Dancing About Architecture
New Year's New Clubs, New Arrangements for the Austin Music Network and, well, News.
A2Kome and Gone
Well, aside from a couple of neighborhoods in Korea going temporarily without heat, Al Gore's Web site reporting that Monday was "January 1, 19100," and a late report that one of our spy satellites had been temporarily left out in the cold, Y2K went by pretty much without a hitch. So did the city's celebration of the beginning of the year 2000, the controversial downtown get-together known as A2K. Things went so smoothly, in fact, that I find it hard to believe the reported figure of 260,000 people who were supposedly in attendance. Not that the place was dead, but it was surprisingly easy to navigate the area, and as of 11pm, the only places actually packed were the areas near the two outdoor stages. I mean, the atmosphere was so mellow that further up the street, cops were letting cute college chicks pose for photos with them on their motorcycles (there's never a Chronicle photographer around when you need one)! Organizer Charlie Jones says he has no idea where the 260,000 figure came from (most likely the police, he ventures), but whether or not the event did indeed draw 60,000 more warm bodies than projected, he calls it a great success that he's very proud to have been involved in. The biggest question for many onlookers was "what happened to all those people who paid big bucks for preferred seating?" It's one thing to have to stand back from the stage because people are in front of you, but another thing altogether to defer to rows of empty chairs. Jones says most ticket holders didn't bother taking their seats until it was time for Lyle Lovett, adding that many of the Robert Earl Keen tix were bought by sponsors and sent to people who may well have never had any plans to attend. Later in the evening, adds Jones, some non-paying customers were moved up into the empty areas, and trouble generally was kept at a minimum throughout, with the biggest incident being a stolen golf cart. (Andy Langer claims no involvement.)
The A2K gang should be happy enough that all their acts showed up, as "no-show" was a key word for the evening. Frank Sinatra Jr. was expected to make an appearance that night at Jake's on the Lake, but instead opted to stick with the peace and quiet of Las Vegas, while most of Sandra Bullock's high-profile party guests reportedly decided against flying in and out of Austin with that nasty bug going around, though one party guest told friends there was a fair share of industry folk and the bash, featuring the music of the Scabs, was great fun, Tom Cruise or no Tom Cruise. Beyond that, most likely due to a rumored confidentiality agreement signed by attendees, others who spent the New Year with Sandra kept determinedly mum or responded to questions by the press in manners similar to those seen in the accompanying photo of the Scabs' Bob Schneider. Over at the Austin Symphony, the Temptations' New Year's Gala was cancelled, a press release claiming the cancelation was due to "the general reluctance of people to be away from home that evening and anticipated traffic congestion generated by the city's A2K celebration." Elsewhere, there were entire parties that didn't happen. Staffers at Club DeVille were already up in arms on December 30, trying to figure out what to do after the George W. Bush campaign axed plans for a $20,000 private New Year's affair at the club some 72 hours before the fact, leaving the DeVille with no time to advertise that they'd be open after all. They hadn't even thought to get a deposit (never trust the government, kids), and frustrated grumbles of "maybe we should get a karaoke machine in here" were heard that night, but luckily, business didn't look too bad inside the DeVille's walls on the last day of 1999. Such couldn't be said for the Mojo Nixon soiree at the (former) Electric Lounge, where the Continental Club's Steve Wertheimer, who put on the show, admits only 90 paid attendees found their way to the gig. The visiting Jay Hughey, former co-owner of the long-troubled Lounge, was heard to snap, "I heard it was sparsely attended, so I guess nothing much has changed!" For his part, Wertheimer said the Continental's own New Year's night (with Toni Price, 8 1/2 Souvenirs, etc.) was a sell-out, so he's not crying too hard over spilled Mojo.
Join the Club!
Let's start the new year out right -- not with news of club closings, but with announcements of new ones on the way: Former Bates Motel manager Randall Stockton proudly beams that he's found a place for his new venue at 711 1/2 Red River, next to the Atomic Cafe, and has plans to open around the second week of March. He says he doesn't yet have a name for the place (the obvious "Bates Motel 2" might not be a great idea, seeing as original owner Joe Bates has no involvement in the venture), and instead is holding a contest to name the club. Send entries to his e-mail address, email@example.com -- and no, I have no idea what sort of prize the winner receives. The Red River area can expect announcements of another club or two opening within the next month as well, while the live-music-deprived people up north will be glad to hear that in addition to the return of (Mother of) Pearl's, there's a new joint called the House of Tunes opening up at 13223 Pond Springs, next to the Cross Eyed Bull. Sort of a smaller version of the House of Blues, the Tunes boasts 24-track audio and video recording capabilities for the band that wants to take their gig home with them.
Things are just getting more and more curious in the tale of the Austin Music Network. In the latest twist, AMN general manager Rick Melchior and Threadgill's owner Eddie Wilson have announced plans that will move the production of AMN to the Threadgill's original location (6416 North Lamar) with the channel's signal set to begin originating from that location on January 30, 2000. Melchior says that all of AMN's current programs ("No Borders," "Breakin' In," "What's the Cover," etc.) will continue to be produced, though "the formats will be reworked to take advantage of live audiences," making much of the AMN programming "more like a talk-variety show. The arrangement with Threadgill's makes this possible even though AMN has had to reduce its total operating budget for this year." As far as the daunting task of fitting a full-time television station into an already busy restaurant, Wilson says he figures most of the "Veejay stuff" will take place in the Country Store upstairs/out back, and he's looking into buying some portable buildings for further AMN purposes (sounds almost as lavish as the days I worked for the now-defunct KXIX-TV in Victoria, Texas). Wilson adds that since he's no longer a vendor (having given up his frozen food business), he's in a position to help get advertisers for the struggling music network; the fiber-optic drop the city installed in his restaurant awhile back to facilitate live broadcasting makes it an ideal location for AMN. Of the impending arrangement, Wilson vows to "move into it with as little preconceived notion as possible, and give 'em as close to the run of the compound as I can." Whether this odd union turns out to be a raving success or total debacle, I can't wait to see how it turns out -- and either way, as they say, the resolution will be televised!
The New Deal
Jeff Cole of local indie Doolittle Records says his label's deal with Mercury Records has expired, but now he's linking up with Danny Goldberg's Artemis Records, who also recently hooked up with Frank Kozik's Man's Ruin's Records and has made several other Austin-related dealings. Cole says the switch from Mercury, with whom he'd had difficulty dealing since their own switch to working with Universal, is a very smooth one, with "no interruptions" expected in the label's two active projects, those of Trish Murphy and the Bottle Rockets. While continuing to work Murphy's first single off her current album, Cole says that Artemis plans to reissue the album with a pair of new tracks to boost interest and get to work soon on plugging a second single. The next projects for Doolittle/Artemis will be new albums from Slobberbone and Mount Pilot; Cole saying he's also "sort of" working with Hamell On Trial by utilizing the Doolittle staff to help get Ed Hamell distribution for his self-released Choochtown disc, and he also may be working soon in some capacity with the Gourds. Asked how he feels about the new arrangement with Artemis, which he describes as less than an equal partnership but more than just a distribution deal, Cole grins. "Mercury was never meant to be the final resting place [for Doolittle], but it feels like the label really has a future with Artemis. " He adds, a bit more cautiously, "I'm still in the afterglow. Ask me again in a year and a half."
The Lone Star State did remarkably well in the Grammy nominations field this year, largely thanks to the teaming of Ray Benson and the late Bob Wills. It was announced this week that Ride With Bob, Asleep at the Wheel's guest-star-studded extravaganza of Wills covers was up for an astonishing six Grammys (kicking the Backstreet Boys' pussy asses!), including "Country Album of the Year," "Country Instrumental" ("Bob's Breakdowns" with Tommy Allsup, Floyd Domino, Larry Franklin, Vince Gill, and Steve Wariner), "Country Collaboration with Vocals" ("Going Away Party" with Willie Nelson and the Manhattan Transfer; "Roly Poly" with the Dixie Chicks), "Best Album Packaging," and "Best Long Form Video." The Chicks are up for three additional trophies, including "Album of the Year" and "Best Country Album" for Fly and "Best Country Performance" ("Ready To Run"). Other categories with Texan nominees include "Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group," Sixpence None the Richer; "Best Pop Instrumental Performance," Willie Nelson; "Best Metal Performance," Ministry (which includes Austinite Rey Washam); "R&B Performance by Duo or Group," Destiny's Child; "Best Male Country Vocal Performance," Lyle Lovett; "Best Bluegrass Album," The Mountain by Steve Earle & the Del McCoury Band; "Best Polka Album," Brave Combo; "Best Children's Album," A Bug's Life Sing-A-Long (I haven't seen this, but I'm told there's a swarm of Austinites involved); and finally, the "Best Spoken Word Album" category includes a nomination for The Chieftains -- The Authorized Biography read by Nanci Griffith. (Who knew?) Winners will be announced February 23... The Grim Reaper didn't give Texas a break over the holidays. Tito Guizar, 91, known as the man who brought Mexican music to Texas, died in San Antonio recently, having gone there to spend Christmas with relatives. W.C. Fields fans like myself will also know Guizar from his performance in the Great Man's film Big Broadcast of 1938... After five years of Sunday Free for Alls at the Hole in the Wall, Superego boss Paul Minor began a new, improved version of the weekly no-cover extravaganza last Sunday. The new setup has the first band promptly at 9 pm, with hosts Superego in the third spot at 11, and the headliner going on around midnight, followed by a late-night spot reserved for special guests, late additions, and impromptu jams. The new setup seems to be capable of working miracles, as the debut effort ended with an after-hours jam featuring Fastballer Miles Zuniga (earlier seen displaying his bad boy rock star ways by tearing records he didn't like out of the Hole's jukebox and smashing them to the tune of Joe Jackson's "Breaking Us in Two"), Johnny Goudie, former David Garza sideman Jacob Schulze, and members of Superego, Orange Mothers, and Sixteen Deluxe all singing along with Spencer Gibb on his family's anthem "To Love Somebody." The normally Bee-Gee-shy son of Robin Gibb has booked a February Free for All for his band 54 Seconds, says Minor. Could a Bee Gees Hoot Night be looming in the Hole In the Wall's future? We'll have to see what Mike Smith says about that ...
-- Contributors: Christopher Gray, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser, Raoul Hernandez