Phoenix rising for film festival jam

Everyone has an embarrassing photo tucked away in the darkest corner
of the closet. Who knew that feathered bangs and "Members Only"
jackets looked so dorky?

When you're an entertainer, those photos are available worldwide to
humiliate you on a mass scale for the rest of your life - and beyond.
Just ask Rain Phoenix, who cringes every time she sees one of her old
guest appearances on "Family Ties" or her 1987 film with Ally
Sheedy, "Maid to Order."

"Oh god," she groans. "When I did that, I was right in the middle of
puberty, and you can see the hormones in my hair. But it's been so
long now that it's kind of funny. You know what you're getting into
when you do it. It's going to be there forever."

These days, Phoenix is concentrating on her music career. Her band,
the Paper Cranes, will perform at the Sarasota Film Festival's "Late
Night UnWrap Bash" at midnight Saturday at the Hyatt Sarasota, 1000
Boulevard of the Arts.

While the festival has always boasted a cache of stars at it late-
night parties, it's upping the ante considerably for this one.
Members of Aerosmith and Cheap Trick are expected to attend, along
with Patty Smyth, formerly of Scandal, and David Johansen of the New
York Dolls and Buster Poindexter fame. Don't be surprised if there's
an all-star jam in the wee hours.

Also joining the party will be Farrah Fawcett, Penny Marshall, Steven
Brill and Danny Provenzano. Legendary producer and engineer Jack
Douglas, who manned the boards for Aerosmith's "Toys in the Attic,"
the Who's "Who's Next," John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Double Fantasy,"
and other rock classics, will be honored with a special award.

The Phoenix clan, which also includes Summer, Liberty, Joaquin and
the late River Phoenix, is considered a Hollywood family in the
tradition of the Barrymores. But even though Rain has been in a
number of big-budget films, including "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues"
and "O," music has always been her primary focus.

She and River gained marginal success with the alternative band
Aleka's Attic before River's death in 1993. Rain then toured as a
backing vocalist with the Red Hot Chili Peppers during their 1995-
96 "One Hot Minute Tour," and was a keyboard player and vocalist for
the alternative band the Causey Way, which was signed to Jello
Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label until breaking up in 2001.

"I've been singing in front of a lot of people since I was 3," she
said. "So in that respect, it was my first love, and acting came
along later, when I was 12. Music is definitely something that's part
of me. I'm really picky with film; I would rather wait for the right
work than to just do anything."

Paper Cranes consists of varying musicians depending on what region
of the country they're playing. The constant members are Phoenix on
lead vocals and her fiancee, Michael Tubbs, on guitar.

"It's pretty vocal music over distinctive original backing music,"
she said. "We coined a name for it, Renatronica, because we use
Renaissance instruments, but it has elements of electronica."

Phoenix's influences are all over the board, spanning the gamut from
the Talking Heads to Grant Lee Phillips. "I'm not afraid of any
music, except for Muzak and Michael Bolton," she said. "Oh, and John
Tesh. He scares the (expletive) out of me." As a teenager, she
studied opera at the University of Florida, an experience that she
still utilizes when performing.

"I still use the warm-up exercises before every show," she said. "It
gives me an extra edge, it gives me more confidence in my work. It
definitely helps give me more vibrato when I belt it out.

"If I could have split myself in half, I would have liked to have
pursued opera. Alas, I got a film at the same time and had to stop.
Ultimately, I knew it wasn't something I wanted to do, because it
would have taken up all my time."

The Paper Cranes are finishing up the mix on their debut CD,
tentatively titled "Selfless Shame Promotion," and will be shopping
it around for a label deal in hopes of a fall release. Rain is
putting acting on the back burner for now and pouring all her efforts
into getting the band off the ground.

"The best advice I've ever received is to never do what's on the
page," she said, "to look outside the box and not be afraid to
believe in yourself."