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Talk of the Town

Shut up, already, and listen to this lesson in concert etiquette.

Shut the hell up. Seriously, Chatty Cathy, clip your freaking string.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the crowd watching the Wheel warm up for Ian Cooke at the hi-dive last week, those words kept rolling across my mind like a Times Square news crawl. Because even as I tried to concentrate on Nathaniel Rateliff (who was in rare form, and so engrossed that at times he looked to be on the verge of tears) and company, I was distracted by the guy next to me, who was going on and on about this, that and whatever. Truth be told, I couldn't hear exactly what Talk Show Host was blathering about, but I know it irked me -- and plenty of other people, I imagine -- something fierce. I mean, really, who does that? Claims a prime spot near the front of the stage and then proceeds to grab ass with the rest of the sewing circle, completely disrespecting the music?

I hate to get all curmudgeonly here and dad everyone, but I feel compelled to revisit the subject of show etiquette for the benefit of the clueless -- and for the gratification of the silent majority, those like-minded peeps who share my sentiments but choose to bite their tongues.

So listen here, you loose-lipped Jerky Pants: Show a little consideration for the rest of us, would ya? As interesting as I'm sure you and all your buddies think you are, no one else within earshot gives a flying flip. After all, you can bet that they didn't come to hear you perform. So how about taking your riveting exchange over to the bar (or next door to Sputnik, in this case), or just saving it for the set changeover, mm-kay? That's the perfect time to bump your gums -- or to buy yourself another frothy glass of loudmouth soup.

And Talk Show Host wasn't the only buzzkill last Thursday night. Equally aggravating (even if I could empathize) was Drink Runner. You know, the poor sap tasked with freshing up his crew's tasty beverages in the middle of the set. I've been him, and it sucks. Drawing the short straw, navigating your way through the throng only to stand in line for two, three songs just to get within throwing distance of the bar, having to shout your order because -- well, you're at a rock show and it's fucking loud, man -- and then elbowing your way back to your spot, carrying more drinks than you have hands, all filled to the brim (because the bartenders in this town are cool like that) while trying not to spill on anyone, which, of course, you inevitably do. Note to Drink Runner: This isn't The Devil Wears Prada; you're nobody's bitch. Isn't it high time you told your boys to buy their own damn drinks? That way, they end up getting the stink eye instead of you.

And finally, there was one last buzzkill this night, an offender whose misbehavior was so egregious that he made all the others seem tolerable: the Dimwitted Heckler. I've encountered this type at other shows, and half the time, I don't even think the guy even knows why he's there -- other than to drink PBRs with his bros, bro, and loudly fire off supposedly clever remarks aimed at no one in particular. At the hi-dive, the Heckler was commenting on Cooke's performance, which he probably didn't even realize he was privileged to witness. At one point during his set, Cooke took a turn behind the piano, where he stumbled over his fingers a bit, stopping and restarting the song in mid-stream a few times. While the rest of us found the vulnerable display endearing and cheered as Cooke sheepishly gathered himself, Heckler snorted, "I want my eight bucks back!" He was trying to be funny. He didn't succeed.

Despite these buzzing gnats, Cooke was as brilliant as expected ("After the Fall," April 5). Wearing a pair of purple slacks, a patterned vest and the moth bow-tie that adorns the cover of his debut disc, The Fall I Fell, he ran through songs from the album with remarkable dexterity. Ably backed by a stellar cast of players -- Uphollow's Ian O and Whit Sibley, and drummers/percussionists Justin Ferreira and Sean Merrell -- Cooke played with a casual precision that belied the complexity of his songs. A few slight hiccups aside, he more than did justice to the extraordinary music contained on Fell.

For those who missed his sold-out hi-dive performance, Cooke will share a bill this Saturday night at the Bluebird with Woven Hand. Should be the talk of the town -- especially if Cathy and the girls make it out.

If karma truly is a boomerang, though, maybe they'll get a flat tire on their way to the show.

Upbeats and beatdowns: While I'm being bossy, clear your calendar and grab some earplugs. In case you haven't heard, the brass at this here fishwrap have officially achieved godlike status by tapping Dinosaur Jr. (the loudest band on the planet this side of Motörhead) and Luceroto headline this year's Westword Music Showcase on Saturday, June 16. Holy crap! Somebody pass the smelling salts to my boy JC-- who has threatened to abandon his pregnant wife at the hospital if she hasn't had the baby by then so that he can see his two favorite bands at the Showcase.

And that's just the headliner news. In addition to those acts, there will be sixty local artists featured on ten stages across the Golden Triangle. Each year, the event just gets better -- and the process leading up to it keeps improving, too. Based on past feedback, we're making revisions to the Showcase ballot categories, adding entirely new genres, combining some and splitting up others. The official list of artists selected to appear on the ballot will be published in the May 10 issue. And right now, we're starting to put that ballot together.

The biggest question we get every year: How do you determine which acts get chosen? The answer is simple. You can't buy or blow your way onto the Showcase. It's not about who you know, but rather who knows you. For artists to be serious contenders, they need to be out there all year giggin', making a name for themselves and impressing any committee members within earshot. If they've turned enough heads, they'll get the nod. That's it. Plain and simple, no secret handshakes.

And it's no secret who's on our nominating committee, which right now comprises more than a hundred people from all facets of the scene, including writers, club owners, booking agents, promoters, producers, sound men, radio personalities, past nominees, fellow artists. And maybe you. We still have room on the readers' panel for a select number of fans; if you'd like to be considered, drop me a line at the e-mail address listed below. Each committee member is asked to nominate up to five separate artists in 22 categories; we then tally all the nominations, assemble the ballot and bring it to our readers for a vote.

But the vote's already in on the June 16 Showcase: It looks like a winner.

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