Dancing About Architecture

Barton Springs Eternal

There was confusion and more than a little concern in the Chronicle offices on Monday morning, as several editors checked their voicemail to find a message from the Associated Press inquiring as to whether blues baroness Lou Ann Barton had died. A reporter from the AP's Dallas office urgently requested a return call regarding said rumor, and left all the information necessary for us to get back to him -- except his phone number! Since one staffer had been hanging out with Clifford Antone the previous night at the club's "secret" Wilco show, it certainly seemed to be a case of "If it's true, we'd already know." Still, we wondered. Could the former lead singer of Triple Threat have suffered a similar fate to that of her onetime bandmate Stevie Ray Vaughan? Susan Antone returned the Chronicle's calls Monday afternoon, assuring us she had just been through the same rigmarole with the daily paper, who had gotten the same call and had contacted her the night before with the same question. As far as she knew, Barton was in Alaska playing the State Fair, but that's also where things got a little hazy. Derek O'Brien, it seems, was supposed to accompany Barton to the land of Northern Exposures, and in fact made the travel arrangements for the trip. At the last minute, however, O'Brien bowed out of the voyage, so Johnny Moeller went instead, according to Antone. Things apparently went well at the Alaska show, but a delay in their flight home Monday kept the group incommunicado as a series of odd rumors began to fly in and around Austin, and even made it onto the local radio airwaves. The best anyone can figure is that some newshound erringly misheard the name Leigh Ann Barton, the murdered wife of the shooter in the recent tragic Atlanta shootings, as Lou Ann Barton and set off the untrue rumors. Still, the furor would have been short-lived if the Austin nightclub mainstay could have been contacted. Instead, time dragged on with no way for anyone to accurately confirm whether or not she was indeed still among the living. Alive she was, but less than happy; apparently, Barton had been led to believe that the four-hour layover that she had dreaded on the way back would occur in Las Vegas, meaning she'd be able to spend it relaxing among the garish casinos and attractions. Unfortunately, says Wayne Nagel, who booked the show, "The layover was never in Vegas. It was always in Seattle -- and the four hours became 10 hours!" Whether or not the Vegas mirage had been passed on to Barton by O'Brien, without his presence, she was becoming increasingly vexed by the situation and cursing his name more vociferously by the minute. In the end, the band arrived home safely by late Monday afternoon and got to relax -- except Barton, who had dozens of calls on her answering machine from friends and fans asking her to call and let them know if she was dead. "Lou Ann is safe and sound," reported Antone on Monday night, "but you might wanna get a Derek O'Brien obituary ready!"

Oh, and Another Thing I Heard ...

Tracking down such rumors are just part of the job here. This week alone, I was forced to defuse the one regarding Jon Bon Jovi building a state-of-the-art studio here in town ("We just built that studio," informs Mr. Bongiovi's Austin-based manager Paul Korzilius, "but it's in New Jersey."), and the suggestion that local "supergroup" the Setters (Alejandro Escovedo, Michael Hall, and Walter Salas-Humara) had signed a deal with Bloodshot Records. In the latter case, I figured out almost immediately that those tales had spun off from someone hearing previous (and also apparently false) rumors that the Chicago-based alt.country label was planning to issue a new album from the Knitters -- an old acoustic side project of L.A. punks X, who played Johnny Depp's Viper Room last weekend with DJ Gibby Haynes opening. The indie label's publicist confirmed my suspicions that there had never been as much as a thought of working with the Setters, but added, "Hey, that's not a bad idea! I loved their first album!" and said the matter would be brought up at their next meeting. On the band's side of things, Hall says that if Bloodshot calls, there's no reason to think he, Escovedo, and the New York-based Salas-Humara wouldn't go ahead and record a second album. "Sure," says Hall, "we'd always get together for a good reason." Having a respected label offer to pay for you to get together with a couple of your friends and have fun certainly sounds like a good reason to me.

A Second Head of Steam

Last week I reported that Steamboat was to be ejected from its two-decade-long spot on Sixth Street, but needless to say, that's not the end of the story (See "Naked City" for more). By the time that issue hit the stands, 'boat captain Danny Crooks was already hard at work attempting to secure a new home for the club in the building that currently houses the Lakehills Theatre at South Lamar and Ben White. Unfortunately, the overly eager Crooks had already made one major blunder in his rush to get ahold of the property: He had told the press how much he wanted it. I've had this job long enough to know that naming the specific location Crooks was eyeing could drive the price up, so naturally I made the ethical decision to not mention it by name. The local daily, whether by design or ignorance, made no such omission, and says Crooks, "that little quote in the Statesman may have cost me $150,000." Crooks admits the whole debacle is his own fault for letting loose lips do what they do, and is now also eyeing several other (undisclosed) locations.

With his plans calling for the new Steamboat to be up and running by New Year's Eve, at least if the Lakehills deal goes through, Crooks says he's more concerned, renovation-wise, at how much will have to be done to prepare a new building for his partner Wayne Nagel, who Crooks says will be opening the new Austin Rehearsal Complex in the new building as well. "To be honest, I haven't been in there yet," says a more cautious Nagel, adding that "if [Crooks' offer on the building] works out and it's a good deal, I'm in there with him." As far as Crooks' own goals, Nagel quips, "I don't want to say 'miracle,' but that'll be a lot of hard work!" Don't worry, Wayne. Crooks has more in mind before he's done with his new toy. Also in his dream complex, there would be a second Alamo Drafthouse on the premises. Crooks says that he just heard back from the Drafthouse people on the matter, and they say they don't want to join the party. But that's not slowing Crooks down for an instant. "Hell, I'll open a movie theatre myself," he bellows. "If I can run a nightclub, I can run a theatre!"

Mixed Notes

The Alamo Drafthouse gang probably have good reason to dread dealing with live music at this point, as they had to cancel their showing of Charlie Chaplin's City Lights, with live accompaniment by Tosca, last week at the very last minute. The Chaplin estate caught wind of the show and sent a cease and desist order, stating that only the original score could be used at the showing of any of the Little Tramp's films. The Drafthouse asked Tosca if they'd switch horses and play the score as written, and asked the estate if that would be an acceptable compromise. Both parties said "no," and the project was chucked. The Drafthouse has plans to run the public domain Gold Rush at a later date instead...

If you're enjoying seeing Clifford Antone's smiling face at his club, but too polite to ask how much longer you'll continue to see it there, we've asked for you. Antone says there's still no specific date set for his sentencing, but it'll be sometime in September...

That Kool Keith/DJ Spooky show you've been waiting for at the Steamboat this Saturday (see the Q&A) might have fallen through if it weren't for former Stretford guitarist Dan Carney, who came up with monetary backing to help the Hip Hop Mecca guys after previous financing fell through. Dare I say Carney's "pretty fly for a white guy?"...

Call it the Ball-Breaker Tour: Internet news service Allstar reports that Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers have offered Fastball a three-week leg of their tour, and though the trio had been looking forward to some time off the road after fulfilling their commitments with Sugar Ray and Goo Goo Dolls, the band accepted the gig(s). Says Miles Zuniga, "I grew up listening to that guy and wanting to be that guy, so it's hard to say no. It's pretty much impossible to say no." The band just added a couple of "zeroes" to their career, with "Out of My Head" hitting #20 on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay chart and #30 on the big board itself, the overall Hot 100 chart. The band says they're chafing to put out some new material, but are currently having to remain satisfied with the current single adding "free money" to the All the Pain Money Can Buy album's previous successful run. That album just reentered the Top 200 chart at #185. Seeing as a Petty date was just confirmed at the Frank Erwin Center for September 17, they might want to put off entering the studio a few more weeks...

Looks like the Texas Tornados' roster transition from Freddy Fender to Little Joe is going smoothly, as the former played at the group's Austin City Limits taping with the latter sitting in on a few songs. Upcoming tapings at ACL include the Mavericks on August 27, Doyle Bramhall II and Robert Cray on September 30, and Emmylou Harris & Linda Ronstadt in mid-October. ACL's Terry Lickona adds that he's currently waiting a while before resuming pressure on the overextended Tom Waits, but "we've got offers out to everyone from Dylan to George Jones"...

Lucinda Williams, I hear, has been tapped to play this year's Bridge festival in California, along with Crosby, Stills, Nash and organizer Neil Young. Previous Austin connections to the show include Kacy Crowley (who has a cut on the new Anywhere but Here soundtrack) playing a couple of years ago, and of course there was the time Pearl Jam brought down the house with their rendition of Daniel Johnston's "Walking the Cow" (Johnston himself will be performing at the Ritz this Saturday)...

Those hoping that R.E.M. would make a musical appearance at Sunday night's Wilco show at Antone's were disappointed, but those truly in the know didn't even look for the Athens alternagods there that night, as certain friends of the band had let loose the information that their only day off was Monday, and if they would be anywhere, it would be the Unplug This show at the Hole in the Wall. Michael Stipe and company didn't show up there, either, but Jennifer Cook, Charlie Burton,and Larry Seaman enjoyed the largest Monday night audience they've seen in a good while...

-- Contributors: Christopher Gray, 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

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