Dancing About Architecture

The Lost ARC

This week's goodbye is to the much-beloved Austin Rehearsal Complex, which, as we reported here previously, recently won a lawsuit against their landlord, leading ironically enough -- to their own closing. The story in a nutshell is this: The owners of the building had kept their tenants from expanding, which the ARC felt was a violation of their lease. They filed suit and won, but only after a protracted battle had drained finances on both sides and forced the owners to sell the building in order to pay court costs and damages, thus sealing the ARC's fate once and for all. Co-owner Wayne Nagel says that, like Mike Henry in last issue's farewell to the Electric Lounge, he felt that the only way he could properly say goodbye was with a poem. Okay, actually I coerced him into it for the sake of a cheap joke, but here it is anyway:

"There once was a place called the ARC,

where bands rehearsed and made their mark.

Despite their hard work,

the landlord was a jerk,

and after nine years the ARC went dark."

Brings a tear to your eye, don't it? After Friday, with the final echoes of the last note, Nagel will work on opening a music supply operation under the title ARC Jr. (despite the fact that the new business won't actually be a rehearsal complex) and return to the field of booking after a 15-year absence, joining Davis McLarty's agency and bringing acts Tosca and Soul Hat into the fold.

Buttholes & Butterflies Are Free

Speaking of fighting with your landlord, the Chicago Reader reports that the Butthole Surfers' lawsuit against Touch & Go Records regarding ownership of the band's back catalog ended in victory for the Butts in federal appeals court on March 26, but don't expect to see the band members out celebrating. The piece reveals details about the case, showing it to be yet another ugly turn on what seems to be an endless highway of label troubles for the band, who remain at an impasse with Capitol Records regarding the release of their long-completed After the Astronaut album. In the Touch & Go case, the band sought to terminate a verbal contract they had made with the label in the mid-Eighties, saying that the circumstances of the deal were no longer acceptable to the band; the label received 50% of profits for its efforts, which made sense to a young band looking for aid and exposure, but not to the now well-known Surfers. The band technically won the case, says the Reader, because their contract for those releases didn't specify an end date, but they suggest things might have gone differently if things had been in writing.

Contacted by the Chronicle, Butthole drummer King Coffey said he had no official comment to make on the Reader's article, but those close to the band say that it has upset them considerably; while the piece itself is fairly evenhanded (you can read it online at http://www.chireader.com/music/butthole.html), the layout and editorial choice of quotes to highlight tend to paint the band as the bad guys in the case. According to the Butts, though, legal action wasn't sought until it became evident that Touch & Go owner Corey Rusk was ignoring attempts at contact by their then-manager Tom Bunch. Rusk says he couldn't believe the band, with whom he had dealt personally in the past, would communicate through a third party regarding such an important matter, and admits he was "stubborn" in not replying until he heard from the band members personally. By that time, unfortunately, the Butts felt the need to take more drastic action.

The banner issue raised in the Reader article is the notion that the Butts' victory sets a precedent that might lead to the end of the common practice of using verbal agreements in indie rock circles. In speaking to other recording artists in similar positions, however, they find little evidence that any such revolution is in progress. David Sims of TheJesus Lizard, for instance, which like the Butts moved from Touch & Go to Capitol, is quoted as saying the Jesus Lizard records Rusk released will always belong to Touch & Go. In addition, Sims recently told the Chronicle that with the Lizard now off Capitol, there's also talk of a new "best of" collection from T&G. (And with that band currently on hiatus, he adds that he's currently "still looking for people to play with.") Neither party in the case seems to worry about an avalanche of lawsuits hitting the industry, with Coffey calling the situation "very unusual" and Rusk labeling it a "freak occurrence."

However unpleasant the procedure, the decision to get full ownership of their back catalog rights will probably turn out to be a wise one for the Surfers, especially given the band's questionable present and future. As far as that present, the band is currently pressing up a limited number of copies of each of the six former Touch & Go releases on their own Latino Buggerveil label to ensure their continued availability (those should be available in June), all nicely repackaged and sonically improved. The Surfers have also signed an exclusive Net deal with www.CDuctive.com, a service on the Web that allows customers to make their own mix CDs. CDuctive's library includes tracks from Coffey's solo project Drain, former Butt Jeff Pinkus' band Daddy Longhead, and tunes from Trance Syndicate acts like Paul Newman, Roky Erickson, and Starfish. Meanwhile, Emperor Jones Records, formerly the sister label of the now-defunct Trance (and which, like the still-in-print Trance catalog, is still distributed through Touch & Go), continues on at its promised relaxed pace, with only one release planned for summer. The American Analog Set's The Golden Band is due in stores on July 4, with the title lifted from a Randy Travis song. One can only hope that the band is capable of reproducing on disc the majesty of their live shows -- especially the afternoon SXSW gig at Club DeVille, where a pair of monarch butterflies, engaged in passionate, violent lovemaking, managed to completely upstage the band for a good portion of the show.

Brian's Song

It's not only the Butts, of course; Austinites and record labels have a long history of getting along like armadillos and 18-wheelers, and the current situation with Daniel Johnston's oft-delayed Rejected/Unknown album is making producer Brian Beattie all the more confident in his plans to start his own label. Beattie says he's "thoroughly annoyed" regarding Portland's Tim/Kerr Records handling (or not handling) of Johnston's album, and while he loathes getting sucked into the business end of things, he's "sick of waiting for people to get their shit together!" Rejected is not yet slated to end up on Beattie's label, but since Tim/Kerr has apparently pressed a number of copies of the album and the number of pre-orders is reportedly up to around 4,500, both Beattie and Johnston are discussing the idea of purchasing some of the existing stock from the label for self-distribution. Likely to appear on Beattie's label are Seela's upcoming disc and solo efforts from both Beattie and his former Glass Eye partner Kathy McCarty, not to mention possibly even Wammo's Beattie-produced album; Beattie says the first three may come out before the end of the year. McCarty recently made news with label problems of her own. A recent piece in one of New Times' newsweeklies tells the grisly tale of how the Beastie Boys' label Grand Royal requested she showcase for Mike D. at SXSW 99, setting up her appearance only 10 days before the conference, then announcing that Mark Kates (former Geffen A&R man responsible for Beck) would be taking D.'s place in the audience. In the end, Kates blew off attending the show and nothing came of the label's supposed interest. As far as releasing her next album on Beattie's label, McCarty says things aren't concrete, but that the small, simple operation would be "great for artists who sell the number of records we do -- around 10,000 [copies per album]. Instead of getting no money, we'll get some!"

Mixed Notes

Today (Thursday) marks the debut of Mango's on the Drag, as the restaurant begins its series of outdoor shows in its 1,500-person capacity Sunset Ampitheatre. Personally, I never doubted music would fly at this location until I saw the sign out front touting Mango's "tasty lunches" and "the Scabs" in the same sentence. Echh! Anyhow, the aforementioned Scabs, with Honey Brown, will play Crawfest '99, an event recently relocated from San Marcos, there this evening beginning at 5pm. The venue's official Sunday afternoon classic rock events kick off with the Little River Band on May 22 ...

The recent projections in this column on what was likely to occur with ARC Angels reunions in the coming months were mostly on the mark, but here's the official word now that it's been announced: Two local dates are scheduled for May, with the Dessau Music Hall pegged on the 21st and La Zona Rosa on the 22nd, with a hop up to Fort Worth for a two-night stand at the Caravan of Dreams (5/25-26) and a still-in-the-works Houston date, probably at the Ariel Theatre to follow. Not long after that, look for Doyle Bramhall II to be touring as part of a Pink Floyd cover band; he'll be guitarist for Roger Waters on his "In the Flesh" tour this fall. No dates anywhere near here yet, but another leg of the tour set for spring of 2000 will be announced later ...

Rolling Stone's SXSW 99 coverage boils down to (local) coverage on an odd pairing of Austin bands, ST-37 and Tosca...

If the Internet is the future of music, Austin's already there. A pair of e-mails (naturally) tell me that local jazz purveyors Blue Millennium were the featured "Artist Buzz" band last Monday at http://www.billboardtalentnet.com, and also as of that day, the song "Wish You Were Here" by Austin's Blushing Brides was #24 on MP3's national Pop/Rock singles chart. The single also made # 8 on the Texas chart and # 3 in Austin ...

Okay, you didn't really think there would only be one Bob Marley fest this year did you? Actually, it's a film festival of sorts I'm referring to, as Marley biographer/completist/world-renowned expert on all things Tuff Goff Roger Steffens presents two hours of unreleased film and video of the man at the Flamingo Cantina this Sunday at 8pm (with Jamaican food served from 6-8pm) ...

Okay, one last reminder: Eeyore's 36th Birthday Party is this Saturday at Pease Park, 11am until dark. Music starts at noon and features Lisa Tingle, Schatzi, Quatropaw, and Snipe Hunt. Admission, as always, is free, but make sure you don't use up the last of your stash Friday night, and given that the Marley thing is Sunday, don't let the donkey consume all of it on Saturday ...

Contributors: Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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More Dancing About Architecture
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The last installment of "Dancing About Architecture."

Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

So Long, Slug
So Long, Slug

Ken Lieck, Dec. 20, 2002


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