Dancing About Architecture

Aqua Fest seems unlikely, but there's plenty of other summer fun to be had; the Austin Music Network is a bit of a mess.

Monkeywrench (l-r): Martin Bland, Tim Kerr, Mark Arm, Tom Price, and Steve Turner
Monkeywrench (l-r): Martin Bland, Tim Kerr, Mark Arm, Tom Price, and Steve Turner

Shoring Up for Summer

Last week, I started up the subject of outdoor shows, and needless to say, I have so far only examined the tip of the iceberg, or more accurately, offered a mere summary of the summery events on the way. Hell, I barely even mentioned the one-time center of all outdoor summer musical activity in Austin, Auditorium Shores, other than to point out this weekend's Bob Marley Fest there. As it turns out, though, it may not be long before people only speak of music at the Shores in the past tense; the Fabulous Thunderbirds' annual bashes there are long gone, as is the splash of Austin's Aqua Fest. Last we reported in our Politics section, Mike Clark-Madison wrote, "Aqua Fest, born in 1962, has, in 1998, sunk into a watery grave in Town Lake. The current board of Austin Aqua Festival Inc. promises to come back in 2000 out at Lake Walter E. Long, its once and future home-to-be, but this is in no way a sure thing." Well, as summer of 2000 approaches, no word has come along this year from the Commodores of yesterday, and the Fest's old phone number has long been disconnected. A representative for the Austin Convention & Visitors' Bureau, after mumbling "good question" and putting me on hold for a few minutes, told me that "they're still talking about it, but nothing has been confirmed." I'll wait until I see a Skipper Pin for the new millennium before I believe that the once smooth-sailing festival will indeed return from Davy Jones' locker.

The good news for the scores who adore the Shores is that the concert series put on every year by the Austin Federation of Musicians, the city of Austin, and the Recording Industries Musicians Performance Trust funds (and Budweiser) are on for 2000 -- with a few changes. This year, the concerts begin April 30 and run for six consecutive weeks through May 31. The shows will have a starting time of 6:30pm, a half-hour earlier than past years, and each show will now feature three acts rather than two. Those changes, says the AFS's Ginger Shults, are all the result of dealing with the Town Lake Park makeover, which includes the construction of the Long Center for the Performance Arts and the new Community Events Center, beginning in June. AFS's companion shows at the Zilker Hillside Theater (Sundays from 5-7pm) are free of such new constraints and are pretty much business as usual. They begin April 23 (Easter) and run for eight weeks, excluding Mothers Day, May 14, and Fathers Day, June 18, concluding on June 25. Here's your clip 'n' save guide to this year's shows: Albert/Gage Band, Texana Dames with Paul Pearcy, Rotel & the Hot Tomatoes (4/26); Steve South Band, Freddie Krc & the Shakin' Apostles, Delta Roux (5/3); Champ Hood & the Hungry Troubadours, Natalie Zoe, Hugh Fadel & Sky River (5/10); Panic Choir, Darin Murphy, Trish Murphy (5/17); Ponty Bone & the Squeezetones, Darcie Deaville, Will Knaak (5/24); John Arthur Martinez, Gerry's Kids, Starlites of San Antonio (5/31). Zilker Hillside Theater: Tom Swatzell, Therapy Sisters (4/23); Steve Brooks, Floyd Domino (4/30); Don McCalister, James Broadway (5/7); Ray Baker, Samba (5/21); Los Romanceros, Van Wilks (5/28); Bill Forrest, 3 Balls of Fire (6/11); Beth Williams, Karison (6/25).

At this time, there's no official word on future music series at the Shores, and no decisions are expected to be made until those involved get a better idea of what the area will be like when the new construction is completed.

TV or Not TV?

Readers of last week's "Postmarks" section were probably not too surprised to see a letter included therein ("Production Woes at AMN") complaining about the current quality of the Austin Music Network. After all, AMN in both its non- and for-profit incarnations has been the subject of much controversy from day one. The oddest thing about the letter in question, which complained about the "abrupt firing" of key AMN personnel, called the station's current broadcasting "substandard," and described the decision to move the station to its current location at Threadgill's as "a stupid idea," was that it came not from a disgruntled viewer, but from one Philip Montoya, an employee of AMN. Montoya isn't the only person who's been asking questions about the current and future state of AMN, either. To all concerned parties, manager Rick Melchior is quick to assure that while AMN is "still struggling" with the amount of ad revenue it's bringing in as the station works toward its goal of self-sufficiency, AMN is far from being in an emergency situation. The facts remain, however, that since its relocation, AMN is often not a very pretty thing to watch, with many technical problems, a poor signal, and confused restaurant patrons attempting to peacefully digest their chicken fried steaks while the backs of their heads are broadcast to the cable subscribers of Austin. (One on-air personality at AMN calls it "unbelieveable" that no one has yet taken it upon themselves to walk up and hijack the microphone during one of AMN's live, open broadcasts, comparing the station's compatibility with the Threadgill's staff and patrons to that of the new bass player in an established band: "You put up with him, but you really don't want to hear him.") Melchior doesn't deny any of the problems, saying that he's doing what he can with the money he's got and that the technical troubles are slowly being taken care of while he works with the Catch-22 situation of needing more advertising income, but not having enough money to hire an advertising sales staff. Future plans, he says, include changing the format of the station's Rock.alt show, and attempting to budget for increased remote programming. As to Montoya's letter, Melchior says he "won't fire him because of the letter -- but he seems to be very unhappy here."

Mixed Notes

King Crimson-related activity in Austin keeps increasing: Terry Bozzio, whose tour of our nation's hotel ballrooms starts May 15 at the Holiday Inn on South I-35 (seriously) recently completed a new album with Steve Stevens and Tony Levin and is currently involved in a proposed new ProjeKct 3 (and friend) album, and now Eric Johnson is hitting the road with the Vortexan Section, consisting of himself and the rhythm duo of Crimson bassist Trey Gunn and drummer Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, etc). The trio kicks things off this Sunday at La Zona Rosa... At press time, UTTM told this writer that Bruce Springsteen tickets were still available for the Boss' show Monday at the Erwin Center. The anti-scalper curve being thrown for the Springsteen show involves selling tickets for the first 17 rows (though I don't expect any of those to still be available!) only through the UTTM Charge-a-Ticket line (477-6060), limiting the purchase to two per person, and not releasing those tix to customers until the night of the show. The last time the Erwin Center did this was for Prince back in '97, with the general notion being that it may not stop the scalpers, but at least it'll keep them on their toes... With no advance word at all -- at least on this side of the highway -- No Limit General/aspiring hoopster Master P brought lieutenant Mystikal to to town for a gig at Studio 102 on Airport last Sunday. Upon learning ticket prices topped $30, Chronicle music staffer and occasional "Beat Box" author Christopher Gray was heard to remark "Uuughhh!"... Add this footnote to last week's commentary on Starbucks' new "Blue Note" coffee, a licensing tie-in with the jazz/blues label of the same name: Blue Note recording artist Bob Dorough has just released a new CD with cover artwork by former Austin cartoonist Shannon Wheeler. Do I even need to tell you that the name of the album is Too Much Coffee Man?... It's been a long time since you saw Tim Kerr onstage, ain't it? Well, one good reason for the veteran of the Big Boys, Bad Mutha Goose, and Lord High Fixers to have been absent is that the supposedly one-shot Monkeywrench, teaming Kerr with Mark Arm of Mudhoney, is back with a new album and tour. The band, which also features members of Gas Huffer and Lubricated Goat, got back together last November in Seattle to record the new Electric Children disc for the always Kerr-friendly Estrus label. An appearance on May 13 at Emo's will finish up a string of U.S. dates for the quintet before they head to London's Wembley Arena for a pair of appearances later that month... Speaking of reunions, I thought the Pocket FishRmen were just being their usual obnoxious selves by calling their next-to-last gig (Hole in the Wall, Friday) a reunion, but now I see that former members Snoopy and Ron Williams will be taking part in the festivities... Speaking of Williams' bands, Rick Carney of Jesus Christ Superfly called to say that the 'fly will be heading out on tour in May with Cade Callahan on drums, and that anyone who's actually seen Callahan lately should tell him to get in touch with the band. Hmmm. Maybe he's at Aqua Fest... Fought Back and Lost, the debut album by the Hard Feelings, who count among their members a former R.L. Burnside sideman and an ex-Bulemics member, hits stores April 15th. The official release party for the Sympathy for the Record Industry-issued disc is at Emo's on the 29th, and the band says they're the only Austin act selected to play the Las Vegas Shakedown in Nevada this August, alongside the likes of Wayne Kramer, Nashville Pussy, the Real Kids, the Dictators, Donnas, and yes, Monkeywrench... Though it's an impossible task these days, I suppose I'm going to have to return to occasionally at least trying to let you people know about as many new releases as I can track down. Among those on or near the desk: Men From Nantucket's Super Balls (CD release show Saturday at Hole in the Wall), George Kinney's After the Fall, Ten Speed's The Beanhouse, Tish Hinojosa's Sign of Truth (not due in stores till May 23), the Dead End Cruisers' Patron Saint of Wheless Lane (see "Texas Platters"), the soundtrack to Price of Glory including the Texas Tornados (catch the repeat of their Austin City Limits special this Friday night) performing "Ring of Fire" en Español, and the final, self-titled album from Tripping Daisy... And now, as long as you're already bummed out by those last two entries and thinking about dead people, I regret to inform that Beaumont guitarist Ervin Charles, 68, who among other things took Long John Hunter to his first B.B. King show, passed away this week... Bouncers are in the news again this week -- in the sports section, no less! The American-Statesman reported on Tuesday that an arrest warrant had been issued for former Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Kelly Gruber. The warrant affidavit charges Gruber with a Class A misdemeanor for allegedly biting La Zona Rosa bouncer Randall Womack on the finger during South by Southwest after being denied entrance to the private party at the venue. Seeing as Gruber is a minority owner of La Zona, I suppose you'd have to call it a case of biting the hand that wouldn't feed him...

Contributors: Christopher Gray, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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