When Murfreesboro rocker and DreamWorks recording artist Matt Mahaffey moved to Los Angeles last year, he told the Scene that being close to the home base of his major-label home would help his band Self maintain the attention of their corporate masters. His plan is bearing fruit already, as Self has landed songs on the soundtracks of DreamWorks’ two big summer moviesShrek and Evolutionmainly because of Mahaffey’s proximity to the productions and his willingness to pitch in where needed.
Mahaffey says that Michael Ostin at DreamWorks Records set up meetings with movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenburg and Shrek director Andrew Adamson, and that he wrote the song “Stay Home” exclusively for the film. In fact, “Stay Home” was meant to be the opening song, but Mahaffey says that “Katzenburg thought America should hear ‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth just one more time.” Self’s song was bumped to later in the film, though it still kicks off the soundtrack. Mahaffey also met with Evolution director Ivan Reitman and wrote “Out With a Bang” for him to use in his film, but since there’s no plan at present for a soundtrack to be released, Mahaffey instructs everyone, “To hear it, go see it.”
Mahaffey has seen the films and likes both. “Evolution is pretty cool,” he says, “kinda like a modern-day Ghostbusters. I think Shrek is wonderful, wonderful...but it would be better if Self were at the beginning.”
As for the band’s regular business, Mahaffey says that a new Self album is “in progress.” He acknowledges that there’s “no release date as of yet, but as soon as humanly possible. We want to tour!” In the meantime, he has no regrets about the move away from Murfreesboro. He’s enjoying being a Hollywood player, taking meetings with filmmakers and collecting checks from hit soundtracks. “It helps to live in L.A. for these things,” Mahaffey says.
Dancin’ in the District has become an unassailable Nashville tradition in recent years, successful no matter who’s playing and how well they play, and downtown businesses have been looking for ways to capitalize on the large number of party-primed pedestrians who need something to do after the show. The Hard Rock Cafe on Lower Broadway had such a plan in place, involving a weekly, “unofficial” post-DID party featuring up-and-coming Tennessee rock acts. But the plug has been pulled after only one staging, and even though live music at the Hard Rock has been a staple on Thursdays for months, there are no immediate plans for the Hard Rock to resume that routine until the Dancin’ season is over.
According to reports from people in attendance on May 17, Hard Rock Nashville’s general manager Greg Ferguson stopped by the restaurant and was disturbed to see that the majority of those entering after DID were coming in only to use the bathroom, and weren’t staying to buy drinks or food. Since Hard Rock Nashville doesn’t have a cover charge for live music nights, Ferguson apparently felt that the restaurant wasn’t going to realize enough of a profit to cover the rented P.A., much less the personnel required to set up and run it.
Ferguson himself says that the live music nights were designed to fill the restaurant on weekday evenings when the Hard Rock was otherwise emptya problem that has subsided since the weather has warmed and the tourists have returned to the riverfront. “We started [live music] when we were dead,” he says. “Now the restaurant is full. It’s redundant to have a band.” If anything, he says, the bands are a distraction to regular diners. “It’s hard to sit there and eat when you’ve got guys playing loud music 10 feet from you. Plus you’ve got bands carting equipment across the dining area to get to the stage. Nothing was working in my favor.”
Then there were the difficulties caused by the ongoing necessity of having the word “unofficial” tagged to the restaurant’s post-DID parties. Hard Rock Nashville is not a sponsor of Dancin’ in the District and is not allowed to use the event’s name in any of its promotionsespecially since other local clubs, including the former Trafalgar Square (now known as The Nashville Castle), paid good money to be associated with Dancin’. Unfortunately, for the first Hard Rock DID after-party, one of the bands on the bill put up flyers that mentioned Dancin’ in the District. The ensuing complaints from DID promoter Mad Booking and from the Hard Rock Cafe’s corporate office may have played a part in Ferguson’s decision to stop the live events. Ferguson says that he actually didn’t think about the summer concert series when he began scheduling shows on Thursday nights, and that it just makes sense to discontinue his own series until the competition packs up.
Debi Gilley of Coppertree Entertainmentwho had been booking the eventsexpressed disappointment with their cancellation, but stressed that her company maintains a good relationship with the Hard Rock, and that she’s certain they’ll work together again in the future. In a written statement, Gilley said, “The live band night was very well attended and was growing steadily. I felt it was a shame that we had to pull the plug just when we were getting the buzz going. I appreciated the Hard Rock giving me the opportunity to book their acts and look forward to resuming the music nights after Dancin’ has run its course.”
Others close to the situation stress that the last word may not have been written on the post-Dancin’ parties. The momentum that Gilley describes had extended to interest from local radio stations and national liquor companies, who were interested in sponsoring the weekly event. A Hard Rock insider claims that staffers at the restaurant have “mixed emotions” about Ferguson’s decision, but are mostly “really upset.” Some privately hope that Ferguson might examine the potential financial upside and ultimately reverse his thinking. But Ferguson says that dropping live music just makes sense for right now, and he adds that rock ’n’roll will have a place at the Hard Rock again after the summer, perhaps on Wednesdays. For now, he says, “I can’t bastardize what we’re known for, which is great food.”
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