A long, thick line stretched along Waterloo Records' facade. Inside, rising like cornstalks among the music racks, Austinites. Every size, shape, age, race, class. All of them waiting. Buzzing.
At half past the appointed hour, someone finally got onstage to quell the unconcerned assemblage. Store owner John Kunz? All I recall is the shrug, communicating the obvious: We don't know where Lucinda Williams is either.
Fair enough. Two weeks of Free Week – South by Southwest for and by the homies – had finally petered out over the weekend. (Pant, pant.) Time to wait out winter for SXSW, take down the Christmas tree maybe. Annually, in the relentless pursuit of local music, January's a sweet spot: free, homegrown, chill. Lucinda Williams in-store/encore.
"She didn't even apologize for being late," I marveled afterward to my wife.
"Why should she?" retorted Agnes.
Indeed. Williams took Waterloo's stage at 5:38pm, with a steely look in her deep blue ocean eyes, and 39 minutes later left with our collective breath. A reissue of 1988 breakout Lucinda Williams – "I Just Wanted to See You So Bad," "Changed the Locks," "Passionate Kisses" – prompted the Tuesday rush-hour gathering, but the singer's raw country soul answered the real reason for the meet. Communion.
For the congregation, the best years of our lives in song: desire, heartbreak, memory. To the preacher, affirmation, love. Perhaps we owe Lucinda Williams an apology. We are not worthy. We took money and time off, packed together our adulation, yet our musical town hall also dragged along expectation, wish fulfillment. Where do we get off? Muhammed brought the mountain, we took smartphones. Williams' Gulf Coast cry – primal, aching, sating – remains a gift of community. Those songs are bare and bold, far bigger than 5pm sharp, and timeless. Passed down.
Margaret Moser, retiring Austin Music Awards director, receives these gifts from her confidant, "Lu." Taking a cue from native youngblood and future ATX mayor William Harries Graham, I emailed a stat sheet to she who recruited both of us into the Chronicle. Margaret Moser:
First Year: "Year one at Club Foot in 1983, Bob Simmons produced. I had no official title but did lots of whatever needed to wrangle musicians, which kept me busy all evening."
Years Producer: "1984-88, '92 to present. E.A. [Srere], who'd been my second in command all those years, directed '89, '90, and '91."
Years Running the Austin Music Pole [sic]: "LOL. 1992 to present."
Best Year: "I shoulda retired after Springsteen in 2012. Nothing will ever top that."
Best Anecdote: "Oh geez, why do all the fuck-ups come to mind instead of the triumphs? Like Paul Ray mis-announcing the Crickets instead of Nanci Griffith. My fault.
"I think my favorite unexpected moment was coming around the side of the stage at the Austin Music Hall and seeing Talking Heads and Britt Daniel mesmerized by Mother Falcon. Three distinct generations of music right there.
"Listening to Kris Kristofferson say words I wrote but he memorized and spoke as if he'd written them himself was unreal.
"Then there was the year Robert Plant complained what a low-budget affair the Awards were ..."
Best Louis Black [Chronicle Editor-in-Chief]: "We were standing by the side of the stage at the [Austin] Music Hall, holding our breath as John Cale walked onstage with Tosca and played for Sterling Morrison. When the music started, we looked at each other, held our hands out in front of us, flopped our wrists like bunny paws, and hopped around with joy. In public."
Best Lucinda Williams AMA Moment: "Her singing 'Hot Blood' at the '93(?) show with Gurf Morlix playing slide."
Others play the prom, of course, serenade the belles of the ball. If anything, Moser booked her swan song specifically. From opening doors with guerrilla brass battalion Minor Mishap Marching Band to exiting Austin's DIY Grammys one final time in a gust of Texas Tornados. Bandleaders Augie Meyers, Flaco Jiménez, and Shawn Sahm, drummer Ernie Durawa – Louie Ortega, Speedy Sparks, Nunie Rubio – all stood with Doug Sahm and Freddy Fender at the Alamo. Texan pioneers who died for the cause: music. Blues, country, Tex-Mex, conjunto. Only Bob Wills/Buddy Holly/Willie Nelson match up in Lone Star integration.
First time I heard the words Gary Clark Jr.? Margaret Moser. Sarah Jarosz? MM. Grammy recognition for both this year. And they're already elders. John Cale-endorsed, chamber-pop orchestra Mother Falcon, Ivey & the Wicker Suitcase star Grace London, the Peterson Brothers' molten blues ascendancy – all Moser picks. They're today. And look out, because as the song goes, here comes tomorrow: the Youngbloods Choir. Match the supergroup's surnames – (William Harries) Graham, David Z, (Marlon and Finley) Sexton, (Lily and Io) Hickman – with those of their special guests: Jon Dee Graham, Will and Charlie Sexton, Sara Hickman.
Up on Austin's future? At Alejandro Escovedo's United Sounds of Austin concert three days before Lucinda Williams at Waterloo, William Harries Graham, Marlon Sexton, and the Painted Redstarts closed the almost three-hour romp through local music lore by covering the host and Jon Dee Graham's three-guitar army the True Believers. Talk about chip-off-the-old-block torque. Worlds collided, atoms split.
That same siege saw grinning Austin son Elias Haslanger raise his tenor sax in cuing the better part of his Church on Monday band-cum-service (Monday nights f-r-e-e in the Continental Club gallery): organ grinder Dr. James Polk, next great Austin axeman Jake Langley, drummer Scott Laningham, and bassist Daniel Durham. When was the last time you saw a rock & roll show one-upped by jazz? Standing ovation, yo. Asleep at the Wheel driver Ray Benson going Ray Price on them with a guest spot? One can only hope.
And Francis Prève? Three words: EDM. Electronic Dance Music. Margaret Moser's decreed it. Austin's John Hammond (Dylan, Springsteen, SRV), she – my colleague/ puppet master/sister/mother/stooge/fellow Stones pledge/Monkey Woman Too of 20 years – appended "stuff you didn't ask for" in her AMA email to me:
Best Surprise Performance: Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble flying in from the CBS Convention in Hawaii and premiering the entire Couldn't Stand the Weather album to a packed [Austin] Opera House 1983.
Most Unexpectedly Successful Result of an AMA Set: Roky Erickson and Okkervil River recording together.
Bands That Revived Their Careers After Reuniting for AMA: Bubble Puppy and Wagoneers.
Notable Memorial Tributes: Doug Sahm, Townes Van Zandt, Walter Hyatt, Brent Grulke.
Proudest Of: Bringing the younger generation into this. Whether they're working for me on staff backstage or playing onstage or winning awards or creating the poster, the kids really are all right. Seeing Bernie Worrell squire the Peterson Brothers around backstage last year was a trip. Watching Gary Clark Jr. win his Grammy was like ultimate affirmation that everyone who voted for him last year in the Chronicle poll was right.
Best Laugh Behind the Scenes: About four years ago, [emcee] Andy Langer hadn't tried on his tux before the show and found the pants were too big. First, we safety pinned them, but they didn't hold. Then we stapled them, but they came loose. So we ended up duct-taping him into his pants.
Best Behaved Guests: Little Steven Van Zandt, Jonathan Demme, Sandra Bullock.
Bless you, Margaret Moser. RSVP + 1.
› 7pm - (doors): Minor Mishap Marching Band
› 7:55 - Emcee Andy Langer intro
› 8:00 - Youngbloods Choir: William Harries Graham, David Z, Marlon Sexton, Lily & Io Hickman, Finley Sexton, with special guests Jon Dee Graham, Will & Charlie Sexton, Sara Hickman
› 8:40 - Church on Monday with special guest Ray Benson
› 9:00 - Francis Prève
› 9:50 - Lucinda Williams
› 10:45 - Texas Tornados
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