Once Again in the Mecca:

City Stage Returns

By Tim Roberts

He greets me with a grin that could outshine the Colgate clock at night. "What the hell, man," he says in his tight twang, extending a hand. He's dressed in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. It's in a purple-and-gray pattern that looks like wallpaper from a turn-of-the-century bordello.

Marvin Maxwell, proprietor of Mom's Music General Store and one of the tribal elders of Louisville Music, was buzzing and tense on the opening day of City Stage 99. "Hope I make it through the next eight weeks," he said, "then everything will be groovy." The city's biggest music booster had the same grin on his face most of the night.

The eight weeks Marvin referred to was the return of City Stage, last year's music festival sponsored by the City of Louisville designed to showcase many of the original-music performers from the region. It will be held every Saturday night on the Belvedere from 6 to 11 p.m. until July 24.

The festival underwent a tweaking here and there. This year the series takes place through June and July, instead of August through September, to avoid conflicts with the Kentucky State Fair and Celebrate Louisville (f. k. a. Straussenfest). Plus to avoid conflicts with Rockin' at Riverpoints, each show takes place on Saturday evenings. Also, each show contains acts that are more similar in music styles, i.e., an all blues-and-roots show with The Mudcats Blues Band, El Roostars, and Bodeco; an Americana singer-songwriter set with Butch Rice, Union Tree, and danny flanigan & the rain chorus; or a hardcore/punk show with the Aasee lake, Metroschifter, and The Enkindels. The first show of the new series had the interesting blend of Splatch, Kathleen Hoye, and 100 Acre Wood.

The acts invited to perform at City Stage were selected in the same way as last year. Each member of the selection committee, which this year included LMN Editor-in-Chief Paul Moffett, Jeffrey Lee Puckett of The Courier-Journal, John Timmons of ear X-tacy, and Gary Deusner of Triangle Talent, submitted a "wish list" of bands to invite. Those bands that appeared on the most lists were asked first.

Deusner, who booked the bands through Triangle, is pleased the series returned this year and already has ambitious hopes for next year's. "I would like to have a second stage," he said, "featuring more solo and acoustic acts, and a third stage featuring more up-and-coming performers." The series would become more of a festival like Lollapalozza or even Peter Gabriel's WOMAD. Since almost all of Waterfront Park is completed, the festival could even spread out beyond the Belvedere. For this year, however, the performances remain on the stage alongside the Galt House.

The first show wasn't without a few mishaps. The sound was unbalanced and thick. Midway through Kathleen Hoye's set, the sprinklers surrounding the grass oval in front of the stage kicked on. Anyone sitting at the oval's edge got sprayed. The sound engineers pulled a blue plastic tarp over the board and worked under it for the rest of the show.

There was fun, too. 100 Acre Wood offered prizes to anyone who would dance during their set. They included a beach ball autographed by each band member and a KISS funny car.

Heading to my car and home, I walked up the ramp to the section of the Belvedere that overlooks the Ohio River. It was night. Lights from Shippingport Island and the bridges cut silver into the ripply water. A woman stood close to the rail at section's edge, a hand over one ear, a cell phone up to the other. She was probably a visitor to the city talking with someone back home. "Yes," she said into the phone, "I'm really looking at it. Ohmigod, it really IS big. It's the second largest clock in the world and I'm looking right at it!" Across the river, the Colgate clock glowed in electric mercurochrome orange.

I thought of Marvin's grin and seven more weeks of the best of Louisville Music.

A Refrigerator Clipping Bonus

Below is a schedule of bands, dates, and times for the remaining City Stage shows this month. Clip and save! It will make a fine addition to the front of your refrigerator, right next to the reminders to pick up cat food and the kids from soccer practice, even if you have neither. Remember, you've already met many of these bands in the pages of the Louisville Music News.

July 3 - 6:00 - 7:15: The Prophets; 7:45 - 9:00: Dewey & The Navigators; 9:30 - 11:00: The Pennies

July 10 - 6:00 - 7:15: Room for Emotion; 7:45 - 9:00: Cooler; 9:30 - 11:00: Supafuzz

July 17 - 6:00 - 7:15: the aasee lake; 7:45 - 9:00: Metrolschifter; 9:30 - 11:00: The Enkindels

July 24 - 6:00 - 7:15: The Mudcats Blues Band; 7:45 - 9:00: El Roostars; 9:30 - 11:00: Bodeco.