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May 12th, 2004 KELLY CLARKE | Night Avenger
 

School of Rock

     
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As DJ Marantic shuffled through a pile of CDs, preparing for his set at Slabtown on a recent Monday night, tempers flared.

"Did the Red Wings lose? 'Cause I wanna burn your eyes out, bro!," a skinny guy juggling a cigarette and a plastic cup of beer in one hand yelled to his friend with a grin. Slabtown's 13 TV screens flashed the hockey game's final score (Calgary Flames 1, Detroit Red Wings 0--in overtime).

The fan calmed down--until he caught sight of what had replaced the Flames on the bar's monitors. "Shit! Is that The Exorcist?" he shouted.

When DJ Marantic wants his class's attention, he always brings visual aids.

Since this past January, DJ Marantic (né Michael Marantic) has been gently educating the rowdy patrons of Slabtown on what music used to sound like. Every other Monday, he zeros in on a single calendar year from 1966 to 1980, playing only tunes released during that 12-month period.

His lesson plan is strict but fair. You wanna hear "Diamond Dogs"? Wait until 1974. Michael Jackson's "Rock with You"? Sorry, 1980 is a while off.

But that night, 1973's glittery glory was ours.

As DJ Marantic spun some Ringo Starr, Aladdin Sane-period David Bowie, and a quiet King Crimson song, he peppered his cuts with trivia. Slabtown's scarred tables filled up with sated hockey fans, trios of bleached-haired, be-fro'd band boys and their girlfriends.

A man dressed in a pair of Dockers mouthed the words to the New York Dolls' "Personality Crisis," while nearby a pair of younger patrons struggled to remember the name of the Dolls' singer: It's David Johansen, gents.

"Some of the songs I play end up on the radio as 'classic rock' wallpaper," says Marantic, a 44-year-old former San Diego radio-show host who looks more like somebody's dad than one of Slabtown's DJs. "This is about sharing where this stuff came from."

On the other side of the room, the fan and his gal pal were lost in their own beer-fueled tête-à-tête. As little Regan spewed a stream of garbled, dog-throated obscenities at Father Damien on the screen, the pair shared a goo-goo-eyed moment. And then--still clutching their plastic keg cups of beer--they staggered out the side door.

Everybody else stayed put. These time-warp theme nights have become a music-geek destination over the past few months.

1973 marched on as Iggy Pop's "Search and Destroy" and Brian Eno's blisteringly sexy "Baby's On Fire" swaggered hand in hand through Slabtown's sunken sea of weathered chairs and woozy patrons. But as the music ended one listener said with a quixotic smile, "It doesn't sound like 1973. It sounds like...now."

Class dismissed.

 
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