Live Shots


Emo's, January 17

The animals came out this Sunday evening to support the SIMS foundation's mental health services for Austin musicians -- and to receive their dose of punishment/pleasure. The punishment was doled out with thuggish force by a strong cast of local talent -- Flametrick Subs, Human, Godzilla Motor Company, and Skrew -- but devotees waited anxiously for their portion of pleasure: a perception overhaul from the new incarnation of Meat Puppets. Since Curt Kirkwood moved to Austin in 1997, speculation has abounded as to the group's fate, particularly after he formed the Royal Neanderthal Orchestra with prime picks from the local talent pool: Kyle Ellison, Shandon Sahm, and Andrew Duplantis. While some questions vanished when RNO assumed the Puppets moniker, new ones evolved in their wake. Donned in red long johns replete with ducky images, the new Puppets took the stage with an appearance befitting this lineup's infancy, and started near the beginning, with a fierce rendition of "Oh, Me." This song, and another from the same album, "Lake of Fire," departed impressionally from the peyote-tinged, desert meanderings of Meat Puppets II, coursing with more amperage and strong band chemistry. The mostly twentysomething crowd consisted of both novices to and connoisseurs of Kirkwood's skewed musical fare, and all were exuberant as the show unfolded with standards "Scum," "For Free" and "The Void." Those in the know stood rooted, faces awash with acid-eating grins, while neophytes predictably formed a pit. With this demographic, three-quarters of the band could have blended easily with the young crowd. Age aside, Kirkwood's new mates stood firm with the elder icon, creating a solid canvas for his guitar dementia. New material retained the Puppets' flare for forming a conduit to the subliminal, with absurd lyrics and an effortless, kinetic melding of punk, metal and country stylings. Speaking of absurdity, try a cover of the Sweet's "Fox on the Run," both unsettling and somehow romantic. All told, the Puppets' energetic performance made them appropriate headliners for the cause of mental health. Fans may need counseling as they lose their minds for the Meat Puppets -- all over again. -- Mitch Zimmerman


Ruta Maya Coffee House, January 20

With the exception of Kathy Ziegler breaking into an appropriately haunting version of Bruce Springsteen's "Mr. State Trooper," this small gathering of local singer-songwriters was all about new songs from new faces. Well, not necessarily new faces, but new sounds from familiar artists like Ziegler and Tawnya LoRae. The guitarists for stagey girl group Morningwood, two of a trio of performers featured on this in-the-round evening of acoustic trade-offs, explored root-inspired melodies and personable tunes that had nothing to do with the pseudo-glam posing of Austin's former ab-fab five, Morningwood. Ziegler's voice especially was a surprise, its high-toned, lilting, and just slightly raspy sound being the perfect complement for her worn, experienced lyrics about life and love (think a grittier, earthier Abra Moore). LoRae's tunes were more eclectic, reaching into dark (in both mood and tone) folk, mid-tempo blues, and smart pop with equal aplomb. At center stage, Niki Duncan made a valiant foray into solo performance, prefaced with "I'm really tired so my guitar playing is gonna be extra bad." It wasn't necessarily "extra-bad," but the extra-simple chording did see its share of clams. Duncan's strength is definitely her voice, at times a combination of the soulful power of Aretha Franklin and the airy coolness of the Spinanes' Rebecca Gates. One thing: A solo acoustic-type show shouldn't be an excuse to make acoustics an afterthought. Better sound would have added an entirely new dimension, especially to Ziegler's and LoRae's songs, which both look toward subtleties in guitar playing and vocals for texture and depth. Even if a coffeeshop in-the-round is taken as more or less a public rehearsal (which is fine, too), the better it sounds, the more people will stick around and return for the next one. -- Christopher Hess


Alamodome, San Antonio, January 22

It had all the trappings of a stadium show: beer-soaked fans, a Paul Bunyan P.A., fireworks, 20-foot video screens, and burly roadies scampering to pick up debris tossed onstage like Wimbledon ball boys. Not since frontman Ozzy Osbourne quit Black Sabbath in 1979 has the original lineup of Osbourne, four-stringer Geezer Butler, stick jockey Bill Ward, and metal guitar god Tony Iommi played together for more than a one-off or two. Not that the heavy metal institution ceased when Osbourne left, it just endured a dozen or so incarnations with nearly 30 members. Like other seminal bands with over three decades of history, however, an aura surrounds the original Sabbath, and expectation was so high fans sold out the Alamodome. When sirens announced opener "War Pigs," hype became frenzy and 20,000 Satantonians began singing along with The Madman. Nostalgia propelled the first tunes, including the melodic "N.I.B." and the appropriately dirgey "Electric Funeral." After Ozzy withheld singing until the crowd roared appreciatively, he announced: "We wrote this next one 30 years ago," signaling the power chord phalanx, kidney-punching drum quads and spine-melting bass riffs of the song named after an old Boris Karloff horror film, "Black Sabbath." Novel energy ended, however, after the labyrinthine "Into the Void" as the Ozman's vox, still weak from a recent flu, wavered uncomfortably in power and pitch. The venue acoustics certainly didn't help; however, a solo Stradivarius would have sounded like a big fart in the Enormodome. Sensing the crowd's lull, jester Osbourne repeatedly commanded the metal faithful to "Go fucking crazy!!," but the darkly dressed, all-ages audience was either too high or too volume-numb to elicit more than a communal yelp. It's hard to say which came first: Ozzy's quiet choruses eliciting a stadium stupor, or a jejune crowd failing to ignite the band. Still, hope existed in the guise of Sabbath's two remaining canonized pieces. No luck: A should-have-been-combustible "Ironman" sounded lethargic and perfunctory, and coming at the 75-minute mark implied a stock 90-minute show. After career-endorsing applause (it certainly wasn't the show), the quartet played a respectable, if slightly tired "Paranoid," but it was the sole encore. No more. That's all, folks. A short, impersonal set, piss-poor sound, an apathetic crowd, overpriced tickets and souvenirs. Yep, all the traps of a stadium show. You pays yer money, you takes yer chances. -- David Lynch


Electric Lounge, January 23

The faithful came, as the faithful should, to benefit the Electric Lounge's crippling tax debt, which was good because although the bill was solid -- Spoon, Monroe Mustang, the Wannabes -- it was not necessarily what you book to make big bucks. Tell that to the critics: It was the kind of evening in which nothing special makes everything special, and that's what Austin's music scene is most famous for. There was general revelry on the part of the crowd, which made the Lounge respectably full early on and had swelled to an SRO house by the time Britt Daniel and company went onstage. There was cheering and jockeying for rounds on the trivia machine in the Elbow Room. There was goodwill and conviviality at the silent auction table, where everything from Miles Zuniga's yellow T-shirt to shopping and dining gift certificates were being bid on, sometimes by folks who looked as if the cable bill would go unpaid if required to ante up for that evening with poetry slam queen Hilary Thomas. Hmmm. Could one feasibly combine bidding on a date with E.L. bartender Beau Paul with winning a suite at the Austin Motel? It was worth a few careless bucks to see. Monroe Mustang corralled the audience about 10:45pm with their charming, unself-conscious drone that loves Joy Division as much as the Velvet Underground and doesn't know it. Moreover, every song seemed to see the never-a-dull-moment personnel shift, so that the original guitarist/vocalist ended up as drummer, the drummer was on bass and vocals, and the bassist was on guitar. When the Wannabes kicked in their fabulously underrated pure power pop for now people, it seemed to ignite a spark that electrified the crowd. King 'Be Jennings Crawford was wearing far too much lipstick, and the effect was divine as he lunged at the mike, gleefully singing "I Am God" and Haircut 100's "Love Plus One" to a jacked-up congregation. By the end of their set, a break was much-needed -- who knew listening to the Wannabes could be so delightfully exhausting? Outbid for the shopping certificates in the auction, the parking lot called. Outside the air was crisp and the sky was dark and starry, and inside Spoon began the gospel that the faithful had come to hear. It shoulda been some damn beer commercial or something. -- Margaret Moser


Oakland Coliseum Arena,
Oakland, California, January 25

"One-third the people at triple the price," remarked the fan, resplendent in his homemade, red and black tongue-covered Rolling Stones smoking jacket. "All so Jerry Hall could get $50 million." Sitting high up in the $100 nosebleed seats of the Oakland Coliseum Arena, the same venue in which The Rolling Stones, Liver Than You'll Ever Be -- the first commercially successful bootleg -- was recorded 30 years ago this year, the thirtysomething fan (on the young side of the predominantly fiftysomething crowd) recounted hearing a radio interview in which another fan claimed he had been at that show, in the same section he had seats in tonight, only back then the ticket had set him back $6 as opposed to the $300 he had paid for this show. For opening night of the Stones' first tour of indoor arenas since 1969, the blueprint for modern, grand scale rock & roll shows, this fan and 20,000 others weren't complaining. After all, this tour had a date with history: "Probably your last chance to see the Stones indoors in this century," trumpeted the local ads. And then there was the matter of this U.S. tour actually being in support of the band's new live album, No Security. A shamelessly ego-stroking because-we-can cash cow vanity project, or a give-the-diehards-what-they-want return following 1997's successful Bridges to Babylon tour? Both, of course, and nothing proved that better than the evening's set-list. Opening with a nod to Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out, their response to Liver Than You'll Ever Be, the Stones followed their own lights-out coming attraction that cast the four remaining band members (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Charlie Watts) as slow-mo swaggering street toughs coming up from the bowels of the arena to rock & roll you by hammering out "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Marching down the length of the wide-open oval stage, the black leather jacketed trio of Jagger, Richards, and Wood then speared a three-guitar attack through "Live With Me," "Respectable," and "You Got Me Rocking," all featured on No Security, and all rendered, well, respectably. "Undercover of the Night" baffled a wide swath of well-groomed baby-boomers who had ventured out soley to hear "Brown Sugar" and "Satisfaction." Not sounding as propulsive as it had on the band's 1989 Steel Wheels comeback tour, the first tour on which the Stones actively started playing songs they had never performed live (gems like "2000 Light Years From Home"), if "Undercover" was a surprise, no one was prepared for the next song, "Moonlight Mile." Acknowledged by Jagger as a song about to receive its maiden voyage, the swirling, atmospheric ballad shimmered under a prism of chiming guitars, echoing the same druggy elegance with which it closes the 1971 Stones masterpiece, Sticky Fingers. The audience seemed somewhat shocked to be treated to a tune many of them had probably forgotten about, it sounding nearly as ominous as "Gimme Shelter" did on the last tour, yet they responded in kind to it, as well as to the ragged, rock & roll hymn that followed, "Shine a Light." Continuing in this vein, the ghost of Bill Graham probably wasn't even prepared for the world debut of "Some Girls," which no doubt had anyone familiar with the LP's title track and its lyricist Jagger's currently well-publicized marital woes speculating on the tune's inclusion in the set ("American girls want everything you could possibly imagine!"). "Paint It Black," by contrast, received a hero's welcome, a golden oldie recognized by one and all. Richards' customary mid-set, two-tune interlude should have, by all accounts, received the same brave-face response as "Some Girls," particularly given that the croaking, life-long smoker pulled out his very first solo vocal turn -- Let It Bleed's delicate "You Got the Silver" --but the 54-year-old guitarist with embarrassing feather-weaved braids in his thinning gray hair coaxed serious magic from his slide acoustic guitar and partner Woody's crying steel guitar. After an explosive version of "Before They Make Me Run," fueled by a Bobby Keys-led horn section, Richards' serene, glowing face on the big arena video screens revealed a musician still living his wildest dream. From that point on, picking up in both speed and momentum, the two-hour set hurtled toward its conclusion; through Jagger's lion gone mad lashings on "Out of Control," during which this tour's gimmick -- a cage lowered from the ceiling onto the singer -- made its eye-rolling debut, and the satellite stage set from mid-arena ("Route 66," "I Just Want to Make Love to You," and "Honky Tonk Women"), to the end-of-show greatest hits run of "Saint of Me," "It's Only Rock & Roll," "Start Me Up," and "Brown Sugar." Jagger proved yet again that he's the rock & roll frontman and soul stripper after which all others stand in line, and if the roaring audience somehow hadn't gotten what they came seeking by the time the band left the stage at the 100-minute mark, the twin encore of "Midnight Rambler" and "Sympathy for the Devil" rammed a rock & roll stake through its heart. A nine-minute, fever-building modern blues stomper -- a highlight of the '69 tour along with its equally sinister, showing-ending other half -- "Midnight Rambler" alone was worth the outrageous price of admission, and when the big video screens caught a beaming Richards trying to catch the eye of his lifelong muse Watts for that point in the song where it kicks into higher gear, you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that you had just experienced history in the making: a Rolling Stones concert.
-- Raoul Hernandez

Ruben Hernandez leads the
Nash Hernandez
at the Top of the Marc January 24

photograph by John Carrico

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