Dancing About Architecture

A Lucindarella Story

As one might've guessed, this was a big week for Lucinda Williams - and for her fans - starting from the moment she arrived in Austin last Monday and began rummaging through South Austin thrift stores with a vengeance. This alone gave her precious little spare time, most of which was spent either by the pool at the Austin Motel or hunched over a table at Guero's ("I can't help it," said the singer between mouthfuls. "I'm addicted."). Williams centered her efforts on the South Congress area, a favorite of Bob Dylan's, whose Highway 61 Revisited Lucinda credits as being one of her chief early influences. Whether it's their similar musical taste or mutual lust for the clothing at Electric Ladyland, Williams was no doubt whistling Dylan tunes as she browsed, since The Artist Formerly Known As Zimmerman has requested that she tour with him starting November.

Wednesday night's Austin City Limits taping marked the beginning of Williams' musical adventures in Austin. A dual taping with Loudon Wainwright III performing first, Williams was in peak form for her taping, her band including Nashville songwriting maverick Jim Lauderdale, who flew here especially for that performance, then jetted off to Sweden. Williams showed a fanaticism for her music equal to that of her ardent local fans, performing four extra, unrehearsed numbers for the ACL audience in addition to her planned set, before finally heading off to Guero's for a fix.

Thursday was the central point of Williams' whirlwind week, yet by no means the calm eye of the storm. An afternoon in-store appearance at Waterloo Records was a mob scene, but fell short of being the riot the store and its employees had feared. Williams performed a short set before sitting down and ensuring that all in attendance got their requested autographs. That meant she didn't make it out of the shop until around 7:15pm, but an unfazed Williams said her only regret was that, "I didn't have time to do any shopping!" (Her band did, however, as she was busily signing away.)

After dinner at Guero's (natch), Williams headed to Antone's for a not-so-secret pre-Lilith Fair appearance (see "Live Shots"). Though announcing the show before her big Southpark Meadows shindig would've violated her contract with the Fair, Williams appearance at the Home of the Blues was no secret and well-attended - packed, actually. Williams played a good two and a half hours, wondering aloud as 2am approached how much time she could play without wearing out her welcome at the club. Turning back to Clifford Antone, who had been rocking out stageside most of the evening, she got the "five" sign from the clubowner. "Five minutes?" she asked. "Naw," bellowed Antone. "You can play 'til five in the morning!"

Onstage until well after 2am and partying afterwards into the wee hours, Friday - Lilith Fair day - found Williams slightly nervous and perhaps a tad hoarse. Playing on the Second Stage during the hottest part of a blazing Texas summer day, Williams nevertheless managed to make things hotter with her set, which started out rather slow, but was itself blazing by the time her guitarist Kenny Vaughn started wailing on "Right On Time." It should also be noted that Williams was wearing a cowboy hat, which her label Mercury has cautioned the singer against, because they're worried about her appearing "too country." Her response from the stage? "Twang this!"

Backstage, talk ran from Bernie Taupin sending Williams his "first fan letter ever," as well as reports that Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and Tom Waits are all rabid fans of Williams' new album, to upcoming appearances on Good Morning America and in People and Entertainment Weekly. Later, a throat-weary Williams declined to take part in the evening's big finale (which included appearances by Abra Moore and Kacy Crowley), stating a bit too honestly to Lilith queen Sarah McLachlan that she was too tired, "'Cuz I played a big Antone's show last night!" Instead, it was off to Guero's, where the staff shut the doors at closing time and let their new favorite customer and her pals spend an extra hour savoring their marinated chicken breast tacos.


Home With the Armadillo

The uniformed fire marshal and police at Assumption Cemetery chapel on Monday were not checking for overcrowding. If they had, the chapel would have been cited for exceeding capacity, as several hundred friends and acquaintances turned out to say farewell to Dale Watkins. Known to many as "the guy at the back door of Liberty Lunch" and Continental Club, Watkins was a security man nonpareil, champion two-stepper, curmudgeonly sweetheart, and great Texan who was loved by many in the local music industry. Bar manager of the Armadillo during its heyday, Watkins was only recently diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and typically, told only a few people just how terminal it was. At the memorial service, tears were shed, yes, but humor prevailed. "Who the hell decided to make this service 11am on a Monday?" demanded Xalapeno Charlie at the chapel mike. "I never knew a free spirit with so many rules," said Liberty Lunch's Mark Pratz, comforting a weeping J-Net Ward and sending the crowd into laughter, welcome relief from the heat and sadness. Indeed, laughter was good medicine for the pain, but in losing Dale Watkins (pictured in this week's Lunch ad), we lost one of the truly generous souls whose unselfish loyalty to the music, city, and friends he loved made us all a little richer.


Mixed Notes

Not all the Lilith-related news this weekend revolved around Lucinda Williams, despite what the opening of this column may lead you to believe. Singer-songwriter Lourdes Perez has been invited by the Indigo Girls to perform with them and 10 other women artists in 11 U.S. cities as a participant in their Suffragette Sessions Tour, which serves up Lilith-type fare including Lisa Germano, Jane Siberry, and Shonen Knife beginning August 19. Before the tour begins, Perez will perform a send-off show this Tuesday at the Hyde Park Theatre. Oh, and lest we forget, Bonnie Raitt showed up at the Saxon Pub and jammed with Stephen Bruton for two hours, while Williams' guitarist Kenny Vaughn popped up at Babe's for a stint with Dale Watson...

If you were expecting news this week on the fate of the Austin Music Network, well, what were you thinking?! There's way too much going on with this matter for me to fit an explanation into my limited space, but suffice it to say that Monday's Music Commission meeting did not end with a recommendation as to new ownership of the channel. It will be at least another two weeks before any proposals by parties who wish to privatize the AMN will be accepted. And of course there's still the possibility that none of the proposals will be accepted, knocking the whole procedure back to square one. (sigh)...

Stubb's just keeps getting bigger. Co-owner Charles Attal says the venue is "still in the process of planning" what to do with the three adjacent buildings they've bought, but there will most likely be another bar, a retail area, and a VIP room. The "big monster project" will get under way in November, with plans to hopefully have the new area fully ready by next year's SXSW...

Look for expansion (musically, at least) at La Zona Rosa as well. Kelly Gruber, the only person I saw at the Yes concert who didn't ask that I not identify them here, says that venue hopes to increase the number of days of live music per week back up to its maximum by around September...

No less intense a light than Randy Newman, responding to a comment by a Mojo magazine interviewer that today's bands have "lost respect for the craft of the great American tunesmiths," replied, "I'm not so sure it's true...

There's this band, Fastball, who are very fancy harmonically. They know how to get in and get out of things like the Beatles did." Apparently, their new single "Fire Escape" is getting into the playlists just fine, with The Album Report headlining a story: "Van Halen and Fastball Top the Most Added Charts" and Hits giving the song a #4 top add in their Post Modern chart. We'll see if the new single has the legs that "The Way" (still in the Top 40) did...

"I hope these things don't come in threes" is the official motto at the Flamingo Cantina these days. Last week this column reported that Johnny Thundernips of Sinis had collapsed following a performance there, leading to rumors of his expiration. This week saw Michael E. Johnson of the Killer Bees repeat Thundernips' performance, only during a show, leading fans to worry if Johnson's previous heart troubles were threatening his well-being again. The club says the incident was mere heat exhaustion, and that the Bees' scheduled gig there this Saturday is still a "go." (They also say that the only damage the club suffered during last week's fire on Sixth Street was from firefighters, who had to rip through the club's iron gate to make sure that the venue was not in danger. Not so lucky is Velvet Hammer. One of that band's members lost everything in an apartment fire this week. They'll be accepting donations at their Babe's show this Saturday and planning a proper benefit for next week)...

Power-poppers 20/20 release their new album Interstate 20/20 on Oglio Records on Tuesday. The album was recorded partially in Austin, as bassist/songwriter Ron Flynt lives in town. Flynt recently produced Austin group Blue Cartoon's first album, some Dickie Lee Irwin demos, and is currently in the studio working on "Scrappy" Jud Newcomb & the Southbound Monarchs' debut release...

Speaking of producers, Bob Brozman, who's behind the board on the Asylum Street Spankers' new album, will guest with the band this Sunday night at the Electric Lounge. Christina Marrs says the the "King of the National Guitar" will play with the Spankers and also do his own mini-set...

The Second Annual SIMS Supper is Tuesday, with participating businesses Gilligan's, Texicalli Grill, Waterloo Brewing Company, Stubb's, West Lynn Cafe, and Babe's donating a percentage of their receipts to the musicians' mental health foundation...

Speaking of controversy, the River City Rapists, who have signed to Junk Records and expect to have their Jeff Pinkus-produced Love Hurts album out in October, say they've "gotten in touch with our feminine sides" following protests about their name by local women's groups. What's the new moniker under consideration, you ask? "The River City Racists"...

- Contributors: Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, but mostly Margaret Moser

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The last installment of "Dancing About Architecture."

Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

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