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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Flower Power: Petal opens for Insecto on Tuesday (March 11) at the Agenda Lounge in San Jose.

Real to Reel:
The Astronavigation label takes off

A READER TIPPED me off to a new cassette-only label based in Cupertino. Local artisans Clay Parton and Colin Hand are the keepers behind Astronavigation, which was born at the beginning of February. The label puts out raw, limited-edition indie pop and ragged folk by Elevator to Hell, Song:Ohia, Moon Socket, Tardis Broadcast, Orange Glass, Orbit 3-5, and locals Duster and Valium Aggelein. The bands may not be household names to recent indie-pop converts, but that's where the excitement lies. "We seek out bands that we like and respect," says Parton. "Some of our bands do stuff on Sub Pop and Drag City. They're on big labels, but they're still unheard of."

Parton is best remembered as the proprietor of Unleaded Records, home of Calm and various other bands. Unlike Unleaded, Astronavigation deals with just cassettes--no vinyl, no CDs, no digital anything. "It's not that we're anti-CD," explains Parton. "Cassette is a medium that's almost forgotten [but] everybody uses cassettes. We're just trying to do something different."

The response thus far has been positive. "It's already self-sustaining," says Parton. "We're going to be able to pay our salaries and whatever and make a profit. We'll probably move over 10,000 cassettes in the first year. We didn't expect that, but there was so much initial feedback." With Astronavigation hooking up distribution deals in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia, the month-old indie label should do well. Most of the releases haven't made it to local stores likes Pirate Cat or Radio Free Records just yet, so the best way to check out the label's offerings is at its Web site.

Nash! Look out!

Got a tip for bands. The TV show Nash Bridges has been looking for music by local artists to include on the program. Groups that have landed songs on the Don Johnson action series include the Mermen, Los Angelitos, Aztlan Nation and the originator of the tip, the Marginal Prophets. Any genre can be chosen: reggae, rap, rock, surf, punk. The show's producers want a diversity of styles. The pay, according to the Prophets, is pretty fat--so fat that the Prophets used it to pay for a trip to SXSW. Songs must be free of cursing. And don't think your song will be pumping in the club scene with Johnson and Cheech Marin. Reality: The song is on the radio while they're driving in a car, and they're talking over it the whole time. But still, it's national exposure. For more information, email me, and I'll pass on the addresses and other stuff.

Film Threat

Speaking of getting on soundtracks, props go to the Bruce Lee Band and 10Bass T, who both have a couple songs in the movie Yellow, which debuts at 8pm this Saturday (March 8) at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. The coming-of-age film follows a group of young Korean-American adults through the quagmire of southern California clubland. You can read my preview of the annual film festival.

Blood Suckers

Suck opens up for Nicklebag at the Edge in Palo Alto on Thursday (March 6). The group wowed me at the last Rubbergroove with its Jellyfish-meets­Cheap Trick psychedelic power-pop. Tracks like "?" and "When Boys Hits Girls" are impressive, as is the band's creativity in writing catchy song titles: "Nothing Would Be Finer Than Brad Pitt With a Vagina." Direct all missives to the stage tonight. ... Insecto leads the way, but don't sleep on Petal Tuesday (March 11) at the Agenda in San Jose.

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From the March 6-12, 1997 issue of Metro

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