Austin Music People wants to meet up
United We Jam
There's never a shortage of benefits in Austin. Every week, local bands play to raise money for a friend in need or a social cause, but when a benefit incorporates 15 venues and some 100 bands, it's bound to turn heads.
That's the point of this weekend's United We Jam. The Friday-Saturday show bonanza, inhabiting almost every club between Red River and Chicon, is the first public fundraiser for Austin Music People, an advocacy group with City Council-reach and legislative interests where concert promotions are concerned.
"AMP was created out of necessity," says Transmission Events co-owner James Moody, who helped found the coalition in 2011. "There was no centralized organization representing music. We could only defend it as individuals, but standing at a podium in City Council meetings wasn't effective."
Jennifer Houlihan, who took the reigns as AMP's Executive Director after Momo's owner Paul Oveisi's tenure ended, points out that if other economy-impacting workforce populations like realtors have what amounts to a union, then the local music business needs the same.
"It's like my father always said: 'If you don't have a seat at the table, you're on the menu,'" she says.
AMP's boards and committees count local infrastructure leaders like Moody, South by Southwest's Roland Swenson, and C3's Charles Attal, as well as entertainment attorneys, agents, and musicians, including Adrian Quesada and Nakia. While its impact so far has been slight – Houlihan counts extending parking meter time limits near clubs, and dispute resolutions between venues and neighborhood associations as accomplishments – they're taking big steps into street-level musician involvement this week.
On Tuesday, AMP certified local musicians to be deputy voter registrars so they can register fans, a novel attempt to remedy Austin's low and unbalanced voter turnout. The organization will have voter registration booths at various United We Jam concerts, which stars hometown bands of every genre playing for $5 to fund AMP.
"It never felt right for AMP to have a white tablecloth fundraiser," reasons Moody. "It has to be fan-supported – reaching out to the bar owners, music fans, and bands."
One of AMP's voter registration booths will be set up at the White Horse, where on Saturday one of Houlihan's favorite local musicians, folksinger Silas Lowe, performs. A former member of the Atomic Duo who captured a moment this summer with his striking ode to Sen. Wendy Davis, "Didn't She Stand," Lowe came to Houlihan's attention much earlier when he attended a City Council Music Commission meeting and spoke about what life was really like for working musicians in Austin.
"I think it was the first time that a musician had addressed a meeting," recalled Houlihan. "He really opened everybody's eyes."
Lowe, who cites unlivable wages as the primary hardship of local musicians, wasn't looking to be the voice of Austin's guitar-wielding populous.
"I just couldn't believe, after looking at the Music Commission's notes from the previous year, that they never mentioned musicians once," says Lowe. "It was all from an industry perspective. I wanted them to make a systematic, sustainable way to put that voice into the conversation and involve local musicians."
United We Jam – full schedule at www.austinmusicpeople.org – appears to be a good start.
› Hayes Carll wants everyone to know that he hasn't been institutionalized, a rumor apparently disseminated on satellite radio. "I want to let everyone know that there is no truth to this rumor," he wrote on his Facebook page. "I am on a family vacation in Florida, not a mental hospital in Wyoming, and while one may ultimately lead to the other, I seem to be fine at the moment." Carll plays Antone's today, Aug. 22.
› Local psych rock shamans the Black Angels tape their first Austin City Limits performance Wednesday, Aug. 28. One of Austin's most relevant bands, the Angels have shepherded a vast neo-psychedelic movement and hosted festivals on two continents. Free passes are available by going to www.acltv.com and clicking the "tapings" tab.
› Jazz, blues, and pop singer "Little" Donna Hightower died Monday at her home in Austin at age 86. Hightower, who boasted a powerful voice and brazen delivery, began her recording career in 1951 cutting records for Decca, but her career really took off while living in Spain in the Seventies, when her impeccably clever "This World Today is a Mess" became an international hit. She moved to Austin in 1990.
› The Longbranch Inn celebrates 10 years of service this weekend. An unpretentious Eastside bar, welcoming to all walks, and home to a top-notch jukebox and intimate concerts, it celebrates this Saturday with good tunes from DJ Maggie Mae, barbecue, and T-shirt giveaways.
› The late, great Jesse "Guitar" Taylor's ax was put on permanent display at the airport's Saxon Pub last Thursday. That evening, the venue's Lamar home base was packed with family, friends, and fans of the tattooed guitar-slinger – most famously for the Joe Ely Band – who died in 2006. Saxon resident band the Eightysixxed were joined by guests including Butch Hancock, Ely bassist Jimmy Pettit, and Dan Yates.
› Real Ale, the same company that partnered with local rockers the Sword to create Iron Swan Ale, hosts a brilliant Cans for Cans food drive this Saturday at the Browning Hangar (4550 Mueller), in which you trade two nonperishable food goods for one ice cold can of Real Ale beer. Even better, the event features performances from 2 Fer 1 (Graham Wilkinson and Shawn Nelson), the Preservation, and Bobby Jealousy, 2-6pm.
Ty Segall's Requiem
Garage sensation Ty Segall, the home-recording, fuzz-guitar-spewing, heir apparent to late rocker Jay Reatard, isn't so much an overachiever as a compulsive artist. At just 26, the L.A.-based multi-instrumentalist's output includes over a dozen albums released under his name or with side projects, the most recent of which, Fuzz, hits Red 7 on Oct. 4.
"I don't take pictures, I don't draw, I don't paint," explained Segall by phone from the West Coast while packing up for his current tour. "I just make recordings. I get hyper-focused and obsessive when I make records. I have to make them the best they can be."
Segall first hit Austin as a one-man band at Beerland in 2007 during a tour with Bay Area fireplugs Thee Oh Sees and Sic Alps. Since then he's made common practice of headlining at Mohawk, where the tireless rocker plays for the second time this year on Tuesday, albeit with a noticeable sonic downshift.
The polar opposite of last year's face-melting Slaughterhouse LP, Segall's brand new Sleeper finds him strumming an acoustic guitar and soul-searching. Inspired by the recent passing of his stepfather, Sleeper exposes a young artist processing loss through weird home recordings and, in turn, creating a beautifully conducted outpouring of emotion.
"I thought at first it was demos and then they eventually became songs," he confessed.
Segall admits he's had reservations about whether his distortion-loving fans would enjoy hearing the album live, for which he's assembled a new quartet called the Sleeper Band.
"I was really worried, but so far audiences have been open-minded," he says. "The live show is really not as mellow as the record at all. It meets halfway between what we've always done live and what the record is."
Asked whether he'll be playing an acoustic guitar onstage, Segall didn't miss a beat.
"Yeah, but I'll be playing it through my giant amplifier stack."