Where have you gone, Thulium?

Have you ever looked at a bottle of Jim Beam bourbon and wondered, “What have you done for me lately?” Of course you have. Finally, for the second year in a row, the distillery is looking to provide some of its biggest supporters with an answer to that question that doesn’t involve aspirin or antacid. At least that’s what might happen if you are a musician who is lucky enough to share in the $75,000 that will be given away as part of the company’s Benefiting Emerging Artists in Music (that’s right, B.E.A.M.) program. Last year, the program’s inaugural year, Jim Beam gave away $50,000 to 27 different bands, which comes out to slightly more than $1,800 per winner. Not a bad haul for a contest that costs nothing to enter.

The university entrance-style applications are available online at www.jimbeam.com to those 21 and older, and the rules say all applications will be judged by the B.E.A.M. Advisory Board, chaired by Pat DiNizio, former frontman of The Smithereens. DiNizio and his seven-member board are supposed to review all publishable and non-obscene applications based on three criteria: originality, creativity, and professionalism. Unfortunately, DiNizio and the assemblage of major-label schleps around him have never been judged on these criteria themselves, so remember whom you’re writing for when you’re describing your greatest influence, your use for the money, and why you deserve it — all in 250 words or less.

If you’re still feeling lucky, you can fill out an application for Jim Beam’s other rock-related marketing tool: the Jim Beam Rock Band Search, which has a deadline of March 15. Ultimately though, all this proves to be one more reason to rationalize drinking that bitter liquor, in that now it’s like taxes: The more you put in the kitty all year long, the more they’ll pay out each spring.

For one glorious day last week, the members of Thulium felt like Joe DiMaggio. That is, Joe D. on that day when NBC ran the crawl saying he’d died while he was really sitting in his hospital bed watching the report. It seems that the Lawrence-based rockers were victims of a mean-spirited prank that also threatened to remove the group from the hearts and minds of their local fans before their time.

“It happened because of this long story between me and some people in this other band that I was kind of helping out with shows and stuff,” says Steve Nick, minister of the group’s copious e-mail updatings. “We all got kind of busy, so I kind of stopped helping them. I thought things were cool, but they were kind of holding a grudge against me the whole time.”

Come to find out, Nick says, things weren’t exactly “cool.” Actually, he found out about the same time 75 other people on Thulium’s mailing list did last week when everyone got a message from “Thu1ium” claiming the group had just broken up. It seems the little pranksters had opened a Yahoo account under Nick’s name with the handle “Thu1ium69” which replaced the letter “l” in the group’s name with a number one. Much like the Yankee Clipper, members of the group were not amused, and they are currently navigating the Internet’s murky legal waters in the hopes of some further resolution. In the meantime, the show must go on, and for Thulium that starts Thursday, Feb. 17, at The Bottleneck with Manhattan pop pups Podstar and the newly rechristened Kindir, formerly Starsky. The rebirth continues two nights later at the Topaz Cafe (87th and Quivira) on Friday, Feb. 19.

It wasn’t even six months ago that the dim prospects of hearing local music on the radio were being beaten like a dead horse. Now for the third week in a row there is mention of another station asking the hometown talent to send in suitable submissions for the airwaves. However, if the demise of The Lazer has taught us anything, it is that one night of local music for a few hours does not a scene make and that maybe less on the radio means more people at the shows. Regardless, Justin McBee and Richie Haile have thrown their hats in the local DJ ring for their love of the music, and to combat the lack of love for the Northland.

“We kind of wanted to bring some local stuff to the Northland area,” says McBee. “I think the people up here are kind of missing out, and there are a lot of people up here who want to listen to local music, but they don’t want to drive two hours (to Lawrence) to see it. Even when The Lazer was on, it was hard to get up here on most days. So we saw a need and kind of went with it.”

The powers that run William Jewell College’s station, 91.9 KWJC, apparently saw the need too. After McBee and Haile pitched the idea, the two received a Saturday afternoon time slot for their program, The Session, though neither man is enrolled at William Jewell. “It started out as a joke when we were talking about it a year ago,” admits McBee, who now takes the job seriously — for volunteer work. “But we’ve both been around this scene for a while, and after The Lazer died, there wasn’t really an outlet for local music and not even one that could take it on. So after we came in and talked to them, they were all for it.”

Now McBee is charged with selling bands on the idea of giving him copies of their radio-friendly songs for airplay, which isn’t as easy as it might sound. But he’s out there at shows, hitting up bands for tapes and CDs, handing out cards he knows will get lost, and always making the long, silent trek back to the Northland.

“I know Jeff (Petterson) got that thing started at V-100 (KDVV), but you can’t get that out of Johnson County. So as far as I’m concerned, we’re the only people around here that will play local stuff. It’s not like the most cutting-edge, but still better than you would hear on 93.3 or 95.7.” Interested bands should send material to: KWJC, 500 College Hill, Liberty, MO 64068.

Interested listeners should tune in to The Session on Saturdays from 2 to 4 p.m. on 91.9 or on the Internet at www.919.com. If you like what you hear, you can e-mail the FCC, which has a committee that approves wattage upgrades, supporting the volunteer-run KWJC, which is competing for the upgrade against a station in southern Missouri owned by a large conglomerate.

The life span of most ‘zines rarely seems to exceed five issues; most people just seem to run out of things to say to themselves and to their advertisers or parents to get money. So the fact that Bob Deck is about to publish his 11th issue of Micromag, Lawrence’s smallest periodical (it fits easily in the back pocket), makes him sort of the Hugh Hefner of the local ‘zine scene, even if it did take this one a while to get out.

“You gotta eat first,” says Deck of the first issue of the ‘zine he co-founded to come out in over a year. This issue of Micromag should have plenty of the usual ‘zine fare (rock and roll pictures, comics, articles on pop culture, tons of reviews/interviews), plus a salacious little section for the inquiring minds among us. “There’s going to be a Hefners tour diary in there of our tour to Europe,” admits Deck, who drums for the band. “And it’ll probably tell too much.”

If stories of touring with the most eligible bachelors in garage rock get your loins burning, don’t miss The Hefners’ upcoming show with The Sexareenos Sunday, Feb. 20, at the Continental Room at Louise’s Downtown. In addition to seeing everyone’s favorite playboys perform rock for the first time since November, attendees might also get to see The Hefners in their Hard Days Night.

“It’s a lot of drinkin’ and drivin’,” confesses Deck. “It’s basically a taste of The Hefners’ lifestyle that some film students we know from KU made for a project, and now I don’t know what to do with it.” While The Hefners ponder which cable channel their video escapades suit, the band will undertake some recording later this month at Blue Heaven Studios, a converted church, in Salina, Kan.

“It’s getting to be one of the best recording studios in the country, and the guys who run it are big audiophiles. They do all this analog recording, so we’re going to record it live-to-two-track hopefully, just like all the R&B and rock and roll guys did it way back.” Look for The Hefners’ two-track, way-back follow-up to last year’s stellar Lay Off, This is the Old Man’s Private Poison later this spring, and keep looking for the band at a Playboy club near you. Issues of Micromag can be had at all the good bars and record stores in Lawrence or through the mail by sending $2 and a postage paid envelope to: Micromag, P.O.B. 442337, Lawrence, KS 66044

Though the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors are best known for putting on all the events that attempt to reacquaint residents with their jazz heritage, there are occasions when the organization spreads its wings beyond this area to help fans till out their jazz landscape. One of these occasions occurs tonight, Thursday, Feb. 17, at the Jazz Museum, where a very rare and newly released documentary-style 1960s film on avant jazz saxophonist John Coltrane will be shown at the visitors center beginning at 6 p.m. Mike Metheny’s jazz quintet will perform next door at The Blue Room until 11 p.m., following the exhibition.

Anyone who has seen Chubby Smith play can attest to the fact that he is one of the more talented musicians around these parts. The problem is, unless you were privy to the fact that he has been playing with Jeffrey Lee and the Pale Moon Kings, you probably haven’t gotten to witness his instrumental and vocal mastery in almost a year and a half. And you might not have recognized Smith at his last gig with the Chubby Smith 5.

“That last gig was at Rick’s Place on Halloween before last, when I was (dressed as) Johnny Winter,” says the versatile musician, who also politely disputes the length of his band’s hiatus. “And since then, we did play one show in a shop for, like, eight carpenters.” Meanwhile, non-carpenters everywhere have had to bide their time at local taverns with CS5 CDs on the jukebox while members of the band have chosen to cope with the trials and delights that accompany the onset of “middle age.” Some dealt with back problems, doubling family size, or moving, while Smith himself spent the time tinkering in his shop with James Grauerholz’s recording equipment and his other bandmates in the Pale Moon Kings.

“I’ve been doing final mixes for Jeffrey Lee’s project, and we still don’t have a name for that. But we came up with a whole list in this big, drunken meeting we had the other day. My favorite was When Swing Sucked.” Indeed. The next drunken meeting without any sucky swing is to be held when the Chubby Smith 5 reunites on Saturday, Feb. 26, at Rick’s Place in Lawrence, and it’s sort of fitting that they found an opening act that could upstage them, at least in pure kitsch.

“B.O.M.B. (Big One-Man Band) is opening,” says Smith. “He plays just like you would expect, with a snare drum and bass drum with peddles, and a drum stick that he glued to a batting helmet that he uses to play the cymbal. So it’s psychobilly, Hazel Atkins-ish type wackiness.”

Send local music information to Robert Bishop or J.J. Hensley at thenote@excite.com.

Categories: Music