Live Shots

DWIGHT YOAKAM, DAVID BALL

Erwin Center, August 15

Woo boy. Soul Train this wasn't. This show was like Weight Watchers frozen yogurt: it never, ever went to your hips. Headliner Dwight Yoakam wiggled plenty -- to the delight of every female in the crowd -- but probably only because his beyond skin-tight leather pants were riding up the crotch (don't you hate that?). And the best opener David Ball managed was turning around once and doing one of those hip-cock things from the Born in the U.S.A. album cover. And the crowd? Forget it. It wouldn't really be an issue, this dancing, if the entire evening wasn't so dance-worthy. Even though he ain't the purtiest guitar-puncher on CMT, Ball more than made up for it with the good-natured uptempo swingers "Look What Followed Me Home," "Bad Day for the Blues," and his hit "Thinkin' Problem," which he started once, said good night (massive gasp from the crowd) and then played (sigh of relief). His loping, thoughtful ballads were possibly more impressive than his fast stuff, especially when he called former Uncle Walt's Band-mate Champ Hood onstage to do "When the Thought of You" in memory of Walter Hyatt. He also did a Buck Owens song, as did headliner Yoakam, but these days, Buck Owens songs are as common as moving vans in West Campus. Like Owens before him, though, Yoakam puts on one hell of a show. He left no doubt he's the master of arena country, bringing out a six-piece band, films, lights, and lots of effects (including the leather pants). Lesser artists would shrink in such a large context, but Yoakam has enough rock & roller in him that he has it down pat. He knows when to cut loose -- "Little Sister," "Gone (That'll Be Me)," "Long White Cadillac," aided by screamingly precise guitar work from right-hand-man Pete Anderson -- when to play a hit like "1,000 Miles From Nowhere," and when to slow it down with "Ain't That Lonely Yet," and "Nothing." He's one of country music's consummate showmen. Now all he needs to do is learn to dance. Or at least somebody does. -- Christopher Gray


SINCOLA, WANNABES

Electric Lounge, August 17

"What doesn't kill me, only makes me stronger." Whether that ancient German rock critic Fred Nietzsche realized it or not, this little bon mot perfectly describes what roadwork does for a band: It'll either make you shit-hot, or tear you apart. Apparently, six weeks of being crammed into a van -- learning everyone's distinctive scents and peculiarities -- was the perfect inoculation for Sincola. Already a fine band, they were never like this. They took the Electric Lounge stage literally three hours after getting back in town, and you could see the fire lighting their pupils from three rows back. They smelled blood the minute they jacked in and proceeded to rip their songs (old and new) apart in hot pursuit. And they found it, especially once they began stalking "One-Hit Wonder" at set's end. The only excuse for not being driven to spasmodic twitching and whiplash by the brute slam Sincola injected into this rendition was... well, being dead, really! There just was no other logical reason. Then again, sometimes all a band needs for similar miracles is a two-month vacation. A two-month vacation, and getting your tail badly bruised by an opening act. It was probably more a case of the latter than the former for the headlining Wannabes, considering candid remarks Kevin Carney later made about two previous gigs. If this was the case, then the Wannabes need to follow carnivorous road monsters more often. The physicality and raw power inherent in their melodic, adrenaline-soaked rock & roll received a turbo boost from Sincola's opening set. The four Wannabes put their heads down and rammed straight into it, hard enough to inspire periodic fits of something akin to moshing, but more like a buncha beer-soaked gents shoving each other around. By set's end, there wasn't a dry surface to be found in the house, whether of flesh or not. And somewhere, old Nietzsche was looking down and saying, "Fuuuuuccckk!"
-- Tim Stegall


BETH BLACK BAND

Saxon Pub, August 19

Quick story. In 1994, ESPN did its best to convince the sports world that Florida State had the best football team on the planet. FSU had it all: an athletic quarterback, speed at the skill positions, and hard-hitting defenders whose quickness defied their size. Toward season's end, FSU wasn't just undefeated, no team had been within four touchdowns of them. In late November, FSU played Notre Dame. The Irish, big underdogs, had two things going for them: home field advantage and big guys up front whose last names ended in "-ski." So, ND pulled the upset. How? Easy. They used their big linemen and just ran over FSU. The Seminoles, with all of their nifty offensive weapons, were outsized and helpless for most of the game. The point? Sure, it's nice sometimes to think that you have the tools to do a variety of things well, but you're always better off if you just play to your strengths. That brings us, finally, to the Beth Black Band. They tried some of everything: straight R&B, generic rock, something kind of funky, bad jazz, and that Little Sister-ish groove (sans the extended jam, thank goodness) that the kids love. They even played a lounge version of "White Room" -- not Esquivel's space lounge or the Recliners' swank lounge, but Murph and the Magic Tones' lounge lounge. Throw in some scat vocals and you've got, well, a lounge cover of "White Room" with some scat singing. To the local band's credit, they did the back half of the song as straight Cream, including a good knock off of one of Clapton's better solos on record. But for a band dabbling in a bunch of different genres, they sure sounded monochromatic. Which brings us back to the moral of the story. When the band slowed things down, Black was able to use her voice and really work some of its inflection. There you go. Play to your strengths. Do that Nina Simone thing. Work up a good Billie Holiday. Back off the Bob Seger, because for gosh sakes, you're not playing a Holiday Inn. -- Michael Bertin


THE CURE

Erwin Center, August 22

The more the Cure changes, the more they stay the same. Five years ago, I managed to catch them on the Disintegration Tour, also at the Erwin Center. Back then, you could buy a beer on the premises -- or maybe the guy in the seat directly behind me had snuck his in. Either way, sobriety was rare amongst audience and band members alike. This show was different. Not only was the crowd amazingly sedate throughout most of the two-hour-plus show, but, distressingly, so was Fatbob and the band. Perhaps as a concession to the ghost of Pete Townsend's eardrums, Cure `96 seemed a bit tame -- quiet, reserved, and not at all the melancholy darkchasers that released Carnage Visors so long ago. Yes, they ran through a career-spanning gamut of moribund hits -- three-quarters of Staring at the Sea, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, and Disintegration, but clad in a crimson football (?!) jersey, Smith, along with longtime players Simon Gallup and Perry Bamonte seemed positively chipper, saving many of their back catalogue hits for an embarrassing "Cure on 45" medley positioned for most effective swoon-inducement towards the end of their set. Surprisingly, much of the material off the new Wild Mood Swings sounded best: "Strange Attraction," "Mint Car," and "The 13th" proving far more interesting live than squashed through my tinny car speakers. The Cure's trademark post-goth misery is apparently little more than a fading memory in the minds of the black-clad fans; despite the perpetually-teased hair and soggy mascara, Smith is obviously a far more relaxed, animated musician than before. You get the feeling he's haunting more Wal-Marts than cemeteries these days.... -- Marc Savlov


EVIL MOTHERS, 16 VOLT, MAN OR GOD

Back Room, August 23

The most hardcore of Austin's black vinyl fetishwear set were out in force for this most rare of industrial shows, a fact not lost on the Evil Mothers' bassist. "You people are so goddamn Gothic, I bet you piss blood!" he yelled towards the end of the set. San Antonio's Mothers, featuring two drummers and a guitarist sporting a splendid black cocktail dress, deftly fused buzzing hard rock with hints of industrial and tribal beats. The high point, though, came midset, when they put down the guitars and joined members of touring partners 16 Volt for a scrap metal drumming jam. 16 Volt, a Portland-based industrial duo-turned-guitar quintet, played straight-up machine metal, complete with growling vocals, sequencers and electronic percussion. It was ultimately a fine, if unoriginal, example of the form. The same could be said for locals Man or God, who delivered easy-to-swallow death metal with no aftertaste. -- Ken Hunt

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