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ARTIST NEWS: Indie Band Receives 17,000 Downloads In Two Days

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Alternative rock foursome Aphasia, from Burlingame, CA recently signed an independent record deal with the newly formed Joint Venture Recordings. Since signing, the good news has been coming in at a rapid and consistent pace. The band has also signed with booking agency Pinnacle Entertainment and landed a slot on three West Coast dates of this year’s Sno-Core Tour featuring Trapt, Finger Eleven and Smile Empty Soul. Currently, Aphasia are featured on the home page of and have received approximately 17,000 song downloads just over this past weekend.

With only three songs recorded and put online at, they are well over the 21,000 mark for total downloads after being on the site for just over two weeks. Presently the band is charted as the top alternative band on the site which is determined by site views and song downloads. The song “Flatline” is quickly becoming the standout track, and has moved Aphasia into the “Best Unsigned Artist” slot on XM Satellite Radio.

Before they head into the studio to record their debut album, Aphasia will join up with the Sno-Core tour in May. They have been added to the west coast shows in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. “To be able to play with these bands that are already so well established is monumental compared to anything else we have done," says lead singer Jeff Harber. "Especially being able to perform at The Fillmore in San Francisco, since that is where we grew up going to shows. I remember having to ask my parents for rides to see shows there, so to be part of what others are going to see is huge for us.” Aphasia will warm up for the Sno-Core dates with Seattle and Portland shows featuring Finger Eleven and Smile Empty Soul.

Aphasia itinerary:

May 14 Seattle, WA Studio Seven (with Smile Empty Soul and Finger Eleven)
May 15 Portland, OR Nocturnal (with Smile Empty Soul and Finger Eleven)

May 17 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore (Sno-Core Tour)

May 19 Las Vegas, NV House of Blues (Sno-Core)

May 21 Los Angeles, CA Avalon (Sno-Core Tour)

May 23 San Francisco, CA Kimo’s

June 7 Hollywood, CA The Whisky

June 19 Foster City, CA The Vibe

–Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Five Music Channels To Air Prince Special

NEW YORK (AP) — MTV, MTV2, BET, VH1 and VH1 Classic simultaneously broadcast a 30-minute Prince concert special on Wednesday at 9 p.m.

The concert, recorded live last week before an audience at New York's Webster Hall, included performances of material from Prince's new album, "Musicology," plus some of his classics. The telecast also included interviews, with certain segments reserved for the individual stations.

"The networks have never done this before," said Will Botwin, president of Prince's record label, Columbia.

"We wanted to do something unprecedented," said Judy McGrath, MTV Networks group president.

McGrath, who was at the taping, said the show was "like a party" with a few hundred audience members at the small club. Prince wanted an intimate feel to the show, she said.

Although Prince has been out of the spotlight for a few years, Botwin said he wasn't concerned that the teen audience won't want to watch him. Kids have learned about Prince through their brothers and sisters, he said.

"There's another generation getting turned on to Prince," Botwin said.

Police Van Shot Up At Site Of Rap Video

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Four shots struck a police van Tuesday near where teenage rapper J-Kwon was filming a music video in his hometown, authorities said. No injuries were reported.

Investigators hope the videotape helps identify suspects in the gunfire shortly after 4 p.m. while the video was being filmed at a liquor store and vacant lot, where hundreds of fans had gathered and caused traffic tie-ups.

Police Chief Joe Mokwa said he did not believe the shots fired from a passing vehicle targeted any of the officers who had responded to control the crowd.

The apparently unoccupied van may have been hit by "some erratic rounds," the chief said.

The crowd scattered after the shots rang out.

J-Kwon, born Jerrell Jones, told reporters the gunshots were not part of the video or fired by anyone with his crew. A representative of the rapper said they would cooperate with the investigation.

J-Kwon's debut album "Hood Hop" is sixth on Billboard's R&B/Hip Hop charts. The album is 13th among Billboard's Top 200, having risen as high as seventh on the runaway strength of its party song "Tipsy."

Put out on the streets by his mother when he was 13 because he wanted to rhyme instead of go to school, the rapper — now 18 — spent some time living on the streets and selling drugs while trying to pursue his dream of being a rapper.

During his mid-teens, he was befriended by a promoter in St. Louis who led him to the hot producers The Track Boyz. They immediately decided to produce his debut, later optioned by Jermaine Dupri's So So Def label.

Elton John To Perform With Music Students

NEW YORK (AP) — Elton John is providing students from the Juilliard School and London's Royal Academy of Music with some after-school activity — they'll be performing with him at Radio City Music Hall.

The all-student orchestra, along with a choir, is scheduled to perform with John during his concerts at the renowned hall July 13-18. The entertainer, who attended the Royal Academy as a child, will also donate proceeds from the first concert to the Elton John Musical Scholarship at his alma mater and to fund a scholarship program at the Juilliard School.

"As a scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music in London, the solid classical training was the key to my success and the amazing career that I have enjoyed," he said Tuesday.

The concerts will be the subject of a Bravo special on cable TV later this year.

Billy Joel Unhurt After N.Y. Car Wreck

BAYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Singer Billy Joel was involved in his third car accident in two years Sunday when he slammed into a house on a wet road on Long Island. No one was seriously injured.

There was no evidence that alcohol or drugs were involved and Joel was not suspected of any crime, said Nassau County police Officer Joan Eames.

Joel suffered a small cut on a finger but refused medical attention, Eames said.

Joel was alone in the car, and no one in the house was injured, police said.

A call to Joel's publicist, Claire Mercuri, was not immediately returned.

Last year Joel was hospitalized after smashing his car into a tree along a Long Island highway. No summonses were issued, and Joel was not given a Breathalyzer test.

Joel escaped serious injury in a crash in East Hampton in June 2002.

He later checked into a substance abuse and psychiatric center, reportedly after becoming depressed when a respiratory infection forced him to cut short a tour with fellow piano player Elton John.

Joel and model Christie Brinkley, who divorced in 1994, have a teenage daughter, Alexa Ray. Following last year's accident, Brinkley expressed concern about their daughter riding in a car with him.

Joel, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has had more than two dozen Top 10 hits, including his signature 1974 song "Piano Man." The Broadway musical "Movin' Out" is devoted to his music.

'Rev. Run' Loses Bid To Be Poet Laureate

NEW YORK (AP) — Was it his New Jersey address? Perhaps. But Run-DMC's Joseph "Rev. Run" Simmons suspects that his failed bid to become poet laureate of Queens reflects a deeper cultural question.

"I don't know if Queens is ready for a rapper as a poet," Simmons said.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall announced Friday that Ishle Yi Park had been selected by an independent panel of judges to become the borough's third poet laureate. Yi Park, author of "The Temperature of This Water," will hold the unpaid post for three years.

A Korean-American born and raised in Queens, Yi Park was among 75 people competing for the position. But it was Simmons' candidacy that created the most buzz, generating a debate about whether rap is a legitimate form of poetry.

Stephen Stepanchev, the borough's first laureate, said no, while Hal Sirowitz, the Queens poet laureate from 2000 to 2003, said yes.

Sirowitz, however, said Simmons should have been disqualified because he no longer lives in Queens. To be considered, candidates must have lived in the borough for at least five years at some point and must write in English.

Simmons, who spent 37 of his 38 years in Queens before moving to Saddle River, N.J., last year, said he had no doubt that rap should be considered poetry. He said he wrote the words to many hits long before he set his rhymes to music.

"I didn't hear no music when I wrote `Christmas in Hollis.' I was just sitting there eating cereal with a pen in my hand," said Simmons by cell phone from Maryland, where he was working on a voter registration drive.

Despite the setback, Simmons said he isn't giving up. He said he hopes to one day become national poet laureate.

Country Singer Messina Finishing Rehab

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country singer Jo Dee Messina is in an alcohol rehabilitation program in Utah, her manager confirmed Friday.

She checked herself into a facility near Sundance on Feb. 20, the same week it was reported that her engagement to road manager Don Muzquiz had ended, said Stuart Dill of Refugee Management Inc.

Messina completed a 30-day program and will continue as an outpatient through this month, Dill said. He expects her to be back in Nashville the beginning of May.

Dill said Messina started drinking socially "and then she recognized she had a problem." It culminated with a poor performance at a New England Patriots post-Super Bowl victory party in Houston.

"As soon as I questioned her about that, she admitted she had a problem," he said.

Dill said the 33-year-old singer was never out of control.

"She didn't dance on tables," he said.

Messina, a Boston native, has hits that include "That's the Way," "Stand Beside Me" and "I'm Alright."

Teen Band Menudo Being Revived

NEW YORK (AP) — Menudo, the popular Puerto Rican teen pop band of the '70s and '80s, is being revived.

Menudo Entertainment bought all the merchandising and property rights about a month ago from Latin record executive Oscar Lloyd, and is working with talent agencies and radio stations in its search for band members, company spokeswoman Cathy Callegari said Wednesday.

"Our aim is to target the `tween market," Callegari told The Associated Press. "We feel there's a void there. What happens is, artists start young like Britney Spears and they get old really quick and move into a new age of fans."

Auditions for boys ages 10 to 16 are planned for this summer in the United States and Latin America. Plans are for finalists to be nationally televised and judged by a celebrity panel with worldwide viewer voting.

Five band members and two alternates will be selected.

Menudo was formed in 1977. The boys were booted when they turned 16, and the group had about 30 different members, including Ricky Martin.

Callegari said the new group will eventually record an album in both English and Spanish, but the boys don't need to be bilingual. And just like the original Menudo, they'll leave the band when they reach 16.

Some of the former members have been notified of plans for the new group, she said.

"We haven't put our panel of judges together yet but certainly it's one of our objectives to have former members involved. We'd sure love to have Ricky Martin."

Menudo sold more than 20 million albums in English and Spanish. An adult version, called MDO was mildly popular in the 1990s.