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Off the Record

Music News

By Austin Powell, Fri., July 2, 2010

All Shook Down

Following the announcement here last week of the Direct Events lawsuit, rival promotion enterprise C3 Presents finds itself the target of an antitrust investigation by Illinois' Office of the Attorney General in regard to booking policies for Lollapalooza. C3 Presents and its Lolla partner, the Beverly Hills-based William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, have received subpoenas, according to reports by Billboard and Chicago music critic Jim DeRogatis, who broke the story on Thursday. C3 spokesperson Shelby Meade declined to comment.

At issue is the "performance exclusivity" clause that artists are forced to sign, which, according to an Austin City Limits Music Festival contract obtained by the Chronicle, states: "Artist will decline any performance engagement from 180 days before Festival to 90 days following Festival within a 300-mile radius of Festival," unless granted express written consent from a C3 representative.

Little has been made of the issue locally in part due to C3's ability to nullify the clause as needed for its shows at Stubb's, Emo's, and Antone's, etc. Moreover, a source close to the matter tells OTR that that particular clause has been waived for all local acts. That's not the case in Chicago, however. The exclusivity prevents local venues from booking approximately 130 bands for nine months out of the year. The 300-mile radius clause is said to have a spillover effect into surrounding cities such as Detroit, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee.

Regardless of the outcome, the investigation should shed some light not only on the behind-the-scenes turf war between C3 Presents and Chicago's independent Jam Productions, a battle intensified by the recent Ticketmaster and Live Nation merger, but also the increasingly difficult choices it creates for bands.

"You have to be thoughtful about what promoters you choose to do business with," agrees Ben Dickey of Constant Artists Incorporated, the management company that handles Spoon, Okkervil River, and Explosions in the Sky. "A lot of great promoters don't have festivals to dangle in front of artists to convince them to play for them, and they lose shows accordingly. For the most part though, the promoters that control the major U.S. festivals are promoters you've been dealing with as an agent for many years, and now there's simply extra incentive to continue working with them."

Jim Ramsey (1952-2010)

Off the Record
Courtesy of Tracey Ramsey

Austin's premier tour and concert promoter Jim Ramsey died Tuesday evening at South Austin Hospital. Ramsey, 58, suffered from liver cancer and was being treated for it until his kidneys began to fail over the weekend. He was placed on a respirator, which his family and wife, Tracey, made the decision to remove on Tuesday, following a steady stream of friends and loved ones saying farewell.

During the post-Armadillo 1980s, before the opening of Stubb's and Emo's, Ramsey dominated the concert scene in town. His companies, Spotlight Productions, the Touring Company, and Touring Attractions, made Austin a favored city for such emerging punk and New Wave bands as Talking Heads, the Clash, Devo, the B-52s, the Pretenders, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and John Cale. By the early 1990s, he was booking the Back Room (scope "The Player," July 28, 2006), specializing in the metal and hard rock markets and woodshedding bands like Pariah and Dangerous Toys. By the end of the decade, Ramsey switched gears and opened a successful advertising agency. For more remembrances, see "Page Two." A memorial service will be held on Saturday at the Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home in Lakeway. – Margaret Moser

Victory Lap

Off the Record
Courtesy of Frank Corva

The Riverboat Gamblers are Austin's lone punk ambassador on this year's Warped Tour, which pulls into San Antonio's AT&T Center today (Thursday, July 1), followed by stops in Houston and Dallas. "A lot of it is not our crowd," relays elastic frontman Mike Wiebe from the road to Carson, Calif., "but I like the challenge of playing for a completely different audience." The Gamblers, who debuted at the summer festival in 2005, upgraded to an actual tour bus for the occasion, with a goal of recording an album's worth of new demos. The band recently launched a remix competition for Underneath the Owl's "Robots May Break Your Heart" (details at austinchronicle.com/earache). Here's Wiebe's account of the tour thus far.

June 25: Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.

"I manage to bonk my head onstage and bleed. No stitches though."

June 26: Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, Calif.

"A huge percentage of the bands (all very young) play a strange hybrid of death metal that goes into Euro dance beats. It's like the two whitest forms of music had a thalidomide baby together. I would hope that this is the pet rock of music. On the other end of the spectrum, I got to see the Dickies for the first time. Amazing. It reminded me how I can love music just as much as I can hate it."

June 27: Ventura County Fairgrounds, Ventura, Calif.

"Enjoying the beach weather while I have the chance. Some friends' bands park the buses nearby so we can have a circle-the-wagons-style party. These are the good parts. The next day in Phoenix we take part in an off day bowling tournament. After losing a bet it appears that the entire band will be wearing Face to Face shirts onstage for a week. The Riverboat Gamblers need to drink less when bowling against Face to Face."

June 29: Cricket Wireless Pavilion, Phoenix, Ariz.

"People always compare TX humidity and AZ dry heat. It's like comparing rotten chicken to rotten beef. I'm guessing after this I should start wearing a red and green striped sweater à la Freddy Krueger since my face is going to be melted by the end of the day. Add some dance tracks and we'll have career!"

Only You Know and I Know

Off the Record

"On our worst night, we were still the best band on the planet," boasts local pianist Bobby Whitlock about his 1969 run with Delaney & Bonnie, featuring a legendary backing line that included Eric Clapton, Traffic's Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge, Lubbock saxophonist Bobby Keys, and, for the final show at Fairfield Halls in Croydon, George Harrison. The weeklong tour of the UK produced the seminal On Tour With Eric Clapton live album, and next month Rhino Handmade is set to release an expanded 4-CD deluxe edition that tacks on three hours of previously unheard material. Further insight can be found in Whitlock's new autobiography with scholar Marc Roberty, due this winter with a foreword from Clapton. "It's an incredible roller-coaster ride through my life, from when I was a boy chopping cotton and my abusive dad to being the first artist signed to Stax's Hip label and playing with Derek & the Dominos through George's All Things Must Pass," furthers Whitlock (see "Keep on Growing," Dec. 1, 2006), who recently resumed his Saxon Pub residency Sundays with wife CoCo Carmel on the strength of her new Delaney Bramlett-produced solo debut, First Fruit. "The truth is told, but no one's trashed."

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