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Dancing About Architecture

Jazzed Off

By Ken Lieck, June 11, 1999, Music

You've heard the slogan "June Is Jazz Month," right? Well, for the past few mornings, the Mercury's Mark Collins has most likely been thrown awake in a cold sweat with that phrase ringing in his ears. The Sixth Street club's manager was the promoter of last weekend's broadly titled Austin Music Festival, the first half of which, Saturday's Organ Summit at Antone's, attracted a respectable crowd. Such was definitely not the case at the Backyard for Sunday's prestigious Tito Puente show. With an audience our Music editor estimates was 350 people at the show's peak (Collins claims around 700-750), and considering the amount of guarantee demanded by an artist of Puente's stature (he was a superstar even before he co-starred in the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" episode of the Simpsons), it appears almost certain that Collins lost his ass on this one. Que pasó? Well, there's the fact that Puente played a well-attended, high-profile gig at the Bass Concert Hall in February. Then there's the long drive to the Backyard. "It was too far out there and the tickets were too high," confesses Collins, who currently has a great deal of respect for hindsight. Still, he says, after hearing many people complain about the restrictive seating policies at the hugely successful Bass show, he says he believed he could find 1,500 people to enjoy an outdoor show by Puente and that "$10 more didn't seem that much to ask with three other world-class bands" on the bill. He's especially disappointed in the low percentage of Latin attendees, despite heavy advertising aimed at that community. Fortunately, Collins says that the acts and their managers were pleasant and helpful, everybody got paid, and his investors still want to go ahead with his five-year plan for the annual (or perhaps even twice-a-year) event. One investor, Collins jokes, explained that the disappointing figures for the Puente show "'means you can't quit -- I own your ass!'"

Another local promoter with intimate knowledge of the phrase "June Is Jazz Month" and what it means to lose one's shirt betting on that propostion is Harold McMillan, whose long-running Austin Jazz and Heritage Festival held court over Jazz Month until this year. "I took 'June Is Jazz Month' to heart for many years," says McMillan, adding that people had begged him during that time to hold the long-running outdoor affair later in the year due to the blazing Texas summer heat. "But I always said that with good, progressive acts, people will come. However, it literally is hotter in June now than when I started in 1989!" Last year, those few who came to the AJ&H fest got to enjoy such delights as 67-year-old Ray Barretto putting on a fine performance while battling 109° heat -- the hottest temperature for that day of the year since such records have been kept. This year, after finally breaking down and trading the June heat "for the threat of hurricane season," McMillan decided to move his 1999 jazz fest to September 12-19. Only later did he learn that someone else had decided to move in on his old turf. "I was hoping to hear that Mark Collins had great crowds and made lots of money," says McMillan, who attended Saturday's Antone's show, but not Sunday's Tito-tal disaster. If he had been at the latter, one would have forgiven him if he'd fallen to his knees muttering, "Thank God it wasn't me this time!"

Collins now talks of moving his next June festto the less-blistering days of May, while perhaps holding a second gathering in October, probably with less of a jazz focus. Meanwhile, even with the move to September, McMillan admits his own show is "on its last legs," though he hopes to find success by focusing on local artists, boosted by appearances by rising artists from the Blue Note Records stable. (He's not naming names, but says it's someone who'll be releasing an album on the world-class jazz label in September, which means Mark Shim, Don Byron, James Hurt, and Stefon Harris, for example, fit McMillan's description.) In the meantime, he's getting the Bombay Room, above the Clay Pit at 16th & Guadalupe, set up as a major venue for the fest, as well as for regular showcases of various styles of jazz and classical Indian music, beginning with a concert of the latter on June 27. "It's all about comfort," says McMillan of the Bombay Room, "and I guess I'm an old guy now, because to me that means having seating available." That, and keeping the thermostat set well below 109.

Fifty Ways to Lose Your Lunch

"If you ask Pace [Concerts], I'm already gone,"says Liberty Lunch's J-net Ward of the venue's impending, irrevocable demise. "If you ask the city, they want me out on August 1." Attempting to play it safe, Ward decided to make July 22-24 the Lunch's last big hurrah weekend, with artists like Davíd Garza, Doctors Mob, Soulhat, and others filling the three nights of festivities. That's when Ward got a call from a band wanting to play July 29, so now there may be yet another final Lunch adventure, Ward identifying the nameless last act only as a regionally popular touring act. "It's not Green Day or anything," she shrugs. Either way, the end of July looks to also be the end of an era. Ward says she understands that the city has told the Computer Sciences Corporation (who are moving in after the Lunch becomes history) to expect the block to be cleared by August 15. As far as the new beginning, Ward says that crews begin next week on the new Lunch being built on Red River next door to Stubb's; she's hopeful New Year's or early January will see the christening of the new venue. In the six months between Lunch buildings, look for various "Liberty Lunch Presents" shows around town -- most of them at Stubb's, she notes, though the city also says it will help by "making other locations available." How 'bout that space next to the old Schneider General Store?

Between a Cock and a Hard Place

With Ministry's album Dark Side of the Spoonout this week, Al Jourgensen's former Revolting Cocks associate Phil "Phildo" Owen reports that the new lineup of his Skatenigs is also set to get things rolling with their first live show as a four-piece (aside from a SXSW spot last March) at La Zona Rosa next week (opening for Soak) as the 'Nigs continue working on their own new album, The Money Shot. Interestingly enough, "Bad Blood," the Ministry track that appeared in advance of Dark Side on the Matrix soundtrack album, is said to be about rivalries among Jourgensen's Texas compadres. So, is there any dirt on Owen and the 'Nigs, who opened for Ministry on several tours, and whose Stupid People Shouldn't Breed albumwas anonymously produced by Jourgensen, in the song? Well, Phildo says that while there was a small "incident" between Jourgensen and himself in the past, he doesn't think the song is in reference to him, and "if it is, it's real loose." In checking up on a few other local bands of the loud and hard variety, like Terminal 46, who've recently been asked to cut a track for a Ministry tribute album and will release their own new CD, Very Still Life, in July or August, and Human, who are taking a six-week break for a band member's wedding, then hitting the road in August, I found some tentative belief that the song concerns an argument between Jourgensen and Owen at Emo's. There's the matter of the usual difficulty of deciphering Jourgensen's words to factor in here (I've failed to make out much more than snippets like, "White lies, it's no surprise!"), and in the end Owen reports not getting any calls asking him to be involved in further RevCo recordings any time soon.

Mixed Notes

I've said the Butthole Surfers have been recording, but I never said what they were recording, did I? Well, besides their cover of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Hot Town (Summer in the City)," due for release on an upcoming compilation, I'm told that among their newest efforts area rap tune called "Shit Like That" and a song withBeach Boys-ish harmonies. Latest word from the rumor mill is that most if not all the material on the aborted After the Astronaut will end up scrapped by the time the Butts next present us with a full-length slab... Nothing's solid yet, but lest you think the Austin City Limits crew has forgotten about their discussions with Tom Waits about having him tape a segment, ACL reps say that they're continuing talks with Waits, and that yes, he very much wants to do it. The bad news is that Waits, who is traversing Europe at the moment, doesn't currently have a Texas leg planned for his tour. For those who like their oddball songsters less gruff and more cuddly, "likely" is the word ACLers are using to describe the odds on an appearance by Jonathan Richman on the show this season... Hip-hop in Austin? The Compounds and Elements Texas Hip-Hop Convocation runs this Saturday, 3-10pm, at the Pan Am Recreation Center Ampitheatre at Fourth and Chicon. Featuring local performers, the expo is open to the public with a $5 donation requested... The Black Cat empire continues to move forward, even after the tragic passing of Paul Sessums last year. This week, widow Roberta St. Paul marries entrepreneur Terry Pipes on the beach in Palacios, where the new Black Cat Cafe is set to open on the June 19. Son Martian, whose own wedding is set to occur at a biker convention in August, tells me that directions to his mom's wedding (with music provided by Flametrick Subs) can be found on the front of Austin's Black Cat and that the sister music venue in Palacios is set to open sometime around the beginning of the new year... Stella Bowes at the Carousel Lounge is celebrating her birthday there this Friday, with Ted Roddy providing the entertainment. Frequent Carousel act Merchants of Venus are playing their last-ever gig that same night at the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs at Guadalupe and 24th... Billboard's country section was filled with Austin items last week, touting the Far Cry From Dead set of recently discovered Townes Van Zandt tracks due from Arista Austin label on June 29, and talking up Bruce Robison's Long Way Home From Anywhere, coming from Sony Nashville's Lucky Dog imprint on July 13. Robison, along with brother Charlie and Jack Ingram, starts the Lucky Dog Tour in September... Farewell this week to the 73-year-old Mel Tormé, who passed away in Hollywood on Saturday. For those of you who thought he was too mellow in his lifetime role as the "Velvet Fog," check him out going totally bugfuck crazy as Mickey Rooney's sucker brother in Rod Serling's The Comedian. Vulcan has a copy. It is the most intense thing you'll ever see on a TV screen. Trust me on this...

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

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