Featured Music: Wednesday, June 5, 2003
Sally Majestic\r\nSat at Ridglea Theater, 6025 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. $8. 817-738-9500.
Fisher Queen

Sally Majestic moves all over the musical map — and puts on a good show, too.


Wrapping up a second set at the Flying Saucer recently, Sally Majestic frontman Scott Vernon laid down his guitar and grabbed the mic. Bass player PJ Fry and drummer Tim Cowdin locked into a solid groove. Vernon belted out Young MC’s “Bust A Move” with more rap credibility than any white guy not named Eminem.

The moment caught the audience off guard. And so did the next trick, when a waitress set down her tray, jumped onstage, gyrated suggestively, and chirped backing vocals.

It was pretty apparent that Sally Majestic was a band with a little something special. After only a couple of songs, the trio had won over the rather indifferent, largish crowd. Maybe you had to be there, but it was a rare moment, unlike anything I’d seen on the local scene — or at least in Sundance Square — in a long time. The men of Sally Majestic are doing as much as they can now to help generate some interest in their live shows and their self-titled debut c.d. They obviously know a few incontrovertible facts: You gig wherever, whenever; you play to audience members instead of over their heads; and, lastly, you churn out quality product. Stardom may be just around the corner.

The group’s c.d. is a valiant effort, but it comes off so-so — at least at first.

“Bombs Explode,” the opening track, takes hold, but only after a few spins. The first time around, however, its tired monochrome texture sounds basically like every song played on The Edge these past few years, right down to the funked-out Chili Peppers-esque groove.

Fortunately, the rest of the album rises above the drab platter of post-grunge college rock. As described in the band’s press material, Sally Majestic’s sound is rock, funk, and reggae — which are only a few parts of the story. Closer to the truth is Vernon’s description: “Fun, lots of stuff.”

Lots of stuff indeed. The band’s disc (available through www.sallymajestic.com and at shows) is jam-packed eclectic and shows that — young though they are — these guys’ musical education didn’t begin and end with Jane’s Addiction and Pearl Jam. Their reggae pieces groove along better than the Police’s watered-down versions of same. Add bits of jazz, ska, and band-jammery, random pop inclinations and hooks, and there’s plenty to keep boredom at bay.

“Scott-A-Licious,” arguably the disc’s best track, changes tempo more times than the Who’s version of “My Generation” off Live at Leeds. It pounds like a bastard one minute, then settles into something nearly exquisite before blasting off again. There’s a stunner of a scorched-earth guitar break, and then the whole thing coalesces into sheets of surf guitar that somehow incorporate both new-wave sensibilities and early Zeppelin vibes.

Live, the band comes off even more explosive, mixing originals with covers of the Specials, Sublime, the Cure, and others — pretty impressive for a group that’s been around for just a couple of years.

Naturally, the members — all Fort Worth natives — have logged time in other bands, including Five Leaves Left and Sun Risa. Cowdin and Fry, who have been friends since elementary school, met Vernon about four years ago.

Fry sang in the Texas Boy’s Choir and took piano lessons when he was a youngster. He temporarily dropped music for sports but became interested again at 15 after seeing a friend’s band perform. Vernon said he taught himself to play by copying the playing on classic rock albums.

The band was a four-piece until keyboardist Chris Laskowski exited about a year ago. The remaining members stress that there was no problem; they say that Laskowski left simply because he was a workaholic involved in so many different projects that he was wearing himself out.

Four months ago, Cowdin’s older brother Shawn became the band’s manager. He booked the band into Fort Worth’s Eagle Audio to record the debut c.d. and helped set up bookings throughout the Metroplex, including a recent Six Flags gig as part of Wild 100.3’s concert series.

“Three weeks before a Curtain Club show I was walking Deep Ellum every Friday and the Thursday before, handing out flyers and c.d.’s, doing what my friend calls ‘pimping the band,’” said Shawn.

Such pimping includes handing out buttons with slogans like “Sally is aural gratification” and attempting to secure opening slots with established area bands. The efforts seem to be working. The band performed live on The Ticket a while back, and 88.7/KTCU-FM now airs “Bombs Explode.”

“We’ve slowly been noticing a following building up,” Vernon said.

The three exude equal measures of laissez faire and determination — they enjoy making music purely for fun on one hand and working toward definite goals on the other.

Asked about the purpose of music and Sally Majestic’s part in it, Fry said, “To have a fuckin’ good time, jumping around stage, trying to get our point across without being too serious, moving the masses with bass and singing.” In the next breath, however, he discusses hopes to tour outside of north Texas and gain more exposure.

Whereas most bands think first and foremost of getting a record deal, Shawn admits that Sally Majestic is biding its time on that front, while its members concentrate on other areas.

“It may change next week, but that’s not the focus now,” Shawn said. Trying for a record deal now “would be detrimental and I’d rather they get the experience and build a following first.”

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