Dancing About Architecture
Austin Music Commission chair Bob Livingston steps down, no one steps up; Man's Ruin returns to Austin; Michael Corcoran's suspension is puzzling.
Out of Commission
What if they held an election and nobody came? That's the possibility facing the Austin Music Commission at their next meeting (first Monday of each month, 5:30pm at 625 East 10th Street, open to the public), since chair Bob Livingston has decided to step down from his post, and no one else seems particularly eager to follow in his footsteps. "I put my life on hold for a couple years," says Livingston, who's trying to reclaim some of his time for himself and his family. His resignation might come as a surprise to many, particularly those often heard wondering, "What the hell does the Music Commission do, anyway?" To quote an e-mail I received from Casey Monahan at the Texas Music Office, the AMC "is an advisory board appointed by the City Council to study the needs of Austin's music community and recommend policies and programs that will enhance music industry development." Among the comission recommendations that have been accepted by the City Council are the Music Industry Loan Guarantee Program, the LINKS Program providing musical instruments to children, and creation of the city's Music Marketing Office. It's a full-time job, note several commission members, that does not pay a red cent, and as such, the vacancy isn't exactly finding people clamoring to fill the position. Commissioner Kristin Nagel says she told the commission that she would take the job "under no circumstances," and that even if she didn't have a toddler to raise, she would find it difficult to make such a commitment given her other responsibilities. Fellow commissioner and KGSR radio personality Kevin Connor, who was also asked if he'd like to take the position, says he's considering it, but frets that, "I would hate to take it on and then not be able to do it." "Everybody cares a lot," echoes Nagel, but admits that it's difficult finding someone who can commit to the time and effort required by the job. For all he's been through, the departing Livingston says he definitely won't be turning his back on music or the community; besides his annual musical trek for the State Department, which this year found him teaching people in Jordan and Kuwait to yodel (one government official told him the tour achieved more for U.S. relations with the Middle East "than an airport carrier in the Persian Gulf"), the Jerry Jeff Walker sideman is now helping organize the Austin music community as a "political force. If you had 20,000 [musicians'] votes in your pocket," he points out, "you could say, 'Hey, City Council! You need to build a parking garage on Sixth Street!" and things like that." Why couldn't he do that as the chairman of the Music Commission? Well, in their official capacity, he answers, "[the city] told us we couldn't use the word 'political.'"
Austin in Ruins!
No one believed it could happen when he split, but now he's coming back: Frank Kozik, whose Man's Ruin empire was begun in Austin and reluctantly moved out to San Francisco several years ago, is returning the company to its home base at last. Kozik himself, whose constant and exuberant boostering of Austin made his original decision to leave the city all the more shocking, will be roaming the streets of Austin temporarily by the time you read this, but the real move is planned for late this year, with plans for Man's Ruin to once again be an Austin-based business by December. Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that. "We don't need to be centralized," explains Kozik. "I basically told the employees, 'You can live where you want to.'" The end result of that is that Kozik, along with his head printer and promotions person, will be coming to Austin, while the bulk of the record label's personnel will relocate from SF to L.A. A New York office will exist as well. "My heart's always been [in Austin]," proclaims Kozik, countering the Frank Sinatra standard. "San Francisco was a necessary commercial step in the success of the business," but having proved his point to the business world, the punk entrepreneur says he's ready to do what he always intended to do, which is to return his business to the city where he's always felt he and it belonged.
Man's Ruin's return is a welcome addition to Austin's music business community, but sadly, I have to report the departure of another, which is hopefully just a temporary situation. Shaggy's on South Congress will be closing its doors soon, as the building housing it has gone up for sale. Day manager Connor Hopkins says that the building hasn't actually changed hands yet, but given the market and its location, the expectation is that it will be snapped up soon. The venue is therefore considering its days numbered in double digits at best and is expecting the party to likely be over by mid-April. This Saturday will be a "customer appreciation night," with the acts still up in the air at press time, but there'll be no big closing ceremony announced until, well, until it's known when exactly the club will be closing. And yes, says Hopkins, Shaggy's is "hoping to relocate" as soon as possible. One place they won't be moving is the space above Katz's Deli, where a new venue called Momo's is set to displace the Top of the Marc. "It's no April Fools' joke!" trumpets the club's answering machine, and indeed this Saturday "marcs" the bottoming out of the Top. Coming May 17, Momo's co-owner John Korioth (founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation) says the new venue will be a "Las Vegas Style" lounge, hoping to draw big name acts to perform solo, VH1 Storytellers-type shows in an environment more intimate than, say, the Backyard. Momo's is named for gangster Sam "Momo" Giancana, so I won't ask what kind of "encouragement" the club will be giving acts to perform there.
Send Out the Clowns
In the aftermath of several rounds of silliness between the Daily Chronicle and the Austin-American Statesman, I had intended to enact a moratorium on mentioning the names of any journalists in this column, which is, of course, supposed to be about musicians, not the people who write about them. Then, on Tuesday, came the Statesman's public reprimanding of Michael Corcoran, the man who wrote "Don't You Start Me Talking," the classic predecessor to this column. The whole story runs in this week's "Naked City" column in Politics, but in brief, in place of Corcoran's "Austin Inside/Out" this week, Statesman editors ran a box stating that the gossip column has of late failed to meet the paper's "standards of accuracy, fairness and tone." As a result of "Inside/Out"'s transgressions, the daily has suspended the column, but while it's on a three-month "hiatus," they state "Corcoran will continue to write about music." The use of Corcoran's photo to accompany the public flogging was a particularly questionable addition to a particularly questionable decision, but at least it tends to draw attention away from what seems to be the focus of the Statesman's "logic." I mean, why would anyone think they can punish a column, and not its author? Wouldn't the obvious remedy be to either closely monitor and censor -- I mean edit -- "Inside/Out"? The implication is that the paper is somehow unable to control what happens in their Life & Arts section. I know I wouldn't complain if I lost my column but continued to get a check. There's a phrase for that: Paid vacation!
If I mention Casey Monahan one more time, I think it may put him in the running with Ray Benson as the most-mentioned person in recent "Dancing" columns (and I didn't even have room last week to mention that Sunday's Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve benefit concert that brought together Benson and Huey Lewis -- now it's old News). Here goes: Monahan informs me that that the 2000 edition of the Texas Music Office's Texas Music Industry Directory is now available. This year it's up to 424 pages and 11,000 entries in its attempt at providing a complete guide to Texas music businesses and contacts. The TMID, an incredibly helpful tool, is available for $20 from the TMO at PO Box 13246, Austin, TX 78711, with more information at 512/463-6666, music@ governor.state.tx.us, or on their Website at http://www.governor.state.tx.us/music... It'd be a lie to say that Knife in the Water got their current record deal through South by Southwest, but that doesn't mean they're not grateful for the existence of the music conference. Sure, they inked the deal with Overcoat Records six months ago in order to release their upcoming Red River album on June 1, but it was at SXSW that the band finally got to meet the guy who signed them, as well as the German gentlemen from Glitterhouse who'll be distributing Red River overseas (Touch & Go will handle domestic distribution). Actually, says singer Aaron Blount, the band already has a single out on All City, which is actually the same label as Overcoat, which is owned by a fellow who works for Thrill Jockey, who heard the band through a mutual friend at Carrot Top. Moral of the story: Follow the indie trail long enough, and it may actually lead you somewhere... That's what happened to Experimental Aircraft, who found a Devil in the Woods -- a Northern California-based label that's assuming distribution of the band's current self-produced EP release with another full-length release under the label's banner set for later this year... It doesn't always hurt to have friends at the majors, either. Neil Young's Vapor Records, who re-released Spoon's A Series of Sneaks awhile back, will not be putting out the band's next album, but is including updates on the band in their press releases. Hey, you take your free publicity where you can get it... Silver Scooter is currently recording its third album for Peek-a-Boo Records, scheduled for release in Fall 2000. In the meantime, look for frontman Scott Garred's just-released solo album as Super XX Man, also on Peek-a-Boo. Super XX Man will tour the East Coast in May... Speaking of solo tours, Larry Seaman says he's about to head out on one. His reason? The boss at his day job told him he was building up too much vacation time!... Remember the Prima Donnas, that "British Invasion" band with the catchy melodies and hedonistic lifestyle that settled briefly in Austin and then headed off to peddle their wares in blighty Olympia, Washington? Well, the San Francisco Bay Guardian recently ran a totally straight-faced account of their current war with fellow Texan-cum-Washingtonian Gene Defcon, who apparently has been peddling the same schtick too close to the Primas for the comfort of either act. See http://www.sfbg.com/noise/22/prima.html for the full story, but for those who simply miss the PDs' antics, note that they've got two upcoming releases, a 7-inch of "Cocksucking Machine," and a CD of a live performance on KVRX-FM coming soon on Business Deal... Man, I just realized that with Corcoran's column gone, I'm going to have to come up with some something to say about Sandra Bullock every week. Um, how about "Thanks for coming to the Austin Music Awards, but no thanks to your people for sending us the dozens and dozens of promotional plastic 28 Days champagne bottles full of Pixy Stix and Laffy Taffy. No offense, but the staff here has gone into such severe sugar shock that several people were starting to think about dumping the empties all over your lawn just to see how your neighbors would react. Luckily, someone pointed out that Turk Pipkin would no doubt be completely unfazed, so we deep-sixed that plan ...
Corpuscles: Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer