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NEW LIFE FOR ORIGINAL MUSIC CLUBS

Times Staff Writer

The index card file of local music clubs I have compiled over the years is divided into two sections: cards on active clubs face forward; those for venues that are defunct or no longer book original music are turned backward, forming a sort of elephant’s graveyard of Orange County rock.

But unlike that mythical resting place from which no pachyderm ever returns, now and then a nightclub does attempt to live again. Recently I’ve reactivated cards for a couple of clubs that had been languishing in the dead list.

Both Big John’s and Mugsy Malone’s in Anaheim are resuming regular offerings of original music in the city where half a dozen clubs have faltered, failed or folded in recent years. This time around, however, it is independent booking agents who are rushing in where club owners have feared to tread.

In addition, beginning this weekend at Goodies in Fullerton, adventurous well-known local acts will be featured along with the unknown bands that make up the bulk of the club’s four-night per week entertainment schedule.

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That’s encouraging news for local music fans and musicians, who have had only one club--Night Moves in Huntington Beach--featuring original music since the closing of Safari Sam’s in Huntington Beach last September capped a series of club closings in 1986.

In the first round of original music bookings at Mugsy Malone’s in 1983-84, the experiment lasted only a few months until some neighboring business owners complained about noise and succeeded in putting an end to original music there.

In handling shows at Mugsy Malone’s, booking agent Ed Christensen is returning to the city where he worked for nearly a year at Flashdance, a new wave and punk club that closed after the City Council refused to renew its entertainment permit in 1985.

“I really think this place should do all right,” Christensen said in an interview this week. “The bands seem to like it, but so far most of them haven’t been doing much to get the word out. I guess they expected the club to do everything.

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“I think it will take a little more time before people realize what we’re doing. It doesn’t help that there’s nothing here like the L.A. Weekly, and as far as Orange County radio goes, there’s absolutely none.”

Shows coming to the 300-seat club in the weeks ahead include the Rave-Ups (Feb. 20), L.A. Guns (Feb. 21), Tender Fury (Feb. 27) and El Grupo Sexo (Feb. 28).

Christensen is hopeful that increased security and better relations with neighbors and the Anaheim Police Department will eliminate problems that previously led to the end of original music at Mugsy Malone’s.

Likewise, band manager-turned-booking agent Jim Palmer said that a new round of shows has gone “very well” at Big John’s, the pool hall where local bands have been appearing periodically for the past year.

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“I’m not really sure what the problem was before, but a lot of bands are calling me now and really want to play at Big John’s again,” said Palmer, who added that he has the time to take over the club’s bookings since the band he manages--the Bell Jar--is in the recording studio for the next few months.

Several musicians and band managers, however, complained that in the past they were not paid or were treated poorly by previous booking agents and the club’s owner.

“It seems like every band I’ve talked to has been burned there,” said one band manager who requested anonymity. “The people who ran the place would scream at the bands and their fans and treat them like dirt. So I have a funny feeling about whether it’s going to work.”

Palmer admitted that there have been problems, but by acting as a liaison between musicians and the bar’s owner, he has so far avoided such confrontations.

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Fullerton-based Medicine Man will headline Big John’s on Feb. 27. Other shows include Blue Trapeze (March 13), T.S.O.L. (March 14) and Love & Terror (March 20). Because of restrictions on the club’s entertainment license, Palmer is currently booking shows only on weekends, but he said a request for additional nights of live entertainment will be made to the City Council.

Headliner concerts at Goodies, which kick off Sunday with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and on subsequent Sundays will feature Dramarama, T.S.O.L., the Vandals, the Dickies and others, are being organized independently by two Orange County music scene veterans: some have been booked by Jim Guerinot, manager of Social Distortion who also works as a booking agent at Avalon Attractions; others by Jack Richards, former owner of Spatz in Huntington Harbour.

“It looks like Goodies is going to happen this time,” Guerinot said. “It’s such a perfect area with two colleges nearby (Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton College).”

LIVE ACTION: Tickets go on sale Sunday for the Grateful Dead’s three-day stand at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre on April 17-19. . . . Tickets will also be available Sunday for comedian Sam Kinison’s March 21 performance at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym. . . . T.S.O.L. will be at Night Moves in Huntington Beach on Feb. 22. . . . Bob Weir’s Feb. 20 show at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano has been postponed. No new date has been set. The Beat Farmers and the Rave-Ups share a Feb. 22 bill at the Coach House.

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