Dancing About Architecture

Boats, Planes, and 'Dillos

Danny Crooks says that things are continuing apace toward his opening a new location for the soon-to-be displaced Steamboat by January 2000, but in the meantime, a strange new twist has turned up in the road to tomorrow. As of Friday, September 3, Crooks says that the Spot (across the street from Ruta Maya) will become the "Boat," thanks to a call from the owners of the sporadically open club and a welder who'll be bending their iron sign up a bit for the name change. Crooks says he has a temporary lease on the place, which will ensure him a place of business until a permanent new location for the Steamboat can be found. So, that means we're up to two 'boats (at least until the Sixth Street location closes September 26), but have we sunk down to zero Armadillos while no one was paying attention? Threadgill's owner and former head of the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters Eddie Wilson says that both the original Threadgill's restaurant and the new, improved model down south are trimming their live music schedule down to one night of Don Walser per location per week. Don't panic, though; Wilson says he's making the change in the face of many years of experience, and that it's simply a temporary adjustment to the traditional "dog days" of live music attendance in September and October. "September means hunker down and don't spend any money you don't have to," he observes. "Make it through the doldrums and come back fighting." Back in the days of the 'Dillo, Wilson admits that he repeatedly made the common mistake of envisioning hordes of incoming students and booking big acts, only to find himself with reams of unsold tickets. "You can't imagine how many thousands of people didn't come to those shows!" he laments, but says that he's learned his lesson and will spend the next two months concentrating on the comestibles portion of his business. As the weather cools later in the year, Wilson promises Threadgill's will return to its more frequent dosages of "just about the best free music shows in the nation." In the meantime (if you're very sneaky about it), you might want to head to the new airport to watch as the cliche "the best kept secret in Austin" blossoms into reality on Fridays and Sundays, 5-7pm. That's when performers ranging from Quatropaw to the Studebakers to Sarah Elizabeth Campbell ply their trade at the airport, though you won't find that in our listings; official policy is to keep the shows hush-hush, with no official announcement or advertising. "The feeling was they wanted music for the travelers," explains Ingrid Weigand of Bismeaux Productions, who are overseeing the shows. "They didn't want people coming out just to hear it." It's doubtful that many people will start treating Bergstrom as the new hot club in town, especially with a minimum cover charge of $199 (round trip), but in any case, the live music program is nearing the end of a 90-day trial run, and at the end of September officials decide whether or not to continue it -- and maybe, whether to let people know about it.

BUSTED! Take 2

Yet another hearing on Tuesday brought the seemingly endless saga of Watermelon Records one step closer to a close, as the bankrupt local label and the performers and writers to whom it owes money continued to work toward sorting out their disputes. Basically, the hearing saw the local indie continuing to look at various plans to get the company back on its feet, including one from the CHH Acquisition Corporation, which has bought Sire Records' claim on Watermelon and has added its own restructuring plan to the extant ones from other sources. In addition, Watermelon owner Heinz Geissler was granted permission at the hearing to borrow $10,000 from CHH to cover the company's basic costs, including his salary, for the immediate future. Attorney Cindi Lazzari, who is representing several artists that claim they're owed money by the label, says she didn't officially argue against the motion, but adds that she's not particularly happy with the idea of the label continuing to spend money while royalties remain unpaid. Lazzari says she was truly surprised, however, when the judge declared that for each dollar that Watermelon obtained in loans, they would be required to borrow an additional fifty cents to be held in escrow by Lazzari to cover "administrative claims" (artists' royalties earned since the bankruptcy filing). The judge's statement, she notes, is important in that it's a sign that the artists are being acknowledged as real parties with real interest in this case. Geissler's lawyer David Ward says that he believes the judge "had all good intentions" when making the decision, but says it's unnecessary, stressing that the plan Watermelon has filed would take care of all such administrative claims as a matter of course. The Watermelon story is set to take further turns on September 7, when the deadlines for objections to a competing plan for restructuring will come up.

Ward says that the CHH claim buyout will not affect the new albums by Don Walser or the Derailers, both Watermelon artists who now record for Sire. Advance CDs of Walser's new Here's to Country Music album have just gone out, with a street date set for September 21, while the Derailers' Full Western Dress has been delayed a week from its originally planned simultaneous release date, but only to add the recently recorded duet with Buck Owens, "Play Me the Waltz of the Angels." The Derailers, by the way, just spent a week in Shelbyville, Tenn., going the Thriller route with their new album by shooting a short film to coincide with its release. Internet news service Allstar.com says the premise of the featurette has the band arriving in Shelbyville to play a show and inadvertently foiling a jewelry heist. Chris Rogers, known for his work with the Dixie Chicks and Junior Brown, will direct the film, which will run about 15 minutes, and yes, Austin can expect a special premiere showing of the mini-movie around the time Full Western Dress comes out.

Reelin' and Rok-in'

What made music journalist Keven McAlester decide he was the right choice to direct a "Rok-umentary" on Austin's beloved Roky Erickson? "In short, arrogance and ignorance," admits the first-time filmmaker, who's hopefully learning fast; currently, he's six weeks into shooting the biopic, with a couple more weeks to go of lensing in Austin before taking a break to sift through the hours of footage he's accumulated of Erickson, family and friends, and chats with Roky cohorts ranging from Speedy Sparks to Daniel Johnston. McAlester has a good budget (though he declines to give numbers) that allows him to shoot on Super 16 film rather than video, and the help of people he bows to as "out of my league," like cinematographer Lee Daniel, to see that the project doesn't fall apart. McAlester's vision is to "tell the Roky story in a graceful manner that does justice to him," and to hopefully do so without the intrusion of a traditional narrator, using new interviews and archival footage. As such, he says that Erickson's fans can look for the finished product "in a year to two years if all goes well."

Two Sure Things: Death and Tits

It seems like it should be time for another posthumous release by Bill Hicks by now, but sadly, such is not the case according to Hicks' producer and friend Kevin Booth. As of this time last year, Booth says things were set with Rykodisc for several new Hicks audio and video projects to appear on the U.S. market, but since then, his A&R man sent Booth a notice that he was leaving the company and no further work has been done toward those releases. Though Booth says Ryko is still under contract to issue at least one more Hicks CD, he's currently shifting gears and hoping to begin using the billhicks.com Web site to begin selling Hicks product sans middleman. To that end, Booth has begun a most unique petition campaign on the Web site, soliciting Hicks fans to send cards supporting the release of new Hicks preformance CDs and videos. The unique part is the fact that the person he's hoping Hicks-oids will send their pleas to is none other than his own business partner, Bill's mother Mary Hicks. "Mary still doesn't really understand what the Web is," he explains, and so far she's declined to okay any new releases via www.billhicks.com as a result. Booth says he hopes that "even a few hundred cards" to Mrs. Hicks at Arizona Bay Productions (PO Box 23265, Little Rock, AR 72221-3265) will convince her of the feasibility of the idea, leading to the availability of the large volume of Hicks material still in the vaults.

Meanwhile, Mike Titsworth, the industrial metal musician/former Z-Rock deejay, now has his own Web site -- much to his great relief. Says the ex-Angkor Wat member: "After six months of legal wrangling and headaches with Web site registrar Network Solutions over the connotations of a last name, the fight is over." Thus, http://www.titsworth.com is now up and running with audio and video of his various "art-metal" works. Titsworth says he's not sure why the problems arose, since many sites exist with far more graphic names, but for whatever reason, he says that for the better half of a year, the only communication he could get from the registrar was repeated e-mails calling his given name "unacceptable" as a site title. Booth, on the other hand, says he's never had any problems dealing with Network Solutions, boasting that, "They gave me www.jizzbomb.com with no trouble whatsoever!" Luckily, not everyone has hangups about mammary-related names, as former Bates Motel owner Randall Stockton tells me he has a punk show lined up for this Friday at Trophy's with the Tits (no relation) joining Teen Cool and the Chumps.

Mixed Notes

Fans of Dale Watson should keep an eye out for his new split single on Diesel Only, while Lucinda Williams devotees should keep one peeled for the label's simultaneous release of a 45 by one-off project Swag. The latter group, who play tribute to "Sweet Lucinda," features members of the Mavericks as well as Cheap Trick's Rick Neilsen and Tom Petersson... The phone lines are closed -- please stop calling: The Austin Music Commission says the funds left over from the discontinued Music Industry Loan Program will be split among medical/mental health services for music industry professionals and a music economic development project. In addition, the commission is asking the city to purchase $14,500 in used instruments and donate them to the Lonely Instruments for Needy Kids (LINKS) program...

-- 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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