Dancing About Architecture

Never Mind the Mayor

The notorious Johnny Rotten is still managing to cause trouble, not only as MTV's liaison to the Grammys (which unfortunately aired after our deadline) but also on Austin radio, as Mayor Kirk Watson, appearing on Andy Langer's 101X program Open Mike last Sunday, made a big fuss about how stringent he was about screening the music his kids hear and then proceeded to play a four-letter-word-laden version of "Johnny B. Goode" by the Sex Pistols. Fortunately, after only one full-volume "Fuck it, it's awful!" and an additional half-audible epithet ot two, the Langer/Watson team managed to fade out the offensive song before, as the host put it, Watson become the "Austin mayor who toppled the LBJ empire."

Watson had other music from his record collection to play (U2, Modern Lovers, Dave Matthews -- kudos to him for spinning his tastes rather than going with some local ringers his staff had suggested), and more important topics to address, with key conversation centering around insistence that yes, he considers Liberty Lunch to be a venerable Austin institution, and that the city is doing everything in its power to keep it alive -- but not in its current location. Watson also said on the air that he expects to have an official announcement on the matter ready by or before South by Southwest.

As far as what that announcement might be, one plan that's being talked up among the city gang is a deal to move Liberty Lunch next to Stubb's, which recently bought up the rest of the block the barbecue joint/live music venue sits on, and may be building in a 1,400-seat facility to the north of Stubb's outside stage area. One roadblock to that plan, as noted in our "Live Music Venue Guide" last week, is that while Charles Attal at Stubb's is indeed considering such a plan, he says it will be at least another week before he will even make the decision to turn the above vision into reality. Another fly in the ointment is that the Lunch's J'net Ward has not, at this point, cut a deal with Attal to go into partnership in any form.

"I know the city wants something done quickly," she says, but points out that no matter how much time, effort, or money the city decides to put into moving the Lunch to Red River, "first, something has to be agreed on by Stubb's and I." Ward says she's keeping all avenues open, continuing to look at three localtions that she and Lunch-mate Mark Pratz had considered over the years. She also refers cryptically to the possibility of moving in with another music business -- one that is not a music venue -- which is currently being bought out of its current location. "Still," she says, "I can't say no to Stubb's or [Direct Events'] Tim O'Connor if they come up with the right deal." One thing's for sure: Whatever decision Ward ends up making, the city seems poised to jump in and help push the Lunch out of that dirty ol' building where it currently resides.

Remember, "relocation" means tearing down the Lunch that already exists, which if you saw City Manager Jesus Garza's letter to the editor in "Postmarks" last week, would most likely mean putting retail stores where the Lunch now stands, thanks to the city being unable to touch the Schneider General Store that stands on the northeast corner of the venue's lot. Garza did not respond to repeated attempts for comment on whether Austin's live music fans can expect a Payless Shoe Source where the Lunch now stands.

Down to the Rind?

Getting a hold of the folks at Watermelon Records has been like pulling teeth lately, but that's not unusual considering that their office has been gutted and a handwritten sign taped to the door requests that packages be left with the dentist down the hall. Marketing and promotions man Eric Zappa says that he and president/owner Heinz Geissler have been working out of their respective homes while "making progress on the big deal" of straightening out things in the courts for the company, which filed for reorganization last December. "It's not a fast process," says a frustrated Zappa, who did pass along a few tidbits about artists whose work has appeared on the Watermelon label; Don Walser, for instance, has had his song "Cowpoke" played twice on the hit TV series Chicago Hope, and the producers are interested in using more of his music. Zappa says the producers told him they consider "Cowpoke" to be "Eric Stolz's theme song." Also, the Derailers have finished work on their Dave Alvin-produced next album, which isn't due for release until summer. So, then, will it be coming out on the Watermelon label? Even though Zappa expects the label to be on its feet by then, he says, "I couldn't give you an honest answer."

SXSW Venue Vue

If you've been wondering how to make the most of SXSW, the Texas Music Office is presenting a free workshop by that very name next Tuesday, 5:30-7pm, at the Electric Lounge. As far as clubs not as well-known as the Lounge, or, in some cases, as yet non-existent, I've been fielding anxious queries from people about whether the Red Eyed Fly (715 Red River) and Bob Woody's Soho Lounge (217 E. Sixth) are going to be up and running in time for SXSW. The festival's Dave Thomson says that to the best of his knowledge, both are on schedule and should be open for the conference. Of course, he says that all they really need for SXSW's purposes is "a roof and a stage -- and they both already have that." Still, to his knowledge, both venues should be in good enough shape by that time to assume regular club status after the fest is over.

Not on the SXSW venue list this time around are the Cactus Cafe and Mojo's, omissions that the festival's Creative Director Brent Grulke attributes to the fact that "we just didn't have enough talent that would work in those venues." The Guadalupe Street locations of both, says Grulke, are just too far off the beaten SXSW club path and that it takes "top tier talent" to draw people across town during peak showcase hours. The Cactus' Griff Luneberg says that though he had already committed to keeping the UT-based club open during spring break for SXSW, there's "no hard feelings," and he's already scheduled a number of acts who won't be playing the fest, including 81*2 Souvenirs, Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmy LaFave, Austin Lounge Lizards, and a special Texas Union Ballroom show that Saturday (March 19) featuring Hal Ketchum and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. That leaves the Hole in the Wall as the sole island of SXSW music in the University area, but Grulke says he doesn't expect that club to suffer. "Unlike [Mojo's and the Cactus], we can put any kind of band there," he notes, "and people can both smoke and drink."

Finally, one club that almost edged in as a SXSW venue, but didn't make its presence known in time, is the Sunset Theatre on the Drag. What the hell is that, you ask? It's the music portion of Mango's, the new project from Mark Shaberg of Bob Popular's, which will be opening during SXSW week and providing its own alternate fare, including a special appearance by Matthew McConaughey, who follows his appearance at the EDtv premiere by introducing Coup de Grace,the Lubbock band that he co-manages, and hanging around to enjoy their show at the Sunset -- with Lauren Holly also along for the ride. The venue, located in the building best known for housing Martin Bros. Cafe, is taking a "wait-and-see approach" to live music, says Shaberg, due to its proximity to residential areas, but plans so far call for acoustic-oriented music during the week -- a Shady Grove Unplugged sort of feel -- and big all-day music, beer, and food expositions once or twice a month. Shaberg says he had been looking at the venue since Bailey's opened in that location, saying the questionably titled Chicken Fingers palace "was gonna make it a year -- if they were lucky!" He's already facing one major disappointment, however, due to his heavy Mardi Gras duties last week. "I would've asked Billy Squier to play," he mourns, since the "Stroke Me" man made an appearance at Waterloo Records February 12 (see "Live Shots"), "if I hadn't been doing the parade."

Mixed Notes

For the first time I can remember, the Livestock Show and Rodeo won't be running concurrently with SXSW this year. My assumption is that they're going ahead a week early because of the theory that if the rodeo's big star Billy Ray Cyrus (March 13) and SXSW's prog whiz Robert Fripp (March 20, under the guise of Projekct Three) were to play in the same city at the same time, there could be some sort of matter/anti-matter explosion...

Monte Montgomery is currently recording his next, still-untitled CD, with special guests such as Abra Moore contributing background vocals to the ballad "I Know You by Heart," and Stephen Bruton providing harmony vocals on another ballad titled "Magnolia," which Montgomery wrote for his mom, Maggie. Maybe Monte might muse over making a move towards an "M"-sponsored episode of Sesame Street...

The president of the "Unofficial Butthole Surfers Fan Club," who appears to be the only person the guys in the band really talk to these days, recently stated that their last recorded album, After the Astronaut, "will never be released." That makes sense; its adherence to the sounds of the sputtering techno movement would probably make it a mere curiosity by the time legal entanglements are undone. One thing is definitely "official" -- the Arlyn Studio report for February says the Butts have been doing some recording there this month...

After producers of the upcoming film version of Nick Hornsby's High Fidelity (shooting in either Austin or Chicago) solicited every Hickman, McKay, McKenzie, and Crowley in town to send their press pack, it was revealed that every Amos, Loeb, Love, and Phair were also asked to submit materials for the part...

Cher UK is giving up the ghost -- or more accurately, founder Mike McCoy says that apart from one more gig in March, this Saturday's show at the Hole in the Wall is the last under that name, which has survived a number of years, several states, and a veritable revolving door of members...

Redheaded Stepchild, who won the Battle of the Bands last Saturday at Westlake High School, is having a CD release party this Saturday at Babe's, 8-9pm. Hope the band doesn't get carded or else it'll be a short soiree...

Donald Lindley had a lot of friends, as an all-star memorial being held for him the Sunday of SXSW (March 21) at Stubb's attests. Lucinda Williams, Terry Allen, Joe Ely, Sexton Sextet, and Henhouse featuring Rosie Flores will ensure that their former drummer will not be forgotten...

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

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More Dancing About Architecture
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Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

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