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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

SoFA Dreams: The Mermen play the annual street fair Sept 21.

Photo by Nathaniel Welch

Reasons We're Here:
Mr. T. Experience battles Earth, Wind & Fire

FIRST IT was Crack vs. DC Talk. Then Maxwell vs. Tom Jones. In this corner, the Mr. T. Experience at Slim's in San Francisco last Friday, and in that corner, Earth Wind & Fire at the Shoreline last Saturday. Let's get ready to rumble in the third installment of concert comparisons. EWF vs. MTX.

Merchandise: MTX displayed a dazzling array of T-shirts, fly swatters in the shape of a heart, bottle openers, patches, stickers, CDs, singles--everything but an MTX jockstrap. At the Sinbad/Earth Wind & Fire/Teena Marie/Larry Graham package tour, titled Sinbad's Soul Music Festival, the merch table was limited to official $20 Sinbad hats and Polo-style shirts MTX.

Preshow Movie: During the elaborate intro to EWF, a screen displayed a computer monitor loading Mac OS and Netscape Navigator. The cursor clicked on "What's Cool" and scrolled to www.ewf.com. I wonder if Bill Gates knows about this, since EWF's "Shining Star" appears prominently in recent Microsoft ads. MTX? They broadcast vintage Ultraman flicks. MTX for remembering.

Pop Culture References: MTX did a spot-on cover of Elton John and Kiki Dee's "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart" and the Primitives' "Crash." They also dropped references to American Ninja 2, Prozac and Mr. Belvedere. EWF, a pop culture reference itself, played a snippet of Parliament-Funkadelic's "Mothership Connection." Too close to call.

Song Subjects: MTX: Songs About Girls™ and dumb little bands. EWF: boogie wonderlands, men's secret fantasies, the state of the world and songs about girls. EWF for diversity.

Missing Members: Vocalist and spiritual leader Maurice White has been AWOL from EWF's stage show since 1994, and his presence is sorely missed. As for MTX, I don't think anyone missed Jon Von. MTX.

High Notes: Philip Bailey broke glass in downtown Palo Alto, extending "After the Love" into a vocal gymnastics routine. A perfect 10. EWF in a landslide.

Crowd Participation: MTX bassist Joel had everyone wave to his mom and dad sitting in the back and exult "awww" when informed of drummer Jym's low blood-sugar level. Lyric sheets were unnecessary at Shoreline, where it was EWF karaoke night on sing-alongs "Devotion" and "Reasons." EWF by a hair.

SoFA Redux

The big question nagging everybody is, Who's playing at the SoFA Festival? The Sept. 21 lineup is in the works. Gore Park Stage: Ghostlike Sun, Cosmic Flash, San Jose Taiko, Red Archibald and the Internationals, the Cheeseballs and the Mermen. San Carlos Stage: Scarlet Theory, Steve Czarnecki's Soul Jazz Quintet, Back-to-Back Blues Band, Jeffries Fan Club, Supersauce and Lee Press-on and the Nails.

The clubs are in the mix too. Cactus Club: Stepchild, the Forgotten, Boy Kicks Girl, Insecto, Curbside, Tribal Disco Noise, Insolence, Jalopy Taco Stand, Willies Conception, Salmon, Bud Ct., Sloe, HBA, Dredg, Creamsickle and Soda. Bands start at 12:30pm. The evening finishes with Backlash gothic dance night.

B-Hive: Danna Alaino, Dreamstation, Swerver, Katherine Chase Band, Cottonhead, Peculiar Boogie, Floodland and Iron Mullet (a disco/funk project featuring members of Salmon and Tribal Disco Noise). Usual: Crack, Hayride to Hell, Odd Numbers, Squeeze the Dog, Sunfur and 4-Banger. Agenda Lounge: Alphabet Soup, Manifest Yesterday, Know Jazz, Mo'Hill, GRITS and Riff Rats.

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From the Sept. 4-10, 1997 issue of Metro.

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