The Austin Chronicle

Page Two

By Louis Black, August 20, 1999, Columns

It isn't a place to go after a late-night bite at an upscale restaurant to wile away the hours dancing to reggae, so Steamboat doesn't have the across-the-board cachet of Liberty Lunch. Steamboat is a rock club. It's where you go when it's time to go fast and then a little faster. I don't mean to be drawing distinctions between clubs, but Steamboat's audiences tend to be younger and more working-class. Which is why, I think, in a town that just publicly bemoaned the passing of Liberty Lunch, there is less hoopla over Steamboat's recent crisis.

Steamboat is Danny Crooks' living room; it is a club that is its owner's personality. Steamboat is about the music and the musicians. Steamboat offers all kinds of music, but most of it rocks. The club is smoky and often crowded, the clientele is more young than old, but at its heart is the electric guitar attack, the roll of the drums, the drive of the bass. It is a club that has always nurtured new acts.

Part of the reason there isn't the same outcry is that this isn't the city government -- which bullshits that this is the Live Music Capital of the world -- closing the club. Another part of the reason is that this isn't a club for tired city bureaucrats to unwind. It has been home to a few generations of Austin musicians, but not the kind with complicated day jobs.

Kicking Steamboat off Sixth Street is another example of the city shooting itself in the foot. People don't want to come here for another trendy restaurant and acres of concrete. They come because this community nurtures and respects talent. The contributions made by Steamboat and Danny Crooks can't be underestimated. But in the new, flush Austin, the dollar means more than commitment, and venture capital means more than contribution and memories. Danny is looking for a new place, and a little bit more of what makes Austin so special is going to die.

Daniel Johnston, the subject of a feature by Kathy McCarty, is also the artist behind this issue's cover. In this week's Music section, we print, in its entirety, a strip he sent us in 1990 when he was going to come to town to play the Austin Music Awards, kicking off the fourth annual South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival. The strip proved to be bizarrely prophetic.

Next Sunday, Aug. 29, is our 10th annual Hot Sauce Festival. This event has grown huge. A week from Sunday, we invite you all to join us, the judges, the bands, and the hundreds of hot sauce chefs. You have a week to practice or perfect the winning recipe. See the ad in this issue for more details.

We received a lot more contributions for a new column in the Personals section than I, at least, expected. Publisher Nick Barbaro seems more surprised that I'm surprised than he is by the 30 or so pitches. Art director Taylor Holland has yet to weigh in, but it can only be a matter of time. Right now we are running these by several readers. We promise to decide swiftly (at least by our standards, which are very, very slow).

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