Daily Music
Patti, Mary, and Miriam
After unhappily giving Patti Smith’s latest CD, Twelve, a so-so review (which you can find in Thursday's paper), I found myself a little distressed. It’s hard to give a middling review to someone like Patti Smith, who’s generally delivered stellar work over the years, but these covers were too serious and could have been delivered with more than uninspired devotion to the originals. A redo doesn’t have to be a complete deconstruction, like Smith so famously did with “Gloria” back in 1976, but it should have some bite to it.

Mary Weiss got it right with her remake, “A Certain Guy.” First recorded and written by Ernie K-Doe in the early Sixties as “A Certain Girl,” the song irresistibly bounces along to his easy melody. In Weiss’ hands, it’s still a simple piano-and-sax tune, but her smoky alto makes it pop like a new piece of bubblegum. And like any chestnut, you have to dig to find it – it’s only available on vinyl as the B-side to “Don’t Come Back” or on her MySpace page.

4:24PM Mon. May 7, 2007, Margaret Moser Read More | Comment »

Southern Soap Opera
The Drive-by Truckers played in my tiny living room during South by Southwest 01. It was an unplugged affair, of course, kind of like what went down this week at Antone’s as part of their Dirt Underneath tour, except they were a very different band back then.

Every time there is a change in the Truckers, and there have been a few since 2001, it causes an uproar among fans. There is emotional attachment between any band and its fans, but DBT fans seem to take change especially hard. First, guitarist Rob Malone just up and disappeared in the fall of 2001 during the Southern Rock Opera tour. His replacement, the cherubic Alabaman Jason Isbell, became a force in the band, writing some of its best songs and blossoming into an excellent guitarist. Producer, bass player, and longtime friend Earl Hicks left in December 2003, and was replaced immediately by Isbell’s wife, Shonna Tucker, lending a whiff of Fleetwood Mac’s Sturm und Drang to the proceedings. There was also some record-company drama when they signed to Lost Highway, who reissued Southern Rock Opera after it had been initially self-released, only to leave the Nashville label for their current home, the Austin/L.A.-based New West, without releasing anything else.

11:32AM Fri. May 4, 2007, Jim Caligiuri Read More | Comment »

Cute Band Alert!
Finally Punk – composed of Veronica Ortuño, Elizabeth Skadden (a former Chronicle intern), Erin Budd, and Stephanie Chan – is a sight to behold live, switching instruments after every song (which are typically less than a minute long), screaming unintelligible lyrics about manatees and pregnancy, and generally sounding like the Slits screwed and chopped through helicopter blades. (Multitasking is not a problem: Three of the four are also in the Sixties girl group the Carrots, from which FP was birthed.) They’re part of a girl punk revival (which could include San Antonio’s Girl in a Coma; L.A.’s Mika Miko; Portland, Ore’s New Bloods; and Philly’s Bad News Bats; among others) that’s born of the white-hot fire of both Olympia, Wash., 1991 and England 1979.
"I don't know that much about riot grrrl, but I feel like the new crop of bands takes more from the art-rock girl bands of the late Seventies/early Eighties than maybe riot grrrl did," Skadden says. “Bands like We've Got a Fuzzbox, Pink Military, Pink Section, I.U.D., Student Nurse, the Slits, Lilliput, Inflatable Boy Clams, Reversible Chords, the Foams …"

"I definitely believe that riot grrrl is relevant to culture today," Ortuño adds. “I think some people hear the term and get the wrong idea of what it stands for. It's like an automatic notion that it's 'anti-males' or something. There are a lot of males who support the idea of 'pro-female' as a form of expression. A lot of my personal influences are predominantly female musicians, but my idea for Finally Punk is to learn my instrument and have fun with my friends. If I had to put it any way, I see us more as an existential punk band fronted by women."

Still, humor is a big part of the punkistentialists' repertoire, as heard on the baffling thrash of “Missile” (a song whose chorus – "What the fuck, Missile? What the fuck?" – has been sung to me on three separate occasions when I mention the band) and the jam "Boyfriend Application."

"I made up that term randomly when I wrote the song and then found out that back in the days of chat rooms and MakeOutClub.com, there really were such things,” Skadden recalls. “Who knew?”

She goes on to say the questions could include, "Do you have a job?" and, "Are you 30 and working in a coffee shop?"

Finally Punk take off for a Midwest/West Coast tour in early June, and the mixtape will be in full effect.

"Last summer we jammed several mixtapes that Catherine from [tourmates] Kiosk made. That's where I first learned about that Aretha Franklin song 'I Idolize You,’” Skadden recalls. “Bikini Kill and Bratmobile keep me awake on overnight drives. The other girls are really into Mariah Carey for some reason, so we are probably in for some more Mariah Carey sing-alongs, which is my own personal hell, but they really enjoy."

Catch Finally Punk tonight at Beerland with the Strange Boys and Olympia's Old Haunts, as well as a Tuesday night house party with the Silver Daggers and Total Abuse, 2515 Pearl St.

1:02PM Thu. May 3, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

Coachella 2007
Traveling to the 2007 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival felt a bit like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, sans the expense account and excess of drugs. The three-day excursion, which featured 123 bands and had an average attendance of 60,000 people daily, began with a plane flight, car rental, and trip through the blistering desert, included nights in cheap motels and a quick round at an Indian reservation casino. There were several surreal events and possible heat-induced hallucinations: Jackass’ Weeman escorting a young woman into a Porta Potti, Scarlett Johansson joining the Jesus & Mary Chain, Explosions in the Sky incinerating the main stage. I hugged my laptop and notebook while attempting to rage against the machine.

12:49PM Tue. May 1, 2007, Austin Powell Read More | Comment »

Saying Goodbye to the Ex
I have been extraordinarily fortunate in my life to love and be loved by some remarkably talented men. Last week, I had to say farewell to one of them.

Mike Malone, better known to Austin as Rollo Banks, killed himself in Chicago on April 16 at age 64. A world-class tattoo artist with a rough, inked-up exterior and a soft, liquid heart, Rollo left on this Earth an indelible imprint. Certainly he did on me. From the moment Michael Corcoran introduced us, my life changed in ways sometimes subtle and sometimes fast.

Rollo and I were married Dec. 4, 1984, less than three months after our first date. We stayed married for 15 years and with the exception of a couple of periods of estrangement in the mid-Nineties and around the divorce, we remained very close. For the last few years, I’d been editing his “Tattoo Tales,” a series of stories from his 30-plus years in the business being printed in a popular tattoo magazine. I knew these stories backward and forward, so it was a pleasure to edit them.

Rollo was a terrible tease. He used to razz me mercilessly about being a music journalist. When we met, he loved seeing me perform as one of the Jam & Jelly Girls with Dino & the White Trash Revue, but the novelty of seeing me dance and sing among gigantic dildos and double entendres soon wore thin for him. He’d pooh-pooh Austin’s sense of self-importance as a music scene, calling it “the little town with the big guest list.” He preferred Johnny Mercer to the Fabulous Thunderbirds, though he went big-time for conjunto via hanging out with Keith Ferguson.

Sometime in 1994, I was talking to him about Nirvana. Kurt Cobain had offed himself not long before, and I was trying to explain to Rollo why Nirvana mattered. Rollo wasn’t having any of it. After listening to me go on for a bit, Rollo looked perplexed.

“Maybe we should stop making new records for a while. So we can hear all the music that’s out there that’s not getting listened to because there’s too much of it.”

It was an interesting, unlikely suggestion. I laughed, but the conversation stuck with me.

1:06PM Mon. Apr. 30, 2007, Margaret Moser Read More | Comment »

Hell Freezes Over
Well, it will eventually. Spinal Tap's allegedly reuniting to play the London stage of Al Gore's multicontinent Live Earth festival on July 7. Billed as "concerts for a climate in crisis," the fest also hosts Madonna, the Police, and Bon Jovi. For the occasion, the Tap will debut new single "Warmer Than Hell."
This Is Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner also has a new short documentary about the reunion, which shows how the band has embraced climate change.

1:39PM Wed. Apr. 25, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

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Big Boned
It's been way too long since I thought about Fishbone.

The Los Angeles-based punk/ska/soul outfit plays Emo's Wednesday with Lick Lick and Opposite Day in support of Still Stuck in Your Throat (Sound in Color), their first new stateside album in seven years. Aside from helping pave the way for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, and No Doubt, they were one of the best live bands of the Eighties. Anyone who saw them plow through "Party at Ground Zero" or "Lyin' Ass Bitch" during their heyday can testify to that.

Fishbone's sweat-soaked August 1987 show at the Ritz with the True Believers and Bad Mutha Goose may have actually saved my life after being shown the dorm-room door by an unrequited summer-school crush. I also recall a 1989 show at the Texas Union Ballroom with Thelonious Monster at which the band stated they'd never play UT again until the university divested from apartheid South Africa (a promise they kept).

The 'Bone's commercial peak was 1991's The Reality of My Surroundings, but even that sprawling album never made the Top 10. Diminishing returns followed and original members started dropping off. Today only sax player/vocalist Angelo Moore and bassist/vocalist John Norwood Fisher remain from the original 1979 lineup.

At its finer points, Throat recalls the frenetic, stereotype-smashing fusion of “black” and “white” musical genres that made Fishbone’s 1985 debut EP so revolutionary. From the hardcore neurosis of "Frey'd Fuckin' Nerve Endings" to the goofyass ska hoedown, "Party With Saddam," the band retains its boiled-over melting-pot vibe. While hearing them pay tribute to the influenced with a cover of Sublime's obnoxious "Date Rape" is sort of sad; it's the last song and easy enough to skip. Either way, Fishbone was always a live band. I'd never write them off in that context.

3:08PM Tue. Apr. 24, 2007, Greg Beets Read More | Comment »

Take This Roll and Shove It
Sheryl Crow wants us to use “only one square per restroom visit” of toilet paper when we use the toilet. By “we,” I take it she means women since the only man I know who blots his weenie after peeing is David Beckham.

La Crow admits that there are “those pesky occasions where two to three could be required.” Two or three? What do you eat, Sheryl? Iams and Science Diet? As long as you’re citing exceptions, what about explosive diarrhea? Must we requisition extra? And what if you wipe and then have to go again, Sheryl? How about a long, snotty sneeze in the vicinity of the bathroom? What’s the allocation there?

I’m a little surprised that she took off after toilet paper. She mentioned paper napkins, which seems a much more reasonable place to start, since they don’t actively involve personal hygiene. The downside to using cloth napkins is that they must be washed. Washing usually involves soap, water usage, and electricity, but maybe that’s the fair trade. Clean napkins are as much a necessity to the restaurant industry as they are to household eating. She didn’t even mention disposable diapers.

3:18PM Mon. Apr. 23, 2007, Margaret Moser Read More | Comment »

Don't Call It a Comeback
For the past couple of years, the Old Settler’s Music Festival seemed to wobble on its last legs, both creatively and in terms of attendance. This past weekend, however, it showed great signs of life with respectable crowds; a full, lively campground; and some inspired bookings that proved it’s more than just another (dreaded) bluegrass festival.

The vibe at Camp Ben McCulloch on Thursday night was as pleasant as an Austin music event could be with smiles all around and everyone kicking off their shoes for dancing and hula hoops. Slaid Cleaves cleared the air as to how a singer-songwriter goes about entertaining an audience. Backed by a trio that included striking fiddler Eleanor Whitmore, Cleaves laid down a set of country and folk, fast-paced yet touching and peppered with the occasional yodel. Baton Rouge, La.’s Red Stick Ramblers followed with a plate of swing, blues, and Cajun that had nearly everyone shaking their moneymaker. They’ve had some personnel changes over the years, which has unfortunately led the quintet to lean a little heavy on the swing and away from their Louisiana roots, but there were no complaints from the crowd, which was obviously geared up for a energetic weekend.

2:38PM Mon. Apr. 23, 2007, Jim Caligiuri Read More | Comment »

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