Live Shots

GEORGE CLINTON &
THE P-FUNK ALL-STARS

One World Music Festival, Resort Ranch, September 15

After opener Buddha Bass something-or-other finished their set, the stage announcer -- some Nineties Wavy Gravy holdover who used three and only three adjectives (irie! phat! and righteous!) -- said enthusiastically, "Art rock is not dead." Well the person who resurrected it ought to suffer through something at least as horribly painful as BB's set. Next, Zuba's lead singer continually implored the crowd to "express yourselves," meaning roughly, "Please, get up and dance." Silly girl, people were expressing themselves; their continued immobility was their way of saying, "Your brand of mediocre white-bread funk displeases us immensely, now please go away quickly." Then again, you'd have to be a complete jerk to bother complaining about any of those things, because it took one nanosecond of Fishbone to right the day. There's nothing like a burlesque, blaxploitation sideshow stage act complete with a soulish, funky, ska, rockin' reggae thing (did I leave out any genres?) to put some shake in even the whitest of butts. By the time De La Soul hit the stage, the crowd was so amped it would've welcomed Vanilla Ice as if he were Chuck D. They weren't either, thankfully, and it's tough to figure out how the inventive NYC hip-hop trio gets trashed for sub-par live shows. Then George Clinton, after an arrogant and inflated intro (lose the 20-minute guitar solo please!), brings 25 musicians, a space ship, and Bootsy Collins out with him over the course of, like, a week. He and the rest of the P-Funkers flat wore the crowd out. He was big, strong, and funky with more endurance than Abebe Bikila, some punk Manchester raver on five hits of X, and Methusela combined. You think he's cheating by rotating fresh players in and out of the line-up from song to song, then you realize there were 7,500 of us in the crowd, and we couldn't hang. Rock & roll won't save your soul. The truth won't set you free. But on any given night, George Clinton can give you all the bass you need for well over three hours. Is that worth $30? Best damn bargain on the planet. -- Michael Bertin


SOCIAL DISTORTION, D GENERATION, NO KNIFE

Liberty Lunch, September 16

I don't get it. Austin finally gets its first proper glimpse of New York's great punk hopes, D Generation, five gents with style and swagger to burn, great songs, tight, aggressive playing, a firm sense of rock & roll roots, and inhuman quantities of energy, and what happens? Austin yawns. What the fuck? It's not like D Generation had competition at either end of the bill. San Diego's No Knife apparently had no guts, either, hitting the ears like the Outfield or one of those interchangeable bad Eighties rock bands, only they'd just woken up and decided, "Hmmm, maybe we should try some of that newfangled pop-punk the kids seem to go for now." And as good as their new (if unfortunately titled) album White Light, White Heat, White Trash may be, Social D's Mike Ness is still suffering from both spoiled brat rock star-itis and a lack of song ideas: He may as well preface each number with, "Here's another song about how I was a drugged-out loser 15 years ago and nearly ended up in jail. But I'm doing much better now. Can I sponsor you for N.A.?" And still, D Generation rages for 30 solid minutes, clearly swabs the decks with Social D and the other forgettable name on the bill, and the college students and charter membership of the Mike Ness Fan Club can't be bothered. Maybe 50 people out of the packed house properly understood and offered the gut screams any sane person would have. Some were heard to mutter about how "contrived" D Gen came off. No, let me define "contrived" for you. "Contrived" is not five scruffs from Manhattan thrashing around in an entertaining fashion clad in admittedly flash clothes that I (and any functioning nose) can testify haven't been washed at least since I caught D Generation in a largish NYC drag bar last March. "Contrived" is a band leader who forces the rest of his band to stand on tape marks, so that they are the proper distance behind him. "Contrived" is a band leader who offers stage announcements like, "This song is for the ladies," or "Are you ready for some punk rock?" And "clueless" is a band leader who hires the phenomenal Chuck Biscuits, who just might be one of the Top Three Greatest Drummers Punk Rock Ever Produced, then so painfully underuses his talents that he might as well have rented some hack-for-hire out of Toto. Boring beyond belief. Contrary to what some friends have claimed, this show was not proof Mike Ness is the only authentic punk rocker alive. No, the real punks immediately preceded Social Distortion, and only 50 people could tell, apparently. It's enough to make you wanna pack up your sticks and scraps and head to Manhattan, telling Austin it can kiss your fishbelly-colored ass good-bye. -- Tim Stegall


BILLY WHITE TRIO

Steamboat, September 17

"Welcome to another Tuesday at Steamboat," said Billy White around half past midnight after he'd loosened up with a couple of tunes. "This song is about greed." With that, White and his Les Paul, conspicuous as the axe of choice for many Seventies guitar heroes from Jimmy Page on down, let rip into another Lenny Kravitz-style pastiche of retro rhythms and hooks. The song, like the ones that preceded and followed it, was faceless -- unremarkable. The same could not be said for White's guitar playing. "We all appreciate your coming out on these Tuesday nights," reiterated White after a couple more excursions into the guitar ether. "It means a lot to us." The 30-40 people present in the cathedral of guitar worship whistled and screamed, as fervent in their adoration of the local guitarist as White himself was humble and sincere. This was a big crowd, after all; a week earlier he'd had half this many bodies in the cavernous Sixth Street club. He smiled, picked up a brown Fender, closed his eyes, and rocking back on his heels, was up and away like the echo that bounced off the club's stone walls and gave his tones the smooth polish of granite. And if his songs were faceless orphans, it mattered not, because just around the corner from any ordinary verse, chorus or hook there was an equally extraordinary riff, solo or guitar effect. Suddenly, the Black Crowes and Lenny Kravitz were making sense. In a time when there is no new music revolution because Cobain is dead, it's back to basics. The common denominator. White is neither metal nor blues, not alternative or grunge. He is all of them. His playing is defined only by his remarkable talents, and any labels put upon him limit those gifts. At half past one, those gifts converged (as they usually do) during his set epic, "Twelve," a tune from White's shelved DMZ full-length, and one that doesn't kick in for a good eight minutes. It wept and roared, sighed and screamed, leaving all the musicians present in awe. Though it wasn't his encore, it was mine, and I left early, secure in the knowledge that he'd be there next Tuesday and the one after that ("Then, we'll be in Europe for a while"), and there'll be plenty of seats where there shouldn't be any at all. -- Raoul Hernandez


PAPA MALI & THE INSTIGATORS

Antone's, September 19

A crowded Antone's is usually a good thing, but this time it was the ninth circle of Hell. It wasn't crowded with boisterous music fans come to have a good time; it was stuffed to its wooden gills with the exact opposite -- UT business school drones and their equally vacuous dates. If producers were in town looking to cast Clueless: The College Years, they could have quit right after getting a look at some of those overprivileged, overstudied, and underexposed (to sunlight and anything even remotely approaching funky) faces. When Frosty the drummer and his bass player locked into a groove that grew into a throbbing James Brown medley, the crowd couldn't be bothered to even look at the stage, let alone be interrupted from their discussions of internships, job fairs, fraternity rushes, and, doubtless, the season premiere of Friends. Twelve or so minutes later, after the Instigators shook the joint thunderously with an "Iko Iko" that would make Dr. John himself take some more funky lessons, this bunch of idiots -- the future business leaders of our state, whom you'll be hiring or, God forbid, working for someday -- hardly clapped. And so it continued all evening. Papa Mali & the Instigators played so hard and tight the walls were sweating, and still the crowd did what they're going to do all their lives; take up space and ignore what makes life worth living. So what do you do when "Big Chief" and plenty of fire water aren't enough? Tom Waits knew: 16 shells from a thirty-ought-six. -- Christopher Gray


RUBINCHIK'S ORKESTYR

Flipnotics, September 18

It was the coolest night in five months, and Flipnotics' covered patio was a perfect spot to wile it away. As thunderstorms rolled in from the northwest, Rubinchik's Orkestyr began their weekly gig with a rather unassuming polka and then a waltz. Though it took time for the crowd and band to warm up to each other, once the Old-World Beat slipped into a comfortable gear, it was an effort not to tap your toes. The Orkestyr, featuring Mark Rubin on stand-up bass, Mike Maddux on accordion, Rachel Rhodes on occasional vocals, and Erik Hokkanen on guitar and violin, has the unmistakable veneer of a project rather than a job -- which is precisely why they're so engaging. Of course, being an ensemble of well-versed and eagerly exploratory musicians doesn't hurt things. The band tackles the European folk tradition like a voracious student at the Library of Congress. This included everything from Yiddish theatre singalongs (at this point, Rubin asked for more "audience precipitation" in deference to the rain) to the Orkestyr members' own tradition-honoring compositions. Rhodes' deep, rich vocals burned brightest when she sang a Russian song of sorrow that transcended the language and generation gaps. Rubin made an excellent master of ceremonies for the band, and Maddux's accordion added texture in all the right spots. However, it was Hokkanen's work that really distinguished the performance. His prowess is undeniable, but it's Hokkanen's ability to painstakingly coax soundscapes out of acoustic instruments that makes your jaw drop. There's also an element of the avant to his playing that adds a slightly eerie, Transylvanian edge to the proceedings. If every guitar player were as good as Hokkanen, the foot pedal folks would be filing for Chapter 11. Together, the Orkestyr packs a formidable punch, particularly when they run through the European version of what we call a hoedown. It's music that makes your brain grow, but it can also be ebullient in a way that might make you want to start throwing plates. -- Greg Beets


PAUL WESTERBERG

Austin Music Hall, September 20

People complain that music reviews aren't objective. Those people are also stupid because music reviews are little more than opinions, which are by their very nature subjective. If you want objectivity, I'll tell you what color shirt Westerberg wore (white), his drummer's name (don't know), and put you to sleep in the process. If you're the writer you just try to be at least open-minded. For Paul Westerberg I couldn't even do that, but only because I'm a fan. The Replacements put to music and words the white-bread, suburbanite angst that I had no business even having in the first place. Not only that, but I hate growing older and I'm not too happy with Westerberg for growing up either -- sobering up and becoming an adult, whatever. So, it might have been selfish, and unrealistic, but I desperately wanted Westerberg to be who he was and open with "Hold My Life," so I could be a teenage punk again. I was also ready to lambast him for the shell of a watered-down rock star he has become. I can't. Westerberg put on a great show. He pulled it off not through some Spinal Tap-ish self-immortalization, but by annihilating the wide gap between his recent solo albums and his former band's output. On stage there was no need to identify what album or what part of his career any given song came from. "Waiting for Somebody" was as good as "Never Mind"; the same goes for "Here Comes a Regular" or "Skyway" and "Love Untold." It didn't all sound the same, but it did sound similar because -- and this just became clear Friday night -- Westerberg was the Replacements. Bob Stinson may have been a guitar savant and an over-romanticized fuck-up, but everything essential was Westerberg. I can't be 17 again. I can't slow down or reverse the linear flow of time; but for a while one rock & roll singer at least made me forget being older. I stopped being jaded and cynical and stopped thinking about what a show was like and, for the first time in a while, just started enjoying one. I got to be just another fan. -- Michael Bertin

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