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April 13, 1985 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-04-13

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ARTS

'the Michigan Daily

Saturday, April 13, 1985

Page 5

Joe' s Star' fades from Main
...doors to close for last time

By Hobey Echlin
OE'S STAR Lounge. The very name,
J brings to mind the things that make
it a veritable museum of Americana.
The stained-red bar, the rich Italianate
ceiling, the inviting row of Saturn-
lamps, the vintage clock, the muddied
red high-tops hanging on the wall.
These are the images of Joe's. And af-
ter a two-and-a-half years of existence
and with a history chocked full of
musical memorabilia, Joe's is closing
it's doors. Tonight is the last night. .
I spoke with Joe himself as he made
banners heralding, the final closing.
"When I first saw R.E.M., I knew they
were different because when they came
in they sat down at the bar and pulled
out paperbacks," Joe recounted, filing
through a wealth of anecdotes. "The
first thing the Replacements did when
they came in was ask for a beer," he
adds comically in reference to the then
Al under twenty-one band. Billy Bragg
just wanted the directions to Hitsville
(Motown's offices) after his show. And
Joe brought the Femmes to Michigan
before anybody had ever heard of
them.
Joe granted shows to such currently
'popular acts as Rain Parade, Beat
'Rodeo, Love Tractor, and the Three
O'Clock. Chances are, if they're big
now, they played Joe's when they
nBut knowing Joe, it's no surprise. His
involvement in the Ann Arbor scene
'goes far beyond a matter of business.
' You get the sense that he's talking
about family as he wanders through his
list of memories. His concern with the

musicians he's come in contact with
seems almost paternal, as he speaks of
the Replacements maturation as a
band and expresses concern in the
Three O'Clocks relatively quick suc-
cess.
Joe's done everything from playing
hardball with the MC5 to booking the

60's revivalist rockers Destroy All
Monsters:
"I'm not in this business to get rich
and drive a Mercedes," Joe says with
effective tritepess. Somehow, from
him, I believe it.
Coinciding with Joe's rootsy persona
is the nostalgia of the club itself. Here is

'When I first saw R.E.M. I knew
they were different . . . they sat
down at the bar and pulled out
paperbacks.'
- Joe Timoni
Owner of Joe's Star Lounge

than aptly put, Joe.
The building itself has been around
since 1845 and has been a saloon since
1900. It's practically: a church. you've
got to approach something with that kind
of a history with a kind of reverence.
Father Joe? Not really, but if you've
been there you know what I mean.
So as not to over-eulogize, if there
hasn't already been enough already,
rest assured that although thisis the
end of Joe's on North Main, it is not the
end of Joe Timoni.
Joe plans to reopen within six mon-
ths. Where? Who knows. The situation
is still very nebulous. "You find an em-
pty in Ann Arbor and I'm probably
looking at it,"Joe explains.
And so after Joe's last night tonight,
featuring the resurrected Watusies,
and Joe in tails and new high tops, the
Star Lounge will be history. No more
twirling fans that coil you right along
with your beer. No more murals of
silhoutted dancers that invite you to the
dance floor. No more pony tail and
Swatch to comment on. No more Joe's.
No more grafitti-ridden bathroom,
hailing everything from the Allied to
R.E.M. No more unheated basement
where many a young performer ner-
vously found himself inself adulation
as the crowd, giggily and entertained,
files past the broad arch that hails the
stage. -No more beaming and be-
ponytailed Joe hailing a band back for
yet another en{ ore. No more Star
Lounge. A' bit melodramatic? Even
more sentimental? Sure, why not. After
all this is Joe's. You'll have to excuse
me, I'm going to cry in my beer ....

totally obscure Jodie Foster's Army.
He notes that the booking of Jodie
Foster was quite a switch from his
reputation as a "hippie fossil" of the
sixties.
The fact is, Joe is one of the most
open-minded people in the business, as
Joe's quickly gained a reputaiton as
the new music club. And all the while,
Joe still found time for bands like the

not your coked-up, slicked-over, disco
throb of sexual imagery that so many
clubs are adopting these days. Joe's is
the kind of place you're really going to
miss. There's an air about Joe's that
sets it apart from the watering hole
genre. It's not just the music or the
drinking aspect by itself, but a whole
mood, Joe explained. "Fuck Frankie
(Goes to Hollywood), we've been
saying 'Relax' for three years." More

Heads up
Civilian Fun Group guitarist, known only as Shaw, attempts to defy some '
simple laws of gravity. CFG will play tonight at East Quad's Halfway Inn.

Raitt performs folk with aflame

By Dennis Harvey
BONNIE RAITT'S 10:30 set Thur-
sday night at the Ark briefly
threatened to turn Ann Arbor's cozy
bastion of folk into something more
cheerfully downscale and raucous - a
honky-tonk joint curiously subdued by
politely seated spectators, and the
replacement of beer by Perrier and im-
ported fruit juices.
Raitt has been playing a lot in big
bars of late, as opposed to the larger
halls of her peak '70s days as a major
label artist, and after an easily, only
half-joking remark that she was "not
used to playing for such a polite
crowd," Raitt proceeded to ignore that
fact and play a set that could just as
easily have served for the liquor-
swollen and swaying lot at Rick's.
Bonnie Raitt 'is the quintessential
great bar performer, at ease before any
crowd, armed with a thousand bad
jokes (well, not all bad) that somehow
seem pretty funny when she says them,
loaded with a Rolodex of classic songs
that, to a basic blues/folk ignoramus
like me, seem to have been pulled from
the musical subconscious - the kind
that suddenly make you clutch
knuckles to teeth and mouth "Oh my

Doily Photo by SCOTT LITUCHY
In the ultimately polite Ark atmosphere, Raitt warmed the audience with her
spirited, bluesy folk.

god!" with ecstatic recognition.
Teamed with backup
guitarist/bassist/singer Johnny Lee
Shell (and local harmonica genius
Madcat Ruth), Raitt played for nearly
two hours, and it was all pure gold.
People just before the set gave her
earrings and shirts they'd made (which
she dutifully thanked them for on
stage), and the affection is understan-
dable - like very few performers, Raitt
is not only a first-rate talent but the
brand of expansive personality that
spells out "I AM YOUR FRIEND, NO
SHIT" without any whiff of condescen-
sion or calculation.
If this wasn't 1985 and my political
correctitude might be placed in critical
jeopardy, I'd call her a great broad, the
kind they have in mind when they write
songs about lady truckdrivers and
make movies starring Dyan Cannon.
She's all zero pretense and good heh-
heh rowdy humor without the kind of
self-conscious naughtiness that
generally makes me think I can't starld
"off-color" jokes. (Despite all
pleading, however, she would. not
reveal the hinted-at unspeakably ob-
scene Willy Nelson joke, begging off
with the meager compensation of "I
can't... but it's good...")
Beyond her immense charm as a
stage presence, of course, there's that
voice, which can invest a ballad with
the kind of weathef-beaten pathos Lin-
da Ronstadt ought to get wind of (not
that she hasn't had the opportunity,
since they've recorded several of the
same songs), then turn around and
breathe the kind of stomping fire into a
tune like "Love Me Like a Man" that
reminds you why the church used to
think the two most evil words on earth
were "The" and "Blues."
On the latter hand, Raitt delivered
the goods and more on two songs she'd
sung with Sippie Wallace at this year's
folk festival, "Don't Advertise Your
Man" and "(You Can Make Me Do What
You Wanna Do But) You Got to Know
How," as well as the more raucously
bluesy "By Myself" and an R&B
raveup written by Shell, off her Green
Light LP, the name of which I didn't
catch.
On the ballad side ...well. Terrific
though Raitt is in rock and blues idioms
(in the latter she plays a damn mean
slide guitar as well), my sympathies
automatically gravitate toward her soft
material. The 10:30 set confirmed her
excellence as an interpreter of other
people's songs because the choices

were so essentially obvious but her
singing of 'them was anything but
kneejerk.
Among the eternal sweepstakes to
determine the Absolute Unbearably
Best Cry-in-your-beer Sad Ballad Ever,
it would be extremely hard to choose
between such standards as "Louise,"
John Prine's "Make Me an Angel," Joel
Zoss' "Been Too Long at the Fair," and
Erick Kaz/Libby Titus' "Love Has No
Pride," all of which Raitt performed
impeccably. (I might personally tip the
scale toward "Love Has No Pride,"
since in the history of Western civiliz-
ation there cannot possibly be a song
more traumatically all-for-love self-
sacrificial; it's sort of the folk
equivalent of the island maiden, nobly
throwing herself into the volcano at the
end of a '50s Technicolor epic.)
All these songs have been done and
done again, and their potential to turn
soppy is pretty fat. But Raitt doesn't
have to grapple for conviction; it's
there from the first chord, even if a
moment before- she was snowing us
with comments like, "You've got to
laugh at yourself sometimes. That's
why I carry a pocket mirror."
As long as she stays away from the
disco 12-incher's, Bonnie Raitt can
wrap her lungs around any old thing
and it'll be A-OK in .my book. If you
missed both of the Ark shows, you
missed one of the most relaxed and
exhiliratirig good times this burg has
had to offer in recent months.
Opening for Bonnie with a regret-
tably brief set was Maine-based
singer/songwriter David Mallet, who
was originally scheduled to play alone
Thursday, and graciously consented to
share the bill when Raitt became
available on short notice. Possessing a
beautifully fluid, rich voice that breaks
into a flutter on the held notes, Mallett
is somewhat reminiscent of Gordon
Lightfoot in the melodic prettiness and
nostalgic melancholy of his songs. If it
was, say, 1971, and there was still a
market for such things, he'd probably
be on some big label, making lots of
money. Oh, well. His loss, our gain. The
sentimentality of songs like "Livin' in
the Best Years of Our Lives" and 'a
pastoral ode to April is somewhat
predictable, but there's nothing stock
about Mallett's songwriting skill or
vocal appeal. He seemed a bit abashed

during the short 10:30 set - perhaps
assuming (wrongly, from later
eavesdropping) that the audience just
wanted to get to Raitt as quickly as
possible - but the five or so songs he
played made one hungry for a return
visit.
THE DAILY
CLASSIFIEDS
ARE A GREAT
WAY TO GET
FAST RESULTS
CALL 764-0557

November Group-Work
That Dream (A & M, EP)
November Group is a Boston-based
band centered around com-
posers/singers Ann Prim and Kearney
Kirby, with what has turned out to be a
pretty transient lineup of supporting
musicians. This belated major-label
debut EP follows two previous EP's
and several years of high but never
quite fulfilled promise. Like many local
acts who don't get the hoped-for con-
tract when early energy and interest is
highest, November Group may have
'been the band-most-likely-to for too
long by now to get the hometown star-
ting push this record needs. Though
Work That Dream is good, it's probably
not compelling enough to win the band
:their overdue national exposure.
Live, the band has always had a pun-
chy edge, a funkier sound despite cen-
terpiece Prim's rather chilly Thin
White Duchess presence, but on record
their energy has been rather too
carefully studio-processed, with the ex-
ception of their self-titled first EP's
knockout "Shake It Off." The band is a
curious amalgam in that sense-the
mix of earnest white Gang of Four har-

music housed within doesn't really
make the connecting statement very
clear. One suspects that Prim and Kir-
by are awfully intelligent people just a
bit forceably applying themselves to
the business of creating 12-inch-worthy
modern dance music when they'd
probably better make the points they
seem to want to make by other means.
This doesn't mean that Work That
Dream isn't enjoyable. Preceded by a
theatrical half-minute synth-sym-
phony, "Volker," the EP leads out from
the starting gate with the very
motivating bass riff and rhythm of the
title song, which would do well enough
on any dance floor in the land-the only
problems (constant ones for this band,
unfortunately) are the banality of the
key lyric ideas and the ditto for the
vocals and vocal arrangements.
Neither Prim nor Kirby have par-
ticularly good voices (just barely
adequate, actually), which is a major
liability given the less-than-unique
nature of their music.
This is less problematic on the for-
ceful "Put Your Back to It," and new
and improved version of a song first
heard on the '83 Braineater EP, "Per-
sistent Memories." Side two is

satisfying juggling of basic synth-
dominated dancepop with vague higher
goals. There's no doubting the presence
of real talent here, but it doesn't speak
loud enough to make the unacquainted
head turn around and take notice. What
can you say about a smart band that
keeps repeating things like "feel the
heat" and "life is a fragile thing"? Not
much but: sigh.
-Dennis Harvey
March of Dimes
BIRTH DEFECTS FOUNDATION
SAVES BABIES
HELP FIGHT
BIRTH DEFECTS

STATE THEATRE
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