Daily Music
Glen Hansard's One-Night Stand
There’s a quote by Bill Callahan, the nomadic songsmith behind Smog, that’s been stuck in my head for weeks now: “I would prefer it if Gorge Bush just went back to war on himself with cocaine and booze and a musicless life and left us alone." Misspellings and grammar aside, his assertion summarizes the beauty of music. It’s a way of life, a means to convey and encapsulate both the mundane and the ineffable events. It changes the way we think and feel, the way in which we view the world around us. This idea of music as a common bond, a universal language, is the nexus of the modern musical Once, screened last Saturday afternoon at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown.

The film, which won the World Cinema Audience Award at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, is a visual album that gives purpose and meaning to The Swell Season, a recent collaboration between the Frames’ Glen Hansard and Czech pianist Marketa Irglova. The two musicians star in the film, directed by former Frames bassist John Carney (On the Edge, Bachelors Walk), portraying nameless characters who meet in the streets of Dublin, Ireland. Hansard is a struggling musician and street performer, fictionalizing his real-life struggle. Hansard quit school at age 13 to busk on the streets of Ireland, long before Damien Rice and Rodrigo y Gabriela came into town. He later scrounged together money from family and friends to record a demo, which ultimately led to a contract with Island Records for a string of singles and 1992’s Another Love Song.

3:14PM Fri. May 18, 2007, Austin Powell Read More | Comment »

This Is Hardcore
Last year's Chaos in Tejas fest delivered garage rock legends Dead Moon, and that show still remains one of my top five ever. Austin got to see perhaps one of their last shows, as they recently announced their retirement after 20 years. This weekend's third Chaos in Tejas – featuring headlining spots from female-fronted French punks La Fraction tomorrow night, Belgian old-schoolers the Kids (only their second U.S. show) Friday, and renowned riot-inciters Gordon Solie Motherfuckers Saturday – offers similar I-was-there-when moments, along with a cast of other chaos-centric bands. Just look at the dudes on the poster here and you know what you're in for.

Kicking off the whole shebang with a steel-toed boot tonight is Chrissy Piper's photo exhibit at End of an Ear, which will be up for the next week. The 34-year-old has shot biggies like Aesop Rock and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but achieved road dog status touring with and documenting the live existence of hardcore and punk bands (Tragedy, Fugazi, and Quicksand to name a few) for more than a decade. She's also spent an ample chunk of time snapping Austin thrashers like Signal Lost and World Burns to Death. Span some time tonight, starting at 6pm with a performance by Manikin.

2:24PM Wed. May 16, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

Joe Strummer: 'Punk Rock Warlord'
We were 16 years old, hunched over in the balcony of some century-old firetrap in San Francisco. We shouldn’t have been there, honestly, clean-scrubbed kids from the East Bay burbs. But we were. And 25 years later, our two jaws still sit on the floor of that shake, rattle, and roll balcony.

I’d swear on the soul of Joe Strummer that Clash show was just prior to the release of 1982’s Combat Rock. The date on my bootleg tape, June 22, says otherwise. Apparently those memories of Strummer introducing songs from the band’s forthcoming album are just romantic invention, because Combat Rock was released May 14 of that year. This I do know: After that show, having bought the album in Berkeley, I was crushed by the recorded versions of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "Rock the Casbah." They were kittens compared to the Armageddon they’d been live. The San Francisco Civic had gone up like Dante’s Inferno that night.

10:08AM Tue. May 15, 2007, Raoul Hernandez Read More | Comment »

Joe Ely & Reckless Kelly: A Combo That Works!
The e-mail that Reckless Kelly's publicist sent out said they started at 8pm, so imagine my surprise to find that they'd been onstage 45 minutes when I arrived at the Glenn at a quarter to the hour Thursday night. No loss, really. I was never that big a fan of RK's brand of country rock, and the two songs I heard last night - they opened with an acoustic, sit-down set - didn't leave much of an impression one way or another.

I was really there to see how the quintet's pairing with longtime fave Joe Ely would rate. Of late, the Flatlander hasn't performed nearly enough electric solo shows - the reason some call him the Bruce Springsteen of Texas - and I needed a healthy dose of his dynamic, muscular sound.

The combination not only worked, it was a sweaty success. Ely, who recently turned 60, obviously fed off the Braun brothers' youthfulness. He also drove them to places they might not ordinarily go. The 90-minute set was filled with Ely's crowd-pleasers and drew from the breadth of his career. Highlights included a soaring "Up on the Ridge," an amped up "Me & Billy the Kid," and an extended set-closing "Cool Rockin' Loretta" that showed off the Reckless Kelly boys at their brawny best. There were also a couple of nods to Townes Van Zandt, with a softly shuffled "Tecumseh Valley" and "White Freight Liner" presented as a broke-down ramble. Ely's true gift is that no matter how many times he's played these songs before, they always sound fresh and authentic, much of which is due to his alluring stage presence and the unstoppable musicality of his songs.

An encore that finished with a sing-along of Buddy Holly's "Oh, Boy!" left everyone sated. For me, Ely's comment early in the show that "this is all about good friends getting together and making music" rang especially true.

4:14PM Fri. May 11, 2007, Jim Caligiuri Read More | Comment »

Y Kant Tori Spell?
After telling a co-worker I was going to see former Throwing Muses frontlady Kristin Hersh last Wednesday, he quickly declared her a MILF (basically an attractive woman who has given birth to children and who still makes young men overly amorous, but go ahead and Google it). In fact, he may have even said “MILF of the Month,” a club I didn’t know existed. Earlier in the week, there had been friends’ observances of Liz Phair and Martha Stewart as MILFs.

You can blame the incredibly awful Fountains of Wayne song “Stacy’s Mom,” unfortunately resurrected from 2003, for some of the popularity of the term or the film American Pie. Who could forget J Bigga’s 2005 jam “Your Mom Is a MILF”? Van Halen was "Hot for Teacher." Soundgarden's Louder Than Love contained "Full on Kevin's Mom." But you never really hear it the other way around. There won’t be a Britney Spears song about Alec Baldwin anytime soon.

The term rolls off the tongue sounding dirty, and appropriately it’s been relegated to websites you need a credit card to enter. But then there’s Tori Amos’ new album, American Doll Posse (read the full review Thursday), and the song "Big Wheel," on which she not only claims MILF-hood, but embraces it. She performed the song on Letterman Friday night, and, of course, she had to change the spelling of the word to what sounded like M-I-L-X (Mother I’d like to X-ray?). There she was weaving a meathead’s elbow-in-the-ribs remark into musical tapestry, claiming the term as empowering, not degrading, but ultimately the censors won. The refrain ("But baby I don't need your cash. Mama got it all in hand now.") is in-your-face enough without the MILF declaration. As the first single, it’ll be fun to see how many radio stations will touch something so offensive. This is radio in the year 2007, you know. There are standards.

She’ll be screaming the verse on tour this summer, no doubt, as she slinks around on her piano bench, and ultimately it’s a nice backhand from the vanilla-scented ether of pop music’s current tragic landscape. But will other musicians follow suit? Is Madonna readying her MILF song? And, really, is anyone really that offended by an acronym in 2007?

3:01PM Tue. May 8, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

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 »

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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 »

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