A rule governing participants in the second annual Westword Music Awards Showcase, set to take place September 22 at a variety of LoDo venues (see the ballot on page 94 for more details), states that nominated acts can't be signed to major labels; after all, such folks are not exactly wanting for exposure. But in researching the showcase guide--slated for our September 19 issue, it will include in-depth profiles of all sixty nominees--it's become clear that several bands and/or performers are on the cusp of being disqualified for the 1997 edition of the event. Of course, announcing that a deal is done before contracts have been finalized is a risky game; in the music business, it's not uncommon for sure things to be transformed into nothing at all. But if even half of the pacts are inked, local entertainment lawyers will be sitting damn pretty. More details will follow next week--but here's a teaser.

"It looks like Capricorn Records is going to pick up our album," reveals Reed Foehl of Acoustic Junction, a relieved tone coloring his voice. Nonetheless, Foehl remains a bit wary, and with good reason: Only a few short months ago the members of Acoustic Junction were absolutely certain they were going to become part of the Atlantic Records family. (In fact, the Rocky Mountain News made the alleged signing a headline item earlier this summer.) Today, Foehl says of Atlantic, "They were interested in us, and we were psyched because it was a major. But they were coming from a different place than we are."

Capricorn, on the other hand, is perfectly in tune with Acoustic Junction's Bouldery jamming vibe; among the artists already on the label are Widespread Panic, which has helped fill the vacuum left in the lives of many Deadheads by the passing of Jerry Garcia, and the Freddy Jones Band. "There's been some talk about a Capricorn festival next year, where we'd get to play with all those guys," Foehl enthuses. "Plus, there's a different mentality at Capricorn than at Atlantic. At Capricorn, if you don't have a hit the first time out, you try again, whereas at Atlantic, that's all she wrote."

If talks with Capricorn continue as expected (and that's an "if" that shouldn't be dismissed), Acoustic Junction's current, self-titled CD will be rereleased on Capricorn in the near future, perhaps supplemented with a few new cuts. Then, as usual, the band--which averages between 160 and 180 live appearances per annum--will hit the road. "We haven't signed anything yet, and you never know about these things," Foehl says. "But we're fired up. And we just want to get started."

Vince Herman feels much the same way, even though his band, Leftover Salmon, has been going strong for a while now. The eclectic combo has spent part of the summer on the bill at the H.O.R.D.E. Festival (a recent MTV report on the event included a snippet of Blues Traveler harpist/H.O.R.D.E. founder John Popper touting the group), and the rest of its time gigging at clubs, theaters and gatherings of every description from coast to coast. Nonetheless, Herman, reached at a truck stop in Vallejo, California, sounds pleased that the Salmon are in the final stages of negotiations with the new, Aspen-based Mountain division of Hollywood Records. "It's getting close," he confirms. "It looks like it's going to go that way. But we're going really slow on everything, and we want to be as conscious of what we're doing as possible."

The two previous Leftover Salmon releases--1993's Bridges to Bert and 1995's Ask the Fish, recorded live at the Fox Theatre--appeared on Bert Records, a company owned and operated by the musicians themselves. "So for me," Herman says, "the question is, 'Why go from Bert, which is a really great place, to somewhere else?' And the answer, I guess, is access--getting the albums in all the stores." He adds, "It's a bonus that the people at Mountain are really good, friendly folks, and Coloradans to boot. I think that'll help." (See the players in person on Friday, September 13, at the Bluebird Theater.)

Unlike Herman and Foehl, Myshel Prasad, vocalist and frontwoman for Space Team Electra, prefers not to mention the labels pursuing her group. "It's mostly majors," she says. "So right now we're trying to figure out what to do. We're completely assured that we're going to put a record out, but how we're going to do that or how much money we're going to have to do it is still up in the air."

In the case of the Team, an industry buzz was generated by Copper Mountain Spring Jam, a compilation disc put out by Denver's Pulp magazine. Since then, the band has been working with Chicago producer Keith Cleversley--whose credits include Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, by Flaming Lips, and the latest from Hum--on a project that's got Prasad very excited. Her satisfaction with the music, she explains, is the primary reason she's maintained her sanity throughout the music-industry courting period. "This stuff is all so unpredictable," she says. "But I figure that if what you do makes sense and stays true to your ethics, nothing is lost even if the whole thing goes up in smoke. I'm focusing on every step coming from a place that's connected to the music. That way, you know you're doing something valuable.

"And then," she goes on, neatly putting the music industry into perspective, "you go to your five-dollar-an-hour dishwashing job."

Notes from the September 7 KISS concert...
Crowd: Like an in-costume class reunion of Seventies-era high school loadies. Special displays: Twenty-foot balloons of each KISS player stood in the McNichols Arena parking lot. One wit noted, "Look--they're blowing hot air up their asses!" Most prevalent scent: Stale beer. The venue smelled like the restrooms at the Coors plant the day after the Christmas party. Most amusing example of verbal aggression: A biker shouted at a surprisingly well-dressed couple, "Yuppie motherfuckers!" Clearest indication that no one came to hear the opening act: When the Hunger played its modern-rock radio hit, "Vanishing Cream," three people out of about 10,000 applauded. Celebrity lookalikes for the KISS players: Peter Criss--Billy Barty; Ace Frehley--Susan Lucci; Paul Stanley--Gilda Radner as Candy Slice; Gene Simmons--Phyllis Diller. Funniest moment: Stanley claimed that he had no idea what song Frehley was going to play, even though KISS's set has remained static for months. Indication of how well the musicians are getting along: At one point, Stanley grabbed a cameraman shooting Simmons and pointed the man's lens at himself. Proof that hygiene counts: After puking up blood on himself, Simmons went backstage and cleansed his hair with two bottles of Evian water. Explosions: Loud, frequent. Music: Energetic, sludgy. Odds that KISS will sell out two nights at McNichols in, say, 1998: None and none.

The debut of Disco 2000 II is finally happening; it takes place Friday, September 13, at Synergy. Headlined by Superstar DJ Keoki (recently profiled in these pages), the bash also features New York's Whillyum, Dallas's Red Eye and Tampa's MDMJ, not to mention Denver's Kid Cyberfire. There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight.

The "Aware" tour, featuring artists who appear on the latest Aware compilation disc, kicks off at the Fox Theatre on Friday, September 13. Denver's own Sherri Jackson will be joined at the venue by Athaneum, Farmer, Stir and other folks.

Unaware. On Thursday, September 12, Richard Elliot visits the Bluebird. On Friday, September 13, Furious George & the Monster Groove goes to Herman's Hideaway, and Rage Against the Machine gets pissed at Red Rocks, with Stanford Prison Experiment. On Saturday, September 14, recent Westword profile subjects the Polkanuts appear at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Brighton (call 659-3276 for more information), and Five52Fern plants itself at the Bluebird, with Jux County. On Tuesday, September 17, Dave Delacroix drops by Cricket on the Hill (Delacroix also plays the next night at Arthur's on the Avenue, at 17th and Humboldt). And on Wednesday, September 18, the Boys' Choir of Harlem temporarily relocates to the Paramount Theatre, and The Selecter votes to play at the Mercury Cafe, with the Skeletones. Thank goodness for freedom of choice.

--Michael Roberts

Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@

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