Dancing About Architecture

The New Blues Revue

House of Blues? In Austin? What about Antone's? Those were the first thoughts of most local live music scenesters when they heard that a new blues club was opening on Sixth Street -- a mere few blocks from Austin's venerable "Home of the Blues," Antone's. Colsten Bergher, who set up the original House of Blues in Cambridge, Mass., for the Hard Rock Cafe people, as well as B.B. King's blues club in Los Angeles, has elected to open Austin Blues next to Jazz. (That block is starting to look pretty generic; a club named Blues next to a club named Jazz? Perhaps Jim Hawk can buy back Babe's and rename it Country.) Bergher says that Austin Blues will be a "full-blown restaurant during the day and a blues club at night," featuring a house band culled from local talent and sporadic touring acts. The venue will be open seven nights a week, but Bergher says that unlike the kitchenless Antone's, the food aspect of Blues will be emphasized equally with the music. "I went over and introduced myself to Clifford [Antone]," points out Bergher, "and there's no animosity. He's been here a long, long time, and we're putting in something a little different." A little different, I'm sure, just as I'm sure that the two venues would like to remain on good terms, but let's not kid ourselves. Even if Austin Blues and Antone's weren't within easy walking distance of each other, there would still be the potential here for all-out war. After all, there may be truckloads of blues musicians here in town, but are there enough quality players to supply two clubs full-time? We'll find out soon enough, as Austin Blues, with its Southern cuisine, plus emphasis on vegetarian meals and reasonably priced lunch fare -- oh, and blues music -- should be open by the end of November.

Overall, it seems like the long-dismal live music content of Sixth Street may be picking up rapidly; besides Austin Blues, Buffalo Billiards, where Hang 'em High Saloon once stood, is now featuring live music, and off Sixth in the former home of the Mustang Grill, the Spot is now open for business. Now, the Spot, featuring all your favorite cover bands, is not to be confused with producer/multi-instrumentalist Spot's favorite spot, the 503 Coffeehouse, which just reopened at 519 W. Oltorf. They have live acoustic music on the patio every Friday and Saturday and open mikes on Wednesdays. Look for a grand opening bash on the October 28.


Where the Elite Meet

Austin is on the map these days, that's for sure. If the feature in US on celebrities moving here wasn't enough, there's the bits on E! where Sandra Bullock tells how great the city and its people are; one assumes that said people don't include Dudley, Bob & Debra, who got hold of the floor plans to Bullock's Austin home and discussed them on the air, reportedly leading to threats of legal action. No, the real sign Austin has become the glitter capital of the Southwest is that former Chronicle columnist Michael Corcoran, who was drawn back to Austin by the American-Statesman amid much hoo-hah to cover our burgeoning music scene, has upped his celebrity watch column to twice a week and lessened his input in the daily's music coverage. I'm tempted to follow in his footsteps; the last two "hot tips" I received on my voicemail here at the office involved a South by Southwest staffer who pulled into a local Mobil station and found himself coerced into playing "phototech" for a bunch of ROTCs and Newt Gingrich, and some woman who has observed Matthew McConaughey as he allegedly was becoming intoxicated "while people that seem to be his friends stand back and observe it and let it happen." The woman explained that her goal was "to get him some help or he's likely to be the next River Phoenix." I suggest that this woman start her own gossip column called "For Your Own Good," which regularly busts celebrities for their behavior and then encourages them to seek treatment. (My God, if we reported on every time a Chronicle staffer ran across an inebriated local celeb, this paper would be two inches thick!) As far as Corcoran is concerned, he says he'll be starting a new, more personal weekly music column in XLent at the end of November, which he only half-jokingly says may be called "Writing About Music."


European Vacation

Ursa Major recently received a review in a Serbian magazine called XZ in which their self-titled CD was named "Best Female Rock Album of 1998," or so a note from the mag's editor/ translator tells them, anyway. Meanwhile, Hollywood Records paid big money for a full-page back cover ad in Billboard declaring in huge letters, "No. 1 In Finland!!" Those who read further found in the fine print that the ad is actually a congratulations to Fastball, who the label says is "not finnished yet." Ouch. By the way, our Fastball spy in England says the band may be a bit confused due to all this whirlwind traveling; at a show in London, Miles Zuniga got a laugh by asking if an audience member was Mike Henry. Are the limeys used to jokes about the Electric Lounge co-owner or is "Mike Henry," like every other common male name, British slang for "penis"?

Fifteen years after he first began peddling his homemade tapes on the streets of Austin, Daniel Johnston finally made his European stage debut in mid-September, playing in a festival called La Bâtie in Geneva, Switzerland, where he performed a 20-minute set in a venue called the Alhambra. Now back in the states, Johnston says the trip was a great experience, and adds that his upcoming album on Tim/Kerr records, Rejected, should be out at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, that album will appear sans the song that would've been the pick single and for which a video has already been shot; unfortunately that tune was nixed by Johnston's mom because it contains references to marijuana. Johnston performed two short live sets on the Austin Music Network last week, and his next show will be close to home as well, at the Cactus Cafe on October 23.


Green Grass of Home

His management is maintaining the "no official statement" line at this time, but Ian Moore is expected to sign with Velvel Records in the near future. For now, the guitarist, who recently relocated to the Pacific northwest, is busy with his new, self-released CD, Ian Moore's Got the Green Grass (available at http://www.ianmoore.com), and will be kicking off a 20-date tour in support of it next Wednesday at Antone's. Green Grass features guests Guy Forsyth, Mark Rubin, and Nina Singh and Mark Addison of the Borrowers, and one assumes, the title will draw back the fans who heard him on the Hempilation compilation a couple of years ago. (The second volume of that is due out soon and features Willie Nelson's "Me and Paul" as its token Austin-related tune).


Mixed Notes

Johnny Bush is back home following emergency triple-bypass heart surgery last week in a San Antonio hospital. Ironically enough, Bush, who penned "Whiskey River" and was one of Ray Price's Cherokee Cowboys, put out an album on local label Watermelon Records earlier this year titled Talk To My Heart...

Music From the Heart is the title of the autobiography by Kerrville Folk Festival founder Rod Kennedy, and he will be signing copies at Wild About Music from 6-8pm Saturday, with performances by several Kerrville favorites. Despite the title, I assume that Mr. Kennedy is in fine health...

The current Gavin Report notes that Austinite Ian McLagan is in the process of writing an autobiography in which he holds nothing back. Thankfully, they say it so you and I don't: "Now we can finally get to the bottom of the Rod Stewart stomach-pumping story"...

Say goodbye to Tim Stegall, who's off to forge a rock & roll life in New York. His band the Hormones play their farewell gig at Emo's this Friday, along with the Dead End Cruisers and Bulemics...

A small but significant development in the Butthole Surfers saga: Capitol Records has officially taken them off the list of artists on the label as of the last couple of weeks...

Chris Wall's Tainted Angel has been pushed back to an October 20 release, but copies will be available this Friday at 5pm when he appears at Waterloo Records backed by Reckless Kelly. Elsewhere, that nice gal Gretchen Phillips has an in-store at Thirty-Three Degrees from 8-10pm Friday for her solo debut, Songs to Save Your Soul, while Michele Solberg has one for her third CD, Floating, at Shaggy's on Saturday, 9pm, and 20/20 have a CD release for their zillionth, Interstate 20/20, at Scholz Garten this Friday, with Blue Cartoon and Clovis also performing...

Still more local albums: Soak's Flywattis out now on Sire, and the venerable Gerry Van Kingaka "the King of Sixth Street" has a 10-song CD titled The Cause of It All coming out on Aaron Ave. Records before the end of the year...

Mudhoney closed their show at Liberty Lunch last weekend with a rousing rendition of "Dicks Hate Police." A nice touch from the band, who will appear alongside Alejandro Escovedo and other notables on Bill Bentley'supcoming tribute album to Skip Spence, the misunderstood genius from San Francisco's Moby Grape. The Reprise Records publicity VP Bentley, who was recently seen out in L.A. drumming for Joe "King" Carrasco at a party for Warner Bros. bigwig Bob Merlis, was also behind the tribute/benefit album for Roky Erickson, Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye. The similarly themed More Oar will feature covers of songs from Spence's solo album Oar by such luminaries as Tom Waits, Robyn Hitchcock, Beck,members of R.E.M. and, er, Robert Plant with the Flaming Lips (!?!)...

Speaking of Beck, let the confusion continue! Just when I thought the matter was dead and buried, the Silicon Planet people recently stated that "The Austin show has been rescheduled until 1999." Since they don't say whether Beck or Devo will be involved or who can and can't expect to get in, this brings us right back to square one...

From the Claymores: "Our World Tour kicks off this Friday night in San Marcos at the Triple Crown. The band hits the stage early (9pm). The tour will end shortly after the show (10:30ish). We will be returning home to Austin for some much-needed rest and recuperation after over 60 miles round trip on the road." Like I keep telling you people, if you want me to plug your gig, you've gotta come up with an angle...

The Fifth Annual Bocktoberfest is this Saturday down in Shiner at the Spoetzl Brewery, with Robert Earl Keen, Rev. Horton Heat, Ugly Americans, and a host of others. Y'know, I've got a pair of tickets ($40 value!) that I'm not gonna be able to use, so how about we try a phone-in contest one more time? First caller that phones the Chronicle at 454-5766 between 6-6:15pm on Friday and comes up with a rhyme for Spoetzl (and can get to our offices by 7pm) gets the tix...

-- Contributors: Michael Bertin, 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

So Long, Slug
So Long, Slug

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