Live Shots

Cowboy Junkies

La Zona Rosa, Wednesday 18

It couldn't have been just a coincidence that the Cowboy Junkies show opened with only siblings Michael and Margo Timmins stepping out on stage for a completely stripped-down version of "Sun Comes Up It's Tuesday Morning." With slight apologies to their brother Peter, the group's drummer, as well as bassist Alan Anton and the other three rotating musicians who helped out in various spots, Michael and Margo held absolutely nothing back on their rendition of the song, and from that moment on, at Wednesday night's La Zona Rosa performance the two Timmons siblings were the band; the supporting cast adeptly filled out the sparse scenery, but the show was Michael and Margo's production. Michael set the stage with the faint brightness of his subtle guitar stokes, and Margo played all the lead parts perfectly -- the desperate apologist of "'Cause Cheap Is How I Feel," the committed romantic of "Anniversary Song," the regret-tinged wife of "Horse in the Country," and the bad-girl wannabe of "Misguided Angel." Hands draped at the wrist over the top of the microphone, perched on a stool with head swaying side to side in a V-pattern, Margo, with her delicate, wispy voice, was sexy as all get-out no matter what the role. The only flaws in the show came when the instruments took over and pushed the singer into the background, or forced her too much to the forefront to overcome the din, like on "Common Disaster" or the title track to the Canadian band's latest release, Miles From Our Home. As on the barren cover of countryman Neil Young's "Powderfinger," where Michael and Margo were augmented only by the mandolin, it wasn't a case of less being more so much as less being more appropriate. --Michael Bertin

Overheard at the Mötley Crüe show at the Austin Music Hall, December 1: "There's not a soul working at a titty bar in Austin tonight."

photograph by John Carrico


Liberty Lunch, November 19

A hearty "Fuck You" is what it was. It would have been less ambiguous and more efficient for Modest Mouse's lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brock to have walked out onto the Liberty Lunch stage, mooned the eager crowd, and walked off. After the full-throttle assault of hometown tourmates the Murder City Devils, it would have been more appropriate. Seattle's MCD reached an energy level in their 45 minutes of punk apocalypse (complete with flaming drum kit) that Modest Mouse never glimpsed -- mostly because the headlining trio weren't even trying. At moments (the opener "Breakthrough" and "Trailer Trash"), it seemed that Brock inherited the energy left crackling in the air from the Devils' closer, "18 Wheels," but throughout the rest of the show, that current proved elusive. The lead guitar, heavy on harmonics and pedal switches as it is so brilliantly done on album, was uninspired and rote. The barricade in front of the stage apparently upset Brock to the point of constant interruption and off-mike mumblings to bouncers and fans alike about the fence. The man was bothered and pissed off -- which would seem like a good thing given the incendiary nature of the Mouse's music. But rather than rage or react, Brock pouted and smirked. The offerings were mostly obscure (negative only in the translation), bringing one distressed fan to cry out over the din during the first encore, "What the hell is this crap?!" And when he did play familiar songs, they were either rendered impotent and void of emotion ("Teeth Like God's Shoeshine") or so far out of tune as to be ridiculous, leading Brock to limp lamely through the motions instead of correcting the problem or making up for quality with volume ("Doin' the Cockroach"). Mostly, it was a shame. The club was comfortably full, and everyone there wanted the poignantly ranting confusion that make Modest Mouse (on album, at least) important. What they got -- the same as what was served up during the band's set at Emo's a few months ago -- was a rock star who didn't feel like being one. Perhaps if Brock had known that Austin gets its fill of rock stars and that what locals wanted was his band and his songs, things would have gone differently. Perhaps not. --Christopher Hess


La Zona Rosa, November 20

Part of Jack Dangers' alarming brilliance as a techoid compositionalist and de facto head of London's Meat Beat Manifesto is his ability to bring old-school cut 'n' paste methods to a new audience. Since MBM's origins in the late Eighties, alongside co-conspirator Jonny Stephens, Dangers has crafted peeling songs of chaos by using samplers, sequencers, synthesizers, and presumably the kitchen sink as well to splice together funky, hip-hoppy raps and febrile strands of post-industrial noise. His capacity for sampling bits from previous styles and channeling them into wholly new directions makes a mockery of Puff Daddy's rightfully reviled theftisms, and though Dangers & Co. have never enjoyed the success they deserve (due, in part, to unclassifiability as well as erratic touring and release patterns), the near-capacity La Zona Rosa throng obviously knew which side their dread is buttered on. Buttressed between the band's gear and bursts of rabid intellibeams, Dangers made use of the evening to focus on the MBM's new Actual Sounds + Voices CD, alternating the new with more established tracks such as 1992's high-water mark "Edge of No Control" and a chunk from '93's Mindstream EP. There's always been precious little stage patter in electronic music; MBM's songs flowed seamlessly from one to another usually without stopping for breath. Is this off Satyricon? Couldn't tell ya, but Dangers' image and projection-heavy backdrop made mincemeat out of the eyes and ears, while down in front, a mosh pit (of all things) flared briefly from time to time, a reminder of MBM's industrial roots. Philly DJ/muckabout Josh Wink, whose new HearHere disc is polarizing fans and non-fans alike (certainly my irritable upstairs neighbors are sick of it already), was an odd pairing with the MBM tribe, though with his trademark blonde dreadlocks (de reigeur for white DJs these days), the locals lapped it up, litesticks twirling and hands raised to "Higher State of Consciousness" and gobs more. Most Absurdly Touching Moment of the Evening Award goes to Orlando opener Q-Burns Abstract Message, who decided to test his vocal chops mid-set, putting the audience in mind of a better breed of Beck, blonde hair flying, feng shui acid jazz and housey beats eclipsing for a moment the fact that the emperor had no voice. -- Marc Savlov


The Mercury, Nov 21

When a band plays two sets, folks turned away during a first sold-out set can usually get in during the set break. That is, unless that band on stage is Liquid Soul. In a recent, Texas-tour-ending gig at the Mercury, the Chicago 10-piece (horns, percussion, MC, guitar, bass, vox, DJ, and drums) packed the house so full that fans at the door were apologetically told, "Sorry. No more room." The limits of maximum occupancy pushed to the brink, one would have thought the club was hosting a big name act, and in fact, that was the case as the group has performed at both Dennis Rodman's birthday throwdown and the last Presidential Inauguration festivities. Aside from the few who witnessed Liquid Soul hurricane through their South by Southwest sets this year and last year, the band doesn't have much rep around here. Until now. Those who packed the Sixth Street club were treated to over two hours of Liquid Soul's unrivaled blend of funky jazz jams and concise, bass-driven hip-hop dioramas. Tunes came from the band's two albums, most from the recent throwdown Make Some Noise, like the slow drop-funk of "Lobster Boy's Revenge" and the crescendo collage of "Opium Jacuzzi." The looser second set continued to delight the multi-hued 20-40ish crowd with such songs as the locked-in-horn-harmony and extended DJ scratch-o-matic break in "Yankee Girl." Chicago's finest then broke into the Miles Davis standard "All Blues," jumping right into "I Want You to Want Me," showcasing the silken throat of famed jazz vocalist Nina Simone's daughter, Simone, who didn't sing nearly enough. The evening's end was heralded by a white-hot rendition of "Threadin' the Needle," followed by a brief instrumental encore. If the band didn't have to catch a 7am flight that morning to honor their weekly Sunday night gig at Chicago's Double Door, they no doubt would have rocked the house with another booty-rupturing set. Other outfits like the Black Eyed Peas and Groove Collective mix up like-minded styles of hip-hop, blues, funk, jazz, Latin, and rock, but nobody does it finer that Liquid Soul, a band who easily put on the evening's hottest show. The hottest show in a long, long, long while. --David Lynch


Liberty Lunch, November 22

On a perfect Sunday spring evening under the sliver of a crescent moon, Fugazi proved once again why they're an institution. Returning to Liberty Lunch almost three years to the weekend from their last local appearance ("I don't know whether this is our eighth or ninth show here, but this is the only place we've ever played in Austin," remarked singer/guitarist Ian MacKaye at one point), the Washington harDCore quartet marked its 10th year of existence amid rumors that this would be their last tour with a show that illustrated at full volume what a loss that would be to the genre known as punk rock. Selling out a few days prior to the show, the evening flickered on with Olympia, Washington beats trio ICU, whose beeps & boops technicians DJ K.O. and keywhiz Michiko Swiggs wore labcoats; they weren't much to look at, their stage show somewhat sterile -- marked mostly by the duo's chain-smoking -- but their sound was as curious as the theremin K.O. waved his hands over. After a set breakdown of no longer than 15 minutes, three more Northwest lab technicians came shuffling out on stage, campbell 2000, sadie 7, and dash 11, known collectively as Seattle's Hovercraft. Fresh from their industry-buzzing music festival showcase at CMJ, and added to this bill after Fugazi learned that the three-piece powerhouse was scheduled to land at Emo's opposite this gig, the three anonymous musicians wasted no time in taking up their instruments (guitar, bass, and drums), killing the house lights, and creating what blown-cover bassist Beth Liebling once termed "ambient heavy metal." With Liebling's husband Eddie Vedder looking on from the wings, Hovercraft's seemingly free-form mix of early Pink Floyd, Sonic Youth, and Can quickly revealed itself to be in perfect sync with the B-movie, space footage/nature film loops projected onto a white sheet behind the band, despite the fact that timekeeper/guitarist campbell 2000 never once turned around to take any visual cues. So when, after 40 minutes of loud, throbbing, oscillating sheets of sound, the band's last note coincided exactly with the film's last image -- a lightbulb exploding in slow motion -- quickly followed by the lights coming up and the band leaving without ever having said a word (they didn't even set up a mike stand); the effect was one of jolted awe. Most bands would not choose to follow such a display, but then Fugazi has never been most bands. Strolling onstage 10 minutes before their appointed headlining slot, the band burst into a sound that came on like a giant hornet's nest unleashing its furious onslaught after having been blown apart by a cherry bomb. Hopping up and down as MacKaye and second vocalist/guitarist Guy Piciotti hammered out riffs that occasionally rose into the night like sirens, band and throng achieving symbiosis almost immediately, raised fists egging on both vocalists who barked out angry, caustic, socially savy lyrics. This went on without letting up for an hour, at which point Fugazi should have been content with doing a quick encore before bidding goodnight to a sated and elated audience. Instead, the band fell into extended noodle mode for an additional 30 minutes, dissipating whatever energy had been built up. It certainly didn't lessen the impact of what had come before, but when you've perfected the art of punk rock the way Fugazi has, knowing when to call it quits is every bit as crucial as knowing when the show must go on. -- Raoul Hernandez

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