Pairadise Eyesland

Breast-obsessed restaurant revives wholesome girl-pop

I’ve always loved the place for its titties, but now Hooters is serving up teenpop, too. Last week, the “original Hooters girl group,” Tampa Bay trio UC3, debuted songs and a video at the wing chain’s wood-paneled mid-town location.

“There’s tremendous opportunity for synergy,” band manager Rob Faw told Billboard earlier in the month. “UC3’s target market is 18-30, and Hooters wants to expand its customer base, historically 22-55 males.” Synergy indeed: suits, publicists, pubescent groupies, and thugged-out entertainment entrepreneurs mingle, trading business cards and bantering. Flashbulbs pop. Hooters girls, resplendent in white tank tops and teeny orange shorts, sit in—what else?—pairs, handing out Heinekens and flirting with young, handsome reporters. Celebrities in attendance include a college buddy of mine who now appears on Guiding Light.

Twenty-two- to 55-year-old males sit outside the cordoned-off area, sharing a drink they call loneliness (better than drinking alone), and peer in at the proceedings. A local DJ, the host of the event, promotes herself and her radio station. Two execs promote Hooters, but a Q&A session yields no Q’s. “We anticipated that.” Fifteen minutes late—hopefully not in the Warholian sense—the T&A session begins, yielding excellent T’s and A’s. We anticipated that.

Introducing . . . 17- to 21-year-old females Cristal, Kristy, and Tracy! Tracy, the blond talent, sang in PYT. Kristy, hair pulled back and pouffed on top, channels Christina Aguilera. Selma Hayek ringer Cristal, the sophisticated one, occasionally sasses en español. Two sibling dancers resemble *NSync circa No Strings Attached. Youngish family friends and a UPN cameraman crowd the stage, and I am reminded of Sparkle Motion, Donnie Darko‘s professionally precocious grade school dance troupe. The girls are wonderful. They say a song was “inspired” by Mike McNeil, Hooters’ VP of marketing, and dedicate it to the waitresses, who cheer. Tracy gives it her technically impressive all. Kristy’s ice-blue eyes focus the group’s power but betray no knowledge of it. Cristal bides time till her bigger break. The music? I heard lots of bass. The DJ sez, “Shake your behinds—this song is all about girl power!”—Nick Catucci

Truth and Dare

Bragg, Earle, comrades rage against media consolidation

From the packed Webster Hall house cheering each stage barb at Saturday’s gig near the end of the 14-date Tell Us the Truth trek, you’d swear you were at an anti-Bush rally—not until headliner Billy Bragg appeared did you hear about the FCC’s laissez-faire cowardice about media consolidation or America’s unbalanced trade agreements, supposedly the tour’s messages. Basically, Bush-hatin’ is a sexier rallying cry than FCC-hatin’.

Singer-activist Jenny Toomey, who brainstormed the event, says the performers—packed into a tour bus and not all hawking new product—accept the venture as a financial loss. Occasionally forced to set up in city outskirts to skirt Clear Channel venues, the Truth tour by definition fights an uphill battle: trying to get the media to report on their own gorging. To Toomey, the sign-up rate of one in three fans to co-sponsor liberal lobbyists Common Cause is a success in itself.

True to folkie tradition, the well-paced three-hour show was done in hootenanny fashion, starting and finishing with a group chorus. Lester Chambers of ’60s garage-soul legends the Chambers Brothers applied his gritty shout to blues standards; Audioslave’s Tom Morello (under the guise of the Nightwatchman) delivered a new set of apocalyptic acoustic songs in a Leonard Cohen growl; Jill Sobule lightened up the proceedings with love songs to Kathy Lee Gifford, Condy Rice, and a war correspondent; Steve Earle added even more conviction and context to tunes about the Civil War and Emma Goldman; and Boots Riley’s Coup songs, redone sparsely with Chambers and Morello, made everyone else look like bleeding hearts in comparison.

Other than the Chambers-led “Time Has Come Today” coda (featuring Boots rapping and Bragg windmilling guitar) the most poignant moments came from the best-known performers. Bragg mixed impassioned fair-trade speeches with new material like “The Price of Oil,” rallying the crowd to get involved in “a struggle for accountability.” MC Janeane Garofalo took sharp shots at Dubya, but her most spot-on bit was “Operation Dumbass,” where Michael Jackson is hired to distract the media. When Sunday-morning-TV talking heads took Jacko rather than shrinking media outlets to heart, her joke wasn’t so funny anymore. —Jason Gross