Live Shots


BOB DYLAN

Austin Music Hall, October 26 & 27

The second set is always better, and how delicious it was to know this the minute Bob Dylan stepped onto the Austin Music Hall stage on the second night of his weekend stand. It was obvious: Gold lamé pants and a white cowboy hat. Anyone who walks out on stage wearing gold lamé pants and a white cowboy hat is either Wayne Newton, or someone intent on having some serious fun. Dylan was a little of both Sunday night. By contrast, his attire the night before -- bluelookingwhiteshirtwaistcoat thang -- could only be characterized as austere, Dickensian. Not that the crowd gave a good goddamn. It was Saturday night, boy! Best night of the week to get rip roaring drunk. And get drunk they did -- though not just on hooch. Two thousand large got drunk on pure, grain Dylan: "Down in the Flood, " "All Along the Watchtower," "Jokerman," "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," "Silvio," "Mr. Tambourine Man" (acoustic), "Masters of War" (acoustic), "It Ain't Me Babe," "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," etc., etc., etc. As with his two-night stand last November, arrangements were longggggg. Groovy, man. Par-tay. 'Course, you couldn't hear any of the words, but Dylan was never about lyrics, right? Always the guitar-slinger. Or so you'd have thought, as Dylan once again played his Strat like opener Kenny Wayne Shepherd wished he could -- with fire, style, and sometimes even restraint. Unfortunately, his band wasn't nearly as good as last year's, and though guitarist John Jackson deserves recognition, on the whole, the evening felt by the numbers. Stiff. Give the people what they want: two hours, a few anthems, and rock & roll's premier bard on a Saturday night. What's a little inspiration? The difference between the first set and the second, actually. As with his second show in '95, this one felt like it was coming from someone who slept late on a Sunday and woke to Mexican food in Austin; relaxed, renewed, ready to seize the day. Maybe it was just that the crowd -- hovering around 1,500 -- was positively less Sixth Street than the previous night's (though nearly as boisterous). Either way, Dylan seemed more "present" on the Sabbath. "I Want You," "Queen Jane Approximately," and beautiful acoustic versions of "Tangled Up in Blue" (completely reworked) and "Younger than Yesterday" shimmered like the 100th time you heard them, rather than the 500th. "Forever Young," in the number two encore slot, was a nice surprise, too. Sunday even featured Ray Benson, augmenting Charlie Sexton, who played nearly 90 minutes over two nights. Yes, the second set was better -- that is, unless you're counting Dylan '96 as his second visit to the Music Hall. If that's the case, you only missed a pair of gold lamé pants and a white cowboy hat. And if you missed all four shows, you've got a lotta nerve... -- Raoul Hernandez


JUBILETTES/AUNT BEANIE'S FIRST PRIZE BEETS

Cactus Cafe, October 29/October 30

In yonder days of rhetorical fervor, I was quite enamored of a certain Abbie Hoffman book, Revolution for the Hell of It, part of which reproduced a pamphlet credited to one "George Metesky," on how to score free what-have-you-not in New York City, from food to education to medicine: "America is the land of the free, and free means you don't pay." Therefore, free show number one at the Cactus Cafe: The Jubilettes, five women of diverse shapes, sizes, and manner, strumming from none to three acoustics at any given moment, and two men of forgotten description contributing some easy bass and drums. The songs are "gospel" (so-called), not mine mind you, but someone's, once, and here they are again: swooping, crooning, belting, and cooing in x-part harmony, an impressive display of individual vocal skills and ensemble blending. Not a bad trick for a clump of white chicks, who acquitted themselves equally well on the more country material too. An entertaining show, then, but as an armchair revolutionary, I have no use for the shuck-and-jive of received religiosity and despite the fact that the show began with one of the more mercurial Jubilettes declaiming "Goddamnit, I was trying to tune!," I would much rather hear these Jubilettes talents put in service of some higher power: say the Beach Boys, or Prince. Next night, free show number two: A veritable five-ring circus, Aunt Beanie's First Prize Beets are an apparently insoluble non-force in Austin's music morass, despite the fact that this trio has more creative wallop to offer than most of their erstwhile peers. Their music is a motley amalgam of black and white country blues and all manner of hillbilly music mixed with early rock & roll and the better varieties of contemporary folk. Beanie have at least 20 superlative original songs in a variety of styles, and play an eccentric range of covers ranging from Willie Johnson to Chuck Berry, Woody Guthrie to Lyle Lovett, and Dock Boggs to Tammy Wynette. If they had more than one record to offer, I'd say buy, buy, buy so they can make another, but then that would require cash on the barrelhead. -- Brian Berger


STEREOLAB, UI, DJ SPOOKY

Liberty Lunch, October 31

Why Stereolab was so straight-faced was a mystery. Were the six electro-geniuses scared by the promise of a spaced-out Halloween show? More likely, the grim looks on Stereolab's faces during setup indicated just how seriously this collective approaches their work, despite being faced with an extremely quirky audience. The various consumers of the Lab's product -- layers and layers of aural texture so ethereal you can feel it in the air around you -- packed the club like a classroom of costumed children. Some were connoisseurs who'd come to seriously inhale the vibes created by the all-electric machinery: pianos, farfisa organs, analogue synthesizers, vox organs, bass, guitars, and something the band calls "supercussion." Other, less lucid, Austinites were there to party down, accompanied by the soundtrack laid down by the magicians on stage. Those people could have stayed home with Stereolab's last two albums, Mars Audiac Quintet and Emperor Tomato Ketchup, since much of the band's set sounded exactly like the majority of those two discs. But if they'd stayed home, nobody else could have enjoyed the crazy costumes donned by that quarter of the audience. Unfortunately, many people were also wearing tight lips, which seemed to have been a reaction to the disturbingly noisy opening act, Ui, and the none-too-smooth deejaying by local DJ Spooky. Attempting to groove to his maniacal starts & stops on the turntables was like damnation to the hell of repeated coitus interruptus. And some who'd come to the show were just window-shoppers hoping to see who's behind the trippy, happy recorded sound -- incongruous with the actual band on stage: the sober faces, straight backs and nearly immobile feet of the three women and three men. Though clearly not a shoe-gazer, long-time bandmember Mary Hansen struck a chord with anyone shy and sensitive when, at the end of the set, she was presented with a birthday cake on stage. With a slight smile she quietly said, "Thank you," before picking up her guitar and proceeding to play the next tight, spiralling, driving rock song. The skill of the demure Hansen and her bandmates made people smile, but unfortunately the tight lips set in again after the members of Ui got on stage for a hippie-style jam that sent people out the doors and into the street. Still, the party continued outside for a good half-hour, which is exactly what a band should hope to accomplish, and there's nothing spooky about that. -- Melissa Rawlins


JASON & THE SCORCHERS

La Zona Rosa, November 1

Part of the charm and appeal of bands who have established themselves as peripheral icons of a musical style is that they're allowed a certain degree of cheese. They've earned it. When Jason & the Scorchers turned it up at La Zona Rosa last Friday, there was enough finger throwin' and guitar-around-the-neck slingin' to ensure they'd provide the required dosage of redneck country-rock (now dubbed alt-country). The Scorchers began with "Self-Sabotage" and "Cappuccino Rosie," the first two tunes off their latest release, Clear Impetuous Morning, which were met with the enthusiasm of an adoring crowd that would have clapped and hooted no matter what they played. Other new songs, including "Walking a Vanishing Line" and "To Know No Love," were played with the same rehearsed abandon. This band does rock (the sheer volume made sure of that), it's just that they're not taking many chances. When Jason introduced "Going Nowhere" as a song that "will be a standard in Scorchers' shows of the future -- I feel that strongly about this song" he wasn't lying; It sounded enough like everything else to guarantee its inclusion for the many years to come. And the risk he took by playing "Jeremy's Legend," a standard, guitar-only ballad, illustrated the solid but limited lengths to which the Scorchers will go. The encores proved the most rousing part of the night, as they tore through "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man" and "Take Me Home Country Road" at maximum velocity and volume to the sheer delight of the thinning ranks of screaming fans. Openers Slobberbone proved that the torch lit by bands like Jason and the Scorchers has been passed into good hands, as their songs put the required booze-filled heart back into the mix -- showing that there's room for both change and soul in the resurgence of country-rock. -- Christopher Hess


PUSHMONKEY, HEADHUNTERS

Steamboat, November 2

From the drub of the first song's opening chord, it was clear that Pushmonkey was set to deliver some heavy tunes. Then again, you can't play "Detroit Rock City" on the PA before you go on and not play some humbucker chunky songs. And sure enough, they offered the audience their version of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers meet Metallica funk-core, but while the band played cohesively and amply enough, they didn't traverse any novel musical territory. Singing from bawl to banshee, Pushmonkey's frontman proved a talented and a charismatic spark for the crowd, but his hair attitude has to go. The Headhunters, on the other hand, didn't take themselves nearly as seriously, which is probably why their feral rockabilly works so well. Their frontman, in addition to some grindy harp solos, also proved a good onstage focal point, though changes were also called out by the remarkable round mound of sound on the skins. Add on super-solid bass playing, and it'd take a month of Sundays to find a rhythm section as good; they were a perfect foundation for the improvisational guitar and harp explorations. When it clicked, which it did for most of their set, they hummed along like a hyper-tuned V-8. Given the difference in the two bands' musical styles, you wouldn't generally expect them to play on the same bill yet this eccentric pairing was intentional. Steamboat likes the stark juxtaposition of music flavors and while these odd groupings don't always work, the general idea behind them is certainly a welcome change from the typical musical menu on Sixth Street. -- David Lynch

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