Dancing About Architecture
You've Got Mail
On the Liberty Lunch watch, the mayor's office confirms they've received phone calls and e-mails in response to last week's Chronicle plea to not tear down the venerable venue. So did the Chronicle, for that matter, most notably one well-thought-out note which emphasized the Lunch's importance to the centralized nature of Austin's club scene ("Try club hopping in New York or anywhere else in the country; it cannot be done with the ease and flourish that we have here.") and the specific charms of the club as is ("You could have an Austin Music Hall or a La Zona Rosa in any other city in the country; their architecture has nothing specific to offer. Of the larger clubs in existence, only Liberty Lunch and Emo's make me proud to show off to out-of-town friends Austin's unique take on club presence"). "We are going to continue to work any way we can with Liberty Lunch," insist said officials, who maintain that they agree with the piece's assertion of the importance of the Lunch -- just not necessarily with that of its location. J'Net Ward reports she and her lawyer have scheduled a meeting with Mayor Kirk Watson and City Councilmember Jackie Goodman, and current plans call for a public hearing on potential changes downtown in early March, with a council vote to follow a week later. We'll keep you posted so that you can post the City.
Where There's Smoke, There's Furor
What with all the club comings and goings of recent weeks, it's tough to imagine what blues aficionados are thinking when they walk up to the corner of Fifth and Guadalupe and see the renovations in progress on what a sign on the door refers to as the "New Antone's." New Antones?!? Is the self-proclaimed "Home of the Blues" turning into a shot bar? Or a hair salon? (Hey, remember it happened to Stupendous Sound Studios, and no Paul Mitchell people were even involved in that situation!) Well, if I told you that an element already incorporated into the in-progress new Antone's was a new no-smoking rule, would you think I'd been puffing on something other than tobacco? Too bad -- it's true. You can relax, though. The new rule isn't born of legal regulation, political correctness, or new management. In fact, it doesn't even apply to the club's customers. Nope, the new Antone's no smoking area is the stage. Turns out sound man Steve Gortesky (aka Steve France) got fed up with picking up musicians' butts and outlawed smoking onstage, which may explain any unhappy expression you might have seen up there. Take for instance, five of the six Inmates onstage at Antone's last Thursday (Jon Dee Graham, Stephen Doster, Charlie Sexton, Bukka Allen, J.J. Johnson), who are all confirmed smokers. Just imagine the distraction a group like that suffers after a couple of hours on a ciggie-free stage. I mean, imagine the temptation Graham must've had to dump two tons of cigarette butts on France's lawn! My guess is that the policy will change soon, as the club is already aware of the potential for disaster; as one staffer put it, "Before too long, one of the old blues guys is just gonna say 'Fuck it!' and storm off." Still, the smoking issue is only the tip of the filter in Antone's current renovations; patrons have already noticed the expansion of the venue's space as the outer porch area has been enveloped within the club's walls. The merchandising area is groomed for major enlargement, because, hey, merchandising is the watchword of the 21st century. (I'm told that the merch offices for one House of Blues location is bigger than the Chronicle building!)
Speaking of competing blues venues, I stopped by the new Austin Blues Restaurant recently as a visiting Brint Anderson plied his trade onstage, and I think I can safely say that the new Sixth Street club won't be providing much direct competition with either Antone's or Joe's Generic. As the name implies, Austin Blues is more of a restaurant than a smokey (oops!) blues den, with a tastefully decorated, clean interior that seems to be attracting the older end of Sixth Street's patronage; the new eatery seems miles apart from the down-and-dirty nature of Joe's or the bring-in-the-new-generation energy of Antone's. Unfortunately, given the expense involved in its creation and losses due to its delayed opening, as well as limited customer space (when Jazz was in the building it seemed so much bigger!), neighborhood watchers are wondering how long the establishment will keep out of the red.
Music Museum Musings
Perhaps you've seen the ads in the Chronicle for the lavish Rock & Roll Currents in Contemporary Art exhibit at both the Austin Museum of Art on Congress and the AMOA at Laguna Gloria. Perhaps you're already planning to attend tonight's (Thursday) "My Generation: A Rock & Roll Timeline" presentation hosted by KUT's Jay Trachtenberg downtown at 7pm. Or maybe you're waiting for the lecture by Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus on March 18. Considering the touring exhibit features multi-media testaments to the inspiration of rock & roll, that wouldn't be a bad thing. But when was the last time you visited the actual Texas Music Museum? Don't be ashamed at your answer, because there isn't one -- or at least there's not much of one. There's a space on East 11th just off I-35 where the Texas Gospel exhibit is more or less on display -- if you happen to show up when someone is around to let you see it. That's about as far as what the Austin Music Commission's Bob Livingston calls a "convoluted cosmic master plan" for the Texas Music Museum has progressed in the last few years. A more aesthetically pleasing museum has existed on paper since at least 1996, when a resolution for its creation was passed and adopted, but after money was allocated, the the matter was forgotten. Livingston says the project is off the back burner again and that at last week's Commission meeting "we adopted a resolution that has all the whereases and wherefores" and that if they can come up with an acceptable business plan, approval to start fundraising in earnest could come in two to three months. Livingston adds that there's already a party willing to donate a huge collection of Armadillo and Vulcan Gas Company posters and that there had been hopes to get that exhibit ready in time for SXSW, but plans were scrapped out of a lack of proper cases to show the posters in. (Art lovers can check out a similar exhibit opening at Wild About Music tonight, Thursday, with the Keller Brothers providing musical accompaniment -- no donations required.) Well, at least Livingston can take consolation in that he's not the only person out there who's bummed to find he couldn't get a showcase for SXSW.
SXSW is now officially only a month (!) away, and those who like to be first in line for everything need only wait two weeks 'til February 25 for wristbands to go on sale. This year, 4,000 wristbands will be available at a going rate of $65 each, with a limit of four per person. (On March 12, an additional number of wristbands go on sale for $95). The festival's Web site (http://www.sxsw.com) reflects just how close the fest is getting, with panel listings, confirmed bands, etc. "around 80-85% complete," says one SXSW staffer; out of the projected 800 bands visiting town, 600 are already listed on the Web site. For those planning to shell out the extra shekels for a badge, panels this year include a spirited Fastball dissection, "the Rise and Fall of the MC5," and may I suggest "How to Recognize Fred Armisen at 50 Paces"?... Of course, Austin is always a city full of festivals at this time of year. Before you even have to start worrying about wristbands, you can make your way to Sixth Street for Mardi Gras this Friday, Saturday (featuring Cowboy Mouth), and next Tuesday. The day after, Wednesday, the Huston-Tillotson College Student Union hosts the East/West Festival of various world musics starting at 6pm. That Friday, February 19, the festival continues at UT's Huntington Art Auditorium at 7:30pm. Events are free and open to the public... It's not exactly a festival, but the 101X/KGSR Rock & Roll Swap Meet is this Sunday at the Austin Music Hall, noon-6pm. There will be live music from Wes Cunnigham,Davíd Garza, Trish Murphy, and Soak, plus a silent auction of autographed guitars from R.E.M. to R.E.K.... Drummer Donald Lindley, who toured and recorded with Joe Ely, Rosie Flores,and Lucinda Williams, among others,died last week at the age of 47 after a short bout with cancer. Lindley, who had lived in Austin for the last six years, was diagnosed with the disease only last December... Alejandro Escovedo brings a long-running Buick MacKane in-joke into print with the title of his new album for Bloodshot, the upcoming Bourbonitis Blues. Due April 20, the disc boasts cover art from wife Dana Smith and a guest list that includes Jon Langford, Chris Stamey, and members of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Among the nine-10 tracks expected to make it onto the album, look for covers of a Gun Club tune and the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes"... There's an in-store at Sound Exchange this Friday, 6pm, promoting the new KVRX Local Live CD. Deep Sombreros and Superfecta will play... Meg Hentges has her own in-store this Friday at Tower Records, 5:30pm, celebrating the release of her new CD, Brompton's Cocktail... The Gourds have a new one on the way as well, with Ghosts of Hallelujah due out from Munich Records at the beginning of March. A new Gourd has recently been added to the basket, with multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Freakwater) now on board, and a busy year planned. European touring aplenty starts immediately after SXSW since the band has a good distribution deal overseas, and believe it or not, the Gourds hope to have another album ready by the end of the year... "We knew about it beforehand," gasps Deborah Kelly of the Damnations, "but we were still shocked when we saw it -- it was so big!" If it sounds like she's quoting from a Monica Lewinsky deposition, you're not too far off; Kelly's referring to the positive review the band got in the current issue of People, which features Chelsea Clinton on the cover. It's not only size that matters, though, it's also where you put it, and given the controversy surrounding that particular issue due to White House protests over the use of Chelsea's image, that particular issue has made it into more American homes than, well, than Bill Clinton himself. That's good timing for the Damnations, with their Sire Records' debut Half-Mad Moon hitting stores Tuesday. Look for an in-store at Waterloo Records that afternoon at 5pm, and a release party at Stubb's on Friday, February 19...
-- Contributors: Michael Bertin, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser