Dancing About Architecture

Fire! Fire! Fire!

Well, it appears that you and I weren't the only ones who had to read David Fricke's SXSW piece in Rolling Stone several times to figure out that a long-time favorite Austin music emporium hadn't gone up in flames. The city fire department also took notice of the article, which reads in part: "Austin fire marshals -- who otherwise drove club goers and owners batty all weekend by bringing the hammer down on audience-capacity limits -- were nowhere near Waterloo Records when the Japanese trio Guitar Wolf damn near burned the place down during an in-store performance."

Waterloo's John Kunz confirms that he received a call from Assistant Fire Marshall Bob Wheeless following the appearance of the article, which contains so many other references to flame (such as Guitar Wolf's "blowtorched" Eddie Cochran covers, Bob Popular patrons needing "a fire hose to cut a path to the bar," and even a photo of one of the Scorchers!) that you'd think it was written by Beavis. Wheeless and others at the fire department inferred from the piece that the show in question might have featured actual pyrotechnics or explosions that the store didn't have clearance to operate, and that Waterloo may have been dangerously crowded at the time. Wheeless says that he called to "let [Kunz] know that we were concerned that he was trying to turn his record store into a public assembly," and sent an inspector to the store, who informed Kunz that he would need to go through the proper procedure with the city to do so. Wheeless, who says he "used to buy records there a lot," but hadn't been to Waterloo in a long while, later visited the store himself and found that the layout of the shop had changed a great deal from what he recalled. "I told him [then], there's really no way they could function as a public assembly," says Wheeless, adding that he sees now that the in-store shows are "just part of their doing business there" and that it's not likely that the department will pursue the matter any further unless they receive complaints about overcrowding in the store. Kunz, by the way, says that no pyrotechnic devices have ever been employed during any of the store's in-store performances.

In other fire news, a recent meeting between fire department officials and clubowners drew six; Steamboat's Danny Crooks, easily the most vocal critic in the current battle over fire department policy and the music scene, accidentally slept through it. Lisa Rolke, Austin's acting Music Liaison, describes the meeting as an "informal educational forum" where clubowners can get their questions answered, such as which clubs are scheduled for inspection during which months, and what they need to have their official capacity increased. She says that the city is "definitely willing" to try to work things out with the clubs.

Crooks, meanwhile, is dealing with having the 'boat's capacity dropped from 472 to less than 300 until he installs a new sprinkler system. The fire department says that Crooks never had a capacity limit of more than 299 due to a "Catch-22" involving the age of the building; Crooks counters that repeated inspections by previous fire marshals didn't dispute his earlier figure. In any case, Crooks is dealing with the newer, smaller number by adding a second Vallejo show on May 10 to the expected sellout show on May 9, and is encouraging fans to buy their tickets in advance. As an added bonus, Dwight Yoakam is expected to show up and play during at least one of those shows, having made that promise at Ray Hennig's Heart of Texas Music where he showed up and played an impromptu jam with Vallejo's Bruce Castleberry.

Reports of Their Def Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

The record label industry has been abuzz in recent weeks with tales that Rick Rubin's American Records (formerly Def American) is in the throes of collapsing into parent company Warner Bros., with most of its roster being dropped and the lucky few finding their way into the hands of poppa WB. This begs the question of what's happening to Lucinda Williams' upcoming album. Heidi Robinson at American says that the new disc, if it isn't finished already, is "just a hair away" from completion, following some delays that had occurred when the engineer mixing it was called away to another project. Okay, that's fine and dandy, but what label is it coming out on? "Why, American! What else would it be?" replied Robinson in feigned amazement before confessing that she's fully aware of all the "misinformation" regarding the label's status. The deal is simple, she says; Rubin is simply extending his deal with WB, while downsizing the company closer to its original size. "The original deal was for Warner Bros. to market our records, and we're going back to those original deals," says Robinson. "It's not a merge. [The situation is] as it always has been." Except for bands like New Yorkers-with-Austin-ties Crown Heights, who have in fact been dropped by American in the process (but picked up by Emo's for a show next Friday).

He's No Billy Carter

One hazard of being in a band is that you always seem to end up with other musicians crashing at your pad. Such was the case with Soulbenders drummer Brian DiFrank last Tuesday, when he found himself boarding vocalist Roger Clinton for a night. Clinton played DiFrank a bit of his demo ("It sounded like it was written by the guy who wrote `We Are the World'") and said he would've attended a Soulbenders' practice session in return if that night's get-together hadn't already been cancelled. Instead, Clinton and DiFrank wound up at Shady Grove hoisting a few, with the latter becoming astonished at the number of people that immediately sensed the presence of the First Brother. "People kept recognizing him and coming up to him all night," says DiFrank incredulously, adding that if his fiancée and Clinton's wife weren't good friends "I wouldn't be able to recognize him." (And no, Roger's saxophonist sibling Bill Clinton didn't call up that night to make sure his brother wasn't getting into trouble.)

The Days of Our Lives

Seeing as May has been designated as Mental Health Month, the S.I.M.S. Foundation is kicking their "Day in the Life" program back into gear. The foundation, which was set up after the suicide of namesake Pariah bassist Sims Ellison, has been fundraising with this program in order to prevent further such tragedies in the music community. The "Day in the Life" project asks local music-related business to donate one day of the year to help the foundation, and this month La Zona Rosa gives their day on May 15 with a benefit featuring Trish Murphy, Damon Bramlett, and others. Maggie Mae's will be doing their part on May 28, while the Back Room is confirmed for a day in June, and the Electric Lounge, Saxon Pub, and Continental Club are all tentatively scheduled for later that month as well. Martha Guthrie says that so far this year, the foundation has raised "probably close to $5,500."

Post No Bills

In yet another attempt to make Texas look like the land of stone age Pilgrims, the Texas State Senate has unanimously passed a bill (SB1923) forbidding the investment of state funds in any business that's involved with music featuring violent or sexually explicit lyrics. The bill targets tunes that describe, among other things, criminal violence, murder, necrophilia, bestiality, illegal use of drugs, or violence against a particular race, sex or ethnic group. If that list sounds familiar, it's pretty much the same one that the censorship-minded used to go after comic books during the infamous witch hunts of the Fifties. It also, if you'll notice, would pretty much have to include any company whose musical artists traffic in rock, country, Irish ballads, and most Christian music. Put that together with the fact that most of the major corporations have some connections with the types of music I've listed (the bill even seeks to put a ceiling on investment in businesses with indirect associations with the above), and, well, boys, maybe you oughtta just bury all that government money in your backyard, 'cuz you ain't gonna be able to put it anywhere else.

Mixed Notes

An advance copy of Asleep at the Wheel's Sony debut Back to the Future Now showed up at the office, bringing up the question: Have I even mentioned that they were on Sony? Well, they are, and the album hits stores on May 20... You know Tonky Murphey and Vic Ayad have friends in high places if they can get the likes of Jimmie Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall II, and Charlie Sexton to play at their birthday party. That's just what happened at a private shindig at Antone's last Sunday. This weekend there's still more Bramhall for your buck at that venue when Doyle Bramhall and Doyle, Jr., take the stage together for the first time in a long while... Next Thursday is the day that GWAR comes to town, and they'll be livening up one end of the drag with an appearance that afternoon at Variety Comics at 28th & Guadalupe at 5:30pm... The Derailers have finished their second album for Watermelon. Reverb Deluxe should be in stores on July 1... Lucid have been picked for a spot in the Los Angeles F Musicfest next Thursday. You can see them without buying a plane ticket, too, as the show will be broadcast over the Internet that night at fmusicfest@themusiczone.com... Jeff Hughes' debut CD Chapparal (after his band of the same name) gets the in-store treatment at Waterloo Records on Friday, 6pm, with a release party that same night at the Continental Club... The members of one local band found themselves with questions recently when several of the people on their e-mail list sent them back notices to please cease the mailings. A few inquiries later, the band managed to resolve the problem; it turned out that due to their name, some of the recipients thought that the mails regarding 10'' Maria were coming from some sort of sexually oriented business. In reality, the band says they're named after a bargain-priced Barbie knockoff....

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

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