Basic Training

Listen up, maggots! You veteran musicians who think today's pop music is bland, mindless garbage are as ubiquitous as chick bassists. Players that are proactive enough to do something about it, though, are quite rare. Enter the Codetalkers, featuring Col. Bruce Hampton. Hampton is a legendary guitar picker who cavorted with the Allman Brothers and Frank Zappa in the '60s, released an album with Atlantic Records in '69, and then conjured his current wave of popularity by blowing minds at the jam-band prototype H.O.R.D.E. Tour in the early 1990s. As a military man -- and an undisputed wingnut -- the colonel will put some discipline into you sissy-pantsed, lightweight pop hacks. He and his band offer the Codetalkers' Five Day Rock 'n' Roll Boot Camp:

Day 1 -- Motivation

Col. Bruce: "We would put them in 100-degree sun, drive to Phoenix where progressive rocks are, then turn the heat on full blast. Drive through the desert wearing blue clothes and red hair. Locate the progressive rocks and then block trees in Wyoming. They would hate us and hate everything. The bottom line is that they don't like music. They are in it for the success."

Day 2 -- Touring

Falcon (drums): "No pop star could get through one day, not one hour in this van. The Army is easy compared to touring with Bruce. At least in the Army, you get out in four years. Man, this is way beyond the Black Opps! I'm talking about the A/C on full blast HEAT during the summer and full blast COLD in the winter. The mental abuse is so over-the-top that you can't... I am telling you man, it would be death and no rebirth."

Day 3 -- Physical Endurance

Col. Bruce: "Physical would be having them block trees with suits on along with every deprivation there is out there, from sleep deprivation, food deprivation to climate deprivation."

Day 4 -- Training

Bobby Lee Rodgers (banjo): "The musical regimen would be jumping into a swimming pool in the middle of winter, for if there's a musical regimen, then there is no music! It is what it isn't."

Day 5 -- Crazy Rock Star Shit

Chief White Horse (bass): "First part before they can even get to the colonel would be having to knock off a liquor store. Then they'd have to eat wasabi green peas from the Death Valley Peanut Factory and get gorilla gas, then dye someone's hair banana yellow with it. Before they can get into the van, they'd have to walk to Columbus, Georgia, and find someone named the Sandman and get the information that we need."


Now get in line, maggot, and play me "Stairway to Heaven"! --Tom Bowker

The Codetalkers with Jimmy Herring play at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, August 18, at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $15. Call 954-727-0950.

Sonic Surgery

Transplant on the Run

Two weeks ago, I met with an old patient. She was the first successful major-label transplant of my career -- an aspiring pop diva I saved from the death knell of a shady record contract. She's doing well for herself nowadays, and her success makes me proud of my work as a musical doctor. But faster than you can say "organ rejected," my mood was sullied by a flier I found wedged beneath the windshield wipers of my Honda Civic (not all doctors drive Beemers, you know). It reminded me of one of my less successful operations: Texas indie-rockers Flickerstick. After all, back in 2000, I had advised the young band to sign up for VH1's label-transplant program, Bands on the Run.

Um, my bad, guys.

Unlike other contract procurement programs, VH1 fashioned Bands on the Run as a televised battle, pitting Flickerstick against three other wannabes hoping for a transplant to a major label. Now, call me old-fashioned, but I never made hepatitis patients duke it out over the same liver; they had to wait on a list like everyone else. Why can't rock bands do the same? So while Flickerstick won that battle, the war -- long-term survival with a new label -- proved a lost cause.

Indeed, all the antirejection drugs at Walgreens couldn't have kept Flickerstick's Epic Records contract from failing. A year later, the band was back on the transplant list. Now, however, the prognosis looks good. In 2002, Flickerstick underwent a second transplant -- this time onto indie label Idol Records. Since then, the band has had more control of its long-term health and seems to be doing as well as my little diva-in-training.

I said it in my headlining article in Rock Physician's Quarterly and I'll say it again: band battles are dangerous procedures and should be avoided outright. It's way too much work just to get screwed by a corporation. Besides, isn't that what HMOs are for?

Findings: An Epic tale of survival. Diagnosis: Contractisitis. Treatment: Get on the list to see Saturday's Flickerstick show at the Culture Room (3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale). Nothing Rhymes with Orange opens. Tickets cost $9.99. Doors open at 8 p.m. Call 954-564-1074. --Doc Le Roc

Cracked Rear View Under My Skin

The following is an excerpt from Hold My Hand, the 125,000-word online novel by slashrocker, the Internet's Bloggy Award-winning pop music fanfic writer:

Avril adjusted her tie and sourly looked at her dressing room mirror. Of all the places to run into her boyfriend, backstage at the Office Depot Center seemed the least likely. Yet Darius was there, holding flowers. The Florida heat put her in an even worse mood than waiting by the phone last night already had.

"Right now I feel invisible to you, like I'm not real," she said, turning to Darius. "You didn't call me when you said you would."

Darius, stripped down to a pair of jeans and tuning his guitar, looked up with sad knowledge. He had often felt that their whirlwind romance was doomed before it started: Avril wanted a sk8ter boi, not the charming, harmless front man of the world's most popular bar band. Her brand of teen pop fused with a thin layer of punk anger just wouldn't mix with his easygoing rock. He had known this day would come.

"Last night I tried to leave," he whispered as he approached her. "Cried so much you would not believe." As he stood behind her, he slipped on his new alligator skin jacket and huge aviator sunglasses.

She turned around with a sneer. While his straightforward songwriting had left her breathless, she knew that Hootie and the Blowfish weren't selling records the way they used to. Was this Darius' midlife crisis? "You're trying to be cool," she told him as she pushed him away. "You look like a fool to me!"

Darius tripped over Avril's collection of stuffed aquatic sea mammals and crashed down onto the floor. The pain brought tears to his eyes. It was all too much. "I'm such a baby," he sobbed, "'cause the dolphins made me cry."

Avril's heart melted. It was moments like this that she knew that it didn't matter that they came from different musical worlds. They were both platinum-selling artists, and they were in love! Wasn't that enough? She knelt down next to him and took his tear-streaked face in her hands. He looked up hopefully.

"I only wanna be with you," he whispered hoarsely.

"I'm with you," Avril replied. She straddled him and leaned in close. "Could it be any more obvious?"

Her hands expertly worked the buttons of his jeans, unleashing ... -- Jordan Harper

Avril Lavigne plays at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, August 21, at Sound Advice Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $20 to $45. Call 561-793-0445. Hootie and the Blowfish play at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, August 21, at Mizner Park Amphitheatre, 590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Tickets cost $29.75 to $39.75. Call 561-962-4109.

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Tom Bowker
Jordan Harper
Doc le Roc