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Dancing About Architecture

SXSW kicks into gear, Eric Johnson gets intense, and things keep falling apart

By Ken Lieck, Fri., Dec. 24, 1999


SXSWinter Into SXSpring

Last week I promised you'd get your first taste of who's coming to South by Southwest 2000 in this issue, and here's a healthy spoonful of acts who, barring the inevitable cancellations and van breakdowns that keep the schedule changing up until the end of the conference, will be gracing the city's stages between March 15 and 19: Among them, there's Puffy (Tokyo), RC5 (Seattle), and the Dylan Group (Port Chester, N.Y.) -- those three, I assume, will all be playing upstairs at Bob Popular's karaoke bar under the showcase banner, "Sorry, Did You Think We Were Someone Else?" Among the more properly familiar names, expect to see and hear the Ass Ponys (Cincinnati), Backyard Babies (Stockholm), Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire (Chicago), Gary Floyd of the Dicks' new outfit Black Kali Ma (San Francisco), Buzzkill (New Brunswick, N.J.), former Waitresses/B-52s backup horn support guy Ralph Carney (San Francisco), Peter Case (Los Angeles), Catherine Wheel (London), Chainsaw Kittens (Norman, Okla.), Chlorine (Houston), Terri Clark (Nashville), Continental Drifters (New Orleans), Dieselhed (San Francisco), Johnny Dowd (Syracuse, N.Y.), Bevis Frond (London), Gay Dad (London), the High Fidelity (Glasgow, Scotland), Junkie XL (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Murder City Devils (Seattle), Pinehurst Kids (Portland, Ore.), Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express (San Francisco), Amy Rigby (Nashville), Royal Crown Revue (Los Angeles), Matthew Ryan (Nashville), Poster Children spinoff Salaryman (Champaign, Ill.), old faves the Silos (New York City), the Starlight Mints (Norman, Okla.), former Billy Idol and Drunkfux guitarist Steve Stevens (L.A.), Therapy? (Ireland), and Chuck E. Weiss (L.A.). Uh, oh! That last one is enough right off the bat to start rumors that Tom Waits will be coming back for a second helping! Naturally, there's an interesting cross-section of locals who have made it past the opening gates already, with the initial SXSW list already including Knife in the Water, Pavo, Bob Schneider, 7% Solution, Spoon, Super XX Man, Daniel Johnston, Experimental Aircraft, Guy Forsyth, Golden Arm Trio, Jon Dee Graham, bo bud greene, Damon Bramblett, Michael Fracasso, and the Bulemics. Keep in mind, whether you're local or not, lots of people still haven't received their replies, positive or negative, regarding showcases at SXSW, and some won't until a couple of weeks before the Festival. So don't go getting all upset if your band's name doesn't appear on this page.

Naturally, some of those names will cause excitement among yearly festival attendees, but we here at the Chronicle always stop and take a minute to see which names will cause amusement among list checkers. In the sweepstakes for goofiest band name at SXSW this year (so far), things are already heating up thanks to showcasers like esrevnoc (Tokyo). I know that's "converse" spelled backward, but if there's a point to that, it's completely lost on this Westerner. On the more obvious joke side, there's Japancakes (Athens, Ga.), offering a stupid pun clear enough for us Americans and presumably anyone who speaks English. Finally, there's my favorite irritating name so far: I Am the World Trade Center (Brooklyn, N.Y.). Is anyone at all surprised that these guys are from the same town as They Might Be Giants? Industry types gearing up will also want to take note that the NARM Convention and Trade Show for 2000 will be held just previous to SXSW and down the highway from it. The National Association of Recording Merchandisers will be doing their thing in San Antonio February 27-March 1 -- almost close enough to SXSW for most attendees to just hang by the Riverwalk and wait to rent a car and head for Austin. In addition, the Gavin Report's yearly shindig is scheduled only a few weeks after SXSW in Miami, Florida. Looks like it's gonna be a great vacation, er, I mean, busy spring for the record company yahoos this year!


Eric in the Raw

What's Eric Johnson going to be doing for three days in January (27-29) at world-famous blues club Antone's, you ask? Why, playing the blues, of course, with his trio Alien Love Child (including Chris Maresh and former Electromagnets member Billy Maddox). Johnson will be recording the performances in hopes of coming up with three or four songs to complete the long-in-the-works Alien Love Child live album. As is common knowledge, the meticulous guitarist often takes years to make an album he finds satisfactory (though Lucinda Williams has now taken his place in most of the jokes going around about slow musicians), but the ALC album, tracks for which were previously recorded live to two-track at Antone's and at the late Steamboat, was expected to come out last year, as the idea was for the blues album to emphasize raw intensity over studio wizardry. It would appear, however, that Eric being Eric, it's taking longer than expected to assure that the band gets its raw intensity down just right. "We always had high hopes of getting a whole record out of one show," says manager Joe Priesnitz (I could swear I heard "The Impossible Dream" playing softly in the background), but that of course hasn't happened. Priesnitz adds, however, with surprising assurance, that the disc will come out "definitely some time next year."

Fans of Johnson who attended Wednesday's SIMS Foundation benefit starring Willie Nelson (and his blues band) were no doubt disapointed by what may literally go down in history as a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, with Johnson making a guest appearance without performing anything you could really call a solo. That was one fewer than local guitarist Monte Montgomery, who surprised Derek O'Brien by appearing onstage during one song and all but wresting his guitar from him, after which Montgomery promptly broke a string on the borrowed Strat. If he hadn't overstayed his welcome by that point, Montgomery lingered onstage long after he was sans guitar; he might have taken Jimmie Vaughan's glares as a hint not to bother JLV's main foil O'Brien. With that many guitarists on the La Zona Rosa stage, you'd think the licks would be flying fast and furious, and they were -- from Willie, whose 75-minute performance was almost as well-received as the Meat Puppets' preceding acoustic set was reviled by fratboy hat-types impatient to see the Red-Headed Stranger take the stage. Too bad it wasn't "Shotgun Willie" taking the stage later; they might have gotten their just deserts -- straight between the eyes. Those ill-mannered boors obviously aren't interested in the new, mostly promo-only seven-song You Don't Love Me EP from Curt Kirkwood and the boys, but note there are copies floating around. As of last week, the band's archivist and original drummer Derrick Bostrum had mailed out 500 or so free copies to the first folks to visit the band's Web site (http://meatpuppets.com), and while management tries to get more from the band's label, London (as in the long-awaited London/Sire), they note that if there's a demand for the album's first single "You Don't Love Me" and its six attendant B-sides, the boys might try and give it away free with a purchase of the new album, which is due out next spring. That may not allow you a timely earful of "Vegetable's Opinion," a notable B-side not currently slated for inclusion on the album, so I leave it to your imagination as to what cauliflower sounds like when it's pissed off!


Mixed Notes

One thing I haven't been hearing much of lately is Austin bands and new signings. Here's one for you, though: Chris Duarte is in the midst of negotiations and is close to finalizing a deal with Rounder Records. Currently, his people tell me he's still going back and forth toward getting a mutually acceptable contract and determining an appropriate producer to helm his debut album for the label... Ch-ch-ch-changes at local radio include Alan Smith from Dallas' The Edge (KDGE-FM) replacing Sara Trexler as programming director at 101X as of December 27 (one trade magazine has aready jumped in with the headline "Mr. Smith Goes to Austin"), and the naming of J. Stewart Vanderwilt to the position of director of KUT as of February 14. Vanderwilt hails from Muncie, Ind., hometown of KUT's Larry Monroe and late night TV's David Letterman, and brings with him the dubious honor of unseating poet Genevieve Van Cleave from the title of "Austinite whose name sounds most like a character from a Richie Rich comic"... Have you seen the Stevie Ray Vaughan toy cars yet? Yes? Well, you'll still need to shift some more cash into your toy budget, as Todd McFarlane's toy line has announced that in addition to such plastic wonders as Spawn, Chucky the bloodthirsty doll, the Crow and such, they are currently readying a Janis Joplin action figure for release early next year. No word yet on if it comes with its own tiny bottle of Southern Comfort or whether you get a refund when it passes out on your floor... Before he was A Far Cry From Dead, he was already In Pain. So says German label Normal Records, who have just released a collection of live Townes Van Zandt songs recorded between 1994-96 under the latter title. In a press release that spends a surprising amount of ink on dissing Far Cry, the Normal folks add that In Pain should be available in the USA (through IRT Distribution) sometime in early 2000... If you were near the Grand Ole Opry this weekend, you probably noticed that Austin's Janet Lynn and husband Brent Wilson (Wagoneers, Monte Warden) joined former Austinite David Ball on the Opry stage on Friday. Hope they were careful on the slippery sidewalks outside... If you're gonna be in San Antonio over the holidays, note that at 8:30pm on Dec. 29, Tacoland is hosting the premiere of a documentary about the classic punk hangout, followed by a roast of irascible owner Ram and performances by Raging Woodies, Bang Gang, the Ideals, Hickoids, and Tubular Face... Attention Recliners: A desperate George Michael has "discovered" swing on his new Songs From the Last Century album, and has covered the Police's "Roxanne" in said style. Call your lawyers... OOPS!: Davis McLarty is the agent, not manager, of several bands mentioned last week. (I keep doing that! Sorry!) Also, I didn't mean to imply that Brian Beattie's Austin-only release of Daniel Johnston's Rejected/Unknown was taken from an inferior master source. The DAT used to make the CD was the exact equivalent to the "master" (that term has many meanings in the digital age) that Tim/Kerr Records owner Thor Lindsay has refused to return to the artist. Also, several sources close to Johnston say that whatever he may think he recently signed, it wasn't the contract with Which Records. The national release of Rejected/Unknown remains up for bidding, therefore, and while I'm dealing with clearing things up about former Glass Eye members and their friends, I'd like to correct something I reported about Kathy McCarty about a year ago. I stated that she lost her chance to be on Jeopardy! by missing a music-related question during her qualifying test. I have since been informed that the question was not about music -- it was about Celine Dion. Dancing About Architecture sincerely regrets the error...

-- Corianders: Christopher Gray, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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