Get Gonged at Kings
In what's become an annual tradition, the staff of Kings Barcade in Raleigh are gearing up for their annual version of The Gong Show, the '70s game show classic emceed by manic oddball Chuck Barris, also the show's creator. Set up as a talent show, truly awful acts risked being "gonged" by any of the three B-list celebrity judges. As part of their annual anniversary celebrations, Kings hosts its own version of the show using an improvised gong. "It's a piece of sheet metal we bash with a stick; gongs are pretty expensive; you can't even really rent 'em anymore," says Kings co-owner Steve Popson. The "celebrities" are local musicians and Kings employees and they aren't afraid to exercise their power to gong: Last year some unfunny semi-pro comedians from an area comedy club--who thought they'd walk away with a prize--got the stick.
Keeping in character with the era, last year's show was co-hosted by "Jack," "Janet" and "Chrissy," those oversexed roommates from the wink-wink '70s sitcom Three's Company, with The Cherry Valence's Paul Siler taking over the Chuck Barris role (which he'll reprise this year). Previous years' contestants have performed insane skateboard tricks, knife juggling and a version of Ozzy's "Crazy Train" played on banjo; Jason Wright (formerly of Apollo Creedence) "did the worm through food: Jello and cake, stuff like that," Popson recalls. But interested parties shouldn't let these displays of talent scare them off. "Call the bar and let 'em know you're interested," Popson says. The event takes place this Friday, July 5.
Radio Free Records to Reopen
While hardly out of the woods financially speaking, Ethan Samsky has announced that he'll reopen Radio Free Records. Although an estimated 85 percent of his stock was taken in a break-in earlier in June, local musicians, club owners and music fans have massed in support of the uninsured record store owner, who, along with his wife Monica, moved to Durham from San Jose only a year ago. Local clubs and members of the Triangle music scene, especially in Durham, have organized benefit concerts, held yard sales, sold raffle tickets and more to raise over $7,000 in a show of support for Samsky. He intends to use the money for an ADT security system, as well as replacing the cash register, CD players and stereo taken in the break-in. Although Samsky says that RFR's long-term chances for survival remain "slim," the support and goodwill of the local music community has convinced him to start over again. Radio Free Records will reopen Monday, July 8; so bring your special orders and "must-buy" CD and vinyl list in. You'll be supporting one of the few remaining local independent music stores in the area.
Props to Carolina rappers DJ Soundmachine and Montee Smith, whose "Promise Land" single was selected for an "editor's pick" in underground hip-hop mag Elemental. Smith has a new book, High Protein Tongue Arrangements--Poetry for Urban Survivalist, and recently took third place overall in the "Southern Fried Poet Regional Competition" held in Memphis, Tenn. in the "individual" category. Smith's performance style has been getting raves, prompting one scribe to write, "Smith blew everybody away, including Amiri Baraka, who was noticeably moved by Smith's touching command of word and images that was so reminiscent of his friend Allan Ginsburg's brand of being intentionally off the beaten path." The team has more projects in the works, including a collaboration with hip-hop legend and rap pioneer T La Rock, Def Jam's first artist. You can catch DJ Soundmachine, along with DJs Merlin and Moony, at the upcoming "Unadulterated Hip Hop" night scheduled for Monday, July 22, at Kings in Raleigh.
And on July 27, Durham record store Madd Waxx is sponsoring the first annual Southeastern Music & Entertainment Summit, a one-day event that focuses on the needs of the emerging urban culture here in the Carolinas from street promotion to marketing strategies. The event will feature a trade show with over 100 regional and national vendors, panels and workshops and a soundstage. Says Madd Waxx James Heyward, "There's a lot of unsigned talent around," and the event will feature a soundstage with a series of live acts, as well as a DJ battle featuring eight DJs and 16 MCs. Heyward says Petey Pablo and N.C. State Representative Dan Blue are also slated to attend. For registration information, call (919) 680-4303 or register online at www.smes1.com.
The Ox Leaves the Building
Longevity and the rock 'n' roll lifestyle rarely cross paths. Yet it was a still a shock to hear of the sudden death of The Who's co-founder John "The Ox" Entwistle of heart failure on June 25, following the losses of rockers Dee Dee Ramone and Layne Staley. From being the Mod band in the '60s even through their Daltrey-and-Entwistle-are-broke tours of the '90s, The Who's finest material--from their Maximum R&B period to The Who Sell Out or their version of "A Quick One ... " on the Rock and Roll Circus soundtrack--never failed to raise goosebumps. Of course, most fans would just as soon forget the band's jumpsuit phase, but with modern rockers like GBV's Bob Pollard paying homage to The Who both on record and live--from aping Daltrey's mic-swinging antics to covering "Baba O'Riley"--the essential ingredient that The Who added to rock has become a cherished part of rock's musical lexicon. Somewhat unsettling is the fact that, aside from canceling the first two shows, The Who are continuing their three-month tour with British session bassist Pino Palladino, who, besides appearing on Pete Townsend's solo album White City, has appeared on records by everyone from Elton John to Gary Numan. It remains to be seen whether the Daltrey/Townshend "Who" will satisfy fans.