Dancing About Architecture

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lunch

There's been talk. There's been press. There've been umpteen meetings and public hearings. But it's today (Thursday) that's set as the day Austin's City Council finally cast its vote on matters CSC and Liberty Lunch, and frankly, things don't look good for those who want to keep the Lunch where it is. Our politics department tells me that last Thursday's public hearing was pretty much a same-ol'-same-ol' affair, while the folks at the Lunch say none of them even bothered to attend. Tonight, I can assure you they'll be there, however, as should anyone interested in the future of downtown Austin -- assuming things actually go as scheduled, an assumption that this writer, for one, is not taking for granted. At this point, though, it's safe to say the Lunch crew is prepared to pack their bags. Last week's meeting of the Austin Music Commission, meanwhile, revealed that the board voted down a request to recommend that the city loan $400,000 to Liberty Lunch in order for the club to share the proposed Red River site (on the same block as Stubb's) with the long-in-the-planning Texas Music Museum. The commission, says board member Danny Crooks, is not enthusiastic about inclusion of the museum in the plans, as it would mean the TMM would be open to the public throughout the clubs' business hours, and the commission has qualms about "1,500 drunk people throwing bottles through glass cases." Crooks says that the commission may still decide to recommend loaning the Lunch (sans museum) a lesser amount, but notes that he doesn't expect any such loan to be too popular, as "Everybody loves Liberty Lunch, but they're complaining that if we've got $400K to give out, why not give it to [battered women's center] SafePlace, instead of to a business that can get their own loan?" (By the way, Crooks says his own club, Steamboat, is currently doing extremely well financially, but once the new three-month extension on his lease expires, he's only "hoping" his landlord will renew). Sources say Mayor Kirk Watson would like nothing better than to announce at the council meeting that the Lunch has settled on a new location, and while the club's J'Net Ward says "intent" is there as far as a deal for the Red River lot, nothing has been formalized.

One done deal is the forthcoming closure of the Electric Lounge, and a good look at the eyes of co-owners Mike Henry, Jay Hughey, and Mark Shuman reveals that bags are already packed. Nevertheless, they'll be bustin' ass during the last 10 days of the club's existence, recording a live compilation (which looks to be a 2-CD whopper), featuring Lounge favorites like this Sunday's lineup of Brown Whörnet, Daniel Johnston, Peenbeets, Enduro, and that of the final night -- Saturday, April 10 -- featuring Spoon, Wannabes, SXIP, and the final return of Hamell on Trial.


On the Air and in the Red

Back to the Music Commission: They did vote in favor of recommending one large loan from the city at that meeting last week. Who would be the recipient, if not the venerable Lunch? Why, it would be the music venue that comes to you: the Austin Music Network. The beleaguered, privatized "new" AMN, which the city budgeted at a half million dollars for year one, $200,000 for year two, and $100,000 for year three before being cut loose on its own, has already come dangerously close to using up its entire first year's budget in less than six months, and like any broke young'un, has been lobbying for an advance on its allowance. Crooks says the commission has agreed to recommend that the city give the network its second year's budget now. "Hopefully, that will last them three or four months," says Crooks, giving the AMN time to increase their advertising income to a survivable level. "If not," he shrugs,"I guess that's the end of the Music Network." AMN Communications Director Jim Ellinger is quick to point out "the Network's projected expenses are right on the money," countering the general view that AMN has been squandering its initial resources. "It's our [advertising] revenues that aren't where they should be," he insists. This column, you may recall, raised the question of how much interest advertisers would have in the channel before the current AMN was even born, and so far the answer has been "not enough." Despite a gung-ho attitude and far better variety and selection of videos than anyone could've predicted, AMN still looks basically like an access channel, and looks count for a lot in the ad biz. Still, Ellinger says South by Southwest was "very good" for AMN and that March was their best advertising month so far, as well as there being a number of deals in the works over the next 90 days, especially with beer companies. One advantage AMN has here is that such companies have large ad budgets aimed at the Spanish-speaking market, and, says Ellinger, "not enough outlets to spend that money on." As a result, AMN's Sin Fronteras and other Spanish-language programming could well be its salvador. The city actually has to vote to accept the commission's recommendation next week before the money can resume flowing, but Ellinger is confident: "Even if the council decides to ignore the recommendation of the majority of the Music Commission," he insists, "AMN will continue on. I have no doubt." And soon, no cameras, no editing machines, no ....


Moore Label Trouble

What gives Ian Moore the blues? Probably his history with the record industry. His signing to EMI came on the eve of restructuring that led to his departure without recording a note, there was another ruckus during his Capricorn days, and now his latest label, New York-based Velvel, has gone belly up. Moore manager Jan Mirkin refutes that the label is already DOA, but says she understands that the majority of the Velvel staff has been dismissed without severance pay, and more importantly, Moore, his band, and the studio are among numerous entities the label has failed to compensate for services rendered. The situation could be worse, though; Moore's recently completed (but yet unmixed) tapes for his Velvel debut remain here in town, and even under his contract with Velvel, he's not restricted from releasing material on his own Hablador imprint. Mirkin says such facts give her hope of getting people paid and finding the tapes "a new home at a nice, stable company."


Mixed Notes

Miles Zuniga was recently spotted south of the border, possibly on the lookout for a band called "Fastball MEX," but mainly to record a duet with Nydia Rojas. We're assuming that ex-Arista Austin rep Cameron Randle, now at Hollywood Records, had something to do with that, and while we're on the subject of ex-Arista-crats, Steve Schnur, now at Capitol, is apparently behind the signing of locals Dexter Freebish to that label...

This reminds me. If you're looking for info on labels, venues, etc. that are still in the Lone Star State of mind, remember that the Office of the Governor's 1999 Texas Music Industry Directory is now out. For info, call the TMO at 512/463-6666, e-mail music@governor.state.tx.us, fax 512/463-4114, or visit the TMO Web site at http://www.governor.state.tx.us/music...

Remember Poi Dog Pondering? Bossman Frank Orrall may have forsaken Austin for Chicago umpteen years ago, but he must still have some fans because Billboard just ran a cover feature (!) on recent lineup changes for the band, which more often resembles a revolving door than a group. Among the inmates still left from the Austin days, violinist Susan Voelz is staying, while Dave Max Crawford has elected to finally say "aloha" to the act. Oh, yeah, Orrall also told Billboard the revamped band would be taking a new direction, which is about as surprising as being told the same about a bumper car...

The Ugly Americans say that, "Having fulfilled our two-record agreement, we have kindly asked Capricorn Records to release us, and they acquiesced." The split with Capricorn frees up the band's alter ego the Scabs to start releasing material they can do more with than just sell at their live shows, and the guys aren't missing a beat. They were in the studio mixing with John Croslin even before the schism, and they already have copies of the oh-so-originally-titled More Than a Feeling out...

Red Headed Stranger joke of the week goes to Jay Leno for his crack that, with science having produced a rectal suppository for medical marijuana, "Willie Nelson is sitting on a gold mine!"...

Remember the lawsuit that Texas blues brothers Johnny and Edgar Winter filed against DC Comics for the Jonah Hex miniseries that featured characters reportedly based on the Winters? The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund recently issued a statement that the musicians' claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress have all been dismissed by the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The comic's creators, including Texan Joe L. Lansdale, contended that the use of the Winters' images was a tribute, but the brothers found it less than flattering to have their faces plastered on a pair of inbred twin villains who were revealed in the comic to be zombies, murderers, and (literally) pig-fuckers. One of the real Winter brothers -- Johnny -- will be plick-plucking at Antone's Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (see "Calendar")...

Fans of Angus Young can bring cards and gifts to the Flamingo Cantina this Saturday as SINIS, Supagroup, Pure Rubbish, and Dr. Jellyfinger salute the AC/DC legend's birthday. The SINIS crew will then send the accumulated gifties to Angus himself. Most anything is considered appropriate; long pants, however, will be returned unopened...

Tonight's showing of TheThief of Baghdad with music by the 1001 Nights Orchestra is sold out, so the Alamo Drafthouse has added a Saturday show at 4pm. Look for Charlie Chaplin's City Lights with musical accompaniment by Glover Gill in the future, and if any of you local musicians has an attachment to the Lon Chaney/Joan Crawford vehicle, give the folks at the theatre a call...

Remember the Al Frank art theft from Emo's last week? Well, an anonymous return of the canvases is scheduled for later this week, but club-related thefts continue this week with some nearsighted ne'er-do-well taking advantage of guitarist Derek O'Brien's open trunk as he was loading into Antone's last week, and made off with -- wait for it -- a huge bag of his dirty laundry! It could've been worse for O'Brien, I suppose, but considering he barely has a change of clothes to his name, he's currently lower on everyone's wedding invitation lists than, say, Caryl P. Weiss...


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

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