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September 24, 1982 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-09-24
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COVER STORY

Jammin' . Page 10
If this is Rick's, the band must be the Urbations.
Ann Arbor bands struggle for years traveling the
city's beer-stained bar circuit with little chance to
break into the big time. A look at why they do it, how
they stand it, and what their dreams are.
EXHIBITS
Stella Page 12
Ann Arbor hosts the premier of a three-year
touring exhibition featuring the prints of Frank
Stella. His abstract, geometric prints in vivid colors
are previewed.
MUSIC
Madcat Page 4
Some say there's no one alive who can play the
harmonica better than Peter "Madcat" Ruth, and
few who can generate as much excitement during a
concert, yet he remains only a local celebrity.
THE LIST
Happenings Page 5-8
Your guide to fun times for the coming week in Ann

RESTAURANTS
Escoffier Page 9
Oddly located next door to the State Theater,
Escoffier thrives on its well-deserved reputation as
the classy-albeit ungodly expensive-place to eat in
town.
DISCS
Flip Sides Page 3
Getting your records produced is the first step for
any band trying to be a success. Here's a selection of
singles and LPs by a few local bands that have made
it at least that far.
BOOKS

wriggling around in the gutter, like
slugs, in the rain," says the 28-year-old,
who teaches music courses at
Washtenaw Community College and
runs a jazz workshop at Trotter House
in his spare time.
It's that kind of listener reaction that
leads SLK, the Urbations, and other
bands to look for the bright lights, and
to seek an occupation considered
unrealistic by some. "I'm just working
at a job, and people clap for me every
couple of minutes," Swain says. "It's
great. You get exercise, jump around.
Even if you were independently
wealthy, you'd have to do something
every day. People seem to like it when
we go other places. It's sort of an
American Dream," he laughs.
Playing the bars isn't enough to make
that dream come true, and the bands
know it. They need recording experience
ce, and sometimes the first experience
in the studio can be a bit traumatic.
"I've seen half a dozen bands split up
under the pressure of recording," says
Hurschman, who has worked with ban-
ds ranging from the Flexibles to Ted
Nugent. "People are much more
forgiving when a band is playing live. A
player who's been getting away with
musical murder is exposed in the
studio. We've even had bands come in'
playing a song in two different keys,"
he says.
Even after a few recordings, the road
isn't an easy one. The musicians have
all heard about how it takes 10 years to
become an overnight success. SLK may
be an exception to that axiom, and even
though the members of the Urbations

recording equipment, and he has star-
ted. his own record label, "Rotating
Records." The record company's
headquarters are in a file cabinet on the
second floor of his home, and his Cloud
10 Recording Studio and Laundry
Facility ("That's the laundry facility,"
he says, pointing to a washer and dryer
nestled between two 5-foot speakers) is
in the basement.
"I'm having lots of fun," he says. "I
like to make people laugh. I'd like to
make them think, but that's really
reaching." Gould says he, too, would
like to tour outside of Ann Arbor. "'But
I'm not into starving to death. Not until
I have a major label behind me. In the
best of all possible worlds, the president
of Atlantic Records will call and say,
'Hey, I saw your (video) tape. Why
don't we fly you out to New York, and
advance you a hundred thou' on an
album.' " Even if he isn't shot straight
into the big time, he says, there's hope.
"Recording companies have sunk all
their money into bands like REO
Speedwagon, so a large number of in-
dependent record labels have sprung up
over the last 10 years," he says. "Oc-
casionally, some of them succeed."
THE EMERGENCE of independent
labels is having considerable
impact on the industry. "You don't
have to sound like Bachman-Turner
Overdrive anymore," says Ragnar
Kvaran, leader of the Ragnar Kvaran
band. Kvaran does not have as strong a
following in Ann Arbor as several other
bands, but thanks to independent

Ragnar Kvaran

I

Private Eye

Page 9

Local sn:in e s xong remai""n" "n "a"e
Arbor. Film capsules, music previews, theater notes,
bar dates, all listed in a day-by-day schedule. Plus a
roster of local restaurants.

Detroit's own Loren Estleman, veteran writer of
only the hardest of hard-boiled detective novels, hits
the stands with another private-eye view of the Motor
City.

Weekend Weekend is edited and managed by students on the Weekend, (313) 763-0379 and 763-0371; Michigan
September 24. 1982 staff of The Michigan Daily at 420 Maynard, Ann Ar- Daily, 764-0552; Circulation, 764-0558; Display Adver-
bor, Michigan, 48109. It appears in the Friday edition tising, 764-0554.
Magazine Editors............Richard Campbell of the Daily every week during the University year Cover photo by Brian Masck.
Michael Huget and is available for free at many locations around the
Assistant Editor...................Ben Ticho campus and the city.
Qreo Cookie/Black Rasberry/Tin Roof/M & M/Maple.
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'A player who's been getting away with
.musical murder is exposed in the studio.
We've even had bands come in playing a
song in two different keys.'
-Al Hurschman
chief engineer at A2 Studios

from Stiff and Celluloid have gone into
more recordings.
Part of Kvaran's lack of local
following is by design. The idea has
been to do original material without'
getting caught up in the bar circuit, ac-
cording to Kvaran. "We don't use stan-
dard bar techniques. If we did
everything for the dancers, we felt, it
would limit us," says the 31-year-old
Kvaran. "I enjoy playing at the bars.
Some of it is just awful, you can't
believe. You'd rather be in a factory all
your life. But when it works, it's the
best thing I know. But very often, to
cater to the bar audience is to cut off
your chances (to grow)," he says.
"Working (another job) can be a
terrible drain on your resources, in a
way. But you don't have to bring in the
money from the gigs."
Depending on the size of its following
(read: number of beer drinkers, from
the bar owner's perspective), a band in
Ann Arbor can earn anywhere from $50
to $1,000 a night in the bars-in the
campus area, these are Rick's, the
Second Chance, Mr. Flood's Party,
Joe's Star Lounge, and the Blind Pig.
"It's a Catch-22 when you're first star-
ting out," says SLK's Mersereau.
"Playing Monday and Tuesday nights,
you can't get a following.uBut you need
a following in order to get a better
night." SLK got started by playing at
fraternity parties for exposure, and at
East Quad's Halfway Inn. "Then,
Rick's kind of took us under their wing,
and gave us a gig a week."
Joe Tiboni, owner of Joe's Star
Lounge, acknowledges the difficulty the
bands face, but says economics make it
hard to give "unknowns" a chance. "It
always helps if you've had experience,"

Tibon
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have been playing a long time, they've
only recently begun to think about
growing out of Ann Arbor. But there are
plenty of musicians who are well into
their own 10-year night, or even past it.
Mike Gould, a native of this city, has
been involved in music since he was in
high school. "I wrote my very first song1
in study hall. It was a parody of Hamlet
to the tune of 'Jesse James,' " says
Gould, leader of the Gene Pool Band.
While both SLK and the Urbations play
a fair number of cover songs, Gould
plays only originals. As a result, he
says, "we've been playing for little or
no money. In fact, it's usually for
negative money.
"There is very little money to be
made playing original music in this
town," he says with an air of "oh well ,
what are you going to do?" But at the
same time, Gould says, "This is one of
the few places around where you can
play original music. There's something
tremendously satisfying in picking up a
guitar and making A whole lot of noise,
something you wrote. It keeps you off
the streets, keeps you from the serious
problem of having too much money."
Like many of the other musicians in
town, Gould holds another job to help
finance his band work. Since
graduating from Kalamazoo College
with a biology degree ("I did things like
establishing the interaction of THC and
alcohol in rats"), he has held jobs
ranging from fresh-water biology to
waterbed sales.
By reading trade manuals, Gould has
been able to build most of his own

labels, he has recordings that appear in
the record shops of Paris.
Stiff Records-the label that laun-
ched Elvis Costello and Graham
Parker-picked up a Kvaran song for
Declaration of Independents, a collec-
tion of "new music." Celluloid Records,
a French label, picked up the rights to
the song from Stiff. The band has gotten
some good press for that, and two
major labels-Arista and Geffen
Records-are giving "friendly en-
couragement,"isaysmanager Alan
Goldsmith. Meanwhile,. the. royalties

Loud bands: The crowds love it

;f.

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