Three Down, Two to Go
Umph. Okay, we've made it to the halfway point of SXSW Music 2002 (even further as you read this), and my dogs are dog-tired. It's been the same each day: get up, hit the Convention Center for gossip, proceed to whichever party on the Secret Insider's List looks to have the best grub, catch a few bands' day gigs, run back to the Chronicle office to type up my daily report, and then it's time for the hard part -- going back out. Even with this year's somewhat more leisurely pace, SXSW is a killer. I should've known I was insane to set up a gig for my band Caühaüs during SXSW on top of everything else! Of course, we're not corporate sellouts like Squat Thrust and all the other locals who had official showcases -- my band played the Austin-patriotic Blow a Townie series that continues today at the Hole in the Wall. Having successfully made it through that and thoroughly enjoying Harvey Sid Fisher's guest appearance afterwards, I seem to have been rewarded with a second wind. Still, for everything I've witnessed, there are 100 that have escaped me, from the already fabled sounds of the 25-piece Polyphonic Spree to Stubb's owner/booker Charles Attal's monster Thursday night party that had everyone inside the city limits either sneering about how they had been denied entrance or snorting about how easily they had gotten in. With similar challenges presented by the numerous bands and parties yet to come, back to the streets I go, in search of more stories while you take in the following tales of what's gone before.
The Battle of the Bottle
They say alcohol doesn't mix with water, and they say the same about booze and driving, but it's looking like there's a third motto along those lines developing: Alcohol and the Metro seem unable to coexist peacefully under any conditions. As the story has progressed, we've seen owner Josh Cisneros lose his liquor license, continuing to keep the club open on a BYOB basis, and then have Sixth Street über-entrepreneur Bob Woody take over and instate his own liquor license. Well, I've already reported that hooch-centered havoc occurred there again on the first day of SXSW, and then on Thursday afternoon, for reasons yet unclear, the TABC yanked Woody's permission to sell adult beverages at the venue as well. Hit hardest by this development was that night's BMI showcases, as reps for the massive publishing entity realized that they suddenly were due to weather a very "dry" night indeed. So, the story goes, a BMI rep tooled down the street to the nearest applicable retail establishment and purchased some $800 worth of beer, then hailed one of those weird bicycle-rickshaw things and proceeded to cart the heady load back to the Metro. The result? As BMI's Hanna Bolte tells it, "A&R folks got into the swing of things, turning it into a big frat party by the end of the evening." Among the attendees, I'm told, were Slacker/Waking Life director Rick Linklater and Ethan Hawke, who were stalled by the doorman until a panicked showcase rep managed to assure their entry. Oh, and one more celebrity was spotted: none other than she who I warned you not to buy drinks for -- Dubya daughter Jenna Bush! It was no frat party for the BBC crew at Maggie Mae's, who were trying to tape the set by Big Leaves as four males described as frat boys in matching maroon outfits did their best to heckle, hassle, and otherwise handicap the Welsh band throughout the course of their performance. No reason has been offered as to their behavior -- perhaps they got tired of waiting for Pat Green's show tonight at the Rodeo.
One Is the Loneliest Number
If you read yesterday's Chronicle Daily, you know that our own Andy Langer and a musical guest were scheduled to tape an early morning segment on SXSW for CNN. Well, Langer made it on the air, but poor Caroline Herring miscounted by a single number. The songbird showed up at local TV station Fox 7 instead of News 8, where the segment was being shot, and by the time she rechecked her addition and zoomed over to the proper station, the taping was finished. Still, her heartbreak was assuredly short-lived, as before the day was over, Herring was on a plane headed for a swank gig in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center. Word on the street says that Langer, too, has more on his mind, as he is scheduled to do an exclusive interview with visitor Courtney Love for News 8, to discuss her disdain for yours truly.
Club Crawl 'Til You Die
The burning question, with the recent economic conditions adding to the troubles of Austin's already endangered live music venues, is how they've been doing during SXSW, and the general answer so far has been a cautiously optimistic "pretty well." Over County Line BBQ and the strains of "What Would Willie Do?" by Bruce Robison at the Thursday afternoon Texas Music magazine party, Antone's staffers told me that things have been good so far, with a typically smaller crowd on Wednesday. Venues off the beaten track and with lesser-known local acts seemed to be doing awfully well that first night, as Opal Divine's Freehouse stayed nearly full through most of the Wednesday sets by Austin rockers Sexy Finger Champs, Stinky del Negro and the like. That could've been partially due to spillover from La Zona Rosa and the Austin Music Hall that night, but neither large venue appeared to be turning away many concertgoers. Debbie Rombach at the Hole in the Wall says the shows at her club have been great -- if not the crowds themselves. The "Blow a Townie" shows on Wednesday and Thursday brought in more people than the night showcases, despite hot and cool running acts like CJ Ramone's Bad Chopper. Seems that much of the Drag-bound bar's first two nights consisted of cash customers rather than wristband-wearers. With local faves like Gals Panic and Coco Candissi tonight, expect the club to see more of both.
Everyone Loves Jello!
It would seem like a vexing conflict: the above-mentioned ex-Ramone was up against the "Ed Kennedys" at their late-Thursday gig -- that is, the Dead Kennedys with new frontman Brandon Cruz from that Seventies show, The Courtship of Eddie's Father. In my case, morbid curiosity won out. I went in to the Back Room half-expecting to see a scene that might be titled "Let's Lynch the New Guy." Cruz resembles Henry Rollins injected with DNA from George Clooney -- precisely like someone that label bigwigs would select to replace troublemaker Jello Biafra. The college crowd there ate it up, but the night was not without an act of civil disobedience; I received a phone message later from a pair of girls who announced that they had recruited some people to throw gobs of Jell-O at the band in protest. The girls quickly bailed to escape the wrath of the club's bouncers just before my arrival. Another thing I wanted to see but just missed was the Briefs' in-store at Thirty Three Degrees on Friday as they closed out the record store's SXSW in-store performances. After catching most of their set opening for the Damned at the Back Room a few months back, which was highlighted by an energetic "Jet Boy, Jet Girl" with guest Captain Sensible on vocals, I had to pick up the Seattle punks' new CD Hit After Hit, and I most assuredly will manage to make it to their official SXSW showcase tonight, 11pm, at the sound-impaired Red Room. And after that, it's back to rotating that CD and the Dictators' latest in my Discman. After all, though the latter dropped out of SXSW and came to town a week early instead, that doesn't change the fact that the Dictators' lyrics distill both extremes of this week with only two lines. I'll let you choose the one that you think fits SXSW 2002 best: "Who Will Save Rock & Roll?" or "What's it all about? Pussy and Money!"