Dancing About Architecture

Youth in Crisis

There were already a good half-dozen copies of the same message, sent by everyone from Travis Higdon to Mike Watt, waiting on my e-mail when I came in Monday morning, all starting with the same bummer introduction: "Hello all, this is Lee [Ranaldo] from Sonic Youth here, we have had a fucked up situation come down on us over this last night." That "fucked up situation" was the theft of a brand-new Ryder truck parked at a Ramada Inn in Orange County with all of the band's stuff inside. The news, which has spread quickly via the Internet, has so far failed to turn up any of the band's gear, but has brought a groundswell of support from musicians offering instruments and help finding the stolen gear, which Ranaldo describes as "mostly older and either very modified and/or fucked up/beat up [instruments]. They are unmistakably ours, as are some of the amps, including my own 60s Fender Concert with the red/blue/yellow 'Jasper Johns-style' target on it. Help us out if you can, there will be a reward for any info, I'm sure."

Attendees at the band's first post-theft show, on July 4 in Irvine, California, report that the set was dominated by songs from the late Eighties Evol/Sister period, such as "Tom Violence," "Shadow of a Doubt," "Expressway," and "Death Valley 69." One California fan says that "the preshow scramble to tune the 20 or so borrowed guitars was unbelievable," adding that the show was good, but yes, there were delays between songs as the band adapted to their unfamiliar equipment. The more optimistic SY fans out there are already trumpeting the band's misfortune as the dawn of a new era for the group, which has built its entire reputation and career on innovation and change. While such good cheer over the theft by the band members themselves is most likely still some time away, they're definitely coping quickly and well with their troubles. Liberty Lunch's J'net Ward says that when she called Musicmakers with the news that the band would need to rent equipment but that she didn't have a list, their reply was, "That's all right -- we do." Musical needs having been met, only the band's diet remains an issue: "We've got 10 pounds of organic carrots here," Ward told the Chronicle, "so if you've got a juicer, bring it on down." Due to the deadlines of a weekly paper, by the time you read this, you'll have already had one chance to see what the band can do with strange instruments (and vegetables) in their hands. At press time, I can't tell you how it went, but I can say that I'll probably see you tonight (Thursday) at the second show.

Actually, this hasn't started off as a good week for music, in Austin or anywhere, for that matter. There were deaths to contend with, such as the sudden expiration of Morphine singer Mark Sandman, who suffered a heart attack and died onstage in Rome on Saturday night. I had the unpleasant experience of getting the news by phone that night and announcing it to a couple of ex-Electric Lounge personnel (and friends of the 47-year-old musician) in the middle of viewing the videotape of the Lounge's final evening, making for a real depression-fest at the house, let me tell you. Steve Marangi, longtime fixture on the Austin music scene and regular attendee at clubs from the Hole in the Wall to Antone's, also died this week at the age of 51 after a short battle with cancer. Friends will gather to remember him this coming Tuesday at the Toni Price happy hour show at the Continental Club.


Living the Ugly Life

Members of the Ugly Americans and their legal representatives are all keeping mum, but rumor has it that there could be a lawsuit on their behalf regarding a tune on the megahit self-titled album by Ricky Martin, which bears some resemblance to the Ugly Ones' minor hit "Boom Boom Baby." The Martin song, "Shake Your Bom-Bom," was written by the team of Desmond Child (hitmaker for everyone from Aerosmith and Cher to Alice Cooper and Madonna), Robi Rosa, and George Noriega, the first two of whom penned Martin's huge hit "Livin' la Vida Loca." The unofficial Chronicle opinion after listening to the two songs is that there are definitely strong similarities; my editor actually thought Martin was sampling the Uglys at first listen. Interestingly enough, by the time a decision is announced, the defunct Uglies may be performing again. Bob Schneider says that former Ugly Americans guitarist Max Evans will be moving back to Austin in August, and that some gigs by the original pre-"Boom Boom Baby" lineup may happen soon after. Meanwhile, Schneider has a solo album, Songs Sung and Played on Guitar at the Same Time, out now and is working with Lonelyland, the country offspring of the Scabs (Schneider, Bruce Hughes, and David Boyle along with Stephen Bruton and drummer Mike Longoria), on an album starting next week. Hopefully, the members of Lonelyland won't have to rely on Schneider to act as publicist on that project; he admits to doing less than a great job promoting his solo effort. In fact, he says, the best line he's come up with to push Songs Sung & Played ... is "If you wanna commit suicide, but want to forego the bullet in the head or hanging from a rope route, just play this album four or five times." Hmmm. Maybe some Ricky Martin money will cheer him up.


Free Money

No, really, the Austin Music Commission has $74,000 left in their budget and is currently at a loss as to what to do with it. In desperation, commissioner Danny Crooks phoned the Chronicle and asked me to pass the news of this dire situation on to you. If you have a music-related project and think free money would help you with it, Crooks says you should contact Wendy Morgan at the Austin Convention & Visitor's Bureau. "The only criteria," notes Crooks, "is that [the project] has to benefit the city." That's not "the City" in capitals, either. "The people who live here have to get something out of it," clarifies Crooks. If you have, say, a music festival that needs backing, give the bureau a call and see how much cash they have left after they pay for my Porsche with the really good car stereo. Don't worry, I'll play it really loud so all the people who live here can benefit!


Mixed Notes

Trish Murphy is currently smiling in the direction of Madison Avenue. Besides getting the nod from Best Buy to be their "Find 'em First" spotlight gal for August, she can also be heard on the airwaves engaging Joe Ely in the age-old "less filling/tastes great" debate in commercials for Miller Lite. And that's without having to haul around a big banner touting Miller wherever she plays, though a number of local acts, including Cadillac Voodoo Choir, are now doing just that. Miller has of late been doing more in this region with their Miller Band Network, though CVC manager Mark Proct says that the Network never really completely went away; it's the same fairly low-key sponsorship program the brewers had with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and others almost two decades ago. And that's fine with Proct and the Choir. "Bands are out there struggling harder than ever," he says, "and anything that helps is welcome"... A friend of Lucinda Williams called to remind everyone to set their VCRs for Letterman tonight (Thursday), when the songstress make an appearance. Williams' appearance on Letterman comes only two days after Sixpence None the Richer debuted their follow-up to "Kiss Me," a remake of the La's "There She Goes," on the program... More advance copies of albums here at the office mean it's almost time for you to start looking for the real things in stores. Bruce Robison's Lucky Dog release Long Way Home From Anywhere hits stores next week, while Ray Wylie Hubbard's Crusades of the Restless Knights is due July 20 from Philo/Rounder. A week later, Wayne "the Train" Hancock's Wild, Free and Reckless comes out on Ark 21. Those who can't wait for Hancock's disc can grab one a few days early at his July 24 Continental Club show... The departure of producer Buckner Cooke has left some insiders fearing a drop in quality at the Austin Music Network, which AMN publicist Jim Ellinger dismisses, saying that changes in personnel are inevitable in the business and that capable hands will continue to work behind the scenes. Ellinger is also quick to point out that Dave Prewitt (of CapZeyeZ and Raw Time public access fame) and AMN have "kissed and made up" following a long period of separation, and that the network will now begin airing Prewitt-produced matterial... One more footnote to the ongoing Watermelon Records story: Heinz Geissler's former right hand (and in later days only hand) man Eric Zappa has announced he has taken a new job as Music Director for Internet music site Audiogalaxy.com... Texas' Grammy winners have the spotlight in the Texas Music Museum's exhibition currently on display at the Dougherty Arts Center. That'll run through August 28... K-Tel Records has jumped on the alt.country bandwagon with the just-released Exposed Roots, a 2-CD, 24-track set featuring Lucinda Williams, Meat Puppets, Whiskeytown, Jayhawks, Gillian Welch, Vic Chesnutt, BR5-49, Kelly Willis, Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, and Gram Parsons. No, I'm not kidding. K-Tel even did a punk compilation a while back, leading many to wonder if Ronco might end up signing the Pocket FishRmen to a lifetime contract. Now how much would you pay?... Unfortunately, any positive karma brought to the world by Exposed Roots was undone on Wednesday in San Antonio when Emilio Navarra hosted the World's Largest Line Dance event at SeaWorld. Organizers of the event, which benefited the American Lung Association, say their goal was to assemble 6,000 line dancers and handily beat the current record of 5,502... Oops!: Regarding those "Unplugged at the Grove" shows that I mentioned last week, they are indeed moving to Mangos starting today (Thursday) with the Gourds scheduled to perform. However, they will not be aired on KGSR as I reported. Instead, they'll continue to run on AMN, Saturdays at 2pm, and Sundays at 3 & 7pm...


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

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Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

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