Dancing About Architecture
Austin leaves Ken Lieck homeless and fuming.
Oh, Give Me a Home ...
As I type this, I've got a house full of records, videos, comic books, and, of course, furniture and crap like that, and I'm still not absolutely sure where it (and I) will be this time Monday morning. Yep, I managed to persuade the new owner of the house I've been living in not to unceremoniously boot me out on my ass last month as he had hoped, but in the process of being Mr. Nice Guy, I agreed to find new housing by the end of April despite having a pre-existing lease that runs through July. After all, with students beginning to flee for the summer, the advent of May should mean loads of new rental properties would be available, right? Wrong. Thanks to the continuous influx of computer nerds and all the other noncreative, security- and retirement-plan-driven types filling up Austin, those of us who create the entertainment that these newbies supposedly craved so much that they all decided they had to move to Austin are slowly but steadily being driven from our homes and our city. At least I'm a salaried professional (chuckle if you must) and able to afford some reasonable level of housing, even in the current climate, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what good that does when there's so few rental houses currently available at decent locations (like in town, for instance), even at hideously inflated prices! I shudder to think what your average burgeoning young musical talent, even propped up with a minimum wage burger-flipping job, has to look forward to the next time some speculator comes in and buys the house planning to nice it up so that decent people can move in at twice the price. I know far too many people who were once party-throwing heroes in this burg and now reside in bug-infested hovels with horrid, horrid new neighbors who call the cops at the drop of a guitar pick because they have to be at their pathetic monkey jobs at some ludicrous hour of the morning. That, of course, is all they have to look forward to in their pathetic so-called lives.
The Gated Music Community
Or is it? Now, the folks with the silicon chips inside their heads have come up with a better way to keep themselves entertained -- without even having to come in contact with us filthy, tie-less, real Austinites. Last week, The Austin Business Journal ran a cheery tale of how Applied Materials Inc. recently provided their employees with "Beer, tacos, massages, and a Rick Treviño concert -- all for free." April 6 was the company's first Rampfest event, a concert series to recognize the "ramping up" of Applied's local work force, and the Santa Clara, Calif.-based manufacturer of semiconductor equipment, which employs more than 2,600 people in Austin, has future concerts that aren't open to the public, featuring the Gourds and Memphis Train on May 4; Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel on June 1; and Sugar Ray and Los Lobos on July 13. It's not a new concept; remember the private Stevie Wonder concert at the Erwin Center and the aborted Devo show of the same type last year? Obviously there's nothing wrong with people having private parties -- and I certainly don't begrudge the Gourds getting what is likely one of the better paychecks they'll be receiving this year -- but when the advance of the pocket-protector crowd drives the creative forces of Austin to seek shelter under the 360 bridge, don't be surprised when the only place left to see live music is at the Motorola company picnic.
No. 1 With a Byte
Technology's not all bad -- I never said that. F'rinstance, Ginger Mackenzie can now claim to be "virtually successful." Her song "The Garden of You and I" had been No.1 on MP3.com's pop/rock chart for four days in a row as of last Tuesday, and since then has hit the top spot overall on the Internet's premier e-music hotspot. (Since I first received this information, former Dejadisc artist Elliott Murphy grabbed the top spot via his duet with Bruce Springsteen, but when last I looked, Mackenzie remained No.1 in North America.) Not a bad achievement, considering that Mackenzie had to beat some 300,000 other songs by 100,000 artists available on the site; we'll see how having one of her songs played during Providence on NBC this Friday at 7pm affects her e-ratings (ask her about it Saturday night at Speakeasy). And while the hottest topic in the music industry these days is how sites like Napster.com are spreading music via the Internet without the burden of paying the artists behind the tunes (next week's Politics section explores this topic in-depth), Eric Gieseke, aka electronica artist Sidewinder, recently e-mailed to say that he had five songs in the Top 10 on Mp3.com in the Austin region. Sidewinder, Gieseke claims, has earned the title of "most downloaded artist in Austin and Texas," despite the fact that the European/Japanese-style dance music act never plays out, as he is the sole member. He adds that "my music online pays for the house bills and more," and by his calculations, those who manage to keep a fan base and stay in the Top 10 on the major MP3 charts can take home some $5,000 a month from that source alone. "In some ways," he says, "it's better than a record label." Hey, if you can avoid the egos of the label biz and get paid for what Gieseke calls "touring from my bedroom," maybe there's still a future in this music thing! Even after all the clubs have closed down.
Too Many Goodbyes
Sometimes bad things just happen in bunches. Chris Wright, formerly of King Friday and most recently of the newly formed Leon, a band that had brought the 32-year-old musician back to the stage for a couple of shows, died this weekend following what was apparently a freak firearm accident. Also, Houston guitar king Clarence Holliman, 62, who played with Bobby "Blue" Bland and Miss Lavelle White and most recently as a husband-and-wife team with spouse Carol Fran and the Holliman Express, passed away this week, reportedly of a heart attack. Those injured on the music scene recently include a patron who fell down the stairs at the Backyard during Robert Earl Keen's performance last Saturday and had to be airlifted out by emergency personnel, and then there was the genius would-be ninja who broke in through the Hole in the Wall ceiling, fell to the floor and busted his ass, then returned days later via the same method and actually managed to drag off the club's not particularly full -- but nonetheless hernia-inducing -- iron safe. Keep your eyes open at local dives for a man carrying a blowtorch and buying rounds for the house while having incredible difficulty staying comfortable on his barstool.
Dynamite Hack continues to burn up the charts -- even with the national release of their album not due for another month. "We got the add and we were excited," says manager George Couri of the band's "Boys-N-the Hood" cover getting on the charts at pivotal station KROQ in California. The news ain't all positive, however; the band was "dissed," at least for the time being, by Dr. Dre, who was set to make a guest appearance in their video but got tangled up in working on an Eminem clip instead. The Dr. may still be involved in an upcoming shoot for the band's continuing biography series on USA Network's Farm Club, though; he's delighted that the band is doing the song, though he's made it clear that the Hacks better be sure no version, whether it be video, single, or album track, includes the "n" word (and I don't mean "novelty"). Oh, and for those who already have the locally released version of the album, the band says they're sorry that the newly remixed album won't have any new bonus tracks, but they will be giving away a free VHS tape of the "Boyz" video with purchase of the "new" album... The opening of Houston's new Continental Club has been postponed, but with the liquor license secured and construction near-complete, the Jimmie Vaughan three-night grand opening originally planned for the end of May is now tentatively set for mid-July. The club itself, however, should already have its doors open by early June... Will the Scottish Rite Theatre become Austin's next live music hot spot? Not likely, but with the Golden Arm Symphony there in February, as well as South by Southwest showcases last month, things are heating up. Stubb's Charles Attal, who's putting on the Cat Power shows there this Friday (see Music feature), calls the gigs a "trial" toward further low-key, singer-songwriter type gigs in the lovely structure, which he calls "the finest room in town -- along with the Paramount"... Austin trumpet great Ephraim Owens is back in town this week. Didn't know he had left? Neither did I until I found out he'd joined Tiny Universe, the new outfit formed by former Lenny Kravitz saxophone player and Greyboy Allstars frontman Karl Denson. This Friday and Saturday, the Universe (described by The Village Voice as "funkariffic!") will land in Austin for two nights at the Mercury Upstairs, and have an album scheduled for release in late summer... Not sure if you'd call it jazz, but Walter Daniels tells me the local version of the Ernest Tubb Memorial Band, which backed up Eugene Chadbourne at a recent show here, ended up doing a studio album with EC as well, which should end up released commercially through one avenue or another later this year. Daniels' own Big Foot Chester has some ex-members returning to the fold briefly during their next couple of shows, including an Austin gig at the Hole in the Wall on Saturday... The last reunion you expected to hear about was Watchtower, right? Well, the metallers (Jason McMaster, Doug Keyser, Rick Colaluca, Ron Jarzombek) are scheduled to play June 31/July 1 at the Bang Your Head Festival in Baligen, Germany, with Armored Saint, Saxon (who still rock!), and Thin Lizzy (ummm?), following a 13-year hiatus. It won't be the last of the band, either; you can see them in San Antonio at Medieval Knights in late June, and they're trying to line up an Austin gig as well, with no luck so far. (Jason, have you contacted the nice people at Applied Materials yet?) McMaster apparently has full-blown reunion fever these days, as his Dangerous Toys are doing a reunion on June 4 in Killeen, plus he's got a Godzilla Motor Company gig at Babe's this Saturday, while his AC/DC-inspired Broken Teeth play May 5, also at Babe's. By the way, Sopranos cast member Drea Denatteo has proven to be a bigger fan of the Australian rockers than most. During her visit to Austin for the SXSW Film Fest, when the subject of AC/DC came up, her waistband went down to reveal that she had their logo tattooed, er, down under... In other celebrity sighting news, non-AC/DC fan Carole King was spotted last Sunday at the Speakeasy. I hear she has an offspring at UT grad school. No word on any tattoos... The party's over -- or at least the Shindigs are calling it quits. Singer Melissa Bryan says it was "time to move on" and has already been spotted doing solo acoustic stuff at the Hole in the Wall. The final Shindig will be this Friday at the Hole with Britt Daniel opening and the Wannabes finishing the night with a plethora of "new songs about robots"... Also calling it quits is S.F. punk act with local ties Fang, with their swan song set for May 20 at Emo's. Frontman Sam McBride, aka Sammytown, has apparently finished his stint in prison and has enlisted friend and former Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin for the show by the band, whose music has spawned covers by Green Day, Metallica, Mudhoney, Nirvana, and the Butthole Surfers. Word has it, in fact, that the city is thinking about changing Austin's slogan from "Live Music Capital of the World" to the title of the Fang song the Butts have covered live for many years: "And the Money Will Roll Right In"...
Contributors: Raoul Hernandez, Mindy LaBernz, Andy Langer