Off the Record
Bright Lights, Big City
Honeydripper Gary Clark Jr. has long been hailed locally as the next great Texas blues guitar hero. Now he's got the major label to back it up. The Austin High School graduate signed toWarner Bros. after a breakthrough appearance at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago last year (see "Crossroads 3," July 2, 2010). While there's talk of a live record, Clark's currently working on a new studio album with Doyle Bramhall II – fitting, given that it was the Arc Angel who landed him a seat at Eric Clapton's prestigious guitar pull. "I've always been such a control freak, doing things my own way and on my own time, but I couldn't pass on this," says Clark from California. "It's still roots and blues, but I've been trying to get into some soul and R&B stuff for this album." At least one label representative – former Warner Bros./Reprise publicist and Chronicle contributor Bill Bentley, who now does A&R for Vanguard – tried as far back as 2005 to sign the budding bluesman, but Clark recognizes in hindsight that he wasn't yet ready for the big leagues. "I was still young and needed to experience some things," he says. "I'm confident now. The timing's right." Clark's return to Austin coincides with a flurry of activity during South by Southwest, including playing at a Rolling Stone day party at La Zona Rosa and his official showcase at Habana Backyard, both on Thursday, March 17.
At the Drive-In: SXSW Music at the Movies
Foo Fightersis now set to anchor the 2011 mtvU Woodie Awards, broadcasting live from the Austin Music Hall on Wednesday, March 16. With confirmed performances by Brooklyn noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells, Odd Future, and Wiz Khalifa, the collegiate gala has quickly become the second hottest ticket in town, right after Dave Grohl and company's scheduled nightcap to the world premiere of the band's self-titled rock doc the previous night at the Paramount Theatre. A limited numbers of tickets to the Woodies are being made available to badge holders that morning at the SXXpress booth in the Austin Convention Center. MTV's also hosting a private day party in the Ninth Street parking garage on Red River, headlined by presenters Matt & Kim.
Storm Thorgerson's painting the town for SXSW, beginning with the world premiere of the documentary Taken by Storm: The Art of Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis on Friday, March 11 (9pm, Alamo Ritz 1). The iconic surrealist and frequent Pink Floyd collaborator will be lecturing at the Blanton Museum on Saturday, March 12 (6-7pm), and signing copies of the annotated photo book For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis at Domy Books on Monday, March 14 (7-9pm). "It's definitely a story about Storm's life and this huge legacy," notes director Roddy Bogawa (see "Eye of the Storm," Screens) "but it's also about this idea of losing the tactile sensation of records."
Spike Jonze's collaboration with Arcade Fire, "Scenes From the Suburbs," a bleak portrait of Middle America, screens at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar on Monday, March 14. The 30-minute short was filmed over two weeks in Austin, primarily starring students from Hyde Park's Griffin School. While the recent Grammy winners are also nominated for several mtvU Woodie Awards, SXSW Creative Director Brent Grulke refuted rumors of a special Festival engagement. Better start saving for scalped tickets for the Montreal expats' sold-out Backyard visit with Explosions in the Sky on May 3.
A last-minute addition to the SXSW Film lineup, Hit So Hard: The Life & Near Death Story of Patty Schemel traces the tale of former Hole drummer Patty Schemel (see "Killer Lifestyle," Screens). While Courtney Love attended the New York premiere, don't expect a return trip to SXSW. Just last week she settled her defamation lawsuit with Austin's Boudoir Queen, Dawn Simorangkir, to the tune of $430,000. The suit stemmed from an altercation over degrading remarks the punk rock diva made about the local designer on Twitter (see "Off the Record," Feb. 4). As Bryan Freedman, Simorangkir's lawyer, told The New York Times, "Just because you decide to use 140 characters about how you are feeling at the moment doesn't exempt you from legal exposure."
Papa Gean's Ministry
Under overcast skies but perfect weather, and with Austin's wild parrots chirping all around, a crowd of 75-100 gathered on Doug Sahm Hill last Friday afternoon at 4:44pm to witness the joining together of man and musician by the Monkees' Michael Nesmith (scope "Circle Sky," Feb. 18). Having met at Nez's Videoranch installation at Austin Studios last year – happening again this year at SXSW, Tuesday, March 15 – onetime Saturday Night Live funnyman A. Whitney Brown read his vows to Carolyn Wonderland ("You are a force of nature and a mystery"), while the local firebrand sang hers. Nesmith quoted "Papa Gene's Blues" in his ministerial duties as hometown musicos including Shelley King, Earl Poole Ball, Barbara K, Miss Lavelle White, Sarah Brown, Cindy Cashdollar, Van Wilks, and more looked on. Threadgill's hosted the reception, where some attendees were still brushing off the nuptials' celebratory hemp seeds.
Michael Stipe curated the films accompanying R.E.M.'s new album, Collapse Into Now, and will take part in a Q&A session following their screening at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz on Wednesday, March 16, 8:30pm. While the iconic alt-rock outfit isn't scheduled to perform at SXSW, guitarist Peter Buck's Baseball Project will be swinging for the fences.
Likewise, John Mellencamp's sitting in for the premiere of It's About You, a Super-8 documentary about the making of the Cougar's latest, No Better Than This, and his summer tour of minor-league baseball parks with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. The latter, Austin's patron outlaw, draws the final curtain for the Film Fest in his friend Billy Bob Thornton's The King of Luck, showing at the Paramount on Saturday, March 19, 7pm.
In the latest installment in the Drafthouse's stellar live score series, local shape-shifters Bee vs. Moth provide the soundtrack to Buster Keaton's 1928 classic The Cameraman at Alamo Ritz on Saturday, March 19, noon. Selections from the score are slated for a 7-inch single later this year.
Several of SXSW's marquee performers hit the big screen in new documentaries, including Ron Sexsmith (Love Shines) and Pentagram's Bobby Liebling (Last Days Here), while Live at Preservation Hall: Louisiana Fairytale chronicles My Morning Jacket's collaboration with the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band. MMJ's Tom Blankenship serves as a music video juror for the Film Fest, which features Patricia Vonne's "Worth It," directed by Marcel Rodriguez.
For a far more comprehensive Film guide, see coverage beginning here.