Notes on the music scene, the music seen, the music herd, and the music heard.
Glib About Gilb
Someone, oh, please, please, please hand this God's-gift-to-women mongrel a bone and a clue ["The Art of Being Dagoberto Gilb," March 23]. The only, um, extension we'd like to see more of is Gilb's ... pen.
And hey, Chronicle -- more content, less compost.
A Monumental Suggestion
Suggestion: Let's rename the unfinished Intel building the "Kirk Watson Monument"!
Use Your Disillusionment
Dear Austin Chronicle,
I appreciate Carl Swanson's good point when he advises certain Lost-Austinites of the uselessness of merely whining over all the changes that have happened to Austin over the years ["Postmarks," March 23]. Mr. Swanson further advises people to just accept that Austin has changed, or else pack up and move somewhere else. Presumably Mr. Swanson has in mind a place that hasn't yet seen its springs and air polluted, its green fields paved with strip malls and frontage roads, and its beautiful rolling hill country covered with a sea of cheaply made, cookie-cutter homes that sit 20 feet apart from each other and cost a half-million apiece, etc.
While I agree with Carl about the uselessness of whining (his own included), I disagree with the implication that we should all passively accept what has happened in Austin as normal, as the inevitable result of growth.
It is not normal for people to feel good about living in a unique and beautiful city that is slowly being transformed into a giant, faceless shopping mall. Also, it is not inevitable that we malign our environment in order to live and grow as a city (or as a nation).
If this kind of thing does feel normal to us and does seem inevitable, then maybe it's because of the way our society was organized for us hundreds of years ago. So, let's take a moment to remind ourselves that we, as a people, can always work together, using our intelligent creativity and goodwill, and make really huge, positive changes in the way we've organized our society if we want to. Our destruction of the planet is only inevitable if we think it so.
I am responding to a letter to the editor written by one Jeff Fischer that appeared in The Austin Chronicle, Vol. 20, No. 30 on March 23, 2001. Mr. Fischer wrote that he'd attended a SXSW showcase at the Continental Club on Friday, March 16, and that the show was "ruined by the amount of time the bands spent setting up and then tearing down." He further stated that "well over half the time was spent taking up and tearing down," and that "no one seemed to be in any rush whatsoever to either set up their equipment or tear down the equipment."
As the volunteer Stage Manager for SXSW 2001 at the Continental Club, I beg to differ with Mr. Fischer's take on the evening. To begin, on March 16 our set-ups and tear-downs were much easier for my volunteer crew, as one of the bands showcasing that evening, Slobberbone, provided all the backline for the night, meaning there was considerably less setting up and tearing down on the 16th than on the other nights of SXSW showcases at the Continental. To continue, I feel the need to inform Mr. Fischer and the rest of the Chronicle-reading community that all showcases that took place at the Continental Club on 3-16, as well as 3-15 and 3-17, ran on time: every hour on the hour, as was printed in the SXSW 2001 schedule. To further inform Mr. Fischer of something that could be considered a prime directive for all volunteer SXSW stage managers: We have a mere 20 minutes between showcases (which breaks down to 10 minutes to get a band off the stage, and 10 minutes to get the next band on) in order to stay on the printed SXSW schedule. As far as no one seeming to be in any rush, that could be because my SXSW production volunteers, along with the highly competent sound crew and employees of the Continental Club, had the matter completely in control at all times.
Mr. Fischer closed his letter to the editor with several questions, ending with "Am I just not cool enough to understand that two hours of actual music is supposed to take five hours of my time?" My response to this question is that coolness is not required to gain an understanding of how SXSW is able to have five showcases run on time, providing three hours and 20-plus minutes of musical showcases/entertainment in a five-hour time span. What is required is the understanding that SXSW is for musical showcases, it is not a regular night out at a club in town. Once that understanding has been achieved, a little patience is all that is required. For the record: Mr. Fischer's complaints regarding the SXSW 2001 showcases at the Continental Club are the only ones I've encountered in any way, shape or form.
Best Western regards,
SXSW: Tales From the Trenches
What's a person do after a few years of self-imposed isolation when she wants to get out and mingle with fellow Austinites in a crowded bar setting, and listen to wonderful, loud, raucous, amusing, eclectic, and entertaining bands all for free? Why ... she volunteers to be in the music production end of things at the SXSW, of course!
Regretfully, I had never been to this event even though I've lived here all the years it's been put on, so I was hoping it would be something I would think of for months to come. I wasn't disappointed!
Never the aggressive type, I got to experience being a "bouncer," checking wrist bands and stamping hands at the Iron Cactus. I was reminded that great earsplitting heavy metal isn't just an American passion, Mexico is lucky to have Plato y Platicos whom I saw at the Drink on Sixth Street, and our friends in Japan are listening to Mono. I had the fortune of having Switchblade Kittens from California sing a tribute to Julia, the woman who saved the tree by living in one for two years. But by far my most important role I played was "roadie," setting up and taking down equipment [and] going on a water run for a gracious Jess Krieg, an awesome singer from Boston, and standing guard outside over the band's equipment making sure it was safe from drunks and looters.
Maybe this event was "been there done that" to you veterans, and I'm sure they made up the phrase "it's the simple things in life that make you happy" just for me, but hey, this girl had a great time! Thanks Austin for a great time and thanks to all the girl guitarists for making me proud of my gender. You can bet I'll be there next year, standing guard over her musical equipment, and telling some drunk "No! You will not relieve yourself on this equipment!"
DeManding More DeVore
I'm curious why the Chronicle consistently ignores George DeVore? I live about an hour outside of Austin now, so frequenting clubs and enjoying live music is not as convenient as it used to be. I still try and pick up a copy of the Chronicle when I "go to town" to check out how clubs, bands, and politics are progressing. I was disappointed to see that George and the band, although receiving recognition in 11 categories in the 2000-2001 Music poll (as voted by your readers) [March 16], not a single blurb was given about his shows during SXSW. I don't recall reading anything about how his career is going, upcoming shows, tours, CD releases, or reviews. In fact, I don't recall really seeing anything over the past few years that would qualify as supportive press from the Chronicle. I first saw George and the guys at a now-defunct club called One-Eyed Jack's on Sixth Street. The music literally drew me in off the street and I was amazed at how much damn fun I had. I met the guys and grew to be quite good friends with Jimmy (our daughters were close in age and we all hung out frequently). I will also admit I was quite smitten with George -- his appeal is undeniable. This has been four to five years ago; George hadn't been in Austin quite a year yet. I have fond memories of great musicians who also happened to be really nice people. I haven't seen any of them in several years, and this is not a groupie letter, just a letter from an old friend who feels the Chronicle should be doing more to expose and support a great band. He has a great Web site put together by Michael Norton that lists reviews and raves that he is receiving from all over the world. Playboy magazine even gave him recognition (fitting that it would be Playboy). One would think the hometown paper would be his biggest supporter.
Thanks for your time,
A Vehement Thumbs-Down for Bartleby
How could anyone who worked at the Chronicle (or indeed, anywhere) write a review that gave film-festival-goers the slightest push toward the travesty that was Bartleby? How could anyone say anything mildly positive about a film that so egregiously played on stereotypical characters, female buttocks heaving their way through tight skirts (perhaps that was what did it), and an ad nauseum flow of completely unfunny schtick in place of any actual "dialogue" between "characters"? This film, so deeply indebted to the high art of Hollywood triteness -- to the overwritten, under-thought ideas we are asked to swallow in lieu of creative, challenging material -- actually had the gall in its final overstated moments to suggest that we should rise above the tripe to be true to ourselves. I have not had the privilege of sitting through such an inadvertently ironic piece since that horrid Winona Ryder vehicle a few years ago that busily marketed Big Gulps and MTV-think to twentysomethings while making a grand statement against it all at the same time.
Bartleby at least started out with some hope. It began with a short bio of Herman Melville, famous writer of adventure novels who lost it all once he turned to serious literature. It then went on to render one of his finest literary achievements into shallow Hollywood pap (see above) until the final witless ending left me feeling not sympathy, but a desperate desire to get out of the theatre before the director stood up, forcing me to give into my temptation to mug him to get my five dollars back. I don't think anyone would have convicted me.
Nonetheless, common decency held me back -- a common decency not at work with the filmmakers, unless their intention was to force the audience to reread Melville to try to remember that there was once something good and true associated with the name of Bartleby. But I fear I am giving them too much credit.
And I am still left to wonder why anyone in a right state of mind would accept such a creation into a film festival. Who was paid? Who knew the right people? Why do talented writers and filmmakers go unnoticed while crap like this is allowed to swim about and show off its bloated, gangrenous, half-naked body for all to see? Sorry if I seem harsh ... Oh hell, no I'm not.
The film industry is ready for it's close-up now, Mr. Demille.
Thanks for Airport Music
When passing through the Austin airport recently, I was delighted to find live music coming from a small stage near a coffee shop. My husband, our granddaughter and I sat for an hour or so and enjoyed the duo of Karen Mal and Chris Irwin. What a charming pair -- as attractive and gracious as they are talented! We heard that Austin is the music capital of the U.S., and if Karen and Chris are an example of what the city has to offer, we believe it. Congratulations to airport personnel for providing this most pleasant benefit to travelers.
My Cat Ate Your Warbler
Today was a perfect day, 73 degrees. Deep blue skies as far as the eye could see. Warm sunshine in your face, slight breeze of anticipation of spring and not a care in the world, as soon as I clock out from work at 2:30. What a great day! And I can think of no better way to spend it than on a bike cruising through the forest enjoying nature with my dog. It's beautiful! Almost a God-given right. My land that I share with my brothers and sisters, free. Or so I thought. Practicing this ritual so many times in the past, it had become commonplace and a little piece of heaven right here at Bull Creek. I loaded up my bike and scooped up my excited dog knowing that for this next hour it would be me and nature. I wouldn't have to drive through a lot of traffic or across town. It's just right down the corner and I can let it all hang out, release all my aggressions that have built up during the day. I can ride furiously or tentatively, it's my choice. Instead of taking out violence, I ride my bike hard. I think the biggest part is the uphill challenge where I don't know if I'm going to make it or not. So I struggle, me against nature. I sweat and huff and all I can think to do is keep pedaling. My legs tighten and my body says no more, but my heart says yes you can. Because this is me and this I love. Until, some estrogen-strained, badge-wearing woman pulls me over and tells me "no more." I can no longer ride, like I have been doing for the past four years, in the place I have grown to love. Why? Because the City Council voted on bounds for some golden-cheeked warbler preserve. That I have only seen once. My cat had one in its mouth the other day and then dropped it on my doorway as a present. It's great to be politically correct, as you are, but the only thing constant in life is change, so enjoy while you can, sister.
Thank you, sincerely,
'86ed Hit Home
I was excited about seeing 86ed at the Music Awards.
Volunteering for SXSW, I learned that one panel moderator, one fellow volunteer, and others were fans of my show, Trendsetters, which aired on KUT from 1981-86. Each said: "I still have tapes of your show, and I still listen to them. Nothing sounds like that now." I heard the same comments last year.
As Steve Collier started "The Cage," I realized that I'd be hearing songs that I had played hundreds of times on air. By the Reivers' "Freight Train Rain," Kim Longacre's soaring vocal matched the tears in my eyes. During Glass Eye's "Christine," I had an epiphany: Unless I have children, nothing I do will ever be as important, or matter as much as the 5 1/2 years I spent hosting and creating Trendsetters. By the end of the set, I realized that each song had been a staple on my show, including "Sweet Jane." (I will never know if my on-air appeals for a VU reunion ever got back to Sterling Morrison.) As Gretchen Phillips was accepting her award (Two Nice Girls were another staple), I had to leave ... it was just too emotional. The audience seemed to feel that this was important, vital music. I headed over to Hole in the Wall, across from the KUT studios, in time for the Love Supreme's show.
I have always been proud of that time: placing near the top in the Chronicle Music Awards several years, receiving a day in my honor from Mayor Cooksey, especially proud that I could play music that no one else would: MC5, the Velvets, Siouxsie, Love, the Byrds, Rain Parade, Kool & the Gang, Big Boys, LL Cool J, Hendrix.
When The Cutting Edge spent two weeks in town, they were listening to Trendsetters. When Rolling Stone sent a reporter to cover Austin music, I devoted five hours to local acts, as I did on Labor Day, and made a set of tapes for the reporter.
Still, I feel that I had an effect, and people listened.
Thanks for letting me ramble,