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Scene & Heard

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Durham Music Venue Takes a Hit
As part of Durham's newly vibrant live music scene, Bully's Basement was definitely a player, booking an eclectic blend of local indie rock bands, touring artists and Americana/alt-country acts. Not any more. This past Sunday night, Aug. 4, two of the partners, John Chesson and Lem Campbell, worried about the "possibility of being locked out" by the third partner, Donny Shepherd, pulled a 24-foot moving truck up to the club and "filled it up to the brim," says Chesson. Working from about 1 to 7 a.m., they loaded up all the sound equipment (purchased and owned by Campbell), the beer coolers and other bar paraphernalia. According to Chesson, they only removed what they'd personally paid for--"we had issues with the partnership," he says. Bully's bookers, Avid Video owner Jason Jordan and promoter Lora Brooker, were apprised of the situation. Chesson says he plans to call bands this week and let them know that the club is no longer operating. They hope to reopen a live music venue--although they're not sure where--in a "month or so," Chesson adds. Stay tuned for developments.

Playin' it Cool
The Carrboro ArtsCenter, the 27-year-old nonprofit, community-oriented facility that not only works as a concert venue but sponsors children's events and classes, blew two of its five-ton air conditioning units on July 29. Within days, local musicians, organized by Tommy Dennison, had the idea to throw a benefit show to cover the center's HVAC costs. Dennison contributed the services of his group, the Billy Dechand Band, as well as recruiting Splendid Havana and indie pop group Velvet (stay tuned to additions to the lineup) for the "Beat the Heat Summer Jam." Local merchants are pitching in as well: Chapel Hill Mail Boxes Etc. is helping out with posters and both Top of the Hill and the Carolina Brewery will be donating micro-brewed suds. The concert starts at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, with event planners asking for a minimum donation of $5. For details, or to contribute to the AC fund, call 929-2787, ext. 206 or visit www.artscenterlive.com.

More Sleaze, Pleez
Although it pains me to say it, this year's annual Sleazefest had all the excitement of a bad blind date. Not to say that the bands didn't play their asses off, or that there weren't a few must-see performances by out-of-town acts, like the shimmying antics of The Detroit Cobras' Mata Hari-esque siren/lead vocalist Rachel Nagy, who exhorted the crowd to loosen up by comparing them to Detroit crowds: "There should be people fucking up here by the stage," she taunted. Hillbilly vampire Unknown Hinson turned out to be a damn fine guitar player, not just a one-trick pony novelty act, and got the crowd going with his version of Alice Cooper's "Eighteen" where he substituted the lyrics "I'm Unknown" for the chorus. And Viva, the 6-foot-6-inch singer for new wave/glam punk band Jett Rink, stirred the crowd up doing an improv dance/wrestling number with The Ghost of Rock's Ron Liberti. The Jimmy & The Teasers ladies stole the show with their customized black "teaser" underwear, worn over fishnets and accompanied by midriff-baring tops (one made outta rubber--grrrr). On the stoopid side of audience participation: Some rubes were actually slam dancing during Southern Culture on the Skids. They must have been tourists.

But, like one out-of-town band member said, "It feels like we're playing to the other bands. At $25 a pop, the lack of one-of-a-kind performances--the chance to see someone like Link Wray or Ernie K-Doe, for instance--as well as the lack of musical variety (no surf bands, no oddball acts like Quintron or The Strangemen, no Southern-fried rock 'n' roll like Drive-by Truckers), gave the fest a more one-dimensional vibe than in its heyday, and punters were hesitant to pay the tariff. There were no B movies showing in the "Sleaze Lounge" (aka the Sports Club next door) either. In fact, several of the screens were tuned to a football game while bands performed.

It probably didn't help matters that the Sleazefest Web site hadn't been updated since the Sleazefest West show out in San Francisco back in February, or that the event itself seemed to have fewer crewmembers working it. (It didn't matter, people weren't acting up.) This is the first Sleazefest since Dave Robertson and Monica Swisher quit running Local 506 (although Robertson is still the guy responsible for the annual fest), and maybe the fest is just experiencing growing pains.

Let's just hope Sleazefest can rally next year and recapture the exuberance and rep for good music that put it (and Chapel Hill) on the garage/punk/surf/rockabilly/fringe music map in the first place.

In Soundtracks
You've enjoyed his work as frontman for Archers of Loaf, his experimental compositions under the alias Barry Black and his solo releases as Crooked Fingers. Now, singer-songwriter Eric Bachmann has turned his talents to soundtrack work. On Aug. 20, Merge Records will release Short Careers (original score to the film Ball of Wax), an indie film about baseball shot here in North Carolina by director Daniel Kraus. Kraus scored a film fest hit with his debut Jefftowne, the saga of a 40-year-old, beer-swilling, pornography consuming wrestling fanatic with Down syndrome. Look for the film in the fall.

Screaming Tree in N.C.
If you're hanging out in Wilmington during a beach vacation and you see a guy that looks like The Screaming Tree's Mark Lanegan, it is indeed the Seattle rocker. Lanegan relocated to North Carolina's film city to be with his actress girlfriend.

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