Live Shots


THE GRASSY KNOLL, HOLLOWBODY

Liberty Lunch, January 18


J.T. Van Zandt at the Cactus Cafe, January 22nd tribute to Townes Van Zandt
One would think that a group led by guitarist Bob Green, the mastermind behind The Grassy Knoll, would be a sonic cavalcade of guitarscapes. One, of course, would be wrong. After all, Green, who lived in Austin for several years before selling his first release, The Common Ground, to an off-shoot of jazz giant Verve (Antilles), didn't make a guitar album his second time around with Positive. More of a drum beat with a fog of synthesizers, horns, and, yes, guitar, Positive is pure ambience, not six-string eruptions (disruptions). So there was really no reason to expect anything different at Liberty Lunch. Only one did, of course. When someone with Green's abilities takes the stage, there are expectations -- big ones. For instance, it wasn't much of a stretch to expect Green to guest on a song or two with the locals in Hollowbody, a band of which he was once a member. Hollowbody's
40-minute opening set, a loose amalgam of everything New Wave and Eighties (on the English side of the street), highlighted by the song title of the evening, "Hotwheel Named Desire," didn't really need a third guitarist with Adam Sultan and Ted Cho doing fine on their own. But what the hell, you know? It's not everyday you're in the position of letting your former bandmates open your roadshow. Nevertheless, Green didn't make an appearance until an hour later when he and his three bandmates walked onto the near-barren stage amidst the haze from the smoke machine. Taking their places, Green and company immediately locked into the drummer's James Brown funk beat (made famous by John Bonham and later the Beastie Boys) and found their hypnotizing groove. Unfortunately, 30 minutes later, it sounded exactly the same -- like the mid-section of a Sister 7 show at Steamboat. Green was inconspicuous in the shadows and so was his guitar playing. Meanwhile, trumpet player Chris Grady, front and center at the mike, laid down some post-Bitches Brew blowing that proved to be the focal point of the evening. And maybe that was the point. Still, it was something of a shock when 45 minutes into the one-hour set, Green and his wah-wah pedal finally took charge, bursting into a metal storm that continued into the Satrianic meltdown of an encore. One expects more of this if Green and his Grassy Knoll make the trip to South by Southwest this year. -- Raoul Hernandez

LOS TIGRES GUAPOS

Flamingo Cantina,
January 21


Jimmie Dale Gilmore at the Cactus Cafe, January 22nd tribute to Townes Van Zandt
In addition to lighting up the name Los Tigres Guapos, the marquee outside the Flamingo Cantina should have contained the subtitle "don't blink." Twenty-two minutes, 13 songs. With the possible exception of the 1-4-5's, this was easily the most tunes in the shortest amount of time I've ever seen. There were even a couple 20-25 second pauses. And like the aforementioned helmeted foursome, Los Tigres Guapos are all about energy. It's fast and loud and, though the words are incomprehensible, it's probably angry -- or at least discontent. Guitar and bass churning quick and hard, a guy in a red-and-black suit writhing and jerking in minimal movements so as not to lose his two-fisted grip on the mike stand. With a quick riff, the others kick in for maybe six bars, then the vocals begin -- a verse or two and a chorus of yelling back and forth in rapid succession -- a little more guitar, another verse, the chorus twice, and two bars of guitar, thankyouverymuch. Punk rock, babe, all the way. The songs were powerful and explosive, and none of them went too far past the minute-30 mark. They played all six songs from their upcoming EP in the time it would take your average rock band to play their new single (with
b-side, of course). As far as I'm concerned, the world needs more bands like this: bands illustrating that punk is not just another quick-to-rise and quick-to-pass facet of the new and fickle world of popular-alternative music; it's a fucking institution. It won't and shouldn't go away. The only thing is, with songs this short, it's difficult to get a grasp on them; before you get a handle on it, it's over. And even though the next one will be much the same, you still want them to finish the last one. Oh, for the three-minute anthem! -- Christopher Hess


HANDFUL, THE SHINDIGS, HALFWATT

Electric Lounge, January 23


Danny Silverman & Mickey White at the Cactus Cafe, January 22nd tribute to Townes Van Zandt
Austin music is in trouble. Sure, we critics love to make these dire pronouncements, especially when deadlines loom and there's nothing good on TV. Truthfully, we're one of the reasons it's in such bad shape. Driven by our relentless need to categorize and compartmentalize, to assign each band its own little tenement in the Cabrini-Green of Austin nightlife, we've sucked the spontaneity out of the scene like a runaway chupacabra. These days, if you can't hyphenate it at least twice, people probably aren't going to go see it, and we're sure as hell not going to write about it. The file drawer is jammed with designations from astral kraüt-pop down to ZZ Top-trash-rock, and bands who don't give a shit about being shoved into this critical cubbyhole or that one -- or flat-out refuse to play this silly game -- get left out in the cold. No fancy designation describes halfwatt, the Shindigs, or Handful. There's no cutesy XL term denoting bands that climb onstage, turn their guitars up, and let 'em rip. (It used to be called rock & roll.) The only way these three bands could be considered even remotely trendy is that they all have female singers, and even that stopped being cool when Courtney Love decided she'd rather act in movies than record another album. What they do have is songs. Halfwatt mixes bright-sounding, power-trio guitars over a loping garage beat, while the Shindigs wed rock & roll swagger to high-energy pop, and Handful doles out a bottom-heavy stomp featuring heavy chunks of AOR riffage (talk about uncool). And songs. Three chords and a cloud of dust. Guitars sizzling through Marshalls on top of a rubbery rhythm section. Choruses. Refrains. Lyrics you can understand and identify with. Rhythms you tap along to. It really isn't that complicated at all. Tonight it was great. Maybe we critics should just shut the fuck up. -- Christopher Gray


COUNTING CROWS, FIONA APPLE

City Coliseum, January 24

Finding the appeal of Counting Crows is simple once you find to whom they appeal. These are guesses, but looking around the audience at Friday's sold-out Coliseum show, it's people whose most pressing concerns are probably of the 30-year-old variety; whether its finding time to finish the quarterly reports so as not to cancel the ski trip, or -- for the slightly younger set -- whether their parents should buy them a brand new sport utility vehicle instead of handing down the '92 Accord. Who else can afford to offer $100 for a scalped ticket? These people need real drama in their lives and the Crows have it in abundance. Be it the overdone bad poetry of "Goodnight Elisabeth" ("If you wrap yourself in daffodils/I will wrap myself in pain") or the blatant pathos in the otherwise cryptic "Recovering the Satellites" ("We're so fucked up, you and me"), for 90 minutes your disappointments are amplified and put to music on stage. You get to feel like Willie Loman, Blanche Dubois, or the Shakespeare character of your choice, and your life takes on the tragic proportions you want it to have. As long as the music plays, it works. There really isn't a question of believability because the band isn't acting nor selling an image. Singer Adam Duritz doesn't have Michael Stipe's "I'm-bigger-than-the-world" pretension, nor does he have Eddie Vedder's "I'm-gonna-hide-up-here-on-this-stage" reluctance. He has a little bit of charisma and the rest of the band is faceless; and they've written some better-than-average pop songs. And that's what they give. Then it's over. It's entertaining and unremarkable. Opener Fiona Apple needs to grow up first physically, because it felt rather felonious to watch someone looking under the age of consent undulate sexually with the mike stand. Some emotional growth would be welcome too, because, there's no need to torment an audience with the handful of songs about every teenage loser (redundant) you've ever dated. Even if she never matures, she's going to be huge because you can make it on looks alone (see Jewel) and there's an endless supply of 17-year-old girls who continually exercise bad judgment when it comes to boys, and have extra baby-sitting money to spend. -- Michael Bertin


TA ME'RE

Gingerman Pub, January 26

The term "jazz" was originally used to denote a copulatory act; it was only later in the Twenties that it was applied to a renegade style of music that placed heavy emphasis on individual improvisation. When the term "Latin" is added to jazz, the reference is not only to a unique approach to playing, but also to a particular feeling evoked, in part, by certain instruments such as a gut-string guitar and syncopated percussion. Too often, however, Latin jazz is grouped together with the term "cool jazz." Originally used to describe a slow, West Coast jazz genre that grew in reaction to the faster, East Coast be-bop sounds, the term cool jazz now refers to a weak sound that even at its best is just this side of Muzak. Latin jazz (in this sense) is anything but cool; played well, it's as hot and spicy as endorphin-inducing fiery salsa. Back in the early Sixties, "that Brazilian thing" (as Cannonball Adderley called it) was taking the jazz world by storm, and it's not hard to see why: A key element in jazz is a strong, moving rhythm, and by simply adding Latin timing and percussion, it gave the idiom a new type of swing. While not as hot or full of fireworks as some of the best in the field (Grupo Folklorico is a good example), Ta Me're -- comprising a bassist, two guitarists, a percussionist, a trumpet, and a cameo cornet -- play a mellifluous brand of Latin-flavored jazz music that makes you want to move your hips in glee. I blame the percussionist; he was excellent in his role as time keeper and added tasteful flavorings to each tune. The gut string and electric guitar complemented each other in fine style and the whole band was well-supported by a steady bass line. The horns (while somewhat tentative at times) floated well over the other instruments. When Ta Me're started playing, out back of the Gingerman, the number of people off stage was just slightly more than those on. At the end of their first set, however, there was a substantial crowd of listeners who enjoyed the graceful and flowing sounds of the band. Duke Ellington said, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing," and swing they did. Keep an ear out for Ta Me're. -- David Lynch

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