SXSW News: Friday
Talk to the Animals
When the folks at Austin-based indie label Doolittle Records illustrated the badge for their annual private party at Club DeVille with a photo of a rabbit mounting a chicken and captioned the picture "Multimedia Merger," they might as well have been playing Kreskin with their future. "It was a reference to Time Warner and America Online," Doolittle's Bonnie Spanogle explains innocently. "It seemed like everybody was merging all of a sudden." Still, the fact that Doolittle announced today that they were in negotiations with L.A.-based indie New West Records toward a get-together between the two businesses seems like a solid indication that the party invites were intended as a winking clue to the company's future. Nope, says Spanogle; in point of fact, recently self-exiled boss Jeff Cole had been working toward a deal with Danny Goldberg's imprint Artemis, not New West, and the currently proposed association didn't come up until Cole took his unexpected leave of Doolittle mere weeks ago. The discussion in progress covers transferring the Doolittle catalog to New West, keeping the latter's L.A. office as well as the Austin Doolittle office and its current staff. Distribution of the united labels' product will be through Relativity. Ironically enough, it would also bring Austinites Stephen Bruton and Jon Dee Graham, already signed to New West, into the Austin label's family. Oh, and the already-in-progress negotiations with Artemis are still under way, but only for Trish Murphy's material. I suspect that the Doolittle staff is ecstatic at this point, so I'd say you should be kind for the moment and not whisper the words "Arista Austin" in their ears, reminding them that a promise from a larger label that they'll keep their jobs could potentially only mean " ... until we decide that enough time has passed and we can downsize without causing a stink." That's jumping ahead a bit, as Spanogle emphasizes that the Doolittle/New West label is still merely an idea supported by a letter of intent from New West. "I've thought about changing our name from Doolittle to 'It's-All-But-Done Records,'" she sighs, referring largely to the Cole/Artemis situation, "because that's been the story here for the past six months."
SXSW has had a weather record that could almost be called miraculous, with Thursday night of SXSW 1999 being the only near rain-out since the earliest days of the conference. Still, it seemed like it would be déjà vu all over again this year when, early yesterday afternoon, the skies darkened, news reports spoke of tornados appearing in the lower central states, and Chronicle writer Andy Langer got the call from his bosses at local TV channel News8 that his SXSW coverage was off for the day because they needed all their crews to cover the weather emergency. It seemed momentarily that the first Daily Chronicle would soon earn the title of "most worn newspaper in Austin" thanks to the number of raindrop-dodgers grabbing them off the racks, but within less than an hour, everyone was reflecting on the old adage, "If you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait a minute -- it'll change. And then change back. And then switch a couple more times, steal your wallet, and impregnate your mailman." Things might be a little darker for Carlyne Majer, 20-year power player on the Austin music scene and current head of the local branch of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences, aka the Grammy people. On Wednesday night, with SXSW barely started, the conference's David Thomson took a close gander at a suspicious-looking male youth with a badge, only to find that the laminate belonged to the definitely female Majer. The protesting kid quickly 'fessed that no, it wasn't his badge, but "there's a twist to the story," chuckles Thomson. "It was the president of NARAS' son, and she had let him borrow it." Majer got her SXSW pass back -- on the condition that she shell out the $400-plus to get the rugrat his own cotton-pickin' badge... On a similar note, so far the SXSW gang say they've yet to spot any fake wristbands, despite rumors circulating before the beginning of the conference that some shady characters out there had planned to create and distribute a passel of fake ones. Of course, the possibility still exists that there's some bogus 'bands, but they're really good ones. Hmm, what's this on mine stating that "some venues may restrict access to miners"?... Today's challenge to the media: What to do with all that nice video footage all the TV channels shot of SXSW keynote speaker Steve Earle, wearing a shirt with "I'm from fucking outer space" in large letters on it? I suspect the bad language could have resulted from the influence of Earle's punk-rock ex-roommate, Big Boys cofounder and current 99 Pound-er Chris Gates. In any case, I'm expecting to see a few stations flashing "Stay tuned -- we'll be back after we correct some 'technical difficulties'"... Is swing dead? Not for Son Volt member and Alejandro Escovedo steel player Eric Haywood, who managed to hit not one but two ducks in the course of 18 holes of golf with horrified SIMS head Peyton Wimmer. "The first one rebounded fairly well," recalled humanitarian Wimmer, "[but] the second took longer ... and limped heavily." Since the tournament they were playing benefits SIMS, a local nonprofit organization for musicians' mental health, and is expected to bring in as much as $10,000 this year for the charity, one tends to think the ducks ought to keep a stiff upper bill and accept their injuries for the sake of the greater good. On the other hand, perhaps Haywood should think about applying for a job as sideman for huntsman Ted Nugent. After all, by the end of the game, says Wimmer, the other players were encouraging him to "visualize the hole as a small, furry animal"...
-- Contributors: Christopher Gray, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer