Starzzz's Kathi DeMaria and Steve Vagnini sever business relationship.
Thursday, September 2, 1999
Rumors about tension between booking agent Steve Vagnini and Starzzz''s owner Kathi DeMaria have been flying around the rock ''n'' roll scene for about a month. As of yesterday, Sept. 1, the rumors turned to fact with Vagnini''s official leave-taking from the Peninsula''s newest music venue.
Ultimately, according to both DeMaria and Vagnini, the split revolved around two major issues: the music and how much advertising support it was receiving.
Vagnini says the whole circumstance was an unfortunate misunderstanding. "I thought I would be booking for a rock club," he says. "When we first talked, Kathi (DeMaria) told me that she wanted to open a club where younger people could go to to have a great time. I was thrilled because a venue like that is missing in this town, completely."
Vagnini says he began to book bands with a younger crowd in mind, mostly local artists such as the Amazon Mollies, the Filth, Foamscape and the newly discovered InBalance, to name a few. Perhaps an owner more experienced with the local music scene would have known that these bands are not known as quiet, easy-listening types of bands.
And, according to DeMaria, Vagnini did little to help educate her. She says he would simply hand her a schedule of bands and leave it at that. "I had no idea who these musicians were or what their music would sound like," she says. "And not once did Steve (Vagnini) actually come in to listen to them. If he had, maybe he would have better understood my concerns."
As it was, the first serious issue became apparent to some audience members on opening night when the Amazon Mollies rocked the house and DeMaria came up to me, asking if the next band would play as loud as this one. This question is symptomatic of what DeMaria sees as the most significant problem with the music: the volume. And, in the end, it may be the issue that spells the end of Starzzz''s rock ''n'' roll offerings.
"The bands won''t turn their music down," DeMaria complained again recently in a phone conversation. "My customers go out to the patio. They don''t stay and listen because it is just too loud. Worse, I had people walk through the front door and right back out because it was too loud. As a business owner, that tells me something."
DeMaria and Vagnini both agree on one thing: Though full of atmosphere and hangout potential, Starzzz is apparently too small to accommodate rock ''n'' roll. The stage can barely hold a four-piece ensemble, and the sound can blow the little front room right out of the building. It''s a situation that''s making no one happy. During a recent concert, after being asked to turn down the volume a few times, the rock band Za Za Ya finally told the bartender that they could not turn it down and, after having played only four songs, packed up their equipment and left.
But decible levels are only one of the problems that soured the relationship between DeMaria and Vagnini.
Vagnini claims that DeMaria promised to advertise the club and its acts on the radio. In Vagnini''s mind, this had been a major criterion for striking a business relationship in the first place. He says he was working under the assumption that DeMaria would strongly advertise the venue, especially on radio stations such as KMBY. But DeMaria insists that the club isn''t ready for any big publicity yet. "I am currently working with a nearby recording studio on having the front room sound-proofed," she says, "so people don''t rush out back anymore. The dance floor still needs to be sanded and refinished. Once everything is done, we will go full-force on the advertisement. I just want it to be all perfect!"
"Advertising is one of the most important aspects of making live music work for a club," responds Vagnini. "The word needs to be put out there as soon as possible. How else will anybody, especially the rock crowd, know that there is such a venue on the Peninsula?"
Regardless of whose perspective makes sense to you, the fact remains that Starzzz generally pulls in a smaller crowd than expected.
It all adds up to a pretty grim picture with the rock ''n'' roll future in Monterey County looking bleaker than ever. DeMaria plans to book her own bands from now on, and branch out into a broader field of entertainment. Recently, she tried a karaoke night with DJ Al Ewing. She says that the crowd had a blast...and voila! karaoke just might be a regular offering on Tuesday nights.
"We still don''t quite know what sort of an audience Starzzz attracts," DeMaria explains. "I want to try out different things in order to see what will work best. So far, quite a few bands that would like to play the club, including blues and jazz players have approached me. I think variety will end up working the best."
Vagnini says he''s disappointed to lose yet another rock ''n'' roll venue. "We really need a place in town that strictly caters to rock music, and I thought that Starzzz would be at least a beginning."
In the meantime, MoCo rock ''n'' rollers are left with Thursday nights at the Long Bar, weekends at Viva and occasional offerings at Blue Fin. The pickings are getting extremely slim...but who knows? Maybe someone with a true passion for music and a fat bank account will come along and make it all better.
(You''ve gotta have your dreams...)
In the meantime, McGarrett''s is offering a little taste of live music this weekend. Mary Jane Girls, the cool ''80s band, whose dance-pop/funk/urban sound took audiences by storm with songs like "All Night Long," "In My House" (#3 on the R&B charts) and "Wild & Crazy Love" (#10 on the R&B charts). This all-female group formed in 1976 and shot to stardom under the care of R&B artist Rick James and Motown Records. The group officially disbanded in 1986, but when I called club owner Brooke Lewis, he verified that all four original "Mary Janes" will be performing at McGarrett''s on Labor Day weekend. This should be a special treat for all you retro funksters out there.
Mary Jane Girls, Sunday, performance starts at 11pm, $15, McGarrett''s, 646-9244.
Shiny and New
New CDs feature contemporary works and performers heard locally.
By Scott MacClelland
One indication of the consumer''s shift of interest from traditional classical repertoire toward new classical music can be found in the new releases from the major record labels. Music from the Cabrillo Music Festival, for example, gives and/or gets a bright reflection among new CD titles. Works by the festival''s featured composers have appeared on numerous new and recent releases; many concert-goers have been able to converse one-on-one with such contemporary luminaries as Michael Daugherty, Aaron Jay Kernis, John Corigliano and Christopher Rouse, then to collect CDs of those of their very works heard in the festival''s programs.
Festival Music Director Marin Alsop, recording with the Colorado Symphony, released Christopher Rouse''s Trombone Concerto, Gorgon and Iscariot, on a 1997 CD from RCA Red Seal. (It features the same trombone soloist, Joseph Alessi, who played the concerto at the ''94 Cabrillo Festival.) Rouse''s Symphony No. 2 and Flute Concerto were heard respectively during the ''98 and ''99 festivals, and are contained in a Telarc CD issued in ''97 with the Houston Symphony, and featuring the same flute soloist who appeared in Santa Cruz this summer, Carol Wincenc.
James MacMillan''s The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, which tore the roof off the Mission San Juan Bautista on Aug. 15, was issued on a 1992 Koch International CD in a recording by the Scottish Symphony under Jerzy Maksymiuk. (Another MacMillan piece, Veni, veni, Emanuel, was heard during the ''96 Cabrillo Fest, and recorded/released in 1993 by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the composer conducting, and percussionist Evelyn Glennie.)
John Corigliano''s The Red Violin "concerto," a highlight of last year''s festival, was issued early this year on a Sony Classical CD, along with the composer''s movie soundtrack. Though the film itself was flawed, the music proved to be one of its strengths. Joshua Bell is soloist in the recording.
Michael Daugherty''s composing career has revolved around American icons, including his Metropolis Symphony and Motown Metal, both heard at the ''98 festival, and the opera Jackie O, all available on recent Argo CDs. Motown Metal is, in fact, included in Daugherty''s newest Argo CD, American Icons, which also contains a highlight of this summer in Santa Cruz, Le Tombeau de Liberace, plus Dead Elvis (for bassoon and orchestra), What''s That Spell? (for two "Barbie" sopranos), Flamingo and other vernacular-inspired items. Aaron Jay Kernis is represented in a just-issued Argo CD of three works, including the deeply expressive Lament and Prayer, heard in San Juan on Aug. 15. (Pamela Frank is soloist in the recording.) Marin Alsop has long championed Richard Danielpour, three of whose recent works, all heard in festival concerts >(Celestial Night, Toward the Splendid City and Urban Dances) are contained in a new Sony Classical CD with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Also brand new is Telarc''s release of the John Adams Violin Concerto (heard during the ''95 festival) and Philip Glass Concerto for Violin (heard at the ''96 festival), with soloist Robert McDuffie and the Houston Symphony.
Last Week''s Quiz:What was Liberace''s first name? Answer: Walter.
This Week''s Quiz: What German lieder composer wrote, "I once sent him a song and asked him to mark a cross wherever he thought it was faulty. Brahms returned it untouched, saying, ''I don''t want to make a cemetery of your composition.''"?
World of Folk Music
Monday: Rehearsal, 10:30am-1pm; concert, 2pm. Monterey Bay Symphony presents an afternoon of music based on folk themes from around the world. Included in the concert are works by Jose Padilla, Mozart, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Vivaldi and Smetana. Audiences are invited to bring a picnic, come for the rehearsal and stay for the concert. Naval Postgraduate School, Del Monte Boulevard, Monterey. Free. 375-8439.