Dancing About Architecture

Elephant Parts

Jon Dee Graham was recently heard onstage spouting forth the quip, "Welcome to the Festival of Broken Dreams; the one event that lets you know where you stand - somewhere in front of Wammo and behind Exene." The line drew hearty chuckles when repeated to the staff at South by Southwest, and the cutting but basically innocuous quote is pretty much representative of the attitude this town seems to have developed towards SXSW 1998. Where the backlash leading up to last year's music conference seemed to be running at an all-time high, the question I've been asked most in the past few weeks regarding SXSW has been "Where's all the bitching and moaning?"

"If there's four cranky people on the Internet, you have a backlash," says SXSW's Brent Grulke. "Give me a break." Even Usenet's usual SXSW hotbed, austin.music, has yet to reach that number this year. Could it be that suddenly, SXSW has been around long enough that the locals view it as simply a given? Last week, when I visited a place where I used to have a "real job," the manager had only one question about the conference: "Why on earth do they have it the same week as the rodeo?" In other words, to the general public (or at least this random sample of one member), SXSW is now just another Spamarama - if you dig it, you buy a ticket, if you don't you avoid the traffic where it's centered.

"It's big enough now that everybody has their own distinct SXSW experience," says Grulke. "It's like that metaphor with the blind people trying to describe an elephant." Indeed, even within the festival, the stories are rarely the same. For every success to come directly or indirectly through SXSW exposure (Dah-Veed Garza, Seed), there are more than enough tales for the "where are they now?" files (Radish, Veruca Salt). SXSW is and always will be a crapshoot, both for the bands and the fans, and different people/musical acts will be feeling up different parts of the elephant.

If, for instance, you purchased a wristband or traveled thousands of miles and bought a badge just to see William Topley, Kathy McCarty, Specials, or System of Down, you're S.O.L. - those bands have dropped out of the festival. If, however, you're a Kathy Mattea fan - one name thus far kept out of the press - you're in luck. And when else are you gonna get the chance to see Harvey Sid Fisher belt out a song about your personal sign of the Zodiac? At what other time, without fail, do your long-lost musician friends from around the globe drop in to note how comfy your sofa looks?

All this is to say that you've just got to have priorities when it comes to SXSW. Yeah, I'm speaking as a guy who gets his badge for nothin' and his wristband for free, but the philosophy is universal, even if the experiences aren't: It's best for both those onstage and the general public to simply take what they can get from the festival - whether it's trunk, tusk, or toe. Or a record contract.

Broadcasts Vol. 12

Since SXSW pretty much has its own listings, our annual practice of dedicating the Chronicle's regular club listings to as many non-SXSW events as possible remains intact. Turn to them to see what all is going on outside of the music fest, including shows at places that don't normally appear in our live music listings. Hopefully, we got 'em all.

Of course, even if you're stuck at home this weekend with a touch of Strep A, you can still catch a good deal of the goings-on. Besides the Austin Music Network's extensive coverage (we ran a complete listing last week in "TV Eye" - you out-of-towners should be able to find a copy at the convention center or in a SXSW bag), and innumerable on-line broadcasts - including coverage by SPIN magazine's Internet crew - local radio stations are swarming over the artists playing the festival.

KLBJ-FM, for instance, will be interviewing the following artists on the air over the weekend. Thursday: Jon Dee Graham (7:30am), Ugly Americans (8:30am), O*N*T*J (9pm), Morningwood (12:30pm), Ursa Major (1:30pm), Todd Snider (3:30pm), Sixteen Deluxe (4:30pm), Colour Sound (5:30pm), El Flaco, (6:30pm), 50 Mission Crush (8:30pm), Choreboy (9:30pm); Friday: Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis (7:30am), Kokessies (8:30am), Bad Livers (9am), Guy Forsyth (11:30am), Don Walser (12:30pm), Spacehog (1:30pm), Fastball (2:30pm), Soul Asylum (3:30pm), Honeyrods (4:30pm), Gov't Mule (5:30pm), Reckless Kelly (6:30pm); Saturday: Trish Murphy (10:30am), Big Back Forty (11:30am), Alejandro Escovedo (1:30pm), Chris Whitley (3:30pm), Tito & Tarantula (5:30pm), Wannabes (6:30pm), Scarlitt (7:30pm), ...

nd You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (8:30pm).

On 101X (101.5 FM), from a list that looks somewhat incomplete, you can hear: Thursday: Ugly Americans (9am), Cherry Poppin' Daddies (4pm), Stereophonics (5pm), Imani Coppola (5:30pm), Sixteen Deluxe (6pm), Morningwood (6:45pm), El Flaco (9:30pm); Friday: the Delphines, Scarlitt, and Friggs (8:30am), Guy Forsyth (9:30am), Spacehog (2pm), 2 Skinnee Js (3:30pm), Fastball (4:30pm), Soul Asylum (5:30pm), Old 97s (6:15pm), and Silver Scooter (7pm); Saturday: Kris McKay (1:30pm) and Drill Team (7:30).

Sister station KGSR (107.1FM) features a lighter lineup than in years past, and it looks like this: Thursday: Nils Lofgren (3pm), Jules Shear (3:30pm), Ray Wylie Hubbard (4pm), and Ian McLagan (6pm). Friday: David Poe (3:30pm), Cheri Knight (4pm), Nick Lowe (5pm), Chris Whitley (6pm), and Peter Case (6:30pm). Finally, on Saturday, tune in for Billy Bragg at noon.

On the public radio front, naturally KUT (90.5 FM) has a load of musicians on the air as well, with Thursday featuring Alamo Suite (11am), Hays County Gals (noon), and J.W. Roy from Holland and Gwil Owen co-writer Kevin Gordon on with Larry Monroe between 8pm and midnight; Friday sees Rick Koster at 10:15am, filmmaker Kenneth Anger at 11am, and Annyland at noon; Saturday on Folkways, Martin Bennett, Steve Gillette, and Cindy Mangsen appear between 9am-1pm, with Gwil Owen and the Dutch act Johan along later between 8pm and midnight. Sunday, 8pm, "LiveSet" broadcasts from Threadgill's with Champ Hood and a host of others.

Maidens in Japan

With all the Japanese bands in the spotlight these days (call it post-Shonen Knife), you might get the impression that there are no males living on the island of the rising sun. You might also wonder how every one of these bands has opened for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Most of all, you might just wonder, "What's the deal, anyhow?" Of the Nipponese acts coming to SXSW (among them Buffalo Daughter, Cocco, Tengoku Jack, Muddy Frankenstein,Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, Kokessies, Zoobombs, Balbora, and Demi Semi Quaver - a few of which actually feature members of the non-female persuasion), Brent Grulke says he hopes that people are coming to hear these bands, not just gawk at the next "in" thing. Citing America's fascination with things foreign (as well as other countries' enchantment with the U.S.), Grulke says he can't help feeling that these point-of-origin-related fads "seem kind of racist." That's not to say that SXSW isn't proud of the acts that they've managed to drag across the Pacific, but just in case any of you fans feel a twinge of guilt after your umpteenth dose of Japanese rock, Grulke offers this heartfelt plea: "Come see my German and Dutch bands!"

Mixed Notes

Caught In the Crossfire co-author Bill Crawford just phoned in the latest on the controversy over what's up with the long-awaited Stevie Ray Vaughan bio-pic, saying that, as he predicted, Miramax pictures has re-signed the option to work from his unauthorized biography. As far as the movie ever getting made - another question entirely - the local author says, "All signs point to the fact that they will [make it]." Currently, planned director Robert Rodriguez has been working on a music video for regional sax maniac Johnny Reno...

Choreboy have parted ways with Triple X Records, leaving them, along with their sister band Sawed-Off, both looking to woo labels at their SXSW showcases. Sawed-Off answers the perennial question, "Whatever happened
to former Butthole Surfers drummer Theresa Taylor?" and I've overheard talk that Gibby Haynes will be making an appearance during the Choreboy show...

The Fencesitters have their new CD More Blue Than Green out, but don't look for them to go too wild over the "record release party" thing. They're planning on continuing their regular Sunday pickin' and strummin' session at Lovejoys from 5-7pm, and concentrating this weekend on finding special guests to join in the bluegrass jamming this week...

Brett Bradford's post-Scratch Acid trio, Sangre de Toro, have a new EP available now as well, called Hold Your Breath...

Watermelon Records announces the upcoming release of Talk to My Heart, an album of new material from honky-tonker Johnny Bush...

For the socially aware among you, there's a Bikes Not Bombs get-together at Casa De Luz this Sunday, 4-10pm, with Antonio Dionisio, Roots-N-Wisdom, Con Rumba Son, and Rashah providing the music...

Just a reminder that, according to artist/egotist Ron English, dictator Saddam Hussein has 110 songs written about him and holds the record as the subject of the most songs penned for a living person. Poor Ron counts only 91 tunes about him at last count (all written by him) and is attempting to beat the Saddam record at an open mike at the Electric Lounge during their afternoon events this Friday between 2-6pm...

One famous name that may elude some of you (he's not Japanese, after all) is Manuel "Cowboy" Donley, who has a CD release party at Las Americas Fine Art Gallery (1103 E. Sixth) Thursday, 7pm. Exitos de Ayer y Hoy is the first album in 20 years from Donley, who arranged the music for the 1955 movie Remember the Alamo and is considered the "Father of Tejano Music"...

Look to our "Recommended" column for a sea of in-stores (which will probably not include the rumored secret one with Robyn Hitchcock and Billy Bragg playing together, but I'm afraid I am verboten from giving you any further information on that). Of special interest are the Peek-a-Boo and Trance Syndicate showcases at Thirty-Three Degrees (included in our round-up), which are a weekend's worth of entertainment all by themselves...

Hey, I finally figured out who that lady is in the Winston ads we've been running: It's gotta be Mrs. Renee from Pee Wee's Playhouse (replacing Mrs. Steve). Too bad she didn't get added to the cast until after the image of J.R. "BOB" Dobbs was removed from the Playhouse wall...

- Contributors: Michael Bertin, "BOB," 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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