"Sorry, the PR's a mess," Prrrs some late-night sunglass incident named Jack.
That's OK. It's all a mess tonight. Personally, I've been swimming through the pathos of my potential ex-boyfriend and his beer-breathed, Pickett's Charge mortality issue, waxing all Scarlett O'Hara over unneeded liquor shots at my own Parliament House last stand. It's over! No it's not! (To fade)
Following that, I couldn't think of any place I would want to be more than here at the sacred and forbidden chasm of Tabu. Especially on this night, when it has been transformed into a couch-heavy, dinner-theaterlike forum for the Storyteller, a VH-1 knockoff at which the songwriters behind corporate teen pop confess their motivations and play a few tunes themselves. Could there be a more insipid soundtrack to my own liquored teen-age decline than the commercial-art futility of people too unattractive to perform their own songs?
And here I am thinking I'm too unattractive to live my own life. Sniffle, sniffle.
Anyway, littering the floor before the red-curtain stage are two types of people: the couch choreographers of pop hope and, well, their parents. It's about as annoying as watching a baton girl without a baton spinning in the garbage-bag aisle of your local grocery, really. And about as promising.
"Let me introduce you to Bob," shades Jack, who is quick to inform me that he's a songwriter, too. Who isn't? Ever heard of "Pickett's Charge?" I'm writing it as we speak.
Bob's no songwriter it turns out, but he is well connected. In addition to being part owner of said sacred dance hole (who isn't?), he has made a career on the shoulders of teen pop's fallen emperor, Lou Pearlman.
"Fifteen years," he ponytails. "I used to drive a cab for him. His mother used to be my den mother."
Sensing this may all be a settlement from some Pearlman prenup, I lean in and listen to Mr. Bob's PR schtick. The PR, you see, is a mess.
"Well, I've done five of these `events`, but there hasn't been any press. So I decided to take matters into my own hands," he messes. "It's kind of like the 'Quiet-on-the-Set' movement that's big in New York and Los Angeles. We start out with an open mike, because just from here I get tons of inquiries from people who don't know how to make the connections for their music careers. I bring them here to network. I work for ASCAP. Then we feature four songwriters who perform and operate as a panel for career advisement."
While this is all spilling, a herky-jerky R&B foursome, MON, are matching outfits on stage while singing typical come-on drivel with titles like "Superman" and "Player." They sound pretty good, but the guy on the far left can't seem to hit the choreography, falling just short of the shock-therapy jacks of his hip-hop mates. Still, there's promise. They actually can sing -- a fact they're happy to let the girls behind me know, when, after their show, they serenade the Britneys with harmonies about, well, harmonizing. It's that obvious.
Next up it's a 16-year-old track act, a "singer-songwriter" called Rhiannon Sky. With frightening tight-perm ringlets and hips too big, Sky can hardly live up to her preposterous Fleetwood Mac-bender name. "Let's call her Rhiannon," somebody must have marijuanaed.
Whatever. She can't sing at all.
Speaking of Stevie's nose, Jack keeps popping over with that nervous twitch that nighttime sunglasses typically imply (sniffle, sniffle), trying to decide whether there should be a three-minute or a five-minute break before the "professional-act" segment. Depends on how long the line is to the bathroom stall, I surmise, although I don't say anything. Bob's just bought me a drink, making him a candidate for my potential new boyfriend. Five minutes would be better.
Not surprisingly, the first "professional act" up is Jack, who drifts into some Christian-rock reflection of songwriting nuts and bolts. "I had two fathers ask me to write songs for their daughters' weddings," he effuses. Replied his wife: "Why don't you try something like 'Daddy's Little Girl?'" "And then we both started crying as we thought, there should be a girl singing a response at the end. So we got one of the girls from Innosense..."
Oh. My. God.
"Ever had any success with these showcases?" I quiz Bob.
"Well, yeah we had one girl get some bites ..."
"So what exactly is TransCon up to these days," I bite.
"Basically we have Natural ... who are really great! ... And we still have C Note," he mumbles. "We're trying to focus on them."
Fifty drinks into my night, and I'm hard pressed for focus myself. The song that I'm living compells me to more cell-phone sloppery of "It's over! It's not over!" Pickett's not charging anymore.
"Do you still need that pen?" queries the Hottie T-shirt behind the bar, grimacing at my very professional use of cocktail napkins for journalistic observation.
No. I need an army.