Dancing About Architecture

Anytown Stories

The general consensus around the Chronicle office was that the premiere episode of MTV's Austin Stories was about as enjoyable as finding fecal matter in your watering hole, but it appears the farther away you get from the capital of Texas, the more likely you are to dig it (the show, not sifting through poop). National press on the series has been largely favorable, with the Hollywood Reporter describing Stories as "Jim Jarmusch's Stranger in Paradise...

by way of early Woody Allen" (!) Personally, I didn't think it was all that bad for a first outing, but other than the constant barrage of familiar signs and locations, I couldn't for the life of me find much of anything Austin about it; I did get a bit of déja vu during the "trying to get into a show without paying" scene, but unfortunately, the situation it reminded me of occurred at a club on Hollywood Boulevard. C'mon, MTV, having one character sport a Spoon T-shirt doth not the spirit of a city make! I'm not suggesting that the negatives should be destroyed, rather that MTV would've been better served filming the no-cover, open-to-all premiere party at the Capitol City Comedy Club, where the three words that define comedy nightclub, "two-drink minimum," were not to be heard and the atmosphere was pure Austin; just a bunch of folks sittin' around drinkin' and watchin the tube, hooting for their favorite landmarks and buddies' cameos, while the "stars" of the show just hung out like everybody else. As far as the show itself and how it relates to this column, there's the Sixteen Deluxe theme song (which lasts all of five seconds) and the debut episode boasted a brief appearance by Julianna Sheffield, late of 8 1/2 Souvenirs. Meanwhile, radio's Dudley & Bob appeared on last night's show, and Don Walser, Sara Hickman, MC Overlord, Guy Forsyth and others are yet to come. If you liked Sheffield's performance, stay tuned for a reappearance later in the season. If you thought the show was a generic Slacker rip-off done a few years too late, you may want to wait it out and try it again a few weeks down the line; series regular Brad "Chip" Pope assures me that the second and third episodes are better than the first, and Tim Stegall, who's
as cynical as the next guy (if the next guy is John Lydon) claims that the script for the episode he's in is very funny. Now, if the producers could add more New Sincerity and less old schtick -- or at least explain to me how three twentysomethings can run an entire Austin weekly paper and keep the place looking so clean.


In the "real world" (ouch!) of Austin and music television, "on bail" is the phrase Austin Music Network's Tim Hamblin uses to describe the current situation at the Network. Since $150,000 (roughly half of AMN's budget last year) has been "found" by the city to keep the struggling network going, that makes for about six months that the cable channel can continue before the well runs dry again. Besides the fact that the beleaguered channel is assured a life past the middle of next month, which is when it would have gone dark without approval of some funding by the city council, this stop-gap allows a bit of breathing time for the staff of AMN, who have been in pitched battle on behalf of the channel (and their jobs) for the last several weeks. At press time, the council was just a hair short on announcing its final, binding decisions about the upcoming year's budget, but while there is an off-chance that they will announce the allocation of more money to the network, those close to the situation are not expecting it.

Half Nelson

Well, this year's Farm Aid, scheduled for October 4 at Texas Stadium, has been cancelled due to low ticket sales. One good thing may come out of that, however, as I think Willie Nelson may be hanging out with Neil Young too much. Remember when Young put out a rockabilly album, a country album, and a New Wave album, and then his record company sued him, saying he owed them three Neil Young albums? Well, Nelson's long-awaited reggae album (!) will "certainly not [be released] this year," according to a representative of Island Records, but is will come out eventually, as will Willie's blues (!!) album. According to the label, only preliminary sessions for both albums have been completed, both of them having been pushed aside when Island founder Chris Blackwell heard Nelson's Spirit album, loved it, and decided to release that instead. So, what will we be hearing soon from the grey-headed stranger? You guessed it -- a Christmas album (!!!).

Lucinda Williams (or won't she?)

Lucinda Williams fans will find the long, fascinating saga of her third (fourth? fifth?) attempt at recording her long-awaited Car Wheels on a Gravel Road in the September 14 New York Times Magazine a frustrating read, especially if they're suckers for a happy ending. After several pages of detail on Williams, her experiences in the studio, her guest artists (f'rinstance Charlie Sexton, Steve Earle, and Emmylou Harris), et al., the article hits the reader with a quick coda: Williams elected to toss these sessions in the crapper, too. American Records now tells the Chronicle that a previously announced ball-park release date for the album is no longer applicable, but they swear that it will come out eventually -- and that American spirit Rick Rubin has already said to the perfectionist princess that if she wants to hit the studio yet again, "Go ahead."

Mixed Notes

Kacy Crowley got high scores in the September 13 Billboard for her new "Hand to Mouthville" single. That cut was picked as their "New and Noteworthy" pick of the week. Crowley was praised thusly: "With the field of female singer-songwriters expanding by the half-second, it takes a unique lyrical perspective and quirky musical perspective to stand apart from the pack. Crowley easily succeeds on both counts." However, the piece then goes on to describe her voice as a cross between that of Stevie Nicks and Rachel Sweet. Hmmm. Is it really a compliment to call someone a shrill has-been witch?...

Paul Leary and Stuart Sullivan must be feeling pretty Sublime these days. The album they produced and engineered, respectively, for that funky band broke the two million sales mark (as I previously reported) and now is rumored to be on the verge of hitting three. A representative in MCA Records' sales department confirms that the disc is "on its way" to triple platinum status, boosted by the unstoppable "Wrong Way" single, which, inspired by its own name perhaps, recently pulled a 180 and began its second climb up the charts. Leary is said to refer to the track as "Jon Blondell's Song," due to the prominence of that redoubtable fellow's horn solo in the song. There's gotta be serious royalties coming out of this, so if the Butthole Surfers tank out and get back together years later for a reunion tour, look for Leary to end up being the Mike Nesmith of the group...

If you thought that niceness doesn't pay in the music biz, check this one out: Local act Choker Montana were waiting to go on at SXSW this March when they found out that a label rep had flown in to see the band before them and had shown up too late. Choker's Matt McCormick told the band to go ahead and play awhile longer, and the rep, Dan Eagan of Florida's Stainless label, politely repaid the favor by staying for a bit of Choker's set. They gave him a CD and a copy of their Kevin Booth-produced video, and as a result, Choker Montana have now signed to Stainless. Their next step is to remix their indie CD and add some new material for re-release... Provocative Elbow and College Station's Tonsul are represented with a total of seven tracks on More Than You Bargained For, a new 144-minute CD on Urinine Records. How did they get over two hours of music onto a single CD? Simple. They put the first nine bands only on the left channel, and the last nine only on the right. I used a similar process I call "monorama" on one of my old locally released tapes, and the main difference between the two is that if you have a mono button on your stereo, pressing it during this album would simply result in the music coming from both speakers, rather than a train wreck cacophony of noise...

The Crash Worship show at the Voodoo Lounge led, not surprisingly, to a visit from the fire department, but clubowner Rob Walker doesn't seem to be particularly unnerved by it. He's got some work to do to get the club approved by the boys in red, and thus he had to cancel Thursday's Eyehategod/Bloodlet show, but he says he expects everything to be ready to go by the weekend. The only thing that seemed to surprise him about the whole deal is that the Thursday show ended up moving to the Electric Lounge and not the Atomic Cafe...

The Flamingo Cantina is benefit-happy this week, starting on Sunday when Cactus Smack Conspiracy, El Insecto, Econoline, and the Alphaholics play a show to raise money for Hobble, who were recently crippled by the theft of all their equipment. Then, next Wednesday, there's a benefit for director David Zelner's film Plastic Utopia, with seven bands including the Hamicks, Softs, and blah blah blah Trail of Dead...

Look for a healthy crowd at the Saxon Pub on Monday, when Eric Johnson and others play tribute to the late Danny Thorpe. Whether Johnson will play solo acoustic, electric, or with someone else on the bill is still unclear... Austin Business Journal reports that the former home of Antone's at 30th & Guadalupe is now set to become a "laundry cleaning facility." No report on whether the motto of the new laundry will be "We'll Scrub Your Blues Away!"...

n-stores and release parties: Merchants of Venus, Sir Finks, Ted Roddy, Roy Heinrich, and more will be rockin' ABCDs pretty much all day Saturday; The Austin Guitar School, Unzipped, and Lost Tribe will hit Borders tonight, Friday, and Saturday, respectively. Guitar School starts at 7:30pm, while the other two shows start at 8pm. The Flametrick Subs play at Tower Records on Friday at 5pm (I hear their sidekicks, Satan's Cheerleaders, beat UT's pep squad 66-6). Screwtape have a video release party this Tuesday at the Electric Lounge at 10:30pm for their "Courageous" clip...

Finally, some Letters to Cleo members are having a happy hour billiards party at the Ritz Friday at 5pm to celebrate the release of their Go! album. (Attention Skagen/Brakhage: Hide all your stuff!)...

-- 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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