Dancing About Architecture
The usual suspects return: Miles Zuniga, Daniel Johnston, Sandra Bullock, Bob Schneider, and the Asylum Street Spankers; also, Patti Smith returns to Austin for SXSW, as do a bunch of other people.
South by Southwest is already breathing right down our necks, believe it or not, with this being the last Chronicle before the Austin Music Awards kicks off the whole shebang. For badgeholders, it's time to think about which panels to attend during the day in order to get the most out of that expensive piece of plastic. Some top picks include: "Selling Music Today & Tomorrow," featuring record company CEOs and whatnot from MCA, Island Def Jam, Artemis Records, and Grand Royal (skip those nasty A&R guys!); "War Stories, Writing About Music Then & Now," featuring Stanley Booth, Ben Fong-Torres, Ann Powers, Ed Ward, and Texas Monthly's Evan Smith; and "Making Noise on the Net," which marks Thomas Dolby's first involvement (nonmusical though it may be) in the conference. For badgers, wristband-bearers, and the general public alike, one of the most eagerly anticipated gigs of the week belongs to Patti Smith, who appears in one of the festival's three free shows in Waterloo Park: Thursday features the Derailers and honorary local Hank Williams III supporting the great Ray Price; Friday pairs the aforementioned punk diva with the Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra; and Saturday finishes the run with a many-headed local lineup of Davíd Garza, Meat Puppets, and Ian McLagan's Bump Band. Again, thanks are in order to KGSR's Jody Denberg, who was instrumental in getting Smith interested in the conference via his recording a promotional interview CD with her. That CD, accompanying Smith's new album Gung Ho, finds Denberg doing his best to remind Smith how much she enjoyed Austin (and vice versa) during her legendary local stop on 1979's Wave tour. Smith also confirms the oft-bandied myth among her local fans that the dress she wears on Wave was indeed bought in Austin. She didn't give a plug as to where, but I'm willing to guess it was somewhere around the South Congress area. KGSR is only one of many radio stations that will be running loads of special programming between now and March 19 (101X taped an hourlong special with the Smashing Pumpkins during their recent visit, for instance), and their interviews/performances schedules look pretty strong:John Cale, David Gray, Steve Earle, Marah, Roger McGuinn, Hamell on Trial, Shelby Lynne, Gomez, Kim Richey, Jayhawks, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and of course Ms. Patti. More acts are awaiting confirmation, while morning team Kevin & Kevin are expecting a "slew of guests" dropping by the Four Seasons, where they'll be doing their show all during the big week.
Obsessions for Men
Some people are satisfied to simply play a gig -- others insist on making it a real event. The latter is definitely the case with the Chainsaw Kittens, who have elected to have their SXSW showcase on Friday (3/17) at Beerland double as a gay wedding between singer Tyson Meade and "international pop star" Skip Handleman Werner. Now, supposedly, the reason Stone Temple Pilots dropped out of the festival this year was due to one of their members getting hitched; it's a shame he didn't just decide to marry one of the Frogs and make this a double ceremony. Either way, one small problem mars the event, or at least the invitations, as it turns out that Randall Stockton's new club Beerland will not be ready in time for SXSW. With that goal date gone, Stockton says he has no idea when the venue will open, but meanwhile, the performance and marriage will take place at the newly dubbed "Beerland at the Gallery Lombardi Lounge," formerly known as the tent outside the Gallery Lombardi Annex, which was in turn even more formerly known as the old Electric Lounge at Third and Bowie. Did you get all that? If you think that chain of events is bizarre, you ain't heard nothin' yet. Check out the following tale:
Miles Zuniga's brother-in-law Ron Prince reports a close encounter with a trio of obsessed fans who stopped by the building that once housed the Electric Lounge. A fiftysomething woman, he says, accompanied by a teenage girl and her dad, asked to enter the ex-Lounge, and when asked why, the woman's reply was "because Miles Zuniga played there!" In the course of determining that the woman was serious, he discovered that she had met her two cronies through a Fastball fan group on the Internet, that she had never before been out of her native New York, and that she was damn serious in her adulation of Zuniga. "She had all this knowledge of us," he says, still bewildered and amused. Asking Prince what he was doing on the property, she then gushed at the realization that "You're married to his sister!!!" and proudly showed how she had responded to a quote in an interview in which down-to-earth Miles said he still had to pay full price for his drinks at the Hole in the Wall: by making a trek there and paying off his tab herself. "She showed me the receipt," recalls Prince. "It was for around $29." Fortunately for all involved, life stopped somewhat shy of imitating art, since the visitor has no doubt seen (multiple times, I would guess) the video for Fastball's "Fire Escape," wherein an obsessive fan is satisfied that her Fastball collection is complete only after she has killed the band members and displayed their decaying bodies alongside the band memorabilia festooned about her apartment. Y'know, Ron, it might've been a good idea to get this lady's name and address, just in case....
You Can't Judge a Bullock By Its Cover
Austin is all over the newsstands these days, what with SXSW coming up and the recent influx of see-lebrities into town. Look no farther than Premiere magazine for a start. If you can get past Sandra Bullock's buttocks on the cover, inside you'll find her giving a charming travelogue of the city, from the Austin Motel ("We call it the Penis Motel") to the ol' Matthew McConaughey nekkid bongo fury story ("When you look like that, you should be allowed to run around naked -- until it starts sagging"). There are errors in the piece apparently, as in the tale of Bullock's horror over receiving unsolicited attention from the National Enquirer under the headline "Sandra Bullock Stole My Man!" thanks to her more-than-friendship with local musician Bob Schneider of Scabs and Lonelyland fame. In the piece, friend Dan Winters tells of a flyer on Bullock's refrigerator spoofing the headline with "Bob Schneider Stole My Man!" explaining that its "intention was to lighten the air." That is incorrect, says the spoofs' author Andy Langer. "The intention of it," he retorts, "was to fuck with Bob." It should also be noted that, as usual, Schneider receives a great deal more ink in the piece than Bullock's latest flick Gun Shy. Considering that Schneider's career seems to be steaming along nicely while Gun Shy barely made a blip on the radar, someone should suggest to Sandy that perhaps she's been spending her time plugging the wrong one.
The March issue of Mojo is aflood with Austin as well, from the cover story on Stevie Ray Vaughan by our own Margaret Moser through former Chron man Ed Ward's tales of music across the Lone Star State, and on to yet another plugola for local pop kings Cotton Mather courtesy of those Oasis fellas. Quoth Noel Gallagher of the longtime local band's album Kontiki: "Bastards! It was like the Beatles. I thought if that isn't the best album I've heard in 10 years, then I don't know what is. It's one of my favourites of all time." Also on the racks, look for locals Flo Mob in the March issue of hip-hop mag Blaze, which looks into the Austin hip-hop/rap scene in a section titled "The World Is Yours." Further, the band did an interview with that same mag that's scheduled to appear in a section on up-and-coming artists in the April issue.
Book 'em, Danno!
Plenty of performers gearing up for SXSW are getting attention in the press via magazines, radio, etc., but how many can say they've got a whole book about them hitting the racks? A new tome chronicling the life and times of Daniel Johnston -- called Hi, How Are You? by Tarssa Yazdani and Ron English -- is now available. Johnston will likely have a signing for it at the Convention Center next week if copies are available. To go along with that, Lo and Behold! gallery will definitely have a showing of Johnston's art on SXSW Saturday. Amazingly, despite the new Danny & the Nightmares CD (the Nightmares will also perform at the art show) appearing in stores locally and the Live in Berlin disc coming in April from Germany's Trikont (available on cassette now from local Stress Records), Johnston's "real" studio effort Rejected/Unknown remains unreleased outside of Austin -- though it's been "on the way" since shortly after the release of his 1994 Atlantic Records album Fun. Rejected is currently available only in a very limited edition released by Brian Beattie here in Austin (Visitors, grab one while you can!), with the latest intelligence saying Which Records is supposed to put it out for real in July. Frankly, I'll believe that when I see it -- until then, you can still read all about it.
Spanks but No Spanks
With a new Asylum Street Spankers album, Spanker Madness -- a collection of drug-related ditties -- set to hit the racks March 21 and a new demo CD from ex-Spankers Pops Bayless and Mysterious John heralding a full-length disc by their combo Shorty Long coming in June, things are less than copacetic these days between the current and former Spanker camps. The group's statement that Bayless and John had left the vaudevillian ranks of the local band because they had tired of the grueling tour schedule led to a note from Bayless to the Chron countering that it was "bad management" that led to the split. Further discussion with both sides reveals a very bad taste has been left in a lot of mouths; Bayless says that the touring schedule was only grueling due to the "fuck-ups" of then-new manager John Riedie, while founding/current Spanker Christina Marrs defends hubby Riedie, saying he did what he could after jumping into the position at the last minute. Beyond that, discussion with both sides degenerates to the point that I can only refer you to http://www.democrats.org/news/gn1999/gn102699.html for further details. Speaking of touring, the Spankers that remain say they've found a surprising number of "cool eclectic theatres" around the country that have expressed interest in making their accompaniment of the Charlie Chaplin classic The Gold Rush a semi-regular part of their touring fare. And finally, despite a current lull in the endless Watermelon Records bankruptcy case (Marrs sighing, "Nothing is being done and our lawyer bill keeps going up"), the band is continuing its effort to begin selling its entire back catalog through their new private label Spanks-A-Lot Records. They're in the process of purchasing Hot Lunch and Nasty Novelties back from Cold Spring and Freedom Records, respectively, and are looking into repackaging their Watermelon releases Live and Spanks for the Memories off the masters and releasing them on Spanks-A-Lot just to see what happens. Given the current chaos on the legal front, Marrs figures, "I can't imagine Watermelon's lawyers being in any hurry to knock down our door." Hey, they've gotta get their money from somewhere!
There's no Gold Rush going on there this week, but the Alamo Drafthouse is bringing back two of their best silents with live accompaniment during SXSW week, with space rockers ST 37 interpreting Metropolis on Saturday 3/16 at midnight and Kamram Hooshman & the 1001 Nights Orchestra performing in tandem with the Thief of Baghdad the following afternoon at 3pm. You can also check out some Austin musical history at the Drafthouse this Wednesday at noon, when documentaries on both the Steamboat and Kenneth Threadgill will be airing... Meanwhile, look for Roger and Me filmmaker Michael Moore to be in town Tuesday with the Politically Incorrect gang, following poor George W. Bush around and shooting material to air that night on Bill Maher's show. Word is that Neil Young will be visiting (though not performing) in conjunction with the film Silver and Gold, which runs Friday 3/17 at the Paramount and which, thank God, he didn't direct. Just kidding, Neil -- Human Highway kicks ass!... With the Old Settlers Music Festival set for less than a month off (April 7-9) at its new location at the Stone Mountain Event Center in Dripping Springs and featuring Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Leftover Salmon, Peter Rowan, Willis Alan Ramsey, Jim Lauderdale, and Slaid Cleaves, the Fest's volunteer organizer Randy Collier found a unique way to stir up publicity. As one of 11 finalists of the"Sexiest Geek Alive Contest," Collier was interviewed by Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer on ABC's Good Morning America last Tuesday. And yes, he wore an Old Settlers T-shirt while answering questions about computer games and his favorite Star Trek captain (William Shatner's James Tiberius Kirk, of course)... Poster aficionados take note that this year's Austin Music Awards poster comes in regular (Doug Sahm Tribute) and the "mega-rare, limited-edition alternate Sterling Morrison Tribute edition." Note that eBay scalpers are already taking in $10-15 apiece for our recent Sahm tribute issue of the free Chronicle -- which reminds me: The Austin Record Convention, biggest one of its kind on the planet, will indeed be taking place during SXSW weekend (3/18-19) this year, thus leaving many visitors choosing between that ultimate 13th Floor Elevators collectible or plane fare home! It's your decision, but if you're really broke, I suggest you simply get so loaded on St Patrick's Day (3/17) that you forget about the whole darn thing...
-- Contributors: Christopher Gray, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser