Interscope counts on a folk explosion

In the 1990s, all indie rock bands were measured against Sebadoh. While Seattle acts like Nirvana and Pearl Jam exploded in popularity early in the decade, the burden of indie credibility fell on the shoulders of Sebadoh’s leader Lou Barlow.

Many even put Barlow on a level with Kurt Cobain, the eminence gris of independent guitar-rock acts.

But Barlow suddenly finds himself at an interesting crossroads. Sebadoh is now without a label, while Folk Implosion — a duo that’s always been his side act — is growing in popularity. It’s “A Star is Born” with Barlow playing both roles.

After an encouraging career via seven discs for SubPop, Sebadoh is label-less, following the reorganization at Warners-owned Sire. The diskery managed to sell only 25,000 copies of “The Sebadoh” (released in February 1999) after its predecessor, “Harmacy,” had moved 100,000 units for SubPop.

Meanwhile, Folk Implosion, which has recorded for the tiny indie Communion, suddenly finds “One Part Lullaby,” its first record for Interscope — the home of Limp Bizkit and Nine Inch Nails — a hot property 6-1/2 months after its release, despite selling only about 24,000 copies.

Some attention for Folk Implosion has come from “Free To Go,” the first single, which is also on the “American Beauty” soundtrack. And a radio ‘n’ retail tour has led to sales and attracted television, too — from the usual suspect (Conan O’Brien) and the not so usual (“Donny & Marie”).

“The important thing for us,” said Steve Berman, head of marketing and sales at Interscope, “is to be a company that recognizes when it has a special artist and to stay focused, even if the success (of an act) isn’t measured commercially. Folk Implosion came out as we were rebuilding this company (to include Geffen and A&M) and we got real telltale signs — first from the press and then from retail — that we had to pay attention to.

“Whether it’s this album or the next that breaks, this is a priority for this company.”

Barlow, who spent the first two weeks of March touring as one half of Folk Implosion, surrounded his gigs with radio station visits and lengthy in-store performances of about an hour. “I’ll do anything if it means playing,” Barlow said. “I’ll play a board room for people eating lunch.”

Attention is now focused on Sebadoh, which will play a gig at South By Southwest this weekend and a March 24 date in L.A., in the hopes of finding a record deal.

“Sebadoh is on to tour to see how it feels, maybe kick-start a new phase,” Barlow said. “It’s purely a musical challenge. Thinking about attracting a label is too stressful.”

– Phil Gallo

Warwick revisits ‘Alfie,’ the world

A medley of songs nominated for Oscars over the last 70 years will be performed on the Academy Awards telecast by Garth Brooks, Ray Charles, Isaac Hayes, Whitney Houston, Queen Latifah and Dionne Warwick.

Musical directors Burt Bacharach and Don Was collaborated on selecting the tunes for the March 26 ceremony, which will feature Warwick singing the Bacharach-Hal David classic “Alfie,” which she first performed on the telecast in 1967. (It lost to “Born Free”). Songs nominated for this year’s Oscar will also be performed in a medley.

Bacharach will lead the band and play piano. The band, which will include Was on bass, will feature high-profile session musicians.

Bacharach approached Warwick about doing the show over the weekend during their performance together at the McCallum Theater in Palm Desert.

Warwick is in the early stages of preparing a world tour with Brazilian singer Gal Costa, one of the pioneers of the tropicalia movement in the 1960s with Jorge Ben, Caetano Veloso and Os Mutantes. The tour will begin in the fall in Brazil before covering the rest of South America. It will be followed by the U.S. Europe, Asia and Australia.

“We’ve been talking about this for 15 years,” Warwick said, noting they will tour with a collective band and use local orchestra members in a string session. “It’s about time she’s given decent exposure. We’ve both had a great deal of success in Europe and Asia, but we’ll each be important to each other” in broadening our audiences in our native countries.

– Phil Gallo

Bill Graham artifacts hawked on Internet

A set of original tickets to Jimi Hendrix’s 13 perfs at the Fillmore, Fillmore East and Winterland is available for $4,000. A original poster for the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane’s 1974 show at the O’Keefe Center in Toronto is priced to sell at $3,500. Then there’s the second printing of a 1966 poster for a Love and Everpresent Fullness (who?) concert at the Fillmore for $185.

All these and more are just a few mouse clicks away now that SFX Collectibles, a unit of Bill Graham Presents, has established a new Web site, sfx.com/collectibles. The site features an eye-popping array of posters, postcards, tickets and concert programs designed by such legendary psychedelic artists as Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin and Stanley Mouse, among others — all of which come with a certificate of authenticity at prices ranging from $100 to $5,000. Multiple copies of each acid-drenched artifact are available.

SFX Collectibles’ online store intends to offer even rarer items from the Bill Graham Presents archives through its own personalized merchant auction site via Yahoo! Auctions.

– Don Waller

Concerts will honor composer Newman

Two upcoming events will celebrate the music and legacy of Alfred Newman, who would have been 100 years old on Friday.

Tonight at 8 at the Newman Recital Hall on the USC campus, the Kairos String Quartet and pianist Duane Funderburk will perform chamber-music arrangements of Newman’s themes from “Street Scene,” “How Green Was My Valley,” “The Song of Bernadette” and “The Seven Year Itch,” along with a Brahms work and the L.A. premiere of daughter Maria Newman’s string quartet.

On April 16 at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, the USC Concert Band will present “Conquest! A Salute to Alfred Newman and His Film Music Legacy.” In 1950, Newman presented his “Conquest” theme from 1947’s “Captain from Castile” to USC as a victory march for athletic competitions.

Thomas Newman is scheduled to conduct several of his father’s themes, including “How the West Was Won” and “The Robe.” Other composers slated to participate are David Raksin, Elmer Bernstein, Buddy Baker, Bruce Broughton and Basil Poledouris. Singer Marilyn McCoo will perform classic film songs.

Newman, who died in 1970, was the most honored composer in Hollywood history: He won nine Academy Awards out of a total of 45 nominations over his 40-year career.

– Jon Burlingame

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