Jack Bauer's mission: rescue music

24's Kiefer Sutherland tries single-handedly to save the rock world

July 23, 2006|By STEPHEN KIEHL | STEPHEN KIEHL,SUN REPORTER

The following takes place between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

There's a line of a hundred people outside the Sound Garden music store in Fells Point, on a Wednesday. In an age of digital music downloads, this is odd. Even stranger, several hundred more people are jammed inside the store. They are a notch cooler than the fans you'd find at a Star Trek convention, but just a notch.

In a moment, it all becomes clear. A black Lincoln Town Car ba-bumps down the cobblestone street, stops in front of the store and discharges the coolest customer Sound Garden has maybe ever seen. He's dressed in a long-sleeve white T-shirt, jeans, shades and shabby brown sneakers.

"Jack's here," a man says.

He means Jack Bauer, of course, who eats terrorists for lunch on TV's 24. The character -- whose impossible feats and gritty, tortured heroism make him the most indelible creation on current television -- is brought to ferocious life by Kiefer Sutherland, the former Brat Packer who is now pushing 40. How do we know that? One of the hundreds of fans told us.

"He's 39. He'll be 40 in December," says Martha Sayre of Baltimore, who admits to being in her 40s herself. "I'm that kind of fan."

But back to the point: Sutherland is in Baltimore to promote his new record label, Ironworks, and its first release, a thrashy soul-rock album by Rocco DeLuca & the Burden called I Trust You to Kill Me. DeLuca will perform at Sound Garden, and Sutherland will introduce him and sign autographs.

That is, if the screaming ever stops. The crowd greets Sutherland with a roar, and he starts and stops his remarks several times. "Oh my God, he's here!" a woman cries out, and the crowd roars again.

Sutherland explains that he and his friend Jude Cole founded Ironworks Music two years ago, after Sutherland bought an old ironworks factory in Los Angeles' Silver Lake district. The factory became the actor's home, and he installed a recording studio. His goal is nothing less than reviving the music industry.

"I felt that there were fantastic rock artists that were not getting signed to major labels and radio was really focused on hip-hop and high-end pop music," Sutherland says. "Radio was falling into this valley that was bottomless."

To promote his label's first artist, Sutherland is making appearances at three independent record stores. He is soft-spoken and exceedingly polite, patiently posing for photos with fans and signing personal notes.

While Sutherland signs inside Sound Garden, Michael Shive, 30, stands outside, waiting for his wife. She dragged him here, he says, explaining that he's never been star-struck like her. He told his wife that asking someone to sign an autograph is like telling them they're better than you.

Soon, Stephanie Shive emerges from the store, triumphant. She hands her husband a 24 box set signed by Sutherland and tells him to read it: "I'm better than Mike. All my best, Kiefer Sutherland. P.S. She made me."

Sutherland signs for two hours, until every fan in the store has an autograph. He helps break down the set, poses for photos with the store's staff and security, answers questions from reporters (no torture was involved in extracting this information) and is hustled into the waiting Town Car.

Later, at Fletcher's bar and club a few blocks away, Sutherland will watch from a balcony as DeLuca plays songs from his new CD. Two pizzas will be sent up, but Sutherland won't come down, not even when the fans shout "Kiefer! Kiefer!"

For once, he is content to watch the show.

stephen.kiehl@baltsun.com

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