Dancing About Architecture

Conspiracy Theory #404

A couple of things have been brought to my attention recently that may seem unconnected, but taken together could bode ill for the city of Austin. First, Kent Benjamin, following a discussion with songwriter Marshall Crenshaw, sent me an e-mail detailing how in 1970, Beverly Hillbillies producer Paul Henning took a liking to the town of Branson, Missouri, which, as you all know by now, is the other "Live Music Capital of the World." Henning says he chose to center the show in the then relatively new Silver Dollar City, which the show presented as a real town, not a tourist attraction. Unbelievably, it put Silver Dollar City - now Branson - on the map, leading national tourists to the spot and establishing their claim as "Live Music Capital of the World."

Secondly, just this week, a new album titled Instrumental Moods was released on Virgin Records and features Eric Johnson's art-bubblegum AOR hit "Cliffs of Dover" alongside wordless background music from the likes of Ottmar Liebert and (gulp!) Neal Schon. After hearing "Cliffs" playing cheerily under sporting events, talk shows, commercials, and weather maps for too many years, I've come to associate the tune with the once-ubiquitous and similarly infectious "Muh-Nuh, Muh-Nuh." Now, I'm sure you're familiar with "Muh-Nuh, Muh-Nuh" as that song the Muppets are prone to break into without warning, but I have it on good authority that the tune was originally composed for a Swedish documentary on the pornography industry called, Sweden, Heaven and Hell. Kinda takes on a new meaning there, don't it? Mmm-hmm. Still following me? Good. Here's where it all falls together.

Sooner or later, "Cliffs of Dover" is sure to find a permanent home as the theme for some incredibly popular, long-running cooking show or somesuch (the kind you never actually watch, but always hear the damn theme from when you're flipping channels), and the whole world will come to know it by heart. People will then start writing to Liz Smith and L.M. Boyd asking its origins and soon, Austin will come to be known not as "The Live Music Capital of the World," but as "The Soufflé Truffle Surprise Capital of the World." At that point, any interest and monies from the city will be diverted from live entertainment to cookery and the Austin Music Scene will die a horrible death overnight (if M.A.D.D. hasn't already found another way to achieve this) with Branson left as sole claimant to the title of "Live Music Capital of the World." The culprit: Eric Johnson. Hmmm. Has anyone ever seen him in the same room as Paul Henning?

Fire and Firewater

Now that we've gotten everything important out of the way, let's turn to the trivial, like news from the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission (TABC) that it has decided against taking any action on the plan presented by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (M.A.D.D.) prohibiting anyone under 21 from entering any business that served alcohol. One TABC commissioner made the motion to draft a rule on M.A.D.D.'s behalf, but it promptly died without even reaching the voting stage. M.A.D.D. representatives say they will attempt to get the rule drafted in six months, but generally this first rebuff is a tremendous victory for South by Southwest festivals in the present and future, and all Texas clubs in general (those that feature music, especially), except for the fact that young straight-edge punks will now be left with nothing to complain about except how all their favorite bands have sold out.

You may also recall that last year's conference was plagued with misunderstandings between the Fire Department and the clubs involved in the festival. SXSW officials have since said those problems would not reoccur, and in a press release, the AFD says that meetings with SXSW over the past month have been fruitful in "ensur[ing] a safe and successful showcase for Austin's music industry." The AFD is currently scheduling maintenance inspections for the participating SXSW clubs so that any hazards found can be corrected before the festival begins, and the City Planning and Development Department will be reviewing applications to determine if some clubs can safely effect a temporary increase in their occupancy rate during the festival. Fire inspectors will, of course, still be on patrol during SXSW to watch for overcrowding and exit blockage.

Little Big Bands

No column coming at you at this time of year would be complete without reminders, so here are a couple: Austin Music Awards tickets go on sale this Friday at Star Ticket outlets, and since the show is now at the Austin Music Hall on the official first day of the conference, you might want to jump on that. Also important is the fact that SXSW wristbands went on sale Wednesday for $60; since there's a limited amount (as well as a limit of four per person), and the price jumps to $95 on March 12, you really want to get a jump on that one. Make that pounce.

Something tells me that you want to see names in bold, though. Well, in our continuing search for the new and interesting trends or themed showcases at the fest, we find that the conference has a Native American Showcase to the proceedings. On hand will be Ulali, the harmony vocalists that you may have heard on the critically acclaimed new album from Robbie Robertson. The show will open with a ceremony and dance from the Jones Benally Family, the sons and daughters of which perform later as the band Blackfire. Also represented are spoken word with Cherokee Rose and Roxy Gordon, flute cum ambient music from Clan Destine and Thon-gya!, and blues and pop/rock from Keith Secola, Robert Mirabal, Indigenous, Jerry Alfred, and Medicine Beat. Say, maybe one of these acts can help stem the bad weather that darkened last year's festival.

Thai Strub

"I guess the Thai dollar wasn't doing too well," says Ed Hall's Gary Chester (now of Gold), confirming that his former bandmate Larry Strub is indeed returning from Thailand. As far as whether that means an Ed Hall reunion is in the works, that's still up in the air. Chester says that he and Strub, who returns to Austin on May 12, haven't even broached the subject yet. "He may be my new babysitter, though," offers Chester helpfully. Whether that means the album the group completed just before Strub's departure, Permission to Rock...

Denied!, will finally see the light of day is also up in the air. Craig Stewart at Trance Syndicate says the local indie has had the tapes all along, only deciding not to release the album when it was clear the bad was no more. Since Sixteen Deluxe has been looking for the right tour to hook up with, and their initial musical inspiration was the Boys in the Hall, seems like an Ed Hall Reunion tour never looked better.

Mixed Notes

Due to the airplay and attention given David Garza's "Discoball World," a song from his recent indie EP, Atlantic has decided to put the tune on his major label debut after all. That doesn't mean you'll be hearing him perform the song at SXSW, however. His touring schedule precludes him from appearing at the music fest this year. Instead, you might run into Dah-veed on the road with Matchbox 20, Ani DiFranco, or Ben Harper (arriving at Stubb's). If you don't, you can just wait for the album's release on April 21...

Gretchen Phillips has been back from San Francisco for a few months now, and she's got a new project underway. The regally titled Lord Douglas Walston-Phillips is a foursome featuring Terri Lord, Darcee Douglas, Jo Walston, and Phillips, and your next chance to see them will be at Bookwoman on March 6...

"Texas" Terri Laird is also returning to town from California this week, at least for a while. A gig at SXSW is part of the motivation...

Finally, continuing the "Terry" theme, Terry Clarke is down from Redding, England to record his next CD with Jesse Taylor and Champ Hood...

This is still just talk, but the re-formed X have definitely expressed interest in adding an Austin gig to their list of reunion appearances. In fact, Swine King's name has already come up as a possible opening band. Maybe Kris McKay will come along and play too, since she was hanging around the band during their rehearsal sessions...

Nope, this time it wasn't Robert Rodriguez, but rather comic Paul Rodriguez who made an appearance at Antone's last week. He didn't perform, but he was being taped nonetheless, trading "hellos" and palling around with folks in and around the club. Rodriguez also made similar appearances before the camera on Sixth Street and at Carnaval, and you can see the edited version during his HBO special Idiots and Armadillos on March 13...

Steven Tyler had a hotel room booked in town last weekend, but reportedly never showed up to claim it. Apparently, he was tentatively scheduled to make at least two appearances in Austin, one onstage with LeAnn Rimes (who ended her Erwin Center set with Aerosmith's "Cryin'" but without Tyler), and at La Zona Rosa to help out Jonny Lang, who showed up at Antone's and played with The Mighty Zor. On the other hand was Run DMC, who played in town on the same night as Rimes to little fanfare and almost no audience at Fat Tuesdays. The last-minute show came about when a San Marcos gig at Gordo's went amiss...

Storyville have a song, "What Passes For Love" on the soundtrack to Robert Duvall's new flick The Apostle. Note that it's not on the soundtrack album, though, and that Lyle Lovett's version of "I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord" is...

Also, yes, that is the Fabulous Thunderbirds performing "Running Shoes" on the ads for Palmetto...

BET (Black Entertainment Television) is broadcasting their Teen Summit from KLRU studios this Saturday. GooDie MoB and Jon B. will perform live. The Ranch Studios are also presenting BET-related events this Friday and Saturday...

The Voodoo Lounge hosts a benefit for the Austin Music Network this Friday, with Pura Vida, Buyah, and Govinda...

Blondie's' weekly free show this Saturday features the Dismukes, Schatzi, and Pretty Boys. They tell me they've done a bit of work on their lights and PA, too...

Note that Mary Lou Lord at Liberty Lunch has moved back a couple of days to March 10, thanks to her taping a segment of Conan O'Brien...

Peekaboo Records have new 7-inchers from the Vidi Vitties, the Kiss Offs, and the Prima Donnas. The Primas will have copies of their 45 with them at Emo's this Friday before heading off on tour with the PeeChees...

- 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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