Rock the vote: This month, expect to see classical guitarist Mark Allen at plenty of shows around town. The musician won't always be playing, however. Instead, he'll be manning a voter's registration table at local gigs.
Allen has worked on local Get Out the Vote campaigns in the past and helped put Otis Higgs and Harold Ford Sr. into office. "People in Shelby County are pretty active voters," he says, "but there's been a lull lately. When you get someone in office that's undefeatable, it's discouraging. I can't sit idly by. I want to see more people express themselves and make positive changes."
Last week, Allen signed up several prospective voters at The Caravan while Akasha and Murder By Death played onstage. He expects to pop up at more local shows before the Tennessee Democratic primary on February 10th, but he won't end there: On February 15th at The Hi-Tone Café, Allen plans to play a set of guitar tangos, then register voters while Brad Postlethwaite, Candice Ivory, and Akasha perform.
"I've gotten a good response from Memphis musicians," Allen says. "While they don't mind sharing their views, they don't necessarily want to preach to their audiences, so this works out well. It's not political. It's civic involvement. The guys in Akasha are really into it. They immediately gave me [more support than I expected]."
"As individuals -- and as a band -- we're always looking to enhance our community," Akasha drummer Anthony Siracusa says. "Mark asked us to provide the forum, and he said he'd provide the forms. There were 40 people in the crowd at our show last week, and he registered eight of them. If we can provide a vein for locals to plug into politics, then why not do it?"
"I just wanted to nudge people into action," Allen adds. "But this feels delicious. It's almost like stuffing the ballot box!"
What's in a name, part one: At Young Avenue Deli on Saturday, February 7th, Justice Naczycz's group -- formerly billed as The Visible Band -- will make their debut as The Secret Service. "The Visible Band was a default name in the first place to differentiate from my solo gigs, where I was backed by 'The Invisible Band,'" Naczycz explains. "Zac Ives [Naczycz's bandmate in the Final Solutions] suggested the Secret Service, and we started calling ourselves that in December."
"I'm trying to break away from the singer-songwriter scene," Naczycz confesses. "I'm not even bringing my old CD [2002's Water for the Withered Root] to shows. I still love that album, but we're not playing any of those songs right now. We realized last year that we're a total rock band."
After Saturday's show -- where the Secret Service will play with Mouserocket -- Naczycz plans to record an EP with his group, which includes guitarist Steve Selvidge, bassist Mark Stuart, and drummer John Argroves. His next step? Shopping for a record label. "We're talking to a few people, but it's a hard fit," Naczycz says.
What's in a name, part two: While Halfacre Gunroom have been playing around town for nearly two years, they still languish in obscurity. Why? "We don't fit in with the local music scene at all," says frontman Bryan Hartley. "We've tried playing shows in Midtown, but we haven't made a connection, so we just do our own thing." For now, that includes regular Wednesday-night gigs at Earnestine & Hazel's downtown.
Fans of twangy country rock -- Ö la Whiskeytown and Wilco -- need to hear this five-piece group, which includes Brian Wallace on lead guitar, Aaron Brame on keys, Chris Cary on bass, and Justin Fox Burks on drums.
So where did the name come from? "I came up with it," admits Hartley, an avowed William Faulkner fan. "It's from Absalom, Absalom! Thomas Sutpen builds this house where all the drinking and hunting and gambling goes on, which Faulkner describes as a 'halfacre gunroom.' That's how I spent my 20s -- well, except for the hunting."
Last summer, Halfacre Gunroom recorded a dozen tracks at Easley-McCain Recording Studio. Salem, Massachusetts, label Icarus Records (an offshoot of hardcore imprint Deathwish) plans to release the CD, titled Wrecked, this spring. Until then, the band will stick to its weekly residency downtown, while making forays to New Orleans, Auburn, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi, on the weekends. Pay attention, folks: This is one band you'll want to watch in 2004.
Congratulations are in order for Mrs. Fletcher, who recently finished recording their second album, the second project the hard-rock band has done through Young Avenue Sound. Mrs. Fletcher will be celebrating with a record-release party at The New Daisy Theatre Saturday, February 7th. Love & War, On a Dead Machine, and First Wave will open the all-ages show.