Austin Music Hall, October 1
Surely you're familiar with America's latest "lost" generation. Beck is.
"Everywhere I look there's a dead end waitin'," he sang on "Devil's Haircut,"
his opener. He wouldn't have sold out the Music Hall on a school night if the
audience didn't feel his pain -- and he theirs. Beck knows what it's like to be
at a dead end. Two years ago he was the archetype of the aimless, drifting
slacker. He was a loser, baby, and people were lining up around the block to
get their shots in. Even then, that wasn't what he was about. After enduring
the worst typecasting since William Shatner, he emerged triumphant this
election year with Odelay!, a manifesto of hope, resignation, and
confusion that speaks to the condition of being young in the Nineties. (It's
not always coherent, but neither is being in your twenties.) In concert, the
Beck Hansen Experience was one of swirling lights, surreptitious samples, and a
sustained groove carried through the countrified "Lord Only Knows," the trippy
hip-hop of "The New Pollution," earlier Beck staples like "Asshole," and the
penultimate "Where It's At." Odelay! at one point, features a guest shot
from "The Enchanting Wizard of Rhythm, here to unlock the secrets of the
universe." Live, the wizard is Beck himself, instrumentally competent at last,
presenting his unique vision of the world. The world of Beck is not a world
where Bob Dole, speaking of his 50-year-old opponent, says "It's time to give
America back to the grown-ups." It's a world where people who are sick to death
of hearing about the Sixties can nevertheless spend an hour and a half in the
same state of musical bliss that still haunts the Aged of Aquarius. Beck is an
icon like Kurt Cobain before him, but he traffics in wry confusion, not raw
anger. He looks clueless, but look carefully and you'll see a raised eyebrow.
His audience has exactly that same expression. We may look ignorant, dopey, and
easy to write off, but don't call us losers just yet. There's more to us than
meets the eye.
-- Christopher Gray
Antone's, October 2
A decade ago, David Gilmour and Roger Waters came to Austin within a few
months of each other. Neither show filled even half of the Erwin Center. Oddly
enough, a couple of years later, one of 'em came back under the name Pink
Floyd, and, with the megalithic name recognition both men used to enjoy,
sold-out two nights. It's understandable; people's brains get clouded with bong
resin. They can handle just a finite amount of information, and only remember
which one's Pink. Now, we get a similar scenario once a week. On Wednesday
nights, Shat Records plays Antone's, then same club, next night, Papa Mali
& the Instigators takes the stage. The two bands are what has become of
Soulhat. Papa Mali, featuring Frosty and Bill Cassis, has put a good dose of
swamp in the mix, but Shat Records sounds so much like Soulhat it's uncanny.
No, that's a lie. It's entirely canny, because Kevin McKinney is the voice and
guitar of Shat Records just as he was also the voice and guitar of Soulhat.
It's pretty brainless to continually define musicians by their past, but the
trajectory here from Soulhat to Shat is clearly linear. With Shat you still get
that smoothed-out Tom Waits voice and rhythms that range from funky ("Save the
Chickens") to bonecrushing ("Blah"). Well, duh. Did you think McKinney would go
big band and start playing show tunes? The only significant change is that Shat
cuts down on the residual Dead explorations -- those
drawn- out interludes popularized by bands wanting to accumulate their own tribes of neo-nomadic white people who move their hands in funny ways and call it dancing. Given the relatively modest-sized crowd, I'm sure the band wishes they were here anyway.
-- Michael Bertin
Emo's, October 4
In the inimitable parlance of the music industry resides the term "presold." Presold is why Alanis Morissette's next record will sell three million copies before anybody even notices if it's any good or not. Presold is what A&R folks have in mind when they scout the Bay Area for the next great pop-punk hope or [your college town here] for the next Weezer, Silverchair, Refreshments, 311, Dishwalla, or whatever. See, they don't have to consider actual talent; familiarity breeds record sales. If a record sounds like Nirvana, and it's on the radio, it could have been cooked up in an underground lab in the New Mexico desert for all the average 101X listener cares. Presold must be the reason Denton's Baboon has been getting its butt sniffed of late by all these pager-packing prognosticators. They're a press kit waiting to happen: "From the Metroplex, the emerging hub of edgy, throbbing Interscope noise á la the Toadies and Brutal Juice comes the vaguely grungy, vaguely metal, vaguely punk sounds of Baboon!" Mostly, they're just vague, though that MTV cute-boy look could make them next year's Stabbing Westward. There's one thing you can't presell, however, not if you're Baboon: A crowd of more than 75 at Emo's on a Friday night. Maybe in six months, after they've signed their pound of flesh over to this or that label. But, even then, after all the on-air promos, in-stores, and X-Fests -- even if they pack the Music Hall -- Baboon still won't be that much to see. -- Christopher Gray
Bass Concert Hall, October 6
In rock & roll, 30 minutes is a long time. Think epic-length tunes like
"In Gadda Da Vida," the Allman Brothers' "Mountain Jam" -- almost anything by
the Grateful Dead. Thirty minutes used to be half a Ramones' show. Why then did
George Gershwin's masterpiece, Rhapsody in Blue, as played by Marcus
Roberts' 20-piece backing orchestra for at least that long seem like a
-minute pop tune? Certainly the wind-up presaged a longer piece. Roberts kicked into the tune's main stem with drummer Jason Marsalis and bassist Reuben Rogers falling in behind his uptempo piano pirouettes. Rogers' brief solo -- a highlight all evening -- followed, before Marcus Printemps' sardonic, muted trumpet solo signaled the string section to make their entrance. 'Course as soon as they did, the brass section brayed with all its might. Suddenly the several hundred attendees started ballroom dancing as the music swept through the auditorium like some Shakesperian spell. Or they should have (jazz concerts seem to bring out the High Society Ball in everyone). But it was over in the blink of an eye, Roberts taking deep bows to a standing ovation. Trombonist Ron Westray helped the young, blind pianist off-stage, leaving the band to fumble around with an anti-climatic reprise. He wasn't coming back, though. The band stopped playing a few minutes later, and it was truly over. How could it be over? You can't just stop the seasons -- the flow of nature. How could you stop the waltz through Manhattan at Christmas that is Rhapsody in Blue? Everything else -- the 90-minute first set, the first half-hour of the second set -- was all just warm-up. Longer, big-band suites like "I'll See You at One" (a new tune), and "Express Mail Delivery" ("about a package that's supposed to get there before 10:30 in the morning but never gets there," said Roberts)
-- warm-up. Stage setting for the big finale. And a big finale it was. It just went by so quickly. It should've gone on forever. It still is, probably -- in the heads of everyone there that night.
-- Raoul Hernandez
MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, DEATH RIDE '69
Liberty Lunch, October 7
Like a bad case of the flu, I've caught TKK four times now (seemingly always in the Fall, too). And like the flu, they're not as bad as they used to be, yet the genuinely decadent nature of their CDs never quite translates to the stage as well as I hope. Monday's show at Liberty Lunch -- although certainly above average -- was no exception. Lead vocalist Groovie Man put more of his heart into it this time, stalking the stage like the lone lost Manson brother and spitting up above-average renditions of All the Hits, making this into a kind of eponymous best-of show since the band doesn't have a new CD to support. As is so often the case in live shows put on by Wax Trax! alumni, half the thrills come from checking out the PVC fashion plates and kick-hungry denizens that crawl out of the woodwork every time TKK rears its head; Tuesday at Ohms transplanted to Monday at the Lunch. For many, the highlight of the show had to be the lusciously gangly femme who planted herself just outside of the stage area, writhing in TKK ecstasy like Kali sans the armwork and clothed only in (ouch!) a modest duct-tape wrap. Whew. Los Angelenos Death Ride 69 managed to kick things into high gear with their opening set, thanks in part to their creepy amalgam of tribal drumming overlayed with a singer doing Siouxie-possessed-by-Exene and some sick little riffing that followed me out of the club and all the way home like a scruffy alley-dog of which I wanted no part. All in all, not a bad show, but I can't help thinking TKK and the like might be better suited to being a house band. That many samples and assorted other non-live tidbits need a home, and I still don't think the road is it. And I wonder how long it took to get all that tape off? -- Marc Savlov