Erasure at the Grand Ol’ Opry?

By John Chambrone
TAMPA—After Andy Bell’s solo outing last year, some people worried about the future of Erasure. Fear not however. The synth-pop dup are back with an acoustic album that has more of a country feel to it than their usual fare. Acoustic? And country? Erasure really pulls it off. Fans who are used to the synthesized sounds of the dance popsters are in for a treat. Vocally, Bell is capable of many things, and doesn’t need Vince Clarke’s musical wizardry on the synthesizer to make songs great — it just accentuates Bell’s already stellar vocal range. “It makes such a difference singing with acoustic instruments,” Bell says. “There’s more space. When you’re using electronics they soak up part of the voice. With strings, the voice seems to
vibrate off of them.”
The duo looked back on their 20-year career and chose nearly a dozen songs for an extreme makeover. Recorded in guitarist Steve Walsh’s Union Street studio, the duo utilized Walsh’s guitar skills as well as the studio name for their current release, Union Street. “It was great going back through those songs, some of which I hadn’t listened to properly since we made them. We just felt there were songs on our albums that had been missed as songs.” Clarke said. “We wanted to show the songs in a different light, and to show that they could work on any instrument,  synthesizer or guitar. We’re going to be the first band ever to cross over from pop to country.” Bell also joked about wanting to play the Grand Ole Opry. They may not be performing there yet, but they will be opening their tour in Nashville on May 6 at the Opry’s original home, tha Ryman Auditorium.Many of the songs chosen for the release had been minor hits and B sides. This tour will be totally stripped down. No big productions, just the songs you know and love, and of course, the newer/older ones that you will be falling for.
In 1985, Clarke decided to do something new. The Depeche Mode and Yaz alum felt it was time to begin a new chapter in his musical life. After auditioning forty potential singers, he heard ex-butcher Bell sing. Their creative chemistry clicked instantly and that was it. The duo has since had an incredible run, including 32 consecutive top 40 singles in their home of the United Kingdom, as well as international success. Their fame has reached to our shores too. Erasure spent a record-breaking ten-night stand in New York City last year.

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Gay Buying Power Projected at $641 Billion

WASHINGTON DC—The total buying power of the U.S. gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) adult population in 2006 is projected to be $641 billion, according to the latest analysis by Witeck-Combs Communications and Packaged Facts (a division of MarketResearch.com). The estimate was
originally derived in a joint study by both organizations entitled, “The U.S. Gay and Lesbian Market.” In 2005, the gay buying power projection was estimated at $610 billion, comparing favorably with the African-American, Hispanic and Asian markets.
In sharing the 2006 projection, Bob Witeck, CEO of Witeck- Combs Communications said, “Estimating buying power is a standard business tool for companies and policy decision-makers. This offers us a snapshot of the dynamic economic activity of America’s diverse gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population.” Since 1993, Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc.
has provided expert marketing communications counsel to Fortune 500 companies in their strategies to reach the gay consumer market.

Witeck emphasized that “buying power does not equate with wealth nor can one infer that same-sex households are more affluent than others. We have seen evidence from researchers that gay men may earn slightly less than their heterosexual counterparts.”
He added that, “the 2000 U.S. Census data on same-sex couples supports the conclusion, however, that gay populations are more concentrated in major metro areas, and less likely to live in rural areas — a characteristic generally associated with higher than average income. Second, same-sex couples are less likely than their married heterosexual counterparts to have children, and they are more likely to have both partners in the workforce,
factors which yield higher per capita household income, especially in the case of gay male couples.”
Wesley Combs, President of Witeck-Combs Communications, added: “In today’s competitive marketplace, it is no longer prudent for a leading corporation to ignore the buying power of the gay market. Marketers that do risk leaving market share on the table for others to capture.”

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Return to Mars

It’s past midnight, Earth time, and the big skylight in the roof of our yurt peers up into the splash of brilliant stars careening through the cold night sky. Far from city lights and surrounded by wildlife, yet snug with a lover in a comfortable bed in a funky round cabin, we have returned to Camp Mars.
Winter weather draws campers even closer, huddled around wood fires to roast foiled s’mores with marshmallow fluff and Ghirardelli chocolate chips. All smiles and sugargoop, oiled by a few brews, stories unfurl like smoke. The young one came from Ft. Lauderdale, where he edits adult web sites. Those two are from Miami, and are celebrating their third (week) anniversary with a Mars safari. The cowboy in the other yurt is fair dinkum, a real southern gentleman with polished boots and a black hat.
It’s Wildlife Weekend, and the daylight action included a scavenger hunt. I seem to have left my pink high heels at home, and the Secret Message from Space also eluded me. But there
were apparently some very well prepared — ahem — Boyscouts at this camp, it seems, for a number of pumps and other surprises materialized on the judging table at the weekly sunset potlatch.
Also on the judging agenda for Wildlife Weekend: birdhouse decorating. This surprisingly amusing contest had campers paint and decorate a variety of houses provided by Camp Mars.

The winner was a rainbow-shingled bungalow with a patio, complete with drinks and umbrella, with a little TV inside and porn on the screen. Truly fit for those penguins in New York when they come to vacation in Florida’s outback!
If all this sounds a bit tame for Wildlife Weekend, it might be. Campers here often rejoice in the mellow mood and are grateful for the quiet after staying at other rowdier gay  campgrounds.
Still, Mars has a naughty “hut” and a nature trail with certain sexy surprises. And I am pretty sure I heard the cowboy holler Yee-Ha in his yurt sometime around two a.m. So it’s definitely not your mom’s preferred getaway.
Then again, Korin has happily weathered hurricanes and honky-tonk parties to be the solitary woman resident at Camp Mars. “There were over a dozen of us cowering on the floor of
the women’s bathroom during the Charlie.” And then there was another horrible storm, and another! But she says, despite losing a few (tree) limbs, nobody got hurt and soon enough all of the residents and camp owner Dale Dunston put things back together better than ever. Two new roads for resident campers reach into the pasture near the pool.
But there is still plenty of nature and countryside all around.  Camp Mars is (hysterically) near Venus, Florida. Go past Arcadia to Highway 27. Ten miles south to the middle of not much, swing right to Venus, left on Goff and straight ahead into another landscape! It’s a two hour drive from Tampa Bay, but meditative Moon River on the far side of Crater Lake is so distant from the mania of 275 that you might as well be on Mars. FMI www.campmars.com

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