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Off the Record

Music News

By Austin Powell, Fri., April 1, 2011

Permission To Speak

Local booker Joyce DiBona describes Jovita's issues with the city during South by Southwest as "a comedy of errors." Despite years of successful unofficial events during the music portion of the Festival, the South Austin venue neglected to apply for the Temporary Use Permit and Sound Permit necessary to host live music.

Public Assembly Code Enforcement officials subsequently forced Jovita's to move its annual Twangfest inside on Thursday, March 17. That's when Gary Etie of Austin City Permits went to work. Over the next 24 hours, the local consultant sent 47 e-mails to city officials, requesting the expedition of necessary permits for the following day's Irish showcase, while noting provisions in the city code that would allow for it and having the Fire Department informally (and later officially) approve the temporary setup. Due to deadline constraints, the city denied the request. Jovita's moved a portion of the event indoors, canceled some acts, and took a calculated risk by having SXSW Keynote Speaker Sir Bob Geldof still perform outside as planned, after which Jovita's received two citations that were later dropped.

"This was a case of old Austin not really assimilating to all of the bureaucratic changes that have taken place," says DiBona, "and it was an omission that we paid for."

Part of the confusion faced by Jovita's as well as South by San Jose and Home Slice Pizza, among others, boils down to the poorly timed changes to the Austin sound ordinance, passed by City Council on Feb. 10.

The amendment requires a temporary event impact plan to be approved by the city's music office and office of special events for 24-hour permits, and for multiday special events, a city official must also give 14 days' notice of the events to homeowners and registered neighborhood organizations within 600 feet of the site. In other words, that two-week buffer left live music venues less than three weeks to submit the proper applications for SXSW. Even so, the number of special event permits approved rose from 37 to 45 this year.

"We had sandwich shops and dry cleaners that knew the rules," counters Don Pitts of the Austin Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office. "There should be a clear-cut deadline, because it's difficult for us to honor last-minute requests, and frankly, more planning needs to go into events than that."

Pitts says his office will be more proactive over the next year in educating venues about the process and requirements.

Thankfully, construction has already begun in Bastrop on a new entertainment complex – similar to the Villa Muse project – that will help alleviate these issues. For more on this breaking development, see "Dome Sweet Dome," and "Dome and Domer," News.

Joined at the Hip

Marcia Ball and Willie Big Eyes Smith
Marcia Ball and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith
Photos by Sandy Carson

Pinetop Perkins played gospel hymns at the funeral of his dear friend Clifford Antone. On Monday night, a lone candle and rose adorned the keyboard he performed at right up to his passing on March 21. Antone's nightclub returned the kindness, celebrating the beloved blues pianist. From across the stage, a trio of extraordinary harpists nearly blew out the flame: James Cotton ripping on "Rocket 88" backed by half of the Austin Blues Society; Guy Forsyth fanning Marcia Ball's "Mule Headed Man" from her recent Roadside Attractions; and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith dialing up deep Chicago blues on "Long Distance Call" with longtime Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin. The remembrance served further as a coming out for Bastrop's Peterson Brothers Band – guitarist Glenn and bassist/fiddler Alex, aged 14 and 12 respectively – who silenced the sizable crowd early with the spiritual sweep of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," before sitting in with Smith. "A whole two generations behind me but they got the spirit, the old spirit," the elder statesman observed. "They going to be keeping the blues alive." Perkins' final funeral service takes place on Saturday at the Century Funeral Home in Clarksdale, Miss., at 11am.

Take Care3

Explosions in the Sky
Explosions in the Sky

Explosions in the Sky had valid excuses for not appearing at South by Southwest this year. For starters, the local Friday Night Lights soundtrackers had already signed on for the Texas dates of Arcade Fire's tour, which hits a sold-out Backyard May 3. More importantly, the band's still learning how to play its fifth LP, due April 26. Fashioned out of more than 50 demos cut before a six-week sabbatical in late 2009, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care reimagines EITS' signature sound with processed vocals and layers of tonal washes, with sonic manipulations helmed by returning producer John Congleton. It's the band's most challenging and expansive work to date, a fact mirrored in its packaging: a quadruple gatefold cardboard jacket houses the double vinyl and CD. "We want it to be us, but we don't want it to be us," stresses guitarist Munaf Rayani. "I know that's gibberish, but with this new record, you can't pick it all up in one listen."

Random Play

Willie Nelson's been offered a smoking deal by Hudspeth County Attorney Kit Bramblett regarding the local outlaw's Nov. 26 border patrol bust for six ounces of marijuana (see "Off the Record," Dec. 3). "I'm gonna let him plead, pay a small fine and he's gotta sing 'Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain' with his guitar right there in the courtroom," Bramblett told The Big Bend Sentinel on March 23. Hudspeth County Judge Becky Dean Walker clarified to the same paper the following week: "It might very well be a $100 fine and $278 in court costs, but I'm the one who signs off on that."

After five years and more than 100 albums, Matt Smith was forced to evacuate his Hot Tracks!!! studio this week after the Pedernales Street complex he shares with Hearts & Robots hair salon was condemned by the city. "The worst part is that I'm currently in the middle of records with the Eastern Sea, Wiretree, and Leatherbag," lamented the prolific local producer. In the short term, Smith will work mostly out of the Ohm Recording Facility and hopes bands will book some advance studio time to help him get back on his feet.

Over on Kickstarter, local jazz darling Kat Edmonson needs a final push to reach her goal of $50,000 (!) before Sunday, April 3, to help fund her second album, for which she's already logged time with the production team of Al Schmitt and Phil Ramone at NYC's Avatar Studios: www.kickstarter.com/projects/katedmonson.

Austin's mothers of reinvention White Denim travel to Third Man Records headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday for a session tentatively scheduled to be a part of Jack White's Live at Third Man vinyl-only series. That same day, OTR signs off permanently from 101X and the Daily Dose. Tune in.

Local soul belter Nakia is a contestant on The Voice, a new NBC show premiering April 26 that aims to champion the next great American singer, with help from celebrity judges Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera, among others.

Chronicle driver John B. Williamson suffered a stroke in early March. To help defray medical costs, Mexitas Restaurant (1109 N. 1-35) hosts an all-day benefit on Sunday, featuring Los Texas Wranglers, Shake Russell, and Fingerpistol, among others.

The YouTube video "Ben Weasel gets in a fight!!!!," in which the Screeching Weasel frontman punches a female audience member and then Scoot Inn manager Stephanie Crutchfield, has now been viewed more than 150,000 times, and after his bandmates quit on March 24, Weasel has been forced into a solo career. That's little consolation for Crutchfield, who declined to comment on whether or not any legal action is being pursued. "Let's just say I've read the apology," she acknowledged, "and that I'm glad there's one out there."

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