Live Shots

Bells of Joy at St. James Episcopal Church, October 12

photograph by John Carrico


Liberty Lunch, October 6

There are some shows that catch you off guard with their sheer rock & roll brilliance. You arrive expecting, I dunno, the usual amalgam of distorted guitars and thudding, half-buried drumwork, and you leave with a new lease on your pure-pop-for-wow-people psyche, a revelation shrouded in Chem-Smoke and mixing-board wizardry. This was one of those shows. The Charlatans have been kicking around the Manchester scene since day one, and despite a series of personnel (and personal) tragedies, their percussion-heavy Merseybeat leanings have only become better, tighter, sounder over the past few years (although the Oasis/Blur warfare of late has, occasionally, obscured the fact). Live, with singer Tim Burgess flailing away and inciting the crowd into paroxysms of spontaneous movement and cheers, the Charlatans put Noel, Liam, and Damon to shame. Showmanship, a trait sometimes sadly lacking in the Oasis/Blur camps, seems to be instinctual in Burgess' crew, with guitarist Mark Collins strutting about like Keith Richards, and Martin Blunt's profoundly resonant bass melding with Jon Brookes' huge, thudding, near-tribal drumwork. On top of all that, Robert Collins' inspired keyboards, imbuing new tracks and old with the kind of ivory mayhem usually associated with the ghost of Jerry Lee Lewis, almost brought the house down -- or at least some dodgy plaster bits. Look out. As for Portland's Dandy Warhols, their power-pop-meets-shiny-happy-Stooges riffs may not have had the audience pogoing like they should have, but hey, it was a Monday, right? Courtney Taylor's whipcord guitars and smarmy good humor were a wicked counterpoint to the rest of the band ("Somebody said we were an anti-drug band?!" he cracked with a laugh before launching into "Not Even if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth"). Sometimes press kits ("Music that makes you want to fuck") don't lie. -- Marc Savlov


Mercury Lounge, October 7

It's hard to say which was more astounding: the fact that all 10 members of Groove Collective fit on the Mercury Lounge's small stage or that the democratically run hip-jazz funk-hop group played as tightly as it did. In spite of the close confines -- the vibist and rapper/timbalist were quite literally on the edge of the stage -- the band had no problem seriously layin' it down. Those in attendance, a crowd that mirrored the band's diverse makeup, couldn't help but shake it to the New York-based group's jumbo grooves (on display in Austin for the first time). When the first two smokin' grooves take up nearly 25 minutes, you know you're in the right place; clearly this band didn't need to "warm up." The Collective also wasn't afraid to push the experimental envelope on album tracks such as "Ms. Grier," featuring a sizzling vibe solo by touring Steely Dan member Bill Ware. Perhaps having audience members invade his personal space inspired rapper/timbalist Nappy G as well. In contrast to the routine, flava of the month hip-hop raps, Nappy G's rhymes (unfortunately, far too infrequent), especially in "I Am," flowed with melodic rhythm. Shortly after, the whole group sang the chorus of their funky, jazzy, soul version of the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," a pleasant surprise that highlighted the booming four-piece horn section. The third-beat drop funk of "Saturday Afternoon" lit a deep red fire at the beginning of the second set, an inferno that didn't start flickering until well after 3am. Let's see, diversity, fresh raps, overflowing energy, phat beats, stamina, near-seamless transitions between related styles, and a surplus of chops all held together by a cavernous groove: is it any wonder Groove Collective is at the forefront of the merging of jazz, soul, blues, funk, hip hop, et al.?
-- David Lynch


Bob Popular, October 8

In hindsight, the real tragedy of the Bob "Used to Be" Popular/Vanilla Ice near-riot a few months back wasn't the over-sold club, cancelation, or even the potentially dangerous aftermath, but merely the fact that so many folks would go through so much trouble for Vanilla Ice -- the very definition of sucker MC. Not that it wasn't a no-win situation from the beginning -- it was; even in his long-expired prime, Vanilla Ice never possessed the raw talent or pure charm it takes for musical output to override environment (this Sixth Street shot bar). Run-D.M.C., the very definition of old school, still possess those skills in full. In fact, despite the club's efforts to spread out the crowd with an in-house closed-circuit simulcast -- and discouraging curiosity-seekers with an $18 ticket -- the atmosphere wasn't that much different for Run-D.M.C.'s set than it was Vanilla Ice's aborted stand. It was no less overcrowded, hot, or dangerous, and yet, this time it felt more like a house party than a house on fire. The difference is that unlike Vanilla Ice, Run-D.M.C. is not just an act with hits, but an act with classics, and from "King of Rock" to "Peter Piper" and "You Be Illin'" to "Mary Mary," they delivered 'em. But it's more than just the classics, because the Run-D.M.C. set also delivered a classic routine (the Adidas, the stone kold arms-crossed posing) as a living art form -- where the trick became balancing a decade's worth of progress with our desires to see them go through the motions as if it were still 1984. As such, DJ Jam Master Jay made his famous mix of spare beats and synthesized hooks look easier to reproduce than it was, while Run and D. locked lines and finished each other's rhymes without ever stooping to beg for the crowd to recognize that they could all still deliver so impeccably. Indeed, theirs was such a display of finesse and class that when they shifted from "It's Like That" to "It's Tricky," the transition was so flawless that it was nearly impossible to discern whether it was just another deft segue or the start of a lazy medley. Surprisingly, given the number of tunes they needed to run though in just 45 minutes, it wound up the former. Unlike current hip-hop hopefuls even as popular as the Roots or Wu-Tang, Run-D.M.C. not only delivers the hits, they do so in full. While it may have been a bit of an ironic flashback to hear them rap that their sneakers had also "stepped on-stage at Live Aid" ("My Adidas"), it was obvious by gig's end that even if stepping on-stage at Bob Popular made for a less glamorous gig, it didn't mean either Run-D.M.C. themselves or the crowd had to have any less fun. Everyone had fun. Sucker MC's they're not.
-- Andy Langer


La Zona Rosa, October 10

First off, the newest "new La Zona Rosa" is actually improved this time. It's a cool room. However, the club's Genesis-light-show-in-miniature ambiance is a bit too tech-y for someone like a James McMurtry. It didn't really jibe with his detached and laconic storytelling, so there was the temporal clash between the audio and the visual; the former had this "Somewhere in the past we've gone horribly wrong" thematic thread for your ears while the latter fed a "Hey, look at this neat technology" line to your eyes. It was only slightly discombobulating for a song or two, which was perfectly fine because it took McMurtry a song or two to get settled in. After opening with a disappointingly sluggish and slightly hollow take on "Levelland," the guitars came up, the vocals went down, and the coffee started kicking by the time McMurtry & Co. got to "For All I Know" and began working through the material from It Had to Happen. And that brings us to the catch-phrase for the show: Give and take. Playing with a trio, McMurtry gave up the fullness of songs from Candyland and Where'd You Hide the Body; you have to accept the fact that you're not going to get the tuba part on the outro of "Iolanthe." In exchange, somewhat surprisingly, one got a bit more emotional range from McMurtry. Without more musicians and hence a bigger sound around him, he shouldered more of the load, and did it with his vocals. The solitude of "Be With Me" was more haunting, the irony of "Peter Pan" darker, and the disillusion of "No More Buffalo" more disturbing. And for someone whose consistent deadpan occasionally sounds barely a baby step up from comatose, McMurtry's giving his material more emotional dimension was full-on appreciated. Heck, it even made you forget about the bitchin' light show. -- Michael Bertin


Electric Lounge, October 11

According to my calculations, Fastball has played less than a dozen local shows this year. Perhaps that's why, not counting Free for All appearances, the Austin trio (still no Jon Sanchez) garnered its best crowd in ages -- 75 people. True, it was a rainy Saturday night during OU weekend, but like so many good local bands, Fastball gets paid more attention by Entertainment Weekly than local music fans. Not that the band's guitarist Miles Zuniga wasn't pleased with the crowd or their enthusiasm. "You're vocal, but so far away," he said at one point. And like much of the evening, that point and the applause that followed it occurred after the band had played a new song from what one hopes will be a second album for Hollywood Records. This particular tune, "Fire Escape," was one of seven or eight new numbers showcased in the band's 50-minute set -- and one of the better new songs. Opening with the mid-tempo "The Way," sung by bassist Tony Scalzo, the term "sophomore slump" immediately came
to mind, only to be quickly erased by an energetic work-out on "She Comes Round," and then "Eater." Both of these songs, like almost all the material from Fastball's excellent but under-heard debut, Make Your Mama Proud, are material that once made it possible to come away from one of the band's Hole in the Wall gigs with a working knowledge of their songs. The same could not be said of all the new material. "Warm Fuzzy Feeling," "Damaged Goods," and "Slow Drag" were no match for Scalzo's "Are You Ready for the Fallout," and sounded rather awkward. Other new ones like "Sooner or Later" and "Nowhere Road," both uptempo, were strong additions to the band's tight set as well as good set-ups for favorites like "Nothing," "Human Torch," and the evening-ending "Make Your Mama Proud." Obviously, it's way too early to pass judgment on new songs and an album that won't see the light of day until next year, then again it would be nice to see more local gigs from Fastball so that maybe a few more fans can weigh in with the applause meter on the future direction of one of Austin's musical prizes.
-- Raoul Hernandez

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