The Austin Chronicle

Dancing About Architecture

The Ins and Outs of SXSW

By Ken Lieck, January 23, 1998, Music

It continues to blast towards us like the juggernaut it has become, and now South by Southwest is less than two months away. Much more immediate is the event that kicks off the festival, the 1997-98 Austin Music Awards on March 18. Actually, they're not really closer, but this week marks one of your last chances to vote for who gets honored at said shindig. Look on p. 11 and you'll find a Music Poll ballot, which means here's your chance to dispense with all those critics' Top Tens and make your own. You can also cast your vote on the Internet at

Since we're on the subject of you-know-what, I should point out that SXSW isn't just about the faces on the stage; it's about the stages themselves. For instance, you might be asking why Ranch Studios, that large venue that has been much mentioned in this column of late, hasn't been chosen as a SXSW venue. The music festival's organizers offer up a number of answers between them, among which that they heard about it too late, they're satisfied with the large venues they already have this year, and finally, that it's too far off the beaten path. That last reason's not stopping them from being close to confirming the Broken Spoke as a SXSW venue for the first time, however. Talks are under way with that venerable C&W venue, and other new clubs on the SXSW scene have been announced, including the Caucus Club; you may remember there was a bit of a fuss between the Caucus and neighboring SXSW showcase site Club DeVille last year, but all that's been smoothed out since the smaller DeVille has not sought to be a SXSW participant. The addition of the Caucus is part of the music conference's interest in increasing its jazz content this year, though there's little to confirm on that front other than some excellent swing bands and a developing showcase at the Elephant Room put together by Dallas jazz label Leaning House Records. Other new venues include the Library (where Hondo's was), the Buffalo Club (kinda hidden back on Seventh), the West Side Alley (next to the Speakeasy, which will not be participating in the fest), and the Iron Cactus (you all know where that is).

But, okay, what you really want to see is some more names of bands scheduled to play, don't you? Well, the list is always subject to change, but since Robyn Hitchcock will be at the SXSW Film Festival to coincide with his role in Jonathan Demme's Storefront Hitchcock, expect a set from that particular eccentric - Robyn, not Jon. The gals behind Stalker, the hatezine about Urge Overkill, should be pleased to know that U/O's Eddie Roeser will be bringing his band Electric Airlines to the fest, while Didjits aficionados will delight in seeing Rick Sims' new Gaza Strippers. Choreboy are always good for guest stars, so Lee Ving of Fear fame may show up (though on their application, he's listed as "stage manager" while Gibby Haynes receives the "tour manager" credit). And, hey, if Michael Penn isn't enough of a celeb for ya, maybe he'll bring wife Aimee Mann or brother Sean along. I don't know whether Michelle Shocked plans to play, but I'll bet Sean Penn would get along great with her hubby, who's been known to smash a camera or two.

The Man With Three Johnsons

...And they're all named Eric! No, it's not a bad Monty Python sketch. Eric Johnson, known for taking literally years between album releases, has no less than three discs scheduled for release before Santa makes his next visit! The deal with Rhino Records for the reissue of the long out-of-print Electromagnets album from the Seventies is sealed, says Johnson's manager Joe Priesnitz, and remixing is in progress. All that remains is gathering press clippings and other bonus packaging material and the CD is expected to be out before the end of the year. As far as Johnson's current project, recording starts this week and Priesnitz says it's hoped a new album will be completed by mid-year for a late summer/early fall release. We've heard that story before, but the fact that this album is slated to include more blues-oriented material could support the theory of a quicker completion. It's not a blues album as such, cautions Priesnitz, adding, "Who knows what he'll take out of the final recording." The real surprise in the Johnson camp, however, are plans for Bill Ham's Lone Wolf Productions to release the album Johnson recorded for them in the late Seventies, Seven Worlds. Lone Wolf's Dave Brichler confirms negotiations between both parties, adding "we'd love to see the thing come out," while Priesnitz affirms "Eric's happy" about the album finally seeing the light of day. And why shouldn't he be? After all, nearly two decades in the "making" is a record even for Johnson.

Keeping It In-Store-Age

Last week's Sixteen Deluxe in-store was a "fucking store-packing, keg-killin' extravaganza!" exclaims one Sound Exchange employee. They'll have a somewhat lower-key bash for Power Squid there this Friday at 6pm, but that's the thing about in-stores; free music and free beer make for a powerful pheromone. 33 Degrees is lucky enough, though, to have more open space than CD racks in their new location on Guadalupe, so they're actually making their first venture into becoming an actual cover-charging live music venue this weekend. No, don't panic, their in-stores aren't going to start being pay-per-view affairs, they're just hosting jazz performances on Friday by Susie Ibarra and Assif Tsabar and on Saturday by Arthur Doyle and Joe McPhee (see "Recommended"). Those shows will begin at 11pm, after the store has closed for the evening, and they plan to continue running their usual in-stores at a rate of two or three a week, building up to a frenzied peak during SXSW. Other in-stores this week include the Boxcars, the Captain, Cotton Mather, Screwtape, Ursa Major, and the Onlys at ABCD's from 10am-8pm, Saturday; Jan Evans at Waterloo Records this Friday, 6pm; and at Borders Books, Michael McAllister (tonight, Thursday, 8pm), Scott Szabo and Bob Sutton (Friday, 8pm), Maryann Price (Saturday, 3pm), and Paul Klemperer (Saturday, 8pm).

Tale of Two Townes

The Austin Music Network will be doing its part for the legacy of Townes Van Zandt this week with the airing of Building His Houseboat in Heaven, a tribute that was taped at the Cactus Cafe last year. The two-part show airs tonight, Thursday, and tomorrow, Friday, 8pm, with the second half followed by taped performances of Van Zandt himself. Night one features, among others, Micki White, Donny Silverman, Tary Owens, Kimmie Rhodes, Beaver Nelson, Barb Donovan, Joe Ely, and Townes' son J.T. Van Zandt. Night two features Damon Bramblett, Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Troy Campbell and Beaver Nelson, Will T. Massey, Darden Smith, Kelly Willis, Jimmy LaFave, Bruce Robison, and J.T. Van Zandt. The AMN notes that this will be a one-time only run.

Mixed Notes

That Austin City Limits dual taping of the Old 97s and Whiskeytown that we told you about last week is still on for Monday, and they'll be handing out a small allotment of free tickets this Friday, 8am, at the southeast corner of 26th and Guadalupe, building B, with a two-per-person limit... Lovejoy's, your favorite place to avoid live music, will start having a weekly acoustic country jam as of Sunday, February 1. Lovejoy's owner Chipper Tait (am I still the only one who gets the joke in that name?) and his new band the Fencesitters will be hosting, and others who want to bring along an instrument can join in the pickin' session. Currently, the 'sitters have been in Barbara K.'s studio mixing the material they recently recorded there, with plans to release an album's worth of material on their own label, appropriately called Make-Your-Own-Damn Records... Rockline a scam? Say it ain't so! Dexter Freebish's Chris Lowe found out the hard way when he phoned the show to talk to Noel Gallagher, and found himself "fed" a question to ask. When he tried to tweak the Oasis brother with a query about who he found more attractive, Prince William or Prince Harry, "they muted me!" cries Lowe... Lest you think that the Curt Kirkwood project is taking up all of Shandon Sahm's time, the son of Doug reports that his band Shine has been getting serious interest from Better Than Ezra's management and is planning a showcase for them in late February... Remember the Friendly Truckers? They're having a reunion show this Friday at the Hole in the Wall, along with Richard Head (hey, isn't that a reunion show, too?)... Elton John partner Bernie Taupin and his band Farm Dogs will play a couple of live songs on KGSR this Friday at 3:30pm, in support of their album Immigrant Sons. Hey, Bern, do ya think you can get your pal Bill Shatner to cover "Candle in the Wind?" I need some new material for my Shatnerama collection; the remake of "Rocket Man" is getting old... Another act has moved to Austin, and they're not from California! New York duo the Nonchalants have relocated after several years of visiting the Kerrville Folk Festival and will be placing their CD Live at Sun Mountain in local stores... While everyone else was busy talking about the recent deaths of Junior Wells, David "Junior" Kimbrough, and Carl Perkins, I got sad news when I checked in with the computer on Monday: Emil Sitka has died. This doesn't relate too directly with what is usually covered in this column, but as I wouldn't be surprised if Sitka's passing is largely glossed over in the media, I felt I should note that the world has lost a truly distinct link between its past and present; I mean, he was the only person to co-star in films with both the original Three Stooges (in Curly's last short before his stroke) and Traci Lords, for cryin' out loud! Usually portraying a flustered foil, rather than a true bad guy on the Stooges' shorts, the real Emil was a great guy (and an orphan, so his exact age and real birthdate are a mystery), who even allowed his home phone number to be posted regularly on the Internet so fans could call him up and chat. He was entertaining a group of fans last July, in fact, when he suffered the stroke that he never regained consciousness from. With luck, he's now among the angels, explaining to Shemp why it took him over a half-century to catch up with him, and making generous use of his most well-known catch-phrase: "Hold hands, you love-bir-r-rds!"

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

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