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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Firewater Burn:
Barbara Manning strikes the match

Barbara Manning called me from a phone booth after spending some down time camping in the Grand Canyon. It was her Campfire Grrrl tour; she had also touched down in Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona. She wasn't performing, mind you--she was busy with more earthly pursuits: hiking, eating dehydrated food and sleeping under the stars. I asked her what she thought of the all-woman Lilith Fair. Then I remembered that when you're in the middle of nowhere, it's hard to get CNN or MTV.

"I don't know what that is," she replied. "I've been out of it."

It's good that she hadn't heard of the tour because Manning is a natural candidate for the main stage. She has plugged away as a singer-songwriter for the SF Seals, releasing poignant albums like the acclaimed Truth Walks in Sleepy Shadows, before going solo. She has just released an intriguing new CD, 1212, on Matador Records. The centerpiece is "The Arsonist Story," an extended four-song treatment--"Fireman," "Evil Plays Piano," "Evil Craves Attention/Our Son/10 x 10" and "Trapped and Drowning"--that tells the story of an errant firebug. Manning encapsulates the feeling of finding out that the house is on fire because of your own seed.

"The Arsonist Story" was a project that Manning has been working on for more than two years. "I just tried to visualize the lyrics," Manning said. "I tried to imagine fire and dealing with a situation where you jump into something you shouldn't have. There's also issues of personal identity and crisis."

Her plans after the Grand Canyon are to head up to State Camp, Lake Mead and then Las Vegas for a couple of shows. She celebrates her record release at Agenda on Tuesday, Aug. 5 (with Korea Girl opening), and then leaves on tour with Bettie Serveert. Her performances are lonely--just her and a guitar--and she uses her right arm as guitar, percussion and attitude adjuster. "My honey and I are traveling in the band van," she said, the time ticking down on her phone card. "We look through the AAA camp book, finding places to stop. I brought my guitar. I haven't written any songs, but it's so nice to be traveling. Everything is an inspiration."

Red Ant Squashed?

There are rumors that Red Ant, the label that picked up Salmon, is going under. If it happens, then Salmon could be without label support. "The worst thing that could happen is that Red Ant would go under and we could be free of our contract," said Salmon manager Gary Avila. "If things go under, we've got some time to concentrate on music." Red Ant has been sitting on Salmon for a long time, hooking up minimal shows and tours. Still, Avila remains positive. "If anything, we got the name out, we got more credibility. We'll see. We're still going to build and build and build. I'm sure another label will be interested in us. We'll have no problems." According to Billboard reports, Red Ant's owner, Alliance Entertainment Corp, filed Chapter 11 on July 14. Red Ant, lacking the firepower acts of a Maverick or Interscope (Cheap Trick is the only Red Ant act to land in the Billboard Top 200), is being looked at as a liability and ripe for the selling block.

Rocking in the Free World

Cafe Trompe L'Oeil, 814 S. Bascom Avenue, San Jose, is putting on free all-age shows. The current batch, called the South Bay Sound Collage, focuses on acoustic music. Korea Girl performs Thursday (July 31), followed by Acoustic Paradise on Aug. 7, She Vox Women's Music Showcase on Aug. 14, Bill and Bonnie Hearne on Aug. 21, Will Bernard on Aug. 28, Hot Trivet on Sept. 4, and Rebecca Riots and Allette Brooks on Sept. 11. All shows begin at 8pm.

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From the July 31-Aug. 6, 1997 issue of Metro.

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