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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Pee Chees
Cathy Bauer

Up and Coming: The Pee Chees will play free for the masses at Pirate Cat Records in San Jose on Feb. 23.

Crowing Over You:
Rooster show gives lesson in major-label thinking

I WENT TO see Rooster play at the Agenda in San Jose last week and came away with a good lesson on how major labels do business. Rooster, a five-man unit from San Francisco that plays a fat-ass blend of swampy hip-hop, was great. One of Rooster's rappers, James D'Angelo, worked in the political rap band the Goats. Some of you might remember the Goats playing with Consolidated back in the day on the single "I'm Not Your Typical American." That was D'Angelo. So check this out: Rooster is already signed to a major label, Chrysalis.

The usual run-around that local bands hear is that they need to build up a following, sell a few thousand units, amass daily press coverage--basically establish a track record before a major-label A&R will even take a look. Rooster doesn't have any tapes or CDs out. The band has written a couple of songs and plays sporadically around the bay. Rooster does have D'Angelo's involvement with the Goats to crow about, but he left after the Goats' first album. The obligatory Web site helps, but a live following? The Agenda was damn near empty on a Thursday night, and Rooster was mistakenly billed as a cover band.

D'Angelo said that Rooster was signed on the basis of a one-song demo tape. The label has been sitting on Rooster for a year until the time was right. In the interim, the band has been playing occasional gigs, house parties, even weddings to make money. Well, guess who blew up over the past year: Beck, Soul Coughing, 311, G. Love and Special Sauce, the Bloodhound Gang and Cake. Suddenly, the door of opportunity pushed wide open for alternative rap-fusion. Rooster fits that mode, albeit a little laid-back. Suddenly, the group is back on the label's priority list.

I find it funny that majors will wait on a talented act until someone else--usually an independent--makes the formula work. Then the major label will blitz the public with its own version of the winning formula. For every Pearl Jam, there were two Collective Souls. For every Rancid, five Goldfingers. Alanis Morissette? Poe, Tracy Bonham, Republica, even Sneaker Pimps. I remember when Gwen of No Doubt was introduced at the San Jose Event Center for a KOME Christmas show as a combination of Madonna and Courtney Love.

I feel great that Rooster is signed--the fellas have mad potential--but I can't help but worry that the band will be dropped just as quick when the novelty of alternative rap bands dries up like grunge or splattercore. Rooster will enter the studio next month to begin recording its debut LP for Chrysalis. I predict good things, but keep that "Hear Comes the Bride" sheet music in a safe place, just in case.

Pimpin' Ain't Easy

Speaking of the Sneaker Pimps, during a break at the Rooster show I went to check out the SP's San Jose debut across the street at the Usual and was sad to hear that the show ended early because the lead vocalist was sick. Reports from reliable sources said that the British band, which performed just four songs, wasn't all that good, contradicting the endless stream of hype surrounding the SP's arrival in this country.

Just Go Already

Earthwise Productions has hooked up Matador Records' Spoon with IBOPA and maybe Engine 88 for a show on March 1 at Cubberley Auditorium in Palo Alto. ... There will be a great free show at Pirate Cat Records in downtown San Jose. The Pee Chees, Angora and the Rally 200 will play at 1pm on Feb. 23. ... The almighty blastmaster KRS-One will serve fools in March at the Maritime.

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From the February 13-19, 1997 issue of Metro

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