Sunday, March 29, 2009

Paul Slavens

This article was featured recently on My Denton Music with photography and writing by yours truly. I am featuring more photographs taken on the gig for your ocular delight.

Mr. Paul Slavens is a mercenary of the army of spontaneous composition. Dan's Silverleaf hosts this soldier every Monday night, and an audience of variable size makes paid submissions to have the master create a musical piece in the spirit of the titles provided. Well, maybe. As Paul warns, there are no refunds, no guarantees and sometimes you get ripped off. His shows even come with a few ground rules (but surprisingly, no "safe word") to set the pace.

Rule 1. Anybody can be in the band.
Rule 2. Don't piss off Paul.
Rule 3. Nobody gets paid, except Paul.

The rules don't get in the way of sonic amusement as Slavens collaborates regularly with the likes of Brave Combo's multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Barnes, Joe Snow on harp on lap, FroBro on drums, and the nearly invincible bassist Bach Norwood. With that lineup, this creative army could impose martial law and you'd love it all the more. In addition, it's a thrill to never know exactly who will be playing each Monday night. Paul explained that he used to be in a band full-time called Ten Hands, which was a hit in Deep Ellum. But the band had one major flaw: rehearsals.

Now, Paul's sessions of spontaneous music come with a spontaneous band, and no rehearsals to complicate the artistry of each gig. Foolish you say? Not for the mercenary; not for the master. Master of Composition that is - Paul is working on a music degree at the University of North Texas, and has won a number of Dallas Observer awards with the aformentioned Ten Hands as well as his own comedy group, the Texclectic Unsemble. If Monday nights catch you working or otherwise busy, tune into KERA-FM 90.1 for Paul's Sunday night music show or catch his sounds on The Boxcar Bandits or a Baptist Generals recording. Back at Dan's, the audience generated titles are one-brick foundations on which Mr. Slavens builds his compositional skyskrapers. Five dollars, even with a unique title and you'll probably get heckled by the band; ten dollars and your tune will be played, but at 20 dollars or more, Slavens' lyrics are built to your custom specifications.

The range of titles is expansive but there is a direct correlation of volume of alcohol drunk to the sleaziness of the titles. At the beginning of the night titles flow in like "Strawberry Shortcake Meets the Muffin Man" but they quickly denigrate to "I Invented the Manpon" and "Turkish Delight In My Mouth Tonight." If you're one of the cheapskates that had trouble parting with five bucks and wrote such unstimulating titles as "I don't have any money for a Bar Mitzvah" or "Be careful, it's smelly down there," your tune is likely to get "Meddelized" at the end of the show, meaning that Slavens and the band will make a combination of the least lucrative songs. From experience, you will not be disappointed even if you do get "Meddelized." It's difficult to put the satisfaction into words, but as Paul Slavens might say "Feel the power of music theory."

Paul Slavens ( plays every Monday night at Dan's Silverleaf, 103 Industrial Street, Denton, TX and can be heard Sunday nights from 7-10pm on KERA-FM 90.1 in Dallas.

[Slavens played along with Bubba Hernandez on bass and Rex Emerson on Mandolin]

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