Dancing About Architecture

Five Days Makes One Weak

Yep, it's over, and just like every year there's a million large and small observations to make as I recover from South by Southwest - or Jon by Jon Langford, as some have taken to calling it this year, since the man fronted a total of seven official and unofficial shows over the week. Actually, Langford doesn't even come close to the record for number of appearances onstage during the SXSW festival. I was told that Prescott Curlywolf's Rob Bernard might hold that honor, but he said nay, he only played in nine gigs. "It would have been 10 if it hadn't been for those meddling Adults," says Bernard, explaining that said local band wanted him to sit in with them, but they didn't get him a tape in time. No, he says, the prize "would have to go to Keith - he played 11 gigs." Keith? "You know," says Bernard, "[Prescott drummer] Keith Langford." Hmmm. Am I the only one who senses a pattern here?

I should point out before I go any further that besides all the SXSW "Live Shots" in this week's Music Section, the Chronicle website (http://www.auschron.com) featured daily updates on the conference from our crack team of music writers, which are still there for viewing. I must warn you, however, that the reports therein were the work of some very tired people, and for those of you who don't know a modem from MIDEM, fret not; the important stuff is also covered here.

The New Austin Outhouse?

Waterloo Brewing Company's Michael Parker provided me with the first official anecdote of the fest. As the rest of the crowd was gearing up for that venue's first set of the music festival by Astrology Songs seer Harvey Sid Fisher, "Kernel" Parker was busy deciding whether or not to throw out an unsavory-looking gent who was urinating on the dumpster in the alley. In the end, he merely shouted that the guy needed to put that thing away pronto. "Sorry," came the best excuse I've ever heard in such a situation, "I've been in India." I guess stepping over dead kids on your way to the gruel line can make you a little less sensitive about such things. The problem was taken care of, and soon legendary songwriter P.F. Sloan ("Eve of Destruction," "Secret Agent Man") took the stage with a hearty, "It's good to be back - I've been in India..."

Ya Gotta Serve Somebody

Not long after Sloan had finished brandishing his penis, a pair of constables at Steamboat were seen waving their subpoenas at Breedlove. Clubowner Danny Crooks says he saw the two come in, approached them, and was told that they had no intention of arresting the band or stopping the show. Instead, they watched the whole set, says Crooks, "and seemed to like it, too." Far from the scene when artist H.R. Giger once hired a moshing lawyer to body-surf onstage at a Glenn Danzig show and serve the singer mid-show, these fellas waited 'til the band was through before handing them the papers regarding a breach of contract lawsuit from former manager Jan Mirkin.

Actually, this has been a strange month for Texas music already, since Governor George Bush announced a couple of weeks ago that he was revoking the 1924 gubernatorial pardon of Huddie Ledbetter (aka Leadbelly) on the grounds that it "sent the wrong message to school children, [to] criminals, [and to] victims of crime in Texas." Leadbelly, who has been dead since 1949, was unavailable for comment, but instead you might want to have a chat with Edwin Livingston and Brannen Temple, members of Hot Buttered Rhythm who were arrested on Sixth Street while loading equipment between their Awards Show appearance and a gig the Mercury Lounge (see the website for lots of details that I really don't have room to print here). Other than that, things were mostly peaceful during SXSW week. Well, peaceful except for Choreboy's on-stage brawl with security guards at the Atomic Cafe (see Margaret Moser's "Live Shot"), the Tigerlilys' tragic accident en route to Austin (they were hospitalized, their road manager was killed, and they called to apologize for not being able to perform), and...

Horse Wrecks

What was up with all the damn horses this week? Was Austin trying to give tourists a nostalgic impression of Texas? First, there was the suburban bronco bucking full speed the wrong way down MoPac early in the week, then there was the incident at SPIN's Saturday night party at the Naked Grape, wherein one of our reporters tells me that the mounted police totally overreacted and left many in the crowd in terror of being trampled beneath thundering hooves. Finally, there was a wreck between a horse carriage and a horseless carriage that destroyed the auto and put people in the hospital, but according to one witness, merely sent the horse to its trailer. Animal lovers seemed to prefer the proliferation of human-driven rickshaws (again, where the hell did these things come from alluvasudden?), which don't victimize our furry friends; even better, when you hit a little rickshaw man, he doesn't total your Buick.

Just for the Record

I offer my condolences to those of you who didn't get your new CDs in time to hand them out to the Right People this week, and I'd like to say that we at the Chronicle understand that those of you who did had to give first priority to the suits who were only in town for a few precious days. In fact, word has been coming in already on bands who got attention during the music festival, whether it sprang from their showcases or recorded material. The dependable Dexter Freebish phoned to say they're heading into the studio to record some demos for MCA, while a SXSW staffer confided to me that serious butt-sniffing surrounded Silver Scooter this weekend. Morningwood seems to have been one of the belles of the ball, too, reportedly fielding a multitude of offers - including one from Interscope. That said, more reports of label interest will no doubt be trickling in over the next few weeks, and I certainly expect the flood of new releases to continue to hit the office and local record stores in the immediate future.

For now, note that besides the advances for new albums by the Butthole Surfers and Spoon that have been floating around town, last week we also recieved an advances for: Don Walser's new album for Sire/Watermelon, Down at the Skyview Drive-In; the Ugly Americans' Boom Boom Baby from Capricorn; and Joe Ely's forthcoming MCA release, Twistin' in the Wind. That latter label also sent along the soundtrack to the Horse Whisperer, featuring music by Walser, Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, George Strait, and a reunited Flatlanders featuring Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock (as well as an all-star local band). A new compilation called Every Woman's Blues is out on Shanachie, with cuts from Sue Foley, Sarah Brown, and Sara Hickman with Taj Mahal, while Legacy, this month's Fleetwood Mac tribute, has Shawn Colvin pulling "The Chain." Another soundtrack that came down the pike is Sliding Doors, featuring the lovely Abra Moore.

The Cold Shoulder

One longtime local act that managed to go out with a bang during SXSW is "avant garde" (ha ha) act Shoulders, who exited the musical arena with a perfect coda when their showcase - in the final slot of the evening at Scholz Garten - ran mere seconds over the allotted time prompting someone to pull the plug on them. To the chagrin of the puller, the power clipped off at exactly the right moment of "The Party Never Stops" (note the irony here), inspiring the audience to chant the chorus! The band's accordionist (a SXSW employee, so let's let the irony build further) then led the band - sans electricity - to a rousing finish. Of, course, there is one more Shoulders gig scheduled for the happy hour slot tonight (Thursday) at the Continental Club, minus the already-departed (or is that escaped?) Hunter Darby, so let's hope that the band doesn't slip into an anticlimax this time.

Let's Talk About Me

Okay, I'll tell you what I thought of the week: it was pretty damn good. There didn't seem to be too much clusterfucking going on (we'll just leave the Sonic Youth thing out of this), and I personally passed my self-challenge to only eat and drink things that were free. Saturday, I attended Sean Lennon's listening party at Lucky Lounge, where his label Grand Royal was actually sneaking us a listen of some upcoming Beastie Boys material; I had to politely nudge past Lennon and Beastie Mike D. to get to the bar. Later that night, I went to Lennon's rather unaffecting show at Liberty Lunch, finding the youngster to have a speaking voice that suggests he's actually the spawn of Yoko Ono and Herve Villiachaise - though said vocal range was used to stunning effect on a heartfelt rendition of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows." Sixteen Deluxe provided my conference Transcendent Moment moments before Lennon's set when they welcomed Robyn Hitchcock onstage to join them for an ass-kicking version of Lou Reed's "Vicious." Other memorable teamings of the week included the Old 97s and John Doe, a near-nekkid "Texas" Terri Laird (as always, not to be confused with last week's Chron cover artist Terri Lord) onstage with the Fuckemos, and Blue Oyster Cult svengali Sandy Pearlman, who didn't perform with Sangre de Toro, but made sure to voice his approval to them after their set. Oh, and it was nice that part or all of Sonic Youth, who are known to cover the occasional Daniel Johnston song, made it to his gig, since last year showcasers Yo La Tengo, who also perform his tunes, didn't. I finished the festival off on Sunday night with another trip to see Harvey Sid Fisher at a hastily-arranged appearance at the Alamo Draft House, but I'll borrow the words of Michael Parker again to cover the close of Saturday night and the frenzy of SXSW '98. Beaming at the furiously thrusting crowd under the big tent bobbing along to Brave Combo, he tiredly intoned, "Ahh, when I hear that first big bass note of the `Hokey Pokey' and look up at the crowd dancing, I have to smile, because that sound signals that there's just five more minutes to go 'til the end of another year's SXSW!" And that, as the song goes, is what it's all about.

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

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