The Show Band that Wouldn't Die

Musically speaking, the Fourth of July is all about the tried-and-true. Nobody goes out to celebrate America's independence by checking out the latest progressive electro-hop grime act or what new and fresh innovations have emerged on the intelligent dance music scene.

Nope, this day is all about stirring, old-school anthems -- be they "The Star Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful" or that crap-rock that big radio is always spinning in their simulcast soundtracks to fireworks displays -- "We Built This City," "Heart of Rock and Roll" and "More Than a Feeling." You know the drill. And the thing is, it usually sounds pretty good when you've got burgers and beer in your belly, a sunburn on your back, and fireworks booming in your ears.

But if you're one of them-there fancy-pants music snobs who can't stand the modern, cutting-edge rock of bands like Starship, Huey Lewis and Boston, you'll no doubt want to skip most of the big-city Fourth bashes and head down to Missouri City to go see Vince Vance and the Valiants, a.k.a. "the Southern Sha Na Na" and "the band that would not die." Together since 1971, VVV's 1950s-style revue has survived well over 5,000 shows, and the band hasn't fundamentally changed styles since its very first gig. (They have played "At the Hop" at every show in their history.)

If you're anything more than the most casual of music fans, we're betting that even if you haven't been to one of those shows, you've seen the name Vince Vance and the Valiants somewhere. We all have. I've heard the name since I was too young to even try to sneak into clubs, and since then I've seen it everywhere from the entertainment listings in this paper to a marquee in some podunk cornfield town in rural Illinois. But I never knew much about the band, and I'm betting that you don't either, so here are three things you didn't know about Vince Vance and the Valiants.

1. Vince Vance is not the singer's real name. In fact, Vince Vance has never existed. The original "Vince" was one Jim Viator, who stopped being Vince more than ten years ago. The new Vince is tall-haired Andy Stone, who was born Andrew John Franichevich Jr. and is the last of the original Valiants. His current nom des oldies came about when he became a Valiant and started styling himself as "the Incredible Andy Stone the Pretty Boy of the Group."

2. Though known first and foremost as a party band, VVV also has a (lunkheaded) political side. During the Iran hostage crisis, they released "Bomb Iran," a '50s-themed song parody set to the tune of the Regents and Beach Boys hit "Barbara Ann." Twenty-five years later, the band attempted to replicate that coup (with limited success) with another bloodthirsty oldies overhaul: "Yakety Yak (Bomb Iraq)." Sample lyrics: "Saddam's a tyrant; he's insane / A Hitler by another name / He gassed his people and the Kurds / It's time to squash that camel turd!"

3. Given that this is a 1950s revue, and that 1950s nostalgia peaked in about 1974, it probably won't surprise you that a lot of Vince Vance gigs are not in the most glamorous of venues. But neither is it a surprise to find out that they are pretty solidly booked right up to the middle of next year -- this is a family-friendly band, and a safe choice for convention planners in the Bible Belt. (Many of the band's shows are in extremely small towns -- where, exactly, is West Tawakoni, Texas?)

What is unusual, though, is this: Vince Vance is playing both the Southern Cemetery and Funeral Association Annual Meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi, and the Arkansas Airport Operators Association gala in beautiful downtown Bismarck, Arkansas. We're betting that most of you will be shocked to learn that: a) the second of those organizations even exists; and b) that either of those conventions would have entertainment at all. (And call us crazy, but we're laying even money that a stripper will erupt from a coffin at some point during that crazy shindig in Biloxi.) -- John Nova Lomax

Vince Vance and the Valiants appear at the Missouri City Civic Center Complex, 1522 Texas Parkway. For information, call 281-261-4371 or 281-261-4290.

Massive Attack

Crowbar might be the world's heaviest band, at least in terms of epitomizing every definition of the word "heavy." The dictionary lists nine subentries for "heavy," all of which could come with an adjacent illustration of this gargantuan group. Here's point-by-point proof that these guys are music's pound-for-pound champs.

1. Having great weight or mass. For these New Orleans natives, every day is Fat Tuesday, and every stage requires reinforcement. When behemoth singer Kirk Windstein bellowed, "I gave my heart and soul to you" during a video, Beavis and Butt-head estimated that 20 pounds of raw meat must have changed hands during that transaction.

2. Hard to bear, specifically grievous. The aforementioned "heart and soul" line comes from the profoundly grim tune "Existence Is Punishment." Just about every track the band has ever released is rife with doom and gloom, except for its inexplicable cover of "Dream Weaver."

3. Serious. 4. Deep, profound. The world lost great philosophers and poets when Crowbar decided to go into sludge-metal instead of grad school. The band's songs address existential issues, spirituality and sacrifice in simple yet striking language, with a few empathetic messages for the self-help crowd. For example: "Born again in time / You're not alone in what you're feeling," Windstein roars during the obliquely inspirational "…And Suffer As One."

5. Burdened. 6. Sluggish. 7. Drowsy. Crowbar often sounds oppressed, as if it were carrying on its shoulders the weight of, well, Crowbar. Its average composition moves like an anvil-filled ship dragging anchor through a concrete lot. A large dose of Crowbar might induce sleepiness and subsequent nightmares (though the aforementioned "Dream Weaver" could spark Tia Carrere fantasies).

8. Loud. Crowbar's rare speedy songs detonate like dynamite, and its more trademark numbers move with the pendulous force of a wrecking ball. Either way, the walls are coming down.

9. Important. Crowbar released a greatest-hits album in 2000, a rare feat for an underground act with no radio singles. In addition, Pantera's Phil Anselmo produced Crowbar's 100,000-selling second album, then joined three of its members (Windstein, bassist Todd Strange and drummer Jimmy Bower) in the doom-laden side project Down. A reliably smart and innovative act, Crowbar demonstrates how a plodding tortoise can surpass the genre's jack rabbits. -- Andrew Miller

Crowbar rumbles onstage Saturday, July 2, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.

I'm Lovin' It

Destiny's Child leads the way toward a new, corporate-friendly era of music touring

So we see that the current (and possibly last) Destiny's Child tour is traveling under the following McDonald's- sponsored banner: "Destiny Fulfilled... And Lovin' It."

Tacky? Yes. Crass? All the way. A total sellout maneuver? You betcha.

But still, we're, ahem, lovin' it. Every act should do it. After all, corporate sponsorship is what America's all about, isn't it?

We thought it would be fun to go back through the annals of both music history and America's highest art form -- advertising -- and come up with some new, improved tour names. In doing so, we discovered that many companies could do well to just swipe some album titles and use them as their new slogans -- how about "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" as a street-savvy ad campaign for a staid old firm like Merrill Lynch or Smith Barney or as The Wall Street Journal's new, in-your-face motto? But others require a little more mixing and matching, and thus the handy little chart we put together. -- John Nova Lomax

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