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Last week, apparently, was a good time to change your identity. At least on the local rock scene.
Longtime area English-language radio station WHFS-FM, “the true alternative”—chief sponsor of the annual heavily attended summertime HFStival concert at RFK Stadium—suddenly morphed into “El Zol” and began broadcasting en español and playing “a current hit blend of Caribbean and Central American dance music.”
Dischord Records, meanwhile, announced that D.C.’s Spanish-monikered synth-punk outfit El Guapo had decided to change its name, too.
From now on, keyboardist/accordion player Pete Cafarella, guitarist/oboe blower Rafael Cohen, and vocalist/bassist/“Avenger/Destroyer” (and Washington City Paper contributor) Justin Moyer—plus new drummer Josh Blair (formerly of metallic progsters Orthrelm)—will go by the English compound word Supersystem. That’s also the title of the group’s first Dischord LP, released in 2001—though there it was capitalized and punctuated slightly differently: Super/System.
“We wanted [the new name] to have some sort of resonance with the old one,” explains strummer Cohen. As for the group’s former name—an homage to the fictional Mexican gang leader played by actor Alfonso Arau in director John Landis’ 1986 comic western ¡Three Amigos!—Cohen says, “We never were enamored of it.”
The name change isn’t the only recent switcheroo for El Guapo—er, Supersystem. In addition to ditching the flashy Spanish nombre, the group has also dumped Dischord, its hometown label, which released its past three efforts. Instead, the band has hooked up with out-of-town indie Touch and Go Records.
The modifications aren’t coincidental. After all, donning a new name was sort of Touch and Go’s idea. “They kinda suggested it,” says Cohen.
Unlike promo-shy Dischord, Touch and Go offers “[c]o-operative advertising planning and placement” and a wide national distribution network via the Warner Music Group– backed Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), according to ADA’s Web site. Not to mention an address in the Midwestern musical mecca of Chicago.
But the Windy City, it turns out, already has a rock band called El Guapo: a bilingual quartet that’s recently received substantial radio play, what with its songs providing the peppy soundtrack for several McDonald’s and Anheuser-Busch commercials.
In one 30-second English-language spot for Bud, an unidentified band member talks about being “not too worried about being serious or making the next big rock record” while the group’s Third Eye Blind–ish modern-rock single “Pimped Out Limousine” plays in the background: “Take a look at me/I ain’t what I used to be/I’ve got supermodels hanging off of every arm/I can just see it/I’ll be doing it with porno stars in the back seat of my pimped out limousine.”
“Horrible stuff,” says Cohen. But with that kind of corporate backing, El Guapo de Chicago would probably be a tough opponent should a legal fight ever break out over naming rights. “It seemed like if they had those kinds of people behind them, then they would have the kind of muscle to take us on,” says Cohen. “And we have nothing in the way of muscle.”
Maybe not muscle. But at least D.C.’s El Guapo can claim first dibs: After all, Cohen and Moyer have performed under that name since 1996. Back then, Chicago’s El Guapo were named, um, MUD. It wasn’t until 1999 that, according to Budweiser’s True Music Web site, “their emergence into the Spanish Rock scene…forced MUD to change to a more bilingual name.”
Unfortunately for Cohen & Co., El Guapo West (which didn’t return requests for comment) managed to beat them to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Arlington—right in the local group’s back yard. Back in April 2002, the Chicago band’s frontman, Michael Lopez, filed for trademark protection of the term “EL GUAPO” for use in “Entertainment Services, namely live concert performances by a musical band,” according to Patent and Trademark records.
For other uses, the name—which, records show, translates to “handsome one” or “aggressive one”—is also registered to New York–based watch-maker Perobin Jewelry Corp. and Los Angeles-based herbal-tea and chewing-gum manufacturer El Guapo Spices Inc.
Rocker Lopez was officially registered as owner of the service mark this past October—around the same time that his D.C. counterparts were wrapping up negotiations with Touch and Go.
The name change “was sort of a pre-emptive strike in case the El Guapo of Chicago decided to sue,” says Touch and Go publicist Miranda Lange. “Instead of waiting it out and seeing what happens, we decided to—well, they decided that it’d be better to do it now and save themselves the trouble in the future.”
Adds Cohen: “You can bet that we’re looking into trademarking ‘Supersystem.’”
Not that Supersystem harbors any hard feelings toward the band that used to share its name. Heck, Cohen even recommends El Guapo as a possible performer in the newly formatted HFStival—or whatever the El Zol equivalent will be called. “They can do one of their delightful blink-182–meets–Sum 41 hits in Spanish,” he says.
NEVER WANT TO USE A CLUTCH
Like many musical movements, the District’s punk-rock scene has spawned all sorts of fashion accessories, from buttons and T-shirts to D.C.-flag tattoos.
But a hardcore handbag? Believe it or not, it’s been done: Printed on Page 159 of the current issue of Interview is a bag made by posh Italian designer Bottega Veneta and decorated especially for the magazine by New York collage artist Michael Bevilacqua.
This “unique bag” is adorned with colorful images of bottles, and butterflies, and an illustration seemingly ripped right off of the back of the first Minor Threat EP—y’know, the corked-bottle-headed dude in the leather jacket.
Very punk-rock. “Especially for a several-thousand-dollar Bottega Veneta bag,” says Bevilacqua, whose creation also pays homage to the Butthole Surfers’ self-titled 1983 EP and X-Ray Spex’s 1977 single “Oh Bondage Up Yours.” Unlike those other record covers, however, the Minor Threat illustration was central to the artist’s vision.
“The whole idea of the bag was about bottles,” explains Bevilacqua. “When I first saw the shape of this bag, it reminded me of a bota bag,” he says, referring to a type of tote commonly used for carting beverages. “I knew I had some Minor Threat stickers with the bottle guy.” The other stickers soon followed: “The leather is so taut,” Bevilacqua reports, “that it’s like putting it on your car or something.”
Mixing drink containers with old-school alt-rock is something of a fascination for the 38-year-old artist. At the Miami Beach Convention Center, in fact, Bevilacqua recently exhibited an installation that featured actual bottles labeled with punk-band stickers. “Everything from the Ramones to Public Image Ltd.,” he says. “It’s like you drink that wine, you drink what the band is, and you feel what that band is. You know, like a metaphor.”
Not that he expects many punks to get it. “I’m sure they’d be aghast to think that they were on a fashion handbag,” he says of Minor Threat.
Well, not so aghast, actually. “It is very weird (and flattering, I suppose) how stuff we did so many years ago still pops up here and there, that the references still resonate, and that the kids still find us remotely current,” e-mails Minor Threat drummer and Dischord Records co-founder Jeff Nelson, who designed the bottle-guy graphic back in 1981.
“We’re used to seeing everything in the world get bootlegged,” adds Dischord spokesperson Alec Bourgeois. “It’s like how one designer did that Crass logo in rhinestones on some T-shirts and was selling them in the U.K.”
Bevilacqua, though, won’t be making any money off the straightedge-inspired wine tote: The artist decorated only one, which he has since given to his wife.
“Since the purse is a one-off, I am certainly not taking it as anything more than respectful usage,” says Nelson, who’s actually more irked at whoever manufactured those bootlegged Minor Threat stickers.
Seems they differ slightly from the original artwork. “It is annoying to me,” notes Nelson, “that they used some version of it…to which someone amended a studded belt.”
Price Club: Stretching your dollar at D.C.’s night spots
Venue: Coyote Ugly, 717 6th St. NW
Item: One body shot from your favorite bartender—“boobs or belly,” according to a sign behind the bar
Why nurse that $5 Budweiser energy drink like a loser, forlornly staring up at those sexy suds-slingin’, tight-jeans-wearin’, midriff-barin’ Coyote Ugly dancers?
For only $20, you can lick salt off a comely Coyote’s hand, go bobbing for a vial of tequila between her breasts, and then wrap things up with a refreshing mouth-to-mouth swap of saliva and lime.
Sure, there are cheaper and more efficient ways to cozy up to some anonymous nightclub worker’s bare skin. At the Famous McDoogals in Anne Arundel County, Md., you can enjoy all-nude lap dances for the special price of just $15 a pop.*
But that doesn’t include the $13-to-$15 cover charge or the high cost of gasoline to get you there, some 40 miles from the MCI Center. Coyote Ugly charges just $5 at the door and is conveniently located right across the street.
Of course, the momentary thrill of the body shot won’t last as long as more enduring souvenirs such as the $5 Coyote Ugly key chain, the $8 Coyote Ugly thong, or the $15 Coyote Ugly trucker hat. But it’s still cheaper than the $25 Coyote Ugly T-shirt.
*Discount available only with use of the ATM machine, according to the club’s Web site.
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