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Cutting Edge

[whitespace] Local music booker Michael Sullivan sets his sights east

By Sarah Quelland

AFTER 10 YEARS of dedication to the local music scene, Michael Sullivan, best known as the assistant booker at the Edge in Palo Alto, is packing up and moving to Michigan. There, he has a girlfriend and a job with Ashley Street Talent waiting for him. Here, he will be missed by many.

Sullivan, 34, got his start at Marsugi's in downtown San Jose in 1989 working sound and security. He later moved up to talent buyer and began booking Thursday nights at the club. It was at Marsugi's that Sullivan earned his reputation for recognizing up-and-coming acts. He booked Sublime, Weezer and Colorfinger (which later became Everclear), all of which went on to become national success stories.

Edge booker and mentor Jimmy Arceneaux praises Sullivan, saying, "He definitely has an eye for bands that are coming up. I learned a lot about the real underground scene from him."

Sullivan himself says modestly, "The niche for me has always been to find the bands before anyone else did. My one skill is to book. I just know good bands."

In 1992, Jacek Rosicki, current owner of Agenda Lounge and the Edge, noticed Sullivan's skill and hired him to take over booking at the Oasis. Following two stints there, Sullivan became an independent promoter and booked the 1996-97 acoustic summer showcases at the Camera theaters. He also began booking the Agenda's Tuesday-night showcase, which saw Juliana Hatfield, Penelope Houston, Mare Winningham, Floodland, Ednaswap, Save Ferris, Swerver and many others set foot on the club's intimate stage.

In recent years, Sullivan has given many local bands their first real break. He says it was the Marsugi's tradition to let small unknowns have a chance on the stage. Among a long list of acts, he's been supportive of Stunt Monkey, RetroMotive, Monkey, Insolence and I.B.O.P.A., all of which are starting to bring an increased amount of attention to the South Bay's music scene.

According to I.B.O.P.A.'s Jamie Stewart, Sullivan is "definitely a fixture on the scene and will definitely be missed." On a personal level, Stewart notes, "I think something that I really appreciated about Michael Sullivan is that he never pigeonholed us. He listened to bands [and] could appreciate a band that had a complicated sound."

Those familiar with I.B.O.P.A., which was recently signed to Spongebath Records, a subsidiary of Elektra Records, knows just how complicated and diverse the band's sound is. Sullivan booked I.B.O.P.A. with bands ranging from reggae-influenced Dread Zeppelin to modern Goth icons Love and Rockets (scheduled for May 3 at the Edge).

Stunt Monkey vocalist and guitarist Aram Sarkissian also values Sullivan's support and says, "I think he's had integrity with what he's done. I think for all bands who are struggling ... it's nice to know that there are booking people who are looking out for local bands' best interests and trying to get them exposure."

WADING THROUGH 10 years of memories and countless bands, Sullivan recounts his proudest moments and favorite artists. The first to book country acts at the Edge, Sullivan says, "I always knew country could work here. I hope they continue to do it."

David Kersh, who played at the Edge last June, and returns May 19, apparently gave a shout out to the Edge when he came back through town on the Reba/Brooks & Dunn tour. "Anytime an artist recognizes your room," Sullivan attests, "it's a great thing."

Though noting in particular Barbara Manning, Big Blue Horn, Reverend Horton Heat and the Mayfield Four, along many others, Sullivan is referring to all the bands that have crossed his path when he declares, "I've enjoyed working with them all," and adds, "I always wanted to treat the bands with respect. It's important."

Sullivan also remarks that one thing that really mattered to him was the acceptance of his peers. When asked what he'll miss the most, Sullivan modestly replies, "Jimmy. Quite honestly. Working with him."

Sullivan's soon-to-be-former employer, Rosicki, states "I think [his absence is] going to be a great loss for the local bands." He relates with some amazement how Sullivan would pay out of his own pocket to help local bands finance fliers and other promotional materials.

Sullivan's last real gift to the South Bay is a blowout going-away party to be held Thursday (April 29). Even with all the attention focused on him due to his imminent departure, he's still championing the bands scheduled to perform that night. Sullivan hand-picked Nein, Crash Landing, the Amazon Mollies, the Forgotten, Stunt Monkey, Vicious Rumors and, of course, Arceneaux's band Swerver, which observes its two-year anniversary that same night. Sullivan first booked them at Agenda on April 29, 1997. Dredg was also invited to celebrate a CD-release in conjunction with the inevitable teary goodbyes and good wishes. Sullivan heads east on April 30.

The farewell for Michael Sullivan takes place Thursday (April 29) at 7pm at the Edge, 260 California Ave., Palo Alto. Tickets are $7. (650/324-EDGE)

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From the April 29-May 5, 1999 issue of Metro.

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