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Playback: Lovers Rock

Announcing the Austin Music Awards and more Valentine's Day mash notes

By Kevin Curtin, Fri., Feb. 14, 2014

Casual Strangers
Casual Strangers
Photos by Shelley Hiam

From the Cramps to Sonic Youth and hundreds in between, bands led by romantic couplings have proven that with music and relationships, everything comes down to chemistry. For Valentine's Day, three of our favorite local acts touched on the various aspects of making music with the one you love.

Casual Strangers

(Dream-rock weirdos Paul Waclawsky & Katey Gunn)

What came first, relationship or band? Relationship. You could say we've been busy developing material.

Length of partnership? Dating four years, bandmates for six months.

Your song? "You Got It," Roy Orbison

Favorite music quality of your partner? Katey: Paul's sexy shredding solos, duh! Paul: Katey's sultry voice and inspiring spirit.

Tele Novella
Tele Novella

Tele Novella

(Psych-pop quartet leaders Jason Chronis & Natalie Ribbons)

What came first, relationship or band? Relationship. We didn't start Tele Novella until after a year or so, but we were aware of each other's music years before that.

Length of partnership? It's been about two and a half years now! Best 2.5 years ever.

Your song? "Sleepwalk," Santo & Johnny

Advice for band couples: Be thoughtful. Don't get too caught up in the band and forget about the autonomy of the relationship. Be respectful of bandmates that aren't in a relationship with you.

The Well
The Well

The Well

(Stoner-doom riff-layers Lisa Alley & Ian Graham)

What came first, relationship or band? Relationship.

Length of partnership? Four years this Cinco de Mayo, gracias.

Your song? "Rainy Night in Soho," Pogues

Best part of being in a band with your mate? It's nice to have someone to hold your hair while you're vomiting, especially when you're a thousand miles from home.

Half Notes

Drag City has released a dub version of Bill Callahan's 2013 LP Dream River, entitled Have Fun With God. The Kingston treatment comes courtesy of frequent Callahan collaborator and longtime local Brian Beattie, who learned the tenants of dub production – echo, track fading, keeping your eyes on the VU meters – by observing originators like Lee Scratch Perry. This Glass Eye-rie mix, with Callahan's somber vocals chopped up and rephrased over stony regenerating echo, takes Dream River into a whole new body of water.

Naw Dude, authors of badass punk songs like "Ghost Boner" and "Steal From Your Parents," takes its last gasp of seething, breathless hardcore at its final Austin show on Monday at Hotel Vegas alongside Milwaukee screamers Short Walk and local freak punks Ghetto Ghouls.

› A release party for the new Gina Chavez album up.rooted (see "Texas Platters," p.54) at the Paramount's Stateside Theatre on Saturday also features Amy Cook and Emily Wolfe, and raises money for the local songstress' Nina Arriba College Fund, a scholarship program for teenage girls in El Salvador. The Michael Ramos-produced disc boasts top notch locals including David Pulkingham, Glenn Fukunaga, and Adrian Quesada.

› Local wordsmith Zeale has been in L.A. working on tracks, including a collaboration with Del the Funky Homosapien. The high-energy rapper headlines Stubb's on Saturday with progressive electro-pop locals the Clouds Are Ghosts, releasing their sophomore LP Fractures, and riff banshees Megafauna.

SXSW Taking Shape

With the mother of all Austin music festivals a month away, the dizzying information overload of South by Southwest begins taking shape. The music schedule went live briefly on Monday and stays that way starting today, yielding noteworthy additions such as Kurt Vile, Warpaint, Lee Fields & the Expressions, Chance the Rapper, and Schoolboy Q. Naturally, those names merely scratch the surface of what's to come, as the mammoth festival remains pregnant with unannounced action, like the keynote speaker.

SXSW General Manager James Minor, now in his second year of running the show after the sudden death of Brent Grulke in 2012, was tight-lipped about the keynote when I found him working on the weekend at the fest's Downtown offices. "This year we have some late announcements," he acknowledged, "but when people see what's coming up, all will be forgiven."

Other speaking engagements, including Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker, millennial hip-hop luminary Sean "Diddy" Combs, and rock & roll icon Neil Young have been previously announced. Minor did reveal that SXSW's popular free outdoor concerts will return, taking place Thursday through Saturday at Butler Park, across the street from and standing in for Auditorium Shores while it undergoes a C3 Presents-sponsored facelift. Fun Fun Fun Fest recently announced it would hold part of its November music fest there.

"Those shows are really important to us because it's something we do for the community," Minor allowed.

A Friday headliner has been secured, but not announced. Speaking of top billings, Outkast won't be one of them. Minor confirmed that the funky Atlanta rap duo won't hold a proper concert at SXSW despite the fact that André 3000 is bringing his Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is by My Side to the film portion of the multi-headed SXSW. Meanwhile, the roster for the March 14 tribute to Lou Reed, other than Alejandro Escovedo and Richard Barone, remains a mystery although Velvet Underground founder John Cale, who produced Escovedo's 2006 album The Boxing Mirror, seems to be a likely candidate.

Aside from the addition of Butler Park, notable SXSW venue shake-ups include Infest, whose lockout caused a week's worth of hip-hop bookings to be relocated, and the Convention Center's Austin Ballroom, which hosts high profile shows day and night, including the Austin Music Awards.

Austin Music Awards Announced

Playback: Lovers Rock
Poster design by Zeke Barbaro

Did someone say Austin Music Awards? The lineup for the annual extravaganza, wherein winners of the Austin Music Poll are announced, owns the Convention Center's Austin Ballroom Wednesday, March 12, 7:55pm. Local heroine Lucinda Williams headlines a choice roster that includes Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson teaming up with native son Elias Haslanger and Hammond B-3 organ whisperer Dr. James Polk in jazz dynamos Church on Monday, who almost stole the show at the Moody last month during Alejandro Escovedo's epic United Sounds of Austin concert. Austin EDM breakout Francis Prève, brass maniacs Minor Mishap Marching Band, and a very special performance from Lone Star heroes the Texas Tornados stack up as well.

Though they're unannounced as yet, we hear some Rock & Roll Hall of Famers will be on hand to present awards to this year's mega class of local Hall of Famers. The AMAs also feature a multi-generational performance from the Youngblood Choir, headed by the Chronicle's voice of the next generation, William Harries Graham, alongside Marlon and Finley Sexton, Christiane Swenson, Lili and Io Hickman, David and Victor Ziolkowski, and more jamming with their rocker parents including Jon Dee Graham, Sara Hickman, Charlie and Will Sexton, etc.

"It's nice to see the circle becoming complete with the young and old generations of Austin coming together," says veteran rock scribe and AMA Director Margaret Moser, who basically discovered the Austin teen scene. This year's ceremony will be the last for Moser, who's held the AMA reins since 1984 when the event was at the Austin Opera House and featured performances from the Big Boys and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Moser plans to retire from the Chronicle in May.

"I'm proud of what the AMAs have meant to the Chronicle and the city," reflects Moser, who recruited me into the paper along with my editor and many fellow music writers. "We've done good and valuable work, but it's also overdue for a facelift. A younger brain-trust needs to present it to the new Austin."

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