Dancing About Architecture
A bitch session about the plight of the Austin music scene is scheduled at Threadgill's; here's hoping Negativland's long-anticpated Austin appearance doesn't dissapoint a la SRL.
You Can Fight City Hell
I've been ranting for several weeks about the plight of the Austin music scene being silicon-chipped away with reckless abandon. I've even offered a few tentative suggestions about things that can be done to save our heritage, but one man is keeping a level head and spearheading a new effort toward achieving both peace and prosperity in our embattled city. "Even people with established music careers are leaving," mourns Austin Music Commission top dog Kevin Connor, explaining the urgency behind the airing of this Tuesday's Town Hall Meeting at Threadgill's and broadcast live throughout the city via the Austin Music Network on Time Warner Cable channel 15. Anyone and everyone involved with the local music community is urged to get their butts down to Threadgill's (the old one, on Lamar). "This doesn't have to be a bitch session," says Connor. I for one hope it is and that the various city officials who have continued to escalate the war against local musicians and seem to want to live in what Connor calls "the Live Background Music Capital of the World" are forced to watch it -- A Clockwork Orange-style if necessary. If you've been hassled while trying to load in on Sixth Street, or are a musician, club employee, music retailer, studio person, manager, member of the press or just a music fan, make sure you attend this call to arms on Tuesday, 8-9:30pm -- or at least watch it on TV and see if you don't learn something. Remember, if this is a success, it could really change Austin for the better. And it might make it feasible for them to have a keg at the next one.
Remember when Survival Research Laboratories came to town? The incendiary performance troupe (which doesn't suffer City Hall gladly) promised a show that was destined to be the stuff of legends, whether good or ill, and for many locals, it was quite ill, though not in the way the technology-obsessed conceptual artists intended. After literally years of waiting for the SRL performance, which involved animal corpses, incredibly high voltages of electricity, fire, gunfire, robotic gladiators, and lots and lots of noise, many found the actual event to be a sizable letdown -- a haphazard, sputtering mess of misfiring projectiles and the Einsturzende of not nearly enough Neubauten. An appearance in this neck of the woods by noted culture jammers, U2-baiters, Pepsi drinkers, and lawsuit collectors Negativland has been just as hotly anticipated by the fringe(ware) elements of Austin, and now the dream has come true (or false), as the band makes their Austin debut this Tuesday at Stubb's. What should one expect from a Negativland live show when their known forte is clearly in radio/studio efforts -- which have given them a fairly accurate reputation as the heirs to the throne of the Firesign Theatre? According to the band's Web site, expect a performance lasting over two-and-a-half hours, including never-before-heard material and reworked tunes from their recordings, along with an elaborately collaged brew of film, video, and slides. Oh, and a puppet show. The Web site further advises that "Negativland founder and all around mother of a hen, Mark Hosler, is running around like his head has been cut off in preparation for this final breakup tour. Describing the tour as 'putting all our eggs in two vans and then sitting on them,' Hosler's become a virtual basket case. His fowl (sic) temper and frequent stress tantrums now worry some of our initially cocky investors because any one of his several life-threatening nervous ailments could drop him dead right onstage." Keep in mind that due to the nature of the band, whose focus includes mind-fucking the press (see their classic Helter Stupid for details) and the fact that Negativland has dubbed this their "True/False Tour," nothing you have read here is necessarily valid. One thing that seems to be for real: Negativland has requested that anyone planning to attend the show who has scraps of 16mm film (anything from a few feet to a couple of minutes in length) bring them to the show, and the band "might play them during intermission. Look for Mike or Tara, approach them and tell them you have film for them. They're the ones in the middle of the floor with more film and slide projectors than you can count on two fingers." Maybe that was SRL's problem -- group founder Mark Pauline can count up to three on his fingers.
We're an American Bad
How did Circle Jerks/Bad Religion member Greg Hetson find himself an Austinite? About a year and a half ago, his ex-wife, for reasons inexplicable to this former Southwestern University student, wanted to attend said educational facility in Georgetown, Texas, leading the pair and their daughter (yes, the one that Flea dedicated a song to at the Red Hot Chili Peppers show last week) to the center of Texas. Though his better half has since found herself less than delighted with the university and has been accepted to Yale, Hetson says he's acclimated himself to the local scene quite well. Since the move, he's been around the Bubble quite often, recording local bands like the Applicators, the unpredictable Bulemics, and Monostat 5 at the Sixteen Deluxe-owned studio. He's also found the time to record a new Bad Religion album, titled The New America, and is currently in mid-rehearsal for the tour that will find that band opening for, of all bands, Blink 182. What the hell is the veteran punk rock act going to be doing on this massive road trip? "We're just gonna do our regular thing," Hetson confides, "corrupt the minds of growing American youth." The big "arena punk show," as he calls it, hits Austin and the Erwin Center on Tuesday, but for those whose minds have already been corrupted beyond anything Quincy M.E. can do to help, Hetson assures me that the Religion will continue with their own separate tour afterward, and will end up back in Austin in a more appropriate venue later this year. Another momentous occasion to look forward to: Hetson's Punk Rock Karaoke project, featuring stalwarts Mike Watt and Devo's Bob Mothersbaugh. The gimmick? They play punk standards and let audience members take the mike. Yes, they do plan to play here in the future, so start preparing your voice with a bottle of Scope and a handful of razorblades.
Call it mixed signals or just flat plain ignorance, but neither the Smashing Pumpkins' publicity people nor the Chronicle's (on-)crack- music staff -- save Andy Langer -- picked up on the fact that the Pumpkins' show this Sunday at the Austin Music Hall sold out within hours of tickets going on sale. Thus, recently Eighties-obsessed Chronicle associate editor Christopher Gray wound up on the receiving end of His Royal Baldness Billy Corgan's phone call from a Milwaukee hotel room. Besides run-of-the-mill questions like "How's the tour going?," Corgan found himself fielding queries about how well the recent movie High Fidelity depicted Chicago's rock scene ("I haven't seen it, but I hear it's pretty accurate") and the origin of the Pumpkins' version of "Never Let Me Down" from last year's For the Masses Depeche Mode tribute ("We recorded it around the time of Siamese Dream at a BBC session and released it as a B-side"). Corgan was frank about the Goth influence on the Pumpkins' new record MACHINA: The Machines of God, saying Joy Division, Bauhaus, and the Cure are longtime favorites, but drew a blank when asked if the Pumpkins had any tangible Austin connection. "No, we really don't know anybody," he said. He can always meet new friends at Paradox's Retro Rage or the Atomic Cafe's Suburbia Sunday-night danceoffs.
The Pocket FishRmen may be calling it quits (see "Music Listings"), but the French will be hearing their music on Monday, as well as seeing the lovely members of the Fuckemos, etc. on the screen as Rock Opera plays the NoDance Film Festival in Cannes this week. Shouldn't that be "Dance Pas"?... Handful is the latest band to give Austin the finger. Their final gig is this Friday at Gaby & Mo's. Vocalist Sarah White is moving to NYC on May 17. The remaining Handful members have a bunch of new projects under way. Lisa Wickware and Shannon Wade, both former members of the Meg Hentges band, are starting a new, improved girl rock extravaganza under the name National Bong Day. Wickware will also continue to split time with the Agronauts and Christy Claxton, while Susie Martinez and Chepo Peña continue to play with everyone... Back to Meg Hentges for a moment, I 'bout popped my other retina when I spotted Hentges' new single reviewed as a "pick" Rock Track in the new Billboard. Why so shocked? Mostly because the reco was for her single "This Kind of Love," whose release seems to have become an annual event! After a previous 7-inch on Tim/ Kerr Records years ago and then further spotlighting on last year's Brompton's Cocktail album for the Robbins label, the latest push, says label head Corey Robbins, is for Top 40 radio. Hope the third (or so) time's the charm; the dyke anthem for all genders and preferences deserves to be a hit... Even before Dynamite Hack took on the 'Hood, the war between rockers and rappers had long gone the way of the old punk-versus-metal battle of yore, but the entry of hip-hop into Emo's really clinches it. The club just held its second freestyle battle of the MCs, and on the May 31, Emo's hosts the "turntable fuckery" of the Wu-Tang Clan's Killah Priest. Seeing as how he's remixed the Blues Explosion (another blurring of the line between the two musical forms), the word is that Jon Spencer and the missus are all but guaranteed to pay a visit following the conclusion of their own Boss Hog performance up the street that night at Stubb's. Further MC action is on the way, the club says, but it's the good old-fashioned loud guitar, bass, and drums kind that will mark the club's eighth anniversary on Saturday with the Woggles, Sugar Shack, and the first-ever Texas appearance of Monkeywrench. If that and the final Fang show on May 20 aren't sufficient proof the club isn't forgetting its roots, between now and the end of July, the Supersuckers, Demonseeds (featuring members of Deadhorse/Pantera side project Superjoint Ritual), Grim Faeries (featuring members of My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Pigface, and Evil Mothers), the Makers, Groovie Ghoulies, L7, Queers, Murder City Devils, and the Onyas, will all grace the Emo's stage... For something a tad mellower, fans of Friends of Dean Martinez can tape 'em doing a LiveSet on KUT this Sunday at 8pm before their Continental Club show... Ever wonder what happens to all those CDs after SXSW? Well, SXSW is having a garage sale this Saturday 10am-4pm, 1000 E 40th, with albums, old merchandise, and whatever effluvia the various staffers want to get rid of. Benefits the SIMS Foundation, of course... Juliana Hatfield's been hanging around Davíd Garza too much, methinks. She's taken on her pal Dah's bad habit of releasing albums all over the place, and in fact, Garza produced some of the material on Beautiful Creature, one of her two simultaneous releases coming out on the 16th from Zoe Records... New Butthole Surfers label Surfdog has taken advantage of having producing whiz Paul Leary handy; they've had him mix and add additional production to the single "Only One" from the new album by their artist Jeremy Kay... You can safely assume the departure of Ricky Davis, longtime steel player with Dale Watson, is an amicable one. After all, Davis has gone to the trouble of putting a classified ad on the Internet to help find his own replacement. According to Davis, Watson is "lookin' for a single guy, ready to relocate; and ready to go on several extensive tours -- some [being] two months long and some a few weeks.You will get to play the live segment on the Grand Ole Opry on June 24th and play some dang good Country Music all year around." Note the importance of the word "single." You wanna hit the road with hard-touring Watson, you might as well say goodbye to any family you've got for a good while... There's been talk in the UK lately about the possibility of Neil Innes of the Rutles/Bonzo Dog Band, Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3, and Yo La Tengo playing as one band. Well it happened last Thursday, and I'm told it was truly as astonishing as it sounds on paper. Among the songs in the set was our own Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You in the End" sung by Sonic Boom, and an encore of the Beach Boys' "Little Honda." No plans for U.S. gigs, but I'll do what little I can... The Mothers'Milk Bank at Austin, along with Middleman Music Company, present "Rockin' the Cradle," a free concert on Mother's Day (this Sunday), 1-5pm at Waterloo Park. Shawn Colvin, Sara Hickman, and children's entertainer/former Grains of Faith-er Joe McDermott all perform. While I assume some refreshments will be available, you should probably still "BYOB," if you know what I mean...
-- Contributors: Christopher Gray, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser