Dancing About Architecture

Exit, Stage Left

With a little over a month left before Liberty Lunch becomes history, other venerable nightspots are also making their final farewells. Notable among those departures, Sixth Street mainstay Wylie's has faded into the sunset as of this week. The popular belief is that Bob Popular plans to expand into the space, but BP's Mark Shaeberg says that though he had looked into doing so, Wylie's owners decided to take another offer, which appears to involve another well-known Sixth Street businessman. The longtime establishment had been up for sale for some time, and is hardly the only spot where changes are afoot on and around Sixth; several long-dormant buildings in the district are showing signs of life, with talk of a hotel taking up a whole block at Fifth and Neches, and Planet Austin bearing a sign saying it's soon to move to a "better location." Ironically, there's one address that shows no sign of any activity: yep, the Bates Motel space, which was divested of said punk club in favor of a more upscale renter. Former Bates manager Randall Stockton looked into the matter, saying that while it took a long time, behind the seemingly abandoned facade there's a "shitload of stuff going on" toward opening what will likely be a pub at that address. Things are still nebulous as far as the appearance of a new Bates any time soon, but Stockton says he's got several irons in the fire. For the time being, Stockton will begin putting on some shows at Trophy's (2008 S. Congress). "I don't think they want to go punk completely," he says, but last Friday's Voltage show has apparently convinced the club's owner that rock will go over well there.

Down at the Sixth and Red River axis, it looks like there's a war going on, what with the roofless space next to Emo's now opened up with a huge Spiros banner above its maw; the area currently looks like a disused corner of Oz but is tapped to become a parking lot for Spiros. Spiro himself says his intention is to expand into the unoccupied building next to his club, which he owns, in the next few months. Meanwhile, work is finally going on toward renovating the southwest corner of the block where Tropical Isle (and the dancing hand grenade) last stood. Word has it that a steakhouse will take the bottom floor, with one neighboring businessman saying some area folks are up in arms over rumors that the upstairs will be used as a "flophouse" by Caritas homeless services. A spokesman for Caritas informed the Chronicle that the service is moving their facilities to 611 Neches, and that they're not in the least bit amused by the term "flophouse." We've since learned that a privately owned 80-bed youth hostel is slated for the building's top floor.

Finally, what's up with the Purgatory Lounge? That's hard to say. The streets are rife with tales of the owners' personal problems, the club's day-to-day existence, and some local bands' experiences waiting on the sidewalk wondering if they've got a show that night or not. The club's phone has been disconnected, but manager Kathryn Kinchlow's answering machine at home greets callers with a message that the club is "back in business," and "should be open Monday through Saturday from approximately 9pm until we decide to close." The club's actual schedule for the last week was closer to part of Thursday and for a few minutes on Tuesday. The place hasn't been cleared out, at any rate, with a source who's been keeping an eye on the situation saying the Purg will probably remain on a sporadic schedule for the time being, so it appears they still have a little fight left. If not, Spiros says they're interested in the space.


Fastball More the Richer

It looks like you can put away the book of one-hit wonders, as it appears Fastball won't be making it in after all. After having made some middlin' ripples with "Fire Escape" as a follow-up to "The Way," the charts and a full-page ad in industry magazine R&R this week finds the band's piano ballad "Out of My Head" going for the wall, and the third swing from the already-platinum All the Pain Money Can Buy album seems hitbound. Using Billboard charts, R&R places the Tony Scalzo tune at #15 on their Modern Adult Contemporary Monitor, #19 on the Adult Top 40 Monitor, #23 on their Top 40 Monitor, and #14 on their AAA Monitor, the list of stations adding the song to their playlists being far too long to list here. The key issue is that while "The Way" began as a Modern Rock (aka 101X) hit before "crossing over," the new song is starting right off the bat in the far more lucrative Top 40 field -- and doing so before the band and label have had a real chance to get behind promoting it. The band is currently in L.A. shooting a video for the song and preparing to tour with the Goo Goo Dolls and Sugar Ray.

The Fastball gang have been hanging out with the famous and almost famous, Scalzo and Miles Zuniga doing some singing for the Spin Doctors while their vocalist is ill (the Doctors are keeping their radio commitments by using guest vocalists at scheduled on-air appearances), hanging with the likes of Sammy Hagar and Prince, and running into Stevie Wonder in an airport ("I waved at him," admits Scalzo, much to Zuniga's amusement). Still, it would appear they'll be hard-pressed to top the honor their fellow ex-Austin-area hitmakers Sixpence None the Richer recently received when their hit "Kiss Me" was included in the worldwide broadcast of Saturday's wedding of Prince Charles' brother Edward to Sophie Rhys-Jones at Windsor Castle. Steve Taylor, founder of SNtR's label Squint Records, points out that, "Tradition has it that someone close to a betrothed couple should present the bride with a lucky sixpence. We at Squint think very highly of that tradition."


It's Not Over Till the Fat Boy Spins

Those rushing to the Austin Music Hall on Friday after seeing the American-Statesman's"Best Bet" plug for the Community Service Tour (Orbital, Crystal Method, Lo-Fidelity All-Stars, John Helley) were, needless to say, disappointed, as that show doesn't actually take place until July 16. Luckily, the next big techno show at the Hall had been plugged in XL the previous day despite the fact that the show was already sold-out. A crowd of 2,776 caught Fat Boy Slim at the Hall Saturday, say the folks at Direct Events; the Hall officially holds closer to 3,000, but Slim's unique in-the-round stage setup took up more space than the standard type. Those who thought they'd like a breath of fresh air during the show weren't necessarily so fortunate, however, as the fire marshal was among those in attendance, and at one point called for the doors to be shut, leaving those who were out in the heat out in the cold. One Chronicle reporter who found himself stuck in front of the Hall (but later managed to sneak back in a side door) says the marshal declared that some 6,000 people were in the club, then later revised the figure down to 5,000. Though accompanied by a number of APD officers, the marshal wisely decided that attempting to shut down the show would likely cause a riot. In the end, after counting every single person as they left the show, he was satisfied that the Music Hall hadn't exceeded their capacity, and no citations were issued.

Slim is apparently quite a fan of Austin, as the gig was one of only three U.S. stops on this "tour," choosing the Music Hall gig over a KROQ Weenie Roast featuring everyone from Kid Rock to Metallica to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Those danceaholics who were lucky enough to get into the show saw Fatboy in a Spurs #50 jersey (David Robinson's number, our sports department tells me), and offering what some would describe as a "give it your all" performance. At least that's why David Knott at Spiros (them again!) says Slim was invited, but didn't make it to, that club's Sunday DJ house party. Those close to the artist kept calling and claiming he was going to come, Knott says, but in the end "the poor guy just partied too hard" on Saturday night and was still resting the next evening. Direct Events, meanwhile, maintains Slim was never scheduled to appear at Spiros and the whole deal was hype manufactured by the club, just as other sources report that Fatboy was well enough Sunday at 9:30pm to be at 101X broadcasting the syndicated call-in show "Modern Rock Live" (which 101X doesn't actually carry because Andy Langer is on the air at that time). In any case, Slim and Spiros house DJ/Texas Electronica Festival rep DJ Atlas managed to have a nice chat at Stubb's prior to the Music Hall show.


Mixed Notes

What is it with the Netherlands? First our own Monroe Mustang gets invited to play in the Hague at the Crossing Border Festival, October 7-9 (with the Mountain Goats, Damon & Naomi, and Damien Jurado, among others), and now Correo Aereo are heading to Amsterdam for Moondive, an international media project that includes a concert broadcast this Sunday via Radio 3 and the Internet. When they return in mid-July, the duo begin work on a new CD... The job of Texas Music Office head Casey Monahan isn't all long, tiring trips to Paris for MIDEM. This week, for instance, he was in Miami for MIDEM America, a Latin music-based spinoff convention. Monahan's among a handful of Texans in attendance (musically, Austin will be represented by Vallejo) and will be gathering info for the TMO's Texas Music International Tip Sheet. He says if he makes around 40-50 new contacts in South and Central America and the Caribbean, he'll consider the trip a success. The new information will make it into the Tip Sheet by mid-July, and those interested should call the TMO at 512/463-6666... Things are staying busy at Thirty Three Degrees; Friday at 8pm, Windsor for the Derby fête their new CD Young Gods, then Saturday the Sons of Hercules and Jeweled Handles play at 3 and 5pm respectively to celebrate their own new discs... Bid farewell to Fringeware on the Drag, which often showcased bands and unusual performers on weekends. The strange little bookstore goes out quietly with a "wake" this Friday, 9pm-midnight, featuring music by Futura. Someone will likely remain at the counter until the end of the month, or until the last piece of heavily discounted merchandise walks out the door, whichever comes first...


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

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The last installment of "Dancing About Architecture."

Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

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