Ruta Maya, June 6
It looks like the blues at millennium's turn will infuse lots of jazz and rock. Despite the name, 21st Century Blues are very much a Big Brother and the Holding Co. (or any SF band circa 1967) redux pared down. Up front, there's a big, big-voiced, big-souled, big stage-presenced woman (more like Ma than Janis, really) with a penchant for outfits with an abundance of fabric about the arms. (She said she'd just flown in from Seattle. No doubt, lass.) On the sides, giving the soulstress her foundation, are a chunky, flaming red, hollow-body guitar played by an Abe Lincoln impersonator, and keys with a sound big enough to swallow the whole block if it so chose. Luckily, they laid back in the mix this night. Spaghetti Warehouse was spared. The hour-plus set was a maneuver in retrovogue, albeit really good retrovogue. With one chord, Summer of Psychic Meltdown Austin became Summer of Love SF. But 21stCB aren't sans the seeds of originality. How many bands scat nowadays or sing Camus to jazz? When looking at all the other retroesque choices in the world - like the plague of Deadtreads happily living on fratboy cash - these cats are eight miles high. I was groovin'..... - Joe Mitchell
TERRI LORD BENEFIT
Liberty Lunch, June 1
June 1 was just another day in the continuing saga of the club drain, except for one thing. It was also the night the Rockets finally vanquished the hated Spurs to their Pizza Hut commercials and barbershop Nike ads. The mood was not quite as celebratory at Liberty Lunch as it was at ground zero of The Victory, but then again, there were about 16,550 more people at the Summit (capacity: 16,611), too. It's just as well. Basketball wasn't on people's mind here; Terri Lord was. Lord was present and accounted for, watching the proceedings from a chair at stage right. Set up to help the Sincola stickswinger with some expenses incurred from her chronic back problems and a recent operation, the benefit had the feel of a late-night backyard barbecue, only without charcoal, ribs, and a basketball game on TV (that was already over). Meg Hentges, Swine King, Noodle, and the Wannabes all turned in brief, enjoyable sets (presumably, Stretford, Gomez, and the Hormones did the same earlier, but since the game was on...) more notable for the genuine goodwill each band expressed for Lord than anything happening onstage. Actually, for a benefit, the bands were downright good. Everybody was on time, in a good mood (the Hormones' Tim Stegall even joined Hentges onstage for a romp through the Sex Pistols' "Submission"), and wrong notes were about as plentiful as the audience. Which brings us back to this club attendance thing. Yeah, it sucked Thursday night, as usual, but the crowd that did show up was having such a good time they didn't even notice there was room for about 900 more people in the club.
- Chris Gray
THE PARANOIDS, THE CHUMPS
Blue Flamingo, June 3
The cast of characters are familiar: The Paranoids' rhythmic core contains Rob Paranoid and Mark Fagan, natives of Houston, various bands, and the pages of Apathy Trend. The Chumps, meanwhile, star mike-master and local punk shutterbug Shawn MacGowan, guitarist Duane Ramone, Germs fan/Darby Crash dopplegänger Phillip on bass, and Mike "Who hasn't he drummed with?" Leggett. Which is the story of punk rock again and again, that of the fan transcending his fandom to climb that stage himself. Yet each band's individual M.O. couldn't be more dissimilar. Where most punk bands (the Chumps included) originate from the rhythmic base Jon Savage identified as "Punk Rhythm 1 - the drill-Ramones variant," the Paranoids seem to start with "My Generation" and work outward. Simplicity is the key: Everything is gut minimal, stripped to fighting basics, with screamer/songwriter Scott eschewing solos and fills for iron-fisted chord work, Paranoid and Fagan sticking close to the groove, and everyone (Fagan especially) playing only what is most directly powerful and effective. The Chumps, meantime, strafe the room with ammo stylistically bookended by the guitarist's and bassist's Ramones/Germs obsessions, Duane drenching the works in his cheap n' nasty fuzz, and MacGowan barking like Rollins minus the poetry and pain. If the Motards were at all wholesome, they'd be the Chumps. What a thrill! Fresh blood for the vampires! Better yet, the blood's fortified with a few ideas of its own! I mean, how many punk bands do you know who'd attempt a Daniel Johnston song, ala The Paranoids? Forecast: The summer's gonna scorch...
- Tim Stegall
Continental Club, June 3
If there's a lingering stench at the Continental in the next couple of weeks, its probably just leftover Joan Osborne. Simply put, Osborne reeks of future stardom. While her meal ticket is obviously the command of a voice that's equally distinct as she whispers, screams, yodels, and moans, it's how Osborne uses her voice's flexibility to write material that will ultimately guarantee her food for life. At the Continental, Osborne proved she's already got stage presence of comparable power by merely swinging a washcloth diva style, and doing little else physically (less is more) that would detract from the songs. And just when the crowd had finally stopped whispering their Osborne comparisons (Crow, Phair, Hynde, Pike, or even Kim Carnes?), the singer's clever encore pairing of Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey" and Al Green's "Take Me To The River" revealed root influences much classier than those of most her contemporaries. With that, Osborne ended a two-hour set that seemed like 30 minutes, leaving behind only the rare vibe of a big-star-to-be in small club. Real or imagined, that's plenty to leave indeed. - Andy Langer
Sunken Gardens, San Antonio, June 3
Carlos Santana likes long instrumentals. Fine by me. As with the Grateful Dead, that's the whole point. So, then, howse 'bout a couple gems from the last album instead of faceless, nameless, sometimes tuneless jams/ songs dredged up from a 20-year backlog of Latin boogie blues. "Open Invitation" was a welcome signpost at the front end of the show, and the spirited Latin tango of "Guajira" towards the end registered a blip or two on the heart monitor, but in between... well, in between there was only Carlos the Pious. Preaching from the pulpit, the deeply Catholic Santana told of angels all around us, the day when all races will be as one, and the inherent goodness of praying for the Spurs to outshoot their opponents. And though San Antonio, a town full of Catholics, worships Carlos the Pious, and turned this show into a Love-in, it didn't make the show divine. Maybe the night before saw the guitar miracles, but that's two Sunken Garden shows in a row that I've seen where Santana failed to turn his Latin boogie mulch into the body of Christ. Maybe it's the bad vibes from that whole pot bust thing there. Whatever it is, it's disappointing to get Carlos the Gardener instead of Carlos the Divine. Hope it's the latter who shows at the Santana/Jeff Beck double bill tentatively scheduled for the Erwin Center in September. - Raoul Hernandez
CLARKSVILLE JAZZ FESTIVAL: POETS AND SINGERS
Pease Park, June l0-ll
Some wrote off this festival's poor attendance to the heat, others to the $5 charge. But one couldn't help but notice yet another Sixth Street celebration-of-something-or-other that happened to coincide with Austin's only jazz fling...
The poets. On a small square riser, nationally known poet (and Austin favorite) Raul Salinas delivered a slashing, raging poem of protest smoothly interrupted by Native American musical lyrics. Clebo Rainey let loose high-speed lines of improbably mixed metaphors where fabric ordnance were fired from cannons at the Alamo as Crockett reviewed it by video in the year 2000. And Alli Aweusi fired back at the media's obsession with rap violence while ignoring the juggernaut of blood and guts purveyed by Schwartzennegger, Stalone, and Willis. There was beat, there was love and bitterness, there were spectres in the clouds.
The musicians. On Stage A, Austinite John Blondell extended his reputation as a world-class trombonist with sexy, free-form, and delicate doctrine. On Stage B, East Babylon Symphony delved into exotica with sweet and smooth abstraction that was as haunting as it was comforting; "morning music," someone said of Babylon's Asian and Brazillian percussives. Back on Stage A, the King Valentine Octet held the attention of all in the park when they laid down their brass-heavy jazz, double-dipped in ominous film noir themes. And then there was Kermit Ruffins. Perhaps the best caretaker of Louis Armstrong's interests, Ruffins voice and trumpet, both smoother and cleaner than the master's, captured an all-ears crowd of a couple hundred. Had it been thousands, the response would have been the same: delight, marvel, and teary-eyed hope. The New Orleans-based Ruffins deserves the national accolades he receives, the many other performers deserve recognition for their efforts, and Clarksville Jazz deserves to live and prosper in the future. - Stephen McGuire