Daily Music
Twangfest: Goes to 11
When it began in 1997, after a ‘let’s put on a show’ moment among Internet friends, Twangfest was at the heart of the then-burgeoning alt.country movement. At the time, few would have imagined it would continue for 11 years and provide some of the best underground talent in the country with an audience starved, and rabidly appreciative, of good music.

Held last week at the Duck Room in St. Louis, Missouri, where Chuck Berry still sells out once a month, this year’s Twangfest was light on the twang – alt.country’s dead, stick a spork in it – but heavy on the kinds of American rock that will never die.

While Geezerville didn’t attend the first night of the fest, which wasn’t held at the Duck Room, the three remaining evenings were packed with enough surprising performances and genuine thrills to make the weekend a success. Two trios, Columbus’ Two Cow Garage and Detroit’s the High Strung, brought a punkish sensibility to the stage. Two Cow has matured tremendously since the last time I saw them and their Replacements-meets-Neil Young crunch was appropriately juvenile and crisp. The High Strung had a late-Sixties power trio vibe that recalled the Who with musicianship and melodies to match.

Nashville’s Elizabeth Cook brought to mind a young, spunky Dolly Parton possessing enough ‘alt’ sensibility to cover Lone Justice. Austin’s Slaid Cleaves managed to hush the crowd with his dynamic stage presence and stellar songs, while Carrie Rodriguez, all wistful and glitter, failed to calm the party. Honestly, it might have been the wrong stage for the fragile singer-songwriter.

The biggest surprise was the reunion of Mississippi’s Blue Mountain. One of the original touchstones of the mid-Nineties alt.country movement, the trio gave no hint that this would be its first show in seven years. The mix of country and blues, aided by the manic guitar of Cary Hudson, brought back memories, and catalog songs like “Bloody 98,” “Sleeping In My Shoes,” and “A Band Called Bud” sounded remarkably fresh.

Other glimpses: Graham Parker is better with a band, which he proved by bringing out the Figgs after a long solo set to rock out on “Soul Shoes,” “Local Girls,” and other classics from his past … Tim Easton sounds more like Dylan with each appearance. When he was joined by Two Cow Garage, it wasn’t like the Band showed up, but almost as energizing … Chicago’s Dolly Varden, a personal fave, played a set that veered from arty to spiritual to rockin,’ but seemed unfocused … Saturday night headliners the Figgs closed things with an exhilarating and sweaty set of power pop. Why they aren’t more well-known remains a mystery. Take a gander at the photo gallery for more.

11:31AM Thu. Jun. 14, 2007, Jim Caligiuri Read More | Comment »

'Think ESG meets the Geto Boys. Or something.'
According to the Internets, Florida's female rap/raunch trio Yo Majesty – that's Shon B., Shunda K., and Jwl B. if you're nasty – plays Beauty Bar tomorrow night. If you missed them at South by Southwest, you missed an eyeful, but it's all there on YouTube. And there's a little to the right here, too. $4, 9pm.

3:49PM Wed. Jun. 13, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

When the Circus Comes to Town
My glasses fog up as I walk from my car, and there are droplets of sweat running down my arms and legs. Humidity is a dog from hell. At least that's what the familiar swamp smell, the meshing of mud and plant, concludes. We had been told by a local this place was “down by the docks,” always a good sign, but as we approach the curious structure, “down by the docks” becomes something else altogether.

Jana Hunter, the night’s opener, sits behind a de facto merch table. “Oh, you’ve never been here?” she asks, eyes wide.

The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art in Houston was painstakingly built in isolation over the course of 25 years by former Houston mailman Jefferson D. McKissack, who found most of the objets d’art along his routes. While working in Florida during the Depression, he had an epiphany: the orange was the perfect fruit.

In a way, the Orange Show is dedicated to educating the rest of the world about it. Clowns, mannequins, plastic animals, and (real) spider webs dot the sweltering “museum,” a small room with signs reciting the rejuvenating effects of cold O.J. every morning, the purity of orange rinds.

12:34PM Mon. Jun. 11, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

Clandestino: Manu Chao
Against a sonic backwash of beach life – waves, children laughing – a strummed acoustic guitar begins its metronomic time keeping. The tropical climate has thickened the instrument’s strings, but the rusted steel just deepens in richness. Manu Chao’s pinched, double-tracked Spanish transmits a police bulletin in reverse: confession.

Solo voy con mi pena
Sola va mi condena
Correr es mi destino
Para burlar la ley

En Inglés:

Alone I go with my sorrow
Alone with my sentence
Running is my destiny
To mock the law

This is partly my translation, and not a literal one. Another Spanish/English conversion rightly gives burlar as “escape,” but “mock” seizes on Manu Chao’s anti-authoritarian scorn.

Lost in the heart
Of the great Babylon
They call me Clandestine
For [being an illegal]

11:29AM Fri. Jun. 8, 2007, Raoul Hernandez Read More | Comment »

How Much Bang for the Buck?
The announcement came via my Rolling Stones fan club email: The Biggest Bang DVD was on the way! Seven hours of Jagger huffing and puffing across the stage in front of a million people in Rio de Janeiro (take that, Woodstock!), plus clips from Japan, Buenos Aires, and Shanghai (for that well-heeled armchair traveler feel). For the Stones fanatic, there are six unreleased songs plus interviews with ... um, Bonnie Raitt, perennial Stones opener Dave Matthews, Cui Juan (who??), and Eddie Vedder (because no musicians younger than him know who the Stones are).

And the DVD features the Austin 2006 concert in its entirety! This is good news for those of you who love the Stones but didn’t get to see them. I specifically speak not to those who couldn’t afford the cheap standing area but forked over hefty amounts of greenback dollars for seats. $300 a seat, as the credit card bill shows. And where were the $300 seats? So far away you couldn’t have shot Mick Jagger with a sharpshooter. Shame on the promoters. They ended up recruiting people from steerage SRO to fill those seats so the crowd wouldn't look sparse in the stands.

4:25PM Thu. Jun. 7, 2007, Margaret Moser Read More | Comment »

Girls Rock Camp Benefit This Sunday!
The Girls Rock Camp of Austin begins June 18 and runs through June 29, when the gals will have their final showcase. Inspired by the Portland, Ore., camp, local girls ages 8-17 have the chance to learn different instruments and flex their musical muscles, and you can help out this very worthy cause with Sunday's fundraiser at Beerland! Candi & the Cavities, Monster Sleeps Quiet, and Chromosome Damage also play.

1:07PM Thu. Jun. 7, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

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Just a Dream and the Wind to Carry Him
Congratulations are in order for onetime Austin resident Christopher Cross.

The former Chris Geppert recently topped VH-1’s list of the “40 Most Softsational Soft-Rock Songs” with his supremely soporific 1980 single, “Sailing.” Prior to penning the opus that inspired millions of dilettante yachtsmen to mortgage their childrens’ future in exchange for exorbitant slip fees, Cross led a popular local cover band called Flash. Though the very idea of “soft rock” begs for incessant ridicule, the fully realized tonality of Cross’ guitar work on “Sailing” is no joke.

Now fire up this clip and let the canvas do its miracles.

12:37PM Wed. Jun. 6, 2007, Greg Beets Read More | Comment »

Little Foxes
It was perfect, really. There among the sound of motorcycle engines gunning and the smell of diesel and T-shirts with sayings like “If you can read this, the bastard won’t let me drive,” Jennifer Herrema, often imitated, never duplicated, and RTX stumbled onstage Friday night at Emo’s. With white fox tails draped around her neck, a sweatshirt over her ratty blond hair, and a lit cigarette constantly in hand, she looked like the pied piper of gutter metal. That’s perfect, too, because RTX’s latest, Western Xterminator, is straight road hog from the Sunset Strip circa 1989, and they did not disappoint.

Herrema sat on the drum kit, fell to her knees, and two-stepped around in her snake-skin boots. Her voice is a little clearer than in her Royal Trux days, and the band fogged up the place via big-hair riffs. Sadly, their cover of Fang's (Fang! Does anyone remember Fang?) "The Money Will Roll Right In" wasn't on the set list, but the crowning moment came toward the end of the night, when Herrema finally dropped the bag she’d had strapped across her chest, pulled out a lovely and elusive powder-blue fox tail, and dropped it on the ground. Just like that. Poof.

1:47PM Mon. Jun. 4, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

Just One More
There have been tribute records for truck drivers and marijuana, literary figures, and recreations of complete albums. But with its easygoing nature, Just One More: A Musical Tribute to Larry Brown (Bloodshot) is one of the best of its kind to come out in a long time.

Brown, an Oxford, Miss.-based author, passed away at age 53 on Thanksgiving Eve 2004. If you have never heard of him, seek out one of his books. Almost any one will do. Many lauded Brown for his detailed yet raw fiction about the rural South. He’s been compared to fellow Oxford resident William Faulkner, but he was also a huge music fan. His wife claims that if he didn’t play his guitar every night, “he felt like the day was wasted."

Brown wrote a story on Robert Earl Keen for No Depression magazine and the liner notes to an album by Mississippi alt.country band Blue Mountain. He became friends and acquaintances with quite a few musicians over the years, which is the reason for Just One More. The album’s producer, Tim Lee (The Windbreakers), remembers the first time they met.

“It was at a dinner party in Oxford in the early Nineties,” he recalls. "John Grisham was there. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t impressed with that Grisham guy, because I was such a big fan of Larry’s. I happened to be in Oxford when he died and I went to the visitation. After, when I was driving home to Knoxville where I live, I thought about how much Larry loved music and how much musicians loved him. He treated everybody great, but he treated musicians just a little bit better. It just kind of occurred to me that someone really needed to do a tribute.”

12:45PM Mon. Jun. 4, 2007, Jim Caligiuri Read More | Comment »

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