Dancing About Architecture
A recap of favorite SXSW venues that no longer exist, a few festival hot tips, some non-festival tips, a celebrity-sightings checklist.
By Ken Lieck, Fri., March 17, 2000
Goodbye to Paradise
Yep, the Austin where you could once hold a decent party at anyone's house without some uptight asshole immediately calling the cops is fast vanishing. In fact, I don't even have parties at my house anymore, yet as I was gearing myself up on Sunday for this, by far my busiest, most nerve-racking week of the year, I found that the fellow who recently bought the house I rent had left a notice on the door (apparently written in Ebonics) demanding my roommates and I vacate by March 31 (I'll see you in court, pal). Many of you returning to town for South by Southwest will be shocked to see how many new landlord types are out there trying to drain Austin and turn it into a generic Dullsville full of data entry technicians. Since this time last year, many of the live music venues that give the city its personality have ceased to exist, and even though locals have heard this all a million times, here's the rundown for you visitors: Steamboat, one of the last excuses Sixth Street had to call itself an "Entertainment District" (as opposed to Shot Bar Gauntlet) was sold out from under Danny Crooks because a rich guy came into town and wanted that spot. He offered more than the owner could refuse without being committed, and it's now a bar called the Aquarium, while Crooks continues to search for a new home for his club. Punk rock haven the Bates Motel befell a similar fate, though at least the new business in its place, SXSW venue the Blind Pig Pub, has some nice atmosphere and features live music. Bates manager Randall Stockton is in the process of opening his new place, Beerland, though because of delays in getting city permits and such, the temporary Beerland you visit during SXSW in front of the old Electric Lounge is not where the actual club will be. Speaking of the Electric Lounge, that was another case of money talking, only in this case it wasn't that someone else had more, but rather that the club fell behind as Austin rents, city fees, and expenses continue to skyrocket, and the three co-owners finally gave up the fight. They've all scattered to the winds, with only Mike Henry still a full-time Austinite (look for him at the spoken word spectacle Thursday at Ruta Maya), and building owner Diane Zuniga (sister of Fastball's Miles Zuniga) hasn't filled the space yet because, counter to most real-estate types, she says she's holding out for some cool business -- like a new club or properly Austin-type restaurant -- to move in. For SXSW purposes and future one-time party/gig rentals, the space is currently known as Gallery Lombardi Lounge. Finally, and most notably, city-owned Austin landmark Liberty Lunch fell to the bulldozers last fall as the mayor decided that what our downtown needed to revive it was a huge computer software firm and blocks and blocks worth of generic apartment housing for its myriad data technicians. Mind you, the city made a $600,000 low-interest loan, offered advice and what have you to move the Lunch and its keeper, J'net Ward, into a new building next to Stubb's, but that hasn't happened yet. The latest report is that groundbreaking for the new Lunch begins right after SXSW. As for Ward, her friends tell me she split to Mexico for the week, and who can blame her? After all, for her, this year's SXSW is like Halloween and she's the only one stuck without a costume.
So, it's finally here. Can you feel it? Of course you can -- nobody reading Dancing About Architecture (with the possible exception of misguided Frank Lloyd Wright groupies) has a chance in hell of not being affected by SXSW Week. I call it SXSW Week because, whether your wrist bears a band or not, the arrival of the enormous music conference is accompanied by so many copycat "Something by Something Else" bandfests and semi-SXSW-connected label and industry parties that SXSW Week is by far the most live-music-laden week of the year here in the "Live Music Capital of the World." As always, there's a flurry of last-minute changes to report, including Moke dropping out due to a member of the band having a family emergency, and the cancellation of Chlorine, who have apparently lost a guitarist and don't wish to go the power trio route. Hydra-like, for every act that drops, two more rise to take its place; some late additions include that truck guy Emilio (Thursday, Austin Music Hall), and Eric Johnson's Alien Love Child on the outdoor stage in place of Ian McLagan & the Bump Band. Actually, "Mac," who's just come out with the new Best Of British -- all-new material featuring a little help from his friends Ron Wood and Billy Bragg -- on Gadfly Records, says he never was officially "in" the festival. The Austin-based Faces keyboardist acknowledges getting a call from Dave Thomson at SXSW, but says he declined the gig after discovering it only nets $175 or a badge. What about the exposure, the thrill of the crowd, and all that? "I'm 54 years old," he replies, "and I'm not looking for a record deal -- I've got one!" To bolster his defense, he adds that unlike his extended, two-set Wednesday night gigs at the Saxon Pub, a 40-minute run just isn't worth the effort necessary for someone who has to carry around an organ as huge as his. Thomson also phoned up former Frank Zappa/Missing Persons drummer Terry Bozzio a few days ago, after looking at the eclectic Saturday night La Zona Rosa schedule (Sister 7, Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy!) and realizing that what was missing from the lineup was the world's coolest drum solo. Miraculously, frequent flyer Bozzio was actually home for a change and said yes. Finally, Dynamite Hack are out of the race because they, like McLagan, already have a label; they've recently inked a deal with Farm Club/Universal on the strength of their disarming cover of "Boyz-N-the-Hood" and have to hustle on up to a mixing board in New York ASAP if they're gonna make their projected album release date of May 23. When you're banking on what's essentially a novelty song, you'd better strike when the iron is hot, baby!
...or Not to SXSW
On the non-SXSW front, as usual, we've gone about doing our damndest to cover every single musical event of the week, altering our regular Club Listings section slightly. Notice that the entries for SXSW venues will simply refer you to the SXSW section, leaving the bulk of the listings to concentrate on all the places, no matter how unusual or obscure, that bands will be playing. Of course, sometimes what is and isn't SXSW can get really fuzzy. For instance, Adult Rodeo (possessors of this year's best promo photo) played SXSW on Wednesday at the Soho Lounge, yet the label they're on has its "official" Shimmy-Disc Showcase at a non-official venue (Club DeVille) on Thursday, with a lineup that includes the reunited team of label owner Kramer and Jad Fair. Hank's Roadside Cafe (771 Airport) opens this week with Friday night's Hank-O-Rama, featuring Grass and Smartacus, and among other notable (and loud) non-SXSW get-togethers, there's the somewhat queazily-titled Mouth by Mouth Sex, held this year in Pease Park on Friday from 2-10pm, with AK & the 47's, the Convulsions, Titz, and Voltage. "The grills will be lit," the organizers crow, "so bring your own meat." Zachapalooza is the latest to hit these ears, a show running from 3-9pm Sunday at the Wooldridge Square gazebo at 10th and Guadalupe with Monroe Mustang, Viper Horse, Subset, and others performing. Subset, by the way, were recently crushed by the news that a band of the same name featuring Sir Mix-A-Lot and the Presidents of the United States of America is now touring and poised to become famous enough to confuse fans of the local trio, but not rich enough to be worth taking to court. Sorry, guys, not every band is as lucky as Austin's Gomez. The Convulsions also are on the slate for Fuck by Fuck You, at Jabberwocky Screen Printing (2008 Alexander, off MLK just east of I-35) on Saturday afternoon, along with Bitchface, Jackastronaut, Gong Li, 400 Blows, Blackula, Sangre de Toro, and the world's grumpiest band, Squat Thrust. Get there early -- last year, wet-blanket types in the neighborhood put the kibosh on things before the sun even got low.
Last-minute addition to your list of famous people in town this week but not performing: Metallica's Lars Ulrich, here to scope out pal Johnny Goudie's showcase... Try and save a few bucks for Sunday, as there are benefits both on the SXSW side of things, Mark Rubin & Friends at La Zona Rosa, and over at the Elephant Room: a fundraiser to help cover drummer A.D. Mannion's recent medical expenses from a recurring serious illness, featuring a passel of local jazz folks including Paul Glasse, Tony Campise, Rich Harney, Brannen Temple, James Polk, and on and on. The Rubin show, by the by, is the closest you'll get to a Bad Livers gig in town until late April, as the band's tour schedule makes a trip south at this time incredibly taxing and counterproductive for current Oregon resident Danny Barnes... Lots of Patti Smith fans offered assistance in answering the question of where in Austin Ms. Smith bought the dress she wears on her Wave album cover. Apparently, it was the now-defunct Maharani on Lavaca, and Patti first wore it at an in-store at the (also now-defunct) Zebra Records. Former Zebra manager John Kunz is now head honcho of Waterloo Records, and if you look to this week's Music Listings, you'll see a slew of in-stores at Waterloo, though Smith is not among them. Kunz still has reason to be chipper, as Waterloo recently received notice that they've won the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) Retailer of the Year Award (Medium Division), beating out Amazon.com and a number of large chains. Congrats... Speaking of Smith, remember last SXSW when Michael Corcoran, after playing head cheerleader for Tom Waits, publicly admitted to popping home for a quick mid-Conference nap and sleeping through the "Singapore" slinger's highly anticipated showcase? Well, I've been wondering what excuse Corcoran would come up with this time when he misses the equally hot Patti Smith gig. My top 10 guesses follow:
10) Confused by Jody Denberg connection, thought it was Yoko Ono who was coming.
9) Couldn't pass up chance to hear new Damnations TX CD recorded in Amsterdam.
8) Still recovering from merciless beating by Dallas Cowboys DB/Puppydog Entertainment CEO Kevin Smith over training camp article last year.
7) Stayed up too late at Sugar's locked in "lap-dancing duel" with Robert Wilonsky.
6) All tied up skimming www.deathexchange. com for new tattoo ideas.
5) Had to follow up on rumor Traci Lords was introing a film at an unannounced SXSW screening in San Marcos.
4) Busy teaching less-worldly Chris Riemenschneider how to spell "reefer."
3) Distraught over discovering invitation to Sandra Bullock's Y2K party stuck in back of mailbox.
2) Had to stay home and lecture rebellious son on how gangsta rap is a good thing.
1) Stuck in family crisis -- forced to spend entire weekend consoling brother-in-law D. Sumida, whose band Beano Shots didn't make the cut for SXSW.
-- Contributions: Christopher Gray, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser