The Austin Chronicle

Return to Chicago House

August 9, 1996, Music

It all started with a mysterious fax, sent to the Chronicle and addressed to no one in particular: "Witness the feel-good transplant miracle of the decade! Party at Chicago House! Details to follow..." Well, follow there have, albeit slowly. Peg Miller, owner of the former/future theatre/acoustic music haven, confirms that the grand opening of a new, improved Chicago House on the
22-24th of this month, with plans for eight to 10 headliners each of those nights. "Next Thursday you can tell them where," she insists, as the final papers have not been signed for the new location and she fears the chance, however slim, that someone could read about the deal and think, "Hey, I'd like to make an offer on that place." Given a few facts, such as Miller's aversion to having street festivals keep people from getting into the House and her claim that she would not reopen unless she found a place where she could have a 300+ seating room for roadshows and a smaller one for local acts, the Chron has managed to rule out a few places such as French Smith's front lawn and those little places where they sell Hawaiian ice. For now, we're as in the dark as you are about the location -- and Miller assures everyone will be stunned. "The bottom line is," she taunts, "I'm not in the Sixth Street area. Nanny, nanny, nyah nyah!"

Bad Living Pays Off

Look (at last) for a new Bad Livers album to come out in mid-February of next year on the folk Sugar Hill label, as the deal that's been in the works since SXSW finally gets all its details hammered out, according to Liver Danny Barnes. As of last Tuesday, Barnes said he couldn't imagine the three-year, three-album deal going sour, "barring us waking up at four in the morning and realizing something's terribly wrong."

On the band's part, there shouldn't have to be a lot of work done to complete the terms of the contract; the first album, titled Hogs on the Highway, has been in the can for a good while and merely awaits mixing, as does enough additional material to just about fill the remainder of the three albums. On the other hand, of course, once the discs start rolling off the press, it'll be time for the hard-touring band (who just came back from three weeks on the road), to, as Barnes puts it, "hit the trail" in support of them. Or should that be "hit the highway"?

Tornado In a Tin Cup

Wanna get Don Johnson and Kevin Costner and their offspring dancing around on a rooftop? Just put the Texas Tornados on there with them. Reprise Records' Bill Bentley says that the band had a rip-roaring time and got the crowd on their feet -- at least after a "professional dancer" (in other words, the musical equivalent of a "claquer") enticed them into it. The cops then came and shut down the Tornados, who were performing on a roof across from the Hollywood premeire of Tin Cup, the new film that prominently features their song "Little Bit is Better Than Nada." No truth to the rumors that the cops were called by Zilker residents who claimed they could hear the gig in their homes. (See this issue's "Naked City" for big news in the city's "sound wars," by the way).

Bentley adds that Ernie Durawa and Barry "Frosty" Smith, two of the Tornados' many drummers, took a beating inPeople magazine for being too "heavy-handed" on the new album -- despite the fact that neither of them played on the songs in question. Durawa took a day calling around to find the writer who made the accusation and got him to admit that he was completely in error, but the magazine made it clear that no public apology would be made. The Tornados, meanwhile, are not apologizing for their appropriation of the "Don't Mess With Texas" slogan, which they've altered somewhat for their own use. And why should they? After all, they made a commercial for the famous 10-year-old ad campaign. No word on whether they'll be playing the upcoming anniversary shindig for the campaign. In fact, there's not a whole lot of information being made available yet about the fete in general, but that there will be one, and the advance chatter makes it sound like it's gonna be big.

Antones and Tales

Now this sounded like a real down-home affair: a beer, barbecue, and back-porch music celebration last Thursday off Lake Austin Drive to celebrate the union between Discovery and Antone's Records. Miss Lavelle White, Sue Foley, Guy Forsyth, Candye Kane, and such would play out in the yard and everybody would have a good laid-back time. Woo-ee! When they said "off Lake Austin," I was picturing a wooden shack behind the Deep Eddy Cabaret; instead, the shack was a veritable mansion in (shudder!) Westlake Hills and the "porch" was a poolside P.A. system.

Amazingly (oops -- wrong record company...) everything did turn out to be as down-home as promised. The musicians put on nice, unpretentiously short sets (mainly since most of 'em had paying gigs to get to) and had a great deal of fun (Kane turned over several songs to her preteen, would-be crooner son, Tommy). In the end, the organizers decided to completely blow off their "big announcement" (which everyone knew was just official confirmation of the deal that the party was for, so it was obvious) in favor of more music and camaraderie. I give special bonus points for the fact that the owners of the huge house with God's own view of Austin were, according to Discovery's Cary Baker, out of town and unaware that they were "hosting" the shindig.

On the business end of things, Antone's Records day-to-day activities have changed little from the deal with Discovery (who, as you recall, are in turn involved with Warner Bros). There are no plans afoot for the small staff to grow beyond a half-dozen people (though they did seem able to answer my questions last time I called, which is in itself a change for the better.) Any increase in the number of employees, says Antone's head Harry Friedman, will likely be on the Discovery staff if anywhere. (Rumors were out that Friedman and Baker were going to quit their respective labels and start a new one on their own, but they realized that the name Harry-Cary Records sounded too much like a self-fulfilling prophecy) Out now under the Antone's/Discovery banner are is Forsyth's reissued Needlegun, Foley's A Walk in the Sun, and the Antone's 20th Anniversary compilation. Upcoming around September 10 are new ones from Steve James and Teddy Morgan, with Kane, Boozoo Chavis, Snooky Pryor, and Miss Lavelle following.

All this potential income is good news for Antone's the club, which, the Chronicle has learned, is listed as being up for sale by the company that owns the building (the club has operated on a month-to-month lease for years). I've heard the asking price is awful high, though, so the problem is probably not as immediate as it might seem.

Mixed Notes

Since moving to Lafayette, D'Jalma Garnier has been playing with Creole musicians Filé, and is soon to see the band's new record, La Vie Marron, released on Green Linnet's Americana label, Red Bud. Garnier left three years ago to play with fiddler Canray Fontenot and began gigging with Filé full-time after the Creole legend's passing... The news of the Grey Ghost's death was unfortunately not exaggerated, but it certainly was widely noted. I've heard tell of reports of his demise being read all the way from People to the L.A. Times... Fastball will be playing the prestigious "Puke-fest" at the upcoming CMJ music festival in New York, and Miles Zuniga is no stranger to the event, which he attended as an audience member last year (checking out Supergrass). Zuniga says that the event "did live up to its name," largely due to the "copious amounts of shitty beer" available gratis to the crowd... The Ugly Americans have been blazing on AAA radio, and industry mags like Billboard and Hits have been taking notice. Billboard's been talkin' Texan a lot lately, with Storyville, Slobberbone, and a fleet of others getting writeups recently. By the way, I just saw the Uglys mentioned in the same sentence as the Handsome Family. Now, there are two names that would look good on a double bill... That same Billboard sees the Butthole Surfers taking their most significant chart leap yet, with Electriclarryland taking a jump from 37 to 31. The "Pepper" single has yet to hit the hot 100 chart, and I'll tell you why: Because there still isn't a commercially available single. Butthole management says this was to ensure that everyone gets to sample the "other goodies" on the album. Pretty shrewd, if you ask me. Oops! Almost forgot: Surfers are on David Letterman tonight (Thursday). Conventional wisdom says Letterman will make a couple of lame jokes about their name, they'll pretend to do "Pepper" while Paul Shaffer and co. actually play the tune, and then Dave won't bother to talk to them... Looking at the new Entertainment Weekly (the one that writes up Dale Watson, too), the SRV tribute gets a B+. To quote them: "Most tributes sound uninspired. Not this one."... Speaking of tribute albums, the one I mentioned last week with all the Badfinger covers will not be featuring Cheap Trick after all. Details on why are still cloudy... I hear that former Gingbreadmen drummer Jason Kidd was another person who was up for the Smashing Pumpkins' skinbeater job, but he's got a bum shoulder and had to turn down the job for health reasons. Actually, I'd say that in general, not being the drummer for Smashing Pumpkins is good for your health... Loose Diamonds have a CD release for their Fresco Fiasco at the Cactus Cafe tonight. The album is named after a mix of vodka, tabasco sauce and grapefruit soda. No, wait, that would be a Fresca Fiasco... More movie music news comes in every week now, it seems. Listen for Rosie Flores doing a Butch Hancock song in the new film Heavy, and keep your ear open for Tom Petty covering Lucinda Williams in the upcoming She's the One... Radio ratings came out last week and Howard Stern went off on a tear about KLBJ-FM and Dudley and Bob, as well as calling the Chronicle's Andy Langer a "loudmouth" for his incorrect predictions beforehand about Stern's ratings (and Stern knows a loudmouth when he hears one). The ratings did show that the KLBJ morning team are feeling the bite from Stern... It's now official that Charlie Sexton manager Tim Neece has taken a job running Direct Events for Austin Music Hall/Backyard owner Tim O'Connor, but I used up all my jokes when I suggested it was going to happen, so that's all I have to say about it now...

Contributors: Marjorie Baumgarten, Christopher Gray, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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