The Washington Post – ‘The Key’ To Success

9:30 Club Pays Tribute to Image-Maker

By Eric Brace
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 2, 2001; Page WE06

WHEN the 9:30 club opened at 930 F St. NW on May 8, 1980, fliers announcing the event signaled the club’s eclectic and artistic side. They were designed by a young artist named Mark Holmes, and for the four years that he created posters, ads and monthly…


What a great triple bill at IOTA on Saturday! Mike Shupp, Mark Helm and Scott McKnight. Each was in a prominent Washington band in the mid- to late ’80s (though none was the frontman). Each has been working solo for several years. Each has released an excellent new CD.

McKnight (who sometimes performs in my band) was in the Neighbors, Helm (then known as Mark Whiteis-Helm) was in Radio Blue and Mike Shupp was in Big Bang Theory, the only band of the three to have been signed to a major label (MCA), a deal that sadly went south soon after it was made.

Let’s check in with Shupp, whose next gig after Saturday is Feb. 17 at the Millennium Music Conference in Harrisonburg, Pa., where he hopes to grab some record executive’s ear and get a well-deserved record contract.

His release, “The Key,” is the second CD he’s put out under his name, and it’s as fine a slice of melodic rock and power-pop as I’ve heard recently. “It’s really just me and my drummer, Chris Zogby,” Shupp says. “He and I went to record with [former Washingtonian] Jeff Murphy at his studio in Zion, Ill., last year, and we did the whole thing there. I did the bass and all the guitars and vocals. We got to work really quickly like that, which was good, considering the tight budget I was on.”

This McLean boy played with Big Bang Theory from 1988 to 1992, then formed the bands Greenhouse and Nickel before deciding that his name alone said all that needed to be said. His first CD, 1997’s “October Sun,” was one of my favorites that year, and he promises the next one won’t be as long coming as “The Key” was. “I’ve already got an album’s worth of new stuff,” Shupp says, “and I want to start working on it sometime this summer.”

Meanwhile, he’s hired radio and media promoters to get the word out on “The Key,” and he’ll be playing around as much as possible with Zogby and current band mates guitarist Lee Wilhoit (who happens to be my housemate) and bassist Tony Flagg.

• To hear a free Sound Bite from “The Key,” call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8114. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)

— Eric Brace
( February 2nd, 2001 )
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