The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/music/1999-04-16/521787/

Dancing About Architecture

Mourning Becomes Electric

By Ken Lieck, April 16, 1999, Music

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. So once sang Joan Jett, no stranger to the Electric Lounge and 1,000 other clubs like it, each a dirty, noisy hole carved out of a corner somewhere for people who liked dirty, noisy music. There they would assemble and forget the boring school, job, or whatever humdrum beat their daily lives forced them to follow. Those such people who visited the Electric Lounge, however, did get to know what they had before it was gone, as a veritable army of current, former, and in-the-works music scenesters bade farewell to the eclectic Lounge over the last week. After all, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a time of song and a time of much talk and reminiscing. It was a time of large crowds, the kind that, were they dependably frequent, could keep a club solvent pretty much forever. A mini-cassette recorder was passed around and guests committed their fondest memories of the club to tape, to be edited into a gift for the clubowners, while somewhat higher-quality recording equipment captured live performances by some 30-odd bands for a posthumous Lounge CD release. Spoon was the last band to officially perform at the Electric Lounge, while Ed Hamell provided a fitting coda to that warm Saturday night as he sadly wailed a Jimi Hendrix-style national anthem on his plugged-in acoustic guitar. Then, Sunday night, following an event which may truly qualify as the worst-kept secret in town -- a party with the singular goal of consuming all the remaining booze on the premises -- the Electric Lounge closed its doors for the last time, dropping its keys several times before passing out under its car.

Pardon my getting poetic without a license. Somehow those last nights seemed to bring out that side in everyone present. Certainly co-owner Mike Henry's mind and heart were pumping full on when he penned this ode to his Lounge and delivered it at the club's final Poetry Slam.

In Response to the Death of the Electric Lounge

"This is a eulogy for my friend. We can say about him that he has lived well and that he is dying poorly. Not dignified. No graceful acceptance of the inevitable sleep soon to come. No acquiescence for the sake of those around him. Instead, he claws and scraps for each gulp of living air, begs one more visit from those that he loves. This end is too soon. In death we will forgive his faults, how his breath reeked of too many cigarettes, too many beers. Never had a friend that was a building before, and now I have to write it a poem, have to bash my clumsy tongue against the wall's painted clownface, have to explain the things that I cannot. I have to apologize to my friend, for we have pushed the rock up the hill until our strained muscles failed and now a boulder chases us towards the valley until we are smashed flat like a cartoon coyote with a Cheshire grin. The dreams have become math. The bottom line, not the bass line. To the developers and the agents of Progress who will foul this burial ground and build a strip mall, I want to say in my least poetic voice, I hope you fuckin' choke on it, but no -- let us remember that this casket lies open and the eyes of the dead are on us now, and it is for us to pay him honor. We will float the wide river of memory, inescapable and sweet, and retell the stories bigger each time. We will recall Joan Jett screaming "Cherry Bomb," blink fast and see the faces of Link Wray, Jonathan Richman, the Melvins burned black on black behind our eyes. Remember Nashville Pussy destroying and rebuilding us with every riff, oblivious to the two kids fucking jubilantly in the mosh pit, a doggystyle testament to the majesty of rock. Remember Vic Chesnutt telling melancholy truth in a packed house quiet as a church. Remember our days with Wesley Willis, a 400-pound schizophrenic black genius who knows the joke is on all of us, shows his affection by grabbing your shoulders, staring through your eyes and headbutting you with soft taps telling you to "Say Rah" and "Say Raoll" and you do feel better. Remember the Beastie Boys' DJ Mix Master Mike cutting up Rush, the whitest band in the world, turning a rock anthem into mad funk, "a modern day warrior, mean, mean stride, today's Tom Sawyer mean, mean" Pride in What We Have Done Here, in this glorious noise We Have Made will carve my friend into my skin, constant as a shadow, at the same time makes me wonder how do I end this? How can there not be this shimmering silver triangle, this womb backlit neon red where chords smash chests, an icepick to the eyes but soft as sugar, sing me to sleep. Now I have to write it a poem, and I hate this poem. When people die their bodies are buried or burned, but when dreams fall silent in cinderblock walls painted carnival bright they must stand a shell, stripped and empty. And now suddenly we stop and now comes the quiet, filling absence, will fill the corners we splattered with scotch and songs, charades till dawn. (Ironically, that's one of my favorite secret things about this place is the silence that is left at four in the morning after everyone is gone and I sit here in the dark and just listen. Shhh. Listen, keep it with you.) To every hometown hero that has stomped a distortion petal, ripped a G chord, and believed in it, to every string bent, every word whispered by every poet, every necessary glass drained, to everyone who has stood there in the face of this and forgot the rest of the world for a minute -- thank you.

So, goodbye Electric Lounge

less a club, more a clubhouse

for this beautiful tribe.

I will miss your faces in these happy shadows, the art you screamed from our stage,

your poetry scrawled on the bathroom walls, and how it all boiled down

to a single word -- home."


Into the Void

Just as Austin has recovered from the loss of dozens upon dozens of treasured music houses over the years, hope springs eternal that another home for the Lounge's bands, poets, and patrons will appear before too long. Indeed, a new venue not completely unlike the Lounge has just opened in the form of the Red Eyed Fly, and there's already chatter among the Electric personnel of a conglomeration of ex-clubowners and music fans who are already planning to found just such a place. Details are sketchy, and an Eastside location has been discussed, though for his part, Mike Henry will only allow that he's not fond of the Eastside idea, but will definitely end up back in the nightclub biz -- more likely sooner than later. For now, bands are finding other places to play, poets other outlets for their spoken thoughts, as they wait for the hole left by the Electric Lounge to be filled. And, just as the new Liberty Lunch will never be the old Liberty Lunch -- you'll never find yourself in just the right spot and have the light catch your eye in a certain way that makes you recall a King Sunny Ade show where you met your first or second love -- whatever that new club seeks to fill the void is, it won't be the Electric Lounge. We can still hope, though, that it turns out to be a place where we can all meet and laugh and drink and cry when its time, too, reaches last call.


Out Standing in Our Fields

Ah, yes! The hot, sticky Texas summer, which as we all know runs approximately from March through November, is in full flower yet again, and with those bluebonnets on the side of the highway comes outdoor music as well. That means everything from gatherings like Shady Grove's Unplugged series to the monstrous Godzillapalooza-sized rock tours that wend their way about the country in the year's fairer months. Fans of the latter have started sniffing in the direction of South Park Meadows, but despite the venue being bought by Universal last year with big plans set for its future (roof, permanent seats), don't expect a huge increase in activity there quite yet. The Meadows is indeed already gearing up for the season, with 101X's X-Fest set for next Friday, April 23. Tickets are already on sale for the event, which features both national hitmakers from Soul Coughing, Local H, Blink 182, and Sponge on down to local favorites Vallejo, but South Park's Operations and Production Manager Brian Stovall says the major overhaul won't come until late this year. The open-air concert space is expected to host another six to eight shows this summer, of which only one -- Dave Matthews Band on July 25 -- is currently being announced, but Stovall says that despite the fact that they feel the facility is currently just "a little bit run-down," the new owners decided there was "no way to make all the improvements this year and still have a decent season." Thus, look in September or October for the ground-breaking of a new ampitheatre at the Meadows and expect Universal to triple or quadruple this year's number of shows in the 2000 season.

And the Meadows ain't the only outdoor place to rock around Austin, depending on how you define the word "rock." If your definition includes the word "loud," then Auditorium Shores may not count. Nevertheless, the 23rd Annual Free Summer Music Series starts off Sunday, April 25 with Thad Beckman and High Island Hepcats, 5-7pm at the Zilker Hillside Theatre, and Three Balls of Fire and Lisa Tingle on Wednesday April 28, 7-9pm at Auditorium Shores. Shows continue on those days and times through the end of June, with future acts including Steven Fromholz, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Barbara K, Bukka Allen, and numerous others. Sunday, May 2 is the Mother Earth Festival sponsored by the SIMS Foundation with a $10 cover ($5 if you get there before 4pm) with Vallejo, Sunflower, MC Overlord, Steamroller, and special guests Ian Moore and Kevin McKinney. Saturday, April 24, is Eeyore's 36th Birthday, which proudly remains at Pease Park and this year features music from Lisa Tingle, Shatzi, Quatropaw, and Snipe Hunt. Waterloo Brewing Company has their fifth Swap & Bop Flea Market/concert on the 24th as well, from 11am-6pm with the Bells of Joy, Chaparral, Merchants of Venus, Marti Brom & Her Jet-Tone Boys, the Dropouts, and Split Lip Rayfield providing the tuneage. And if all this fun in the sun talk has you screaming, "Yeah, but what's going on this weekend?!?" well, the Sixth Annual Bob Marley Festival extends over both Saturday (noon-11:30pm) and Sunday (noon-10pm), and features all the usual suspects including Root 1, Ragga Massive, Ras Iginga, Tribal Nation, etc., and yes, admission is free (as always, however, you're requested to bring two cans of edibles for the Food Bank). Now, quick, clip-and-save this valuable information. After all, once you've properly "prepared" yourself for a reggae festival, there's no way in Jah's name you're gonna remember the other shows I told you about!

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

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