riot when Collins' tour manager, Van Johnson, and Sara Fitzgerald took to the stage to battle for the angry crowd's sympathy. Judging from the post-show mumbling, Johnson won that fight when he said that Bootsy wouldn't be playing because Fitz hadn't paid him anything. I hate to let a club owner off the hook, but that just wasn't true. In fact, Bootsy's booking agent, Eric Beckman, confirms the pre-show (by several days, in fact) receipt of a $5,000 guarantee for the $10,000 show. The agreement, as Farrar remembers it and as Beckman has confirmed it, was another $2,500 before the first of the night's two shows and the final $2,500 before the last. So when, after what has been reported as an afternoon of bruised egos on both sides, Johnson demanded the total remaining $5,000 up front, he and Farrar had a bitching match, the band refused to play and Bootsy drove off into the night. Up in New York, Beckman's got the pre-paid $5,000 tucked away, pending possible legal action to get it back. Meanwhile, none of us got to see Bootsy, and Farrar says he figures Fitz is out something in the neighborhood of $17,000, including the guarantee, pre-show costs and estimated lost revenue from a normal Saturday night -- an amount Farrar is happy to admit puts a real dent in the petty cash box, but which he's equally eager to note isn't going to put the club under.

Back from the grave... After sitting idle through the longest inoperative period in its 15-year history, Rockefeller's plans to reopen for business as usual, possibly as soon as December. Sanford Criner, who owns the property that houses Rockefeller's and the neighboring Satellite Lounge, passed me the word last week that an investment group consisting of first-time nightclub operators (and father-son team) Bill and Branan Huthnance, attorney Buck McKinney and Criner himself have signed the appropriate dotted lines and will reopen the hallowed hall's doors with the Huthnances in charge of day-to-day operations.

Criner won't tell me what sort of operating capital the traditionally capital-shy venue is working with, but he sounds confident, and at least the group is finding the money to subject the building to what Criner describes as "complete renovations," including a brand-spanking-new sound system.

Wife Susan Criner, who's responsible for booking acts to the Satellite, will take over the booking at Rockefeller's. "We'd like to see," says Sanford, "that little area promoted as the place to go see live music."

Part of making that pipe dream work is finding enough parking, but Criner hopes to resolve that occasional problem by instituting valet service at Rockefeller's and by arranging leasing deals for night parking in the neighborhood. As for the club's format, don't expect any major changes. The 400-capacity room has traditionally been a fine hall for acoustic, jazz and blues acts, and that emphasis isn't likely to shift.

But the real question on everybody's mind has to be: well, are the drinks still going to be so damned expensive? Criner says a couple of semi-apologetic things about the premium prices that come along with a premium room, and he thinks that Rockefeller's image as a price gouger on the booze is undeserved (and to be fair, a bottle of Bud was only a quarter more there than at the next most expensive place in the free world), but the answer is, yes, the drinks are still going to be so damned expensive. Nonetheless, we do want this room back on the circuit, so I won't complain about drink prices (especially when it's so easy to get a reasonably priced Bock next door at the Satellite) and will simply wish the new venture well with a bit of advice: taxes, boys.

Exciting new column feature... I have two problems only: 1) the "Local Stuff" segment that usually concludes this column is dull and boring to write and may even discourage readers from looking at the superlatively informative and inclusive music listings a mere turn of the page away; and, 2) I'm sitting on dozens of backlogged tapes submitted by local bands that are either tape-only releases or demos that fall between the cracks of Regular Reviewing Formats. Thus does dual need dictate this replacement. I'm gonna start running mini-reviews of local-only, cassette-only releases in this space, maybe one a week, maybe three, depending on the room available. If you've got something you want to see mentioned here, send it along. The address is in the front of the paper. So with no further ado....

Cassette of the Week: 30footFALL's self-titled six-song release, with a very nice picture of a bunch of kids holding balloons, none of which -- balloons or kids -- would last long in the face of 30footFALL's straight ahead punk rock. Punk's an obsession (or hell, maybe it's just what these guys do): "Punk Rock Song" moves too fast to slow down for anything but a chanted "Fuck You" before breaking down into a chorus(?) of "stupid punk rock song," and it's the tape's second best tune, right after the pummeling "Stolen in My Youth." "Fine Line" could be Helmet, for all I care, but 30footFALL usually isn't so humorless. Good thing, cuz without the humor, this wouldn't stand out nearly so much as it does.

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Brad Tyer