Dancing About Architecture

This Is the Week That Is

"Austin: City of Ideas." As I walked out the back door of my house last Saturday, the huge, new billboard towering over Dirty's on the Drag, depicting the city's skyline peppered with "thought" light bulbs, was the first, er, sign that things were starting to happen. The sort of things that happen in bulk during this so-packed week every year now in Austin. The signs came fast and furious as I strolled further down the Drag; the Fringeware bookstore was busy with talk of the SXSW multimedia festival, a quick dip into the Texas Showdown for a beer revealed Texas Music Office boss Casey Monahan, a group of Texas Meat Purveyors, and some out-of-towners already fretting that, "It's almost midnight and we're not seeing any live music!" Considering they'd already checked out Tokyo's Lolita #18 at the Hole in the Wall before I ran into them and that The Week was barely getting started, I suggested they need not fret -- there'd plenty more to come.

My own arrival at the Hole found recent Austin exports ILK (Jeff Smith, Andy Thomas, et al.) back from Memphis for the week, not all that long after they fled this town due to (oh, sorry, that's off the record). ILK was blasting away with full, post-Hickoids abandon as one member of the Lolita party was seen giving another what looked like your typical American neck-rub. There was a spark in the air, one that said, "This is it. The Week has begun." Even the labels were serious about getting an early start on The Week. Across town, a clutch of A&R reps were spotted cooing over the Kacy Crowley gig at Liberty Lunch and immediately after, the same group zoomed over to the Continental Club to give the same looks to the Sexton Sextet. (Condolences, by the way, to the large party of pierced and leather-clad folk who'd planned their whole weekend around what they thought was a big S&M party at the Lunch that night. You can't blame them for their confusion; an evening's entertainment called "Fresh Blood Fest" and featuring a band called the Damnations tends to lead one to that sort of confusion. Sorry, gang. Hopefully, you'll get the word before the next real Bloodfest comes around).

Keep in mind that The Week is not just SXSW, though it certainly forms the centerpiece. The Week is traditionally that time when the weather starts springing towards warmth, students get their actual spring break, and, yes, that great day of drinking, St. Patrick's Day, rears its ugly green head as well. "This group is gonna have it the roughest," sighs Julie Lowery at the Dog & Duck Pub. It's been noted that the establishment has an exceedingly high number of SXSW participants in its employ. "Hunter [Darby] is playing in five fucking bands" over the SXSW weekend, she says, wide-eyed and incredulous (personally, only four come to mind). Other bartenders and cooks at the pub will be playing in two and three bands over the week as well, only to be greeted early Monday morning with their busiest day of the year -- and no, calling in sick on St. Pat's is not a good idea at the D & D.

One less stressful part of the weekend (unless you happen to be a wallet) is the Austin Record Convention, which is held bi-annually but gets its biggest crowds during its spring incarnation. "This convention will definitely be the biggest so far" says organizer Doug Hanners, with every nook and cranny of Palmer Auditorium scheduled to be quite filled. Half the people in attendance are expected to be from out of town, with non-Texans and outright foreigners likely to account for a hefty percentage of the patrons. The huge size of the convention has forced the cessation of previous years' live music at the shows (again, there's plenty to be had elsewhere), but there's always plenty of local celebs in attendance, and they tend not to be offended by autograph requests. Hanners cites Roky Erickson and Doug Sahm as typical of the "music magnets" he's often seen wandering around the convention -- and this writer has had the pleasure over the years of watching several overwhelmed 13th Floor Elevators fans revelling in Erickson's presence at the convention.

Rockers will also want to check out the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's exhibit at Highland Mall, March 14-16 (even the malls are getting in on this thing! What would Mojo Nixon think?) where eight prototypes of classic guitars are on display, along with film and audio on the various inductees to the R&R Hall of Fame. The more rural among ya will be heading out to the Stock Show & Rodeo, another huge event that just happens to fall during The Week. And then there's all the "renegade" showcases, not sponsored by SXSW, but taking advantage of the flow of people in town. I promised to do my best to keep you abreast of those, so here's how it works this time: Look to the "Recommendeds" for info on daytime shows and in-store performances and to the club listings for what hopefully is as close as possible to a complete list of venues featuring non-SXSW showcases. Many are free and a number of them honor SXSW wristbands. Very few of them, despite names like "Fuck by Fuck Off" and "South by Screw You," will actually cause you to worry for your health if you walk up wearing a badge. Still more places to look for bands include the Austin Rehearsal Complex, with a zillion rooms all featuring their own special gigs and parties all week long -- no way am I gonna try to present a comprehensive list of their entertainment -- and off-the-beaten path restaurants and shops.

Golden Notes & Silver Screens

Women ruled the SXSW film festival video competition this year, as top honors were a tie between the Kelley Deal 6000's "How About Hero?" and a duet from Exene Cervenka & Stone Fox on "Something to Brag About." Honorable mentions also went to locals the Ugly Americans' "Vulcan Death Grip" and Calvin Russell's "Let the Music Play," while other noted videos included Sangre de Toro's "Sweet Milk," Courtney's "If You Ain't Got No Job," Drums & Tuba's "Fists of Spaghetti," Festus Clamrod's "Devil Went to Georgia," and Gus Gus' "Polyesterday." Video judges included Chron writer Marc Savlov, radio host and actor Robbie Jacks, ex-Butthole Surfers drummer Teresa Taylor, and the Austin Music Network's Tim Hamblin.

Radio Waves

Okay, let's say you're just outright determined to avoid all contact with live music this week. You figure, "I'll just sequester myself in the car with the radio on and everything will be cool." No such luck; the airwaves in this town over the SXSW weekend will be as cluttered with those darn bands as the streets will. Coming to you live from the KVRX studios (91.7FM) will be: On Thursday, Bobgoblin (8pm), the hip-hop special (11pm), and Yuckmouth (3am). On Friday, Home (8pm), Richard Buckner (midnight), and 50 Million (3am). Here's the schedule for radio interviews: KROX 101.5FM: On Thursday, Nerf Herder (3pm). On Friday, 7 Mary 3 (2pm), Fluffy (3pm), Less Than Jake (6pm), and Supergrass (6:30pm). "Hometown Heroes," a series of short segments with local music, will air throughout the week as well. On KGSR-FM 107.1 look for... On Thursday: Sexton Sextet (3:30pm), William Topley (4:30pm), Charlie Musselwhite (5pm), and Richard Buckner (6pm). On Friday: Brave Combo (3:30pm), and Robin Holcomb (4:15pm). Saturday: Jayhawks (2:30pm), and Abra Moore (4pm). Tune in to KLBJ-FM 93.7 for... Thursday: 81/2 Souvenirs and Merchants of Venus (6-10am), Vallejo and Sunflower (10am-3pm), Jayhawks (2:30pm), Kevin McKinney/Shat Records and Peter Wolf (3-7pm), Nerf Herder (4:30pm), Seed (7:50pm), Velvet Hammer (8:50pm), Fastball (9:20pm), Kacy Crowley (10:50pm). On Friday, Van Wilks, Eric Dahl, and Stephen Bruton (6am-10:00pm), Jonny Lang (noon), Monte Montgomery (3pm), Art Alexakis (3-7pm), Ian Moore (4pm), 7 Stones (6:30pm), Sincola (7:50pm), Johnny Goudie (8:20pm), Starfish, (9:20pm), D'Zyne (10:20pm). On Saturday, Psalm 69 (4:20pm). (Not all the KLBJ appearances take place exactly at the listed times. Some are simply set to happen during the four-hour shift that begins at the listed time). Finally, KUT (90.5FM) also plans to air a number of interviews and such, but at press time, they could only confirm JPP on Thursday at noon.

Mixed Notes

Unfortunately, not all news is good this week. W.C. Clark drummer Pete Alcoser, Jr., was killed, as was Clark's fiancée Brenda Jasek in an auto accident in Sherman, Texas earlier this week. Details on the the accident are still sketchy, but at press time, Clark had just been released from intensive care. His manager reports that he's in "very good condition." The other members of Clark's band were not in the vehicle at the time of the accident... Advance copies of Robert Earl Keen's Arista Austin debut Picnic have arrived at the Chronicle office. That's not so earthshaking in and of itself -- lots of folks are tossing out albums this week -- but note that it's the first physical evidence of the Arista offshoot's presence... Meanwhile, Harry Friedman has resigned from Antone's/Discovery Records to pursue his career in the film industry... Speaking of long-awaited albums, there's a release party this Saturday at Blondie's for Choreboy's debut, Good Clean Fun... My Ass, just in time for SXSW. Ironically, the band had a listening party for the CD just in time for SXSW last year at Casino el Camino... Bongo Hate have changed their name to Blow Up, partially, they say, because "having the word `hate' in your name is like showing up to the prom with a spike through your forehead"... With mere days gone by since Antone's moved out of the area, Senor O'Brien's, on 34th just off the Drag, is hoping to take up the live music slack, and is, in fact, looking for bands to play on St. Patrick's Day. The new club, I'm told, will simply be called "O'Brien's"... Correction: Former Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus asked if I would point out that, contrary to the information in a record review we ran last week (inserted by us, not Mr. Greg Beets), his band Daddy Longhead is far from broken up, and is up for observation at any time by you lovable industry types.

-- Contributors: Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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More Dancing About Architecture
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The last installment of "Dancing About Architecture."

Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

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