Assuming the risk and hoping others will follow, the Outback Pub has instituted a weekly original music policy in an effort to liven up the dreary, human-jukebox ritual along the almighty Richmond Strip. For the time being, Thursdays will be set aside to showcase Texas talent in an assortment of rock guises -- none of which involve playing covers. Most Fridays and Saturdays at the Outback will adhere to this rule, as well.

At least partially to thank for this heartening new development is Richmond Strip live-music impresario Dennis Lange, whose stable of cover bands has ruled the Outer Loop entertainment district for years. Lange's contention has always been that patrons at the nightclubs he books were more than happy with the sound-alike fodder he provides, and that there was little interest in that part of town for original music. So why the sudden change of heart? Actually, says Lange, it hasn't been as abrupt as it seems.

"I've spent more money on original music than anyone who has ever commented on the fact that I don't support it," Lange says. "I don't know where they get their information, but it's all misconceived. I've been pounding these clubs for years with opportunities to do original music. Outback Pub is the first club that's really given me control of [their] music format; instead of their approving the calendar, they just let me do it. I know that two to three original bands [a night] can work."

Thus far, audience turnouts at the Outback shows have been encouraging, as have the lineups. April's schedule has included everything from ska and ska-punk (Suspects, Middlefinger) to Latin roots-rock and ska (the Basics, Los Skarnales) to funk-driven party grooves (à la ex-Global Villager Chad Strader's new group, Space City Dogs). Coming this Friday to the Outback: FacePlant and Rubbur (the latter's rumored breakup has apparently been postponed for now). Tuesday's Cinco De Mayo celebration includes live performances from Tribu de Ixchel, Larva and Basico Sonidos.

How long the little experiment in originality will last at the Outback is anyone's guess. But Lange remains optimistic.

"It's going to work. We're getting the cream of the crop," he says. "We're going to be the new club on this side of town that is the Satellite Lounge-type deal.

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Hobart Rowland