We Americans sure are fascinated with how talented we are. While the explosion of talent-show TV programs make some "real" artists cringe, millions of Americans are tuning in as if Star Search should never, ever have been taken off the air.
Following in the wake of American Idol is NBC-TV's Star Tomorrow, in which 80 groups are competing in an online contest for a contract with Universal Records. Two San Diego bands-Big Toe and Tubby-have made it to the finals.
The audition episode aired on July 31 and is the only one scheduled for broadcast. But through August, fans can watch clips from 20 different contestants on the show's website and vote for the ones that don't suck. Famed producer David Foster and former blink-182 drummer Travis Barker will make the ultimate decision on an artist's hit-making potential.
Big Toe, which features armless guitarist Mark Goffeney, has been an early favorite, due to Foster and Barker's obvious on-air awe at his ability to play with his feet.
"The response has been remarkable," said the band's second guitarist, Dave Gilbert. "National exposure can't hurt. It's harder for musicians who aren't in the teen demographic to get noticed these days and having David Foster as well as Travis Barker give their opinions of our music was a great opportunity. We wouldn't trade any of our experiences in this for an easier road."
Tubby's manager (and CityBeat ad rep) Neil MacPherson concedes that a contest like this has some cheesy aspects, but feels that even if his band loses, the payoff is potentially huge.
"It's definitely a step above your normal online competition," he said. "If nothing else, there's a filmed critique by David Foster for every contestant, so you know that a 14-time Grammy-winning producer has seen your stuff. That's an opportunity most bands would pay good money for."
Big Toe is currently recording a single, "Took a Lot," and has been asked to perform for the members of Journey and Def Leppard backstage at Coors Amphitheatre on Aug. 23. www.StarTomorrow.com, www.bigtoe rocks.com, www.myspace.com/tubbyfunk.
Who the hell are they?
For the second year in a row, a band known to very few music fans in San Diego has signed to a major label and announced that they're from San Diego. Last year, it was Augustana. This year, it's Onethousand Pictures.
The band played gigs at area clubs like Soma and Brick by Brick in 2005 under the name The Frantic. After a showcase for A&R reps, they signed to Velvet Hammer/Columbia Records and changed their name to Onethousand Pictures. The rock foursome will follow up their recent Street Scene performance with four shows in town during August.
"[We're from] North County, San Diego-Carlsbad, La Costa and Fallbrook," said guitarist Reid Curbay.
Some in the music industry believe it's essential that a band have a large following in their hometown in order to make it to the next level. But Onethousand Pictures' manager, Grant Gelt, doesn't put too much stock in that theory.
"I don't see location as being a negative or carrying too much weight," he said. "While it's helpful to have a strong following in your area, it all changes once you go out and start touring and working your album. There are stories all the time about bands that couldn't get a break in their hometown, but as soon as they had a song on the radio, everyone started coming out."
Such is true, as the infamous story of P.O.D. would suggest. The "Southtown" rap-rockers couldn't get a gig in their hometown, so they toured relentlessly, signing to Atlantic Records before anyone in San Diego knew their name.
"If the band is good, writes great songs and has a great live show," Gelt said, "it shouldn't matter if they're from L.A., San Diego or a small town in the Midwest."
Onethousand Pictures' first single, "Long Way," is due in September, with a debut album set for November. www.myspace.com/onethousand pictures.
Hot Snakes-the band that featured former Drive Like Jehu-ites Rick Fork and John Reis-will release their final studio recordings as an E.P., Thunder Down Under on Aug. 15. The tunes were recorded for an Australian radio broadcast.
"This recording contains de-muzzled, bathroom shaking sounds that could be argued excel beyond the premeditated attack of previous records," said the ever-quotable Reis. "Meteors collide in space and shower our planet with frozen, petrified splinters and fluid gobs of molten silica piss. This is the final studio noise from the Hot Snakes. It was real fun while it lasted!" www.swamirecords.com.
P.O.D. has signed on to promote Verizon Wireless V-CAST service with a national ad campaign, including a two-page spread in this month's Rolling Stone. www.payableondeath.com.
Unwritten Law has re-recorded their most well-known songs for a "Best Of" album called Hit List. The album will feature 17 songs spanning their entire career-plus two new studio tracks-and will hit stores Sept. 26. In related news, lead singer Scott Russo will perform with his gal-pal Aimee Allen as the duo Scott & Aimee at 'Canes on Aug. 10. www.unwrit tenlaw.com, www.scottandaimee.com.
Photographer Steve Covault will have a selection of his work featuring local artists like Kim Divine, Jose Sinatra and Steve Poltz on display at Twiggs throughout August. www.stevecovault.com.
After beginning as an acoustic artist, then briefly switching to teen-pop after a short-lived contract with Epic Records, Anna Troy has now embraced the blues. She'll host a CD-release party for Ain't No Man on Aug. 13 at Dizzy's alongside Gregory Page, Robin Henkel, Nathan James, Billy Watson, Bushwalla and Jeff Berkley. www.myspace.com/annatroy.
Horton Plaza will host a free summer concert series called "High Note" every Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. Held on Level 5 next to the restaurants, the series will start with singer-songwriter Ashley Matte on Aug. 11, with later performers including Paige Aufhammer, Chris Klich, Michelle Lundeen and Anna Troy. www.ashleymatte.com.
"Indie Music Fest 3" is now looking for submissions from all music genres. The festival will be held at several North Park venues on March 30 of next year. www.sonicbids.com/SDIMF.
Instrument manufacturer Carvin will celebrate 60 years with a free party at its San Diego warehouse from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 12. Attendees can tour the facilities or just check out live music by Off Track, Social Green, RDG and CAB. A host of Carvin's star clients will also be on hand to meet-and-greet fans, including P.O.D., Allan Holdsworth, Craig Chaquico (Jefferson Airplane) and Steve Vai. www.carvin.com/60th.
Nineties rockers Kitten's Pharmacy are the latest local combo to reunite. The group will perform Aug. 12 at the State House Pub (6344 El Cajon Blvd.)-which was the last spot Java Joe tried to relocate his venue to before cashing in his chips and moving to Vegas.
Masochistic folk-music fans might want to consider bearing the miserable fucking heat in Scottsdale, Ariz. for the annual "Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp 7," held Aug. 10 through 12. Oddly, the touring version of the famous '60s folk group now contains no members who ever performed on their records. But two of the original hit-makers-John Stewart and Nick Reynolds-will be at the event. Attendees are given the chance to perform on stage with the band. Plus, in case being 50-something isn't geeky enough, fans will get to take home a replica of the Trio's signature striped shirts. www.triofantasycamp.com.