Volume 74, Number 8 | June 23 - 29, 2004

Spiraling, one of five bands who will play at CB’s 313 Gallery on Saturday.

Rock ’n’ roll ’n’ registration on Bowery at CB’s

By Erica Stein

This Saturday, local alt-rock artists will kick out the jams on the Bowery out of a sense of civic duty. Sleeping Giant Entertainment will present a five-band bill — Spiraling, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Souls’ Release, Sabrina & The Haunt and Drowning Poet — at CB’s 313 Gallery — CBGB owner Hilly Kristal’s second stage — to benefit Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan, nonprofit voter registration group.

Rock the Vote was founded in 1990, initially, says communications director Jay Strell, to combat the censorship of song lyrics. The group rose to prominence in 1992 when it began its association with MTV, acting as the video-music network’s voter registration partner for its “Choose or Lose” initiative. The initiative aimed to expose its audience to the issues at stake in the presidential election.

Since then, Rock the Vote has expanded its programs to include bus tours and issues campaigns. The group’s main goal is to involve the age 18-30 demographic in politics, mostly through voter registration. “Our goal this year is to register 1 million voters,” said Strell. “We’re well on our way with 320,000. Kids really feel that the issues are important to them. In the Iowa caucus, four times as many people 18-30 registered than in 2000. We’ve had bus tours in ’92, ’96 and 2000, but this is our most ambitious one yet.”

While partial proceeds of the June 26 concert will benefit Rock the Vote and the organization will have voter registration tables set up in the Gallery, Saturday’s event is not technically a part of the official bus tour. “Sleeping Giant really set everything up for this. This is more of a local event. So they’ll be in contact with our grassroots organization, the community street volunteers who are on the registration tables,” explained Strell.

Sleeping Giant C.E.O. and founder Ivan Rodriguez secured the location and picked the bands. Sleeping Giant, based in New York City, was formed in April as a spin-off from Rodriguez’s company Forever Night — which focused on event promotions — for the purpose of managing local artists. The concert will be S.G.E’s first event. Rodriguez wrote in an e-mail, “Forever Night Entertainment had a long-standing relationship with CB’s, so it seemed only natural for Sleeping Giant Entertainment to hold our kickoff event there,” he said. “The idea to work with Rock The Vote came about because we were looking to join forces with an organization with many of the same ideas and beliefs of the local artists, so who better to team up with than Rock The Vote?”

Only one of the five groups, closer Drowning Poet, is represented by S.G.E. The others, Rodriguez says, he invited or approached him themselves: “Souls’ Release & The Day The Earth Stood Still both had relationships with Forever Night Entertainment, so we invited them to perform for this show,” he said. “Sabrina had approached us for this event because they had heard about what we were planning and wanted to be a part of it, and I had seen Spiraling perform during a showcase and thought they were great and approached them to headline our event.”

Rodriguez’s bill was constructed with the idea that a fan who came to see one band would want to stay and enjoy the other four. Headliner Spiraling and fellow Jersey artist Sabrina both describe themselves as having diverse sounds and drawing on broad influences.

Sabrina heard about the concert through her management. “They had been talking to Ivan, and when we found out we jumped at it. This is really important and we wanted to be there.” Sabrina and her songwriting partner Keith Pires have performed many times at the Gallery and have just formed the backing band The Haunt. “People say we sound like 3 Doors Down or The Pretenders or Led Zeppelin,” she said. “I don’t really know what we are or how to describe us.”

Fellow Jerseyans Spiraling, who have toured with both They Might Be Giants and the Violent Femmes, have a similar eclectic reputation. “We’ve played with a lot of different bands, but we don’t sound anything like them. We draw from a lot of different styles. The key to this thing is the registration on site, getting people to come to the door,” said keyboardist and songwriter Tom Brislin.

“We’ve never done anything like this,” said Spiraling bassist Bob Hart. “But we’re all politically minded people, so anything we can do to get people involved is great. We’ve played CBGB’s quite a bit, but never the Gallery, so this should be interesting.”

Rodriguez said he expects a large turnout, since four of the performing bands are from the area and all have loyal local followings, having played in many city clubs and bars, such as Pianos on Ludlow St. “S.G.E., along with the bands who will be performing have really been working hard to promote this show,” he said. “All of us who are involved with this show believe that Rock The Vote is a tremendously important organization and are passionate about the Rock The Vote message. There will be a voter registration available at the event for unregistered voters, but our main goal is to help spread the word about the importance of making your voice heard and helping to raise money for a worthy cause.” The donation to Rock the Vote will come from S.G.E’s profits from the show.

“Sleeping Giant Presents…” will be held on Sat., June 26, at CB’s 313 Gallery at 313 Bowery. Cover charge is $10. Souls’ Release opens at 8 p.m.

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