Dancing About Architecture

by Ken Lieck

If last week's column raised any hopes, however slight, about the future of Chicago House, I hope you didn't get too worked up over it. The last hurrah at the club's just-off-Sixth Street location will be on the 29th of this month, and if the club is to find another home (which seems unlikely in any case) Peg Miller and company are going to need help in dismantling and storing the club's fixtures and general innards. You can call 473-2542 to retrieve any items you may have loaned to the club or to help with the workload, or attend benefits, like the Trippin' in Austin-sponsored one at the House this Sunday) to help pay off the club's debts. You can also make tax-deductible donations to the Austin Circle of Theatres Chicago House Phoenix fund (see sidebar in the Music section).

It's ironic to note that Chicago House is having to shut its doors now that the concept of singer-songwriter that it nurtured has grown and evolved to the point where clubs where one never would have expected to see a solo act have embraced the form. It's even more ironic that Miller's stated main reason for the venue's demise is the frequent closings of Sixth Street during recent weekends, which have crippled the club financially to the point of its death knell. Those comments, seen here in the Chronicle, may have added fuel to the already white-hot flame of an investigation that was brewing under French Smith, chairman of the Austin Music Commission and the entrepreneur responsible for those street closings. A scant week and a half later, Smith, who had previously made it clear that he felt no conflict of interest in his actions and that he had no intentions of stepping down from his Commission post, did just that.

If Smith's sudden change of mind is a puzzler, however, so were the findings of the committee that had been investigating him. From this bunker it appears that there has now become confusion as to whether there is a comprehensive policy extant on the matter of street closures. The city, which has always been mighty dim when it comes to the value of its music scene, seems to have been awakened a bit by the awareness of the money that Smith's festivals were raking in. It has now dived into the fray with a new Downtown Subcommittee, dedicated to figuring out how to best rent out the Sixth Street area and, hopefully, find an ethical way to operate such procedures. If I may speculate, it seems that the days of French Smith: six fixures, vs. Peg Miller: zilch, are over. Unfortunately, it's too late for Chicago House, but the fall of the pebble has helped set in motion an avalanche in the city's entertainment district, the result of which is now a quagmire, but will certainly begin to reveal itself in the months to come.

Absentee Austinites

A nice place to live, but I wouldn't want to be there. That seems to be the theme building lately, especially among those involved in the media. Michael Corcoran's departure for Dallas, while he remains a local reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and radio personality for Austin's 101X, echos similar situations with fellow Michaels MacCambridge and Ventura. Now, 101X's superstar Gibby Haynes has headed off to New York for six weeks of long-overdue recording with the Butthole Surfers. 101X program director Sara Trexler says that Haynes will continue his nightly ramblings on the station, but admits to some confusion as to how things are going to proceed. "We're trying to do it by remote," she says, with the station calling Haynes' hotel and having him report in, letting the engineer at the station deal with the music that plays during the time slot (which, as regular listeners know, already happens whenever Gibby needs to run out for smokes or something). Things will get more vague as the band gets more active. Trexler says that after recording, Haynes will return to town for awhile, then likely leave again for remixing, and so far, the station is prepared to deal with him through the above methods. When the band actually gets to the touring stage, however, she's less sure about what will happen. "Obviously the band will always come first," she says, emphasizing that the station's deal with Haynes has always been with that understanding, and muses that his role at that point may be as a "roving reporter" - or something altogether different.

Gone Phishin'

How do you make a big jam on Sixth Street? One good way was demonstrated this weekend, when the guys from Medeski, Martin & Wood, whose shows at the White Rabbit (Friday) and Emo's (Saturday) were already destined to be sell-outs, showed up to jam at the Phish gig at the Austin Music Hall on Saturday. Afterwards, the Phish gang, cast crew, and audience, followed the MMW guys down the street, where one Phish jammed with them at Emo's and two more did the same with Espiritu at the Rabbit (the next night at Bass Concert Hall, Espiritu were joined by more jammers, this time members of Paco De Lucia's band). Of the hellish line at Emo's, doorman Lonesome Dave Fisher says that the club was at capacity before the Phish people arrived, and while Phish had arranged in advance to have those with laminated badges from their show admitted, somehow people thought that backstage passes, crew passes, and any number of alternative identification also guaranteed them entry to the already full venue. Says Fisher: "A Phish T-shirt ain't the same as a badge, buddy."

In-Stores & New Releases

Gary Primich and John "Juke" Logan have a duel Waterloo Records in-store performance next Thursday plugging their respective Mr. Freeze and The Chill albums. Cool. Rene Russell has a CD release at DJ's this Friday at 8:30pm. bo bud greene will be doing the in-store thing this Saturday at Tower Records. Their new whatever album has just come out on Backyard Records. Row Zero's Your Turn... My Turn CD is out and that band will be playing an album release show on Monday at the Electric Lounge. A whole passel of acts from the True Sounds of the New West compilation album will be performing at tonight's (Thursday) release party at La Zona Rosa. That precedes, of course, the next night's big Grand Re-opening of La Zona, with Ivan Neville and the Lee Person Band. More stuff on the pile: Cassettes from Call North (Feeling Good is Good Enough) and Asylum Street Spankers (Live) and 7-inchers from Dragworm and Dead End Cruisers.

Mixed Notes

Just when the blood was flowing so smoothly, Bloodfest headliner Auschwitz 46 has lost three-fifths of its members, who have decided to move to Dallas. I don't know if they'll be staying at Michael Corcoran's house, but I can tell you that vocalist Corey Wilson will be keeping the name and searching (quick!) for new members... Black Pearl, on the other hand, have just plain broken up. One source tells me that the band was disgruntled over lack of media coverage. Funny, they seemed to be doing okay audience-wise either way, and kinda liked their grass-roots approach to the rock thing (call everybody you know and make them come to the show). And anyway, weren't they on the cover of Texas Beat?... I still don't know much about this Reese Whitley that's hit the town with a sudden media blitz and most recently was seen opening for the Fabulous Thunderbirds, less recently producing tracks for Power Snatch. I do know that after living in Austin for awhile, he currently resides in Horseshoe Bay. Hmmm, I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that a large property appropriate for a house and studio recently became available?... The newest announcement from Trance Syndicate is an LP to come next year from local instrumental quartet Windsor for the Derby. They'll be opening the Fury, er, Furry Things single release (along with Bügsküll) and can also be sampled in January when they'll appear on a split single with Desafinado... I may not have been the first to use the word "slacker" or "World Beat," but I am the one who tagged Dah-Veed with that spelling. And if he keeps hooking up with hot acts as tour opener (Blind Melon currently, Better Than Ezra in November), maybe I can start asking for a cut of the proceeds... I know I'll never see a penny from naming Monday's at Emo's "Emo-dillo" night, but the country-fried action continues there, with the next three Monday's being taken by Marti Brom, Dale Watson, and Teddy & the Tall Tops, respectively. Heroes of the West open each show... The first volunteer meeting for the Austin Acoustic Music Festival (to be held November 17-19 at the Electric Lounge) will be next Tuesday at 7pm at Señor O'Brien's restaurant. Those interested in helping out, get down there... This just in: Kyle Ellison has snagged the rhythm guitarist gig on the Meat Puppets' upcoming tour... The Threadgill Troubadors are recording next Wednesday's performance for release as Supper Sessions, Vol. 2 on Watermelon Records... What's with these "flyers" for the Brown Hornet/Ant Man Bee/Cactus Smack Conspiracy show next Thursday at the Hole in the Wall being made of tie-dye T-shirt pieces? Is this some new way around the postering law?... Two independent sources confirm an Emilio Estevez sighting at the Discovery Incubator, where the actor was spotted logging on to the Net and examining the sheen of the babes on Penthouse magazine's Website... Here's a freebie: The Texas Music Office has just printed up a 60-odd page Texas Recording and Production Guide, describing all recording studios, cassette duplicators, CD manufacturers, and studio equipment outlets in the state. It don't cost you nothin' to write Casey Monahan at the Texas Music Office, Office of the Governor PO Box 13246, Austin, TX 78711, or call 512/463-6666 or fax 512/463-4114 or e-mail: music@governor.texas.gov or just stand in the street and yell his name real loud. By the way, Monahan reports that the governor himself dropped by the Texas Music Office the other day - in the first such appearance since Monahan took the job two administrations earlier! Maybe George, Jr., really does care... President Bill Clinton didn't seem to take a lot of interest in the music scene here, though since he showed up at Güero's, maybe he's more of an art man. Boy, wouldn't Rush Limbaugh love to make a Clinton/Frida Kahlo ("Mexicommie feminazi"?) connection! There were those silly rumors flying around that the prez planned to show up and jam at Cedar Street and such, but none of that materialized. Or was that Bill in drag at the Blue Flamingo?... n

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More Dancing About Architecture
Dancing About Architecture
Dancing About Architecture
The last installment of "Dancing About Architecture."

Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

So Long, Slug
So Long, Slug

Ken Lieck, Dec. 20, 2002

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