Music News & Reviews

A Velvet Elvis sighting

Velvet Elvis

9:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave. $10. (859) 309-9499.

It was, in short, Dan Trisko's turn. Each time Velvet Elvis reunited, it was for a benefit to be determined by one of its four principal members.

"When we had our first reunion in 1998, we said, 'Everybody gets one turn at this,' " Trisko said. "And I had never taken a turn."

So the latest reassembly of the storied Lexington rock band that briefly flirted with national prominence in the late '80s was organized as a family affair. The beneficiary will be Trisko's sister-in-law, West Coast visual artist Sue Trisko, who has been undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with lung cancer last May.

"When I heard about her, I thought this is the most obvious thing to do," Trisko said. "She is married to my hippie renegade brother who quit high school, went out to California and got a record deal. He caused such an uproar in the family over the choices he made that I thought, 'Boy, I better not do that.' "

But the younger Trisko did do that, although he signed a record contract 20 years later without leaving home. After establishing a regional fan base with a pair of independent recordings, Velvet Elvis — guitarist Trisko, drummer Sherri McGee, keyboardist Jeff Yurkowski and bassist Scott Stoess — teamed with producer Mitch Easter (of the band Let's Active and co-producer of, among other projects, R.E.M.'s Murmur and Reckoning albums) and signed with Enigma Records.

In 1988 came a self-titled album and concert bills with national acts big (UB40) and small (The Bears). Although the band was critically well received, the national buzz was brief. McGee left in the summer of 1989. The band folded officially in late 1990.

"When people ask me, 'Why didn't Velvet Elvis succeed?' I say, 'We didn't catch the wave.'"

Velvet Elvis' reunion/ benefit Saturday at Cosmic Charlie's, its first in more than six years, also will mark the one-night-only reteaming of four other Lexington bands: Two Small Bodies, Rebel Without a Cause, VelJetta and No Excuse. Their members make up the majority of the local music community as it existed two decades ago.

"I was embarrassed to even ask these other bands," Trisko said. "Seriously. 'Hey, would you do this for free as a favor for me and my sister-in-law who you don't even know?' And everyone just instantly said yes. It was great. There wasn't even hesitation. I think it's incredibly generous for everyone to help out on this."

Cowan in Frankfort

From his years with the New Grass Revival to solo projects that allow his operatic mountain tenor to roar, John Cowan has been an indispensable part of the progressive evolution of bluegrass music in Kentucky and nationwide.

Friday night, Cowan and his band head to Frankfort for pair of ultra-intimate performances at Kentucky Coffeetree Café, 235 West Broadway. Cowan has two new recordings to show off: 8,745 Feet (the elevation of Telluride, Colo., where the live all-star performances were recorded) and a holiday outing called Comfort and Joy.

Showtimes are 7:30 and 10 p.m. Call (502) 875-3009.

Georgia fire

The weekend rounds out with the return of Passafire. The Georgia reggae, dub and groove band recorded its second album, Submersible, in Lexington. Formed in 2003 while several of its members were students at Savannah College of Art and Design, Passafire released its third album in mid- September. Titled Everyone on Everynight, the grooves are smoother and the reggae influences mesh with more of a jazz fusion feel. One of its tunes, Here in Front of Me, has been featured on ESPN's SportsCenter in recent weeks. Passafire — guitarist/ vocalist Ted Bowne, keyboardist/vocalist Adam Willis, bassist Will Kubley and drummer Nick Kubley — will perform Sunday at Cosmic Charlie's (9:30 p.m., $5).