Dancing About Architecture
Freddy Fender is diagnosed with Hepatitis C, as news comes in that Direct Events owner and longtime local live music promoter Tim O'Connor is getting ready to retire.
Little more than a year after the tragic death of Texas Tornados founder Doug Sahm from a heart condition, an announcement has been issued regarding the poor health of fellow former Tornado Freddy Fender. Born Baldemar Huerta, Fender has been diagnosed with hepatitis C by a Corpus Christi doctor, and is reportedly experiencing kidney complications as well, which sometime bandmate Augie Meyers (himself a survivor of prostate cancer and a ruptured colon) says isn't helped by the fact that Fender already suffers from diabetes. Fender is currently undergoing a series of dialysis treatments and is being evaluated for a liver transplant, though for the time being, the "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights"/"Before the Next Teardrop Falls" hitmaker will continue to perform on weekends and select bookings. Meyers, who's recording with Flaco Jimenez and Shawn Sahm as just the "Tornados" (and will be booking shows for them in the spring), says Fender was "doing all right" when the two recently appeared together, and notes that Fender's wife has been booking hospitals in conjunction with his touring appearances so that he doesn't miss his necessary dialysis treatments. Now that's a trouper! Fender joins former local radio personality Paul Pryor on the waiting list for a transplant, while country singer Chris Ledoux is reported to have just rejoined his family in Wyoming after receiving a new liver six weeks ago. A benefit for Pryor is scheduled for December 14 at the Painted Horse Pavilion in Buda. We'll keep you posted on Fender's condition.
News and Venues
I recently broke the news on the impending retirement of Direct Events' founder/owner Tim O'Connor from the concert promotion business, but those wondering what the longtime local promoter is moving on to do will just have to keep wondering for the time being. Direct Events' spokesman Kevin Brelsford reports that O'Connor will continue to be involved in the clubs (La Zona Rosa, Austin Music Hall, the Backyard), and assures us that his retirement is for strictly personal reasons and has nothing to do with the current or future climate of promoting live music in Austin. In fact, says Brelsford, things are "pretty constant" of late in the booking business, at least in the Direct Events market of 1,400-4,500 person capacity venues. The company, headquartered out at the Backyard, promotes shows with larger PACE Concerts (aka SFX), but is in no sense owned by that company, so even if O'Connor divests himself of Direct Events, which Brelsford says he has no intention of doing, chances are it will stay locally owned.
Coincidentally enough, promoter French Smith (who I thought had retired!) is putting on a Victorian Christmas event on Sixth Street this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, with music consisting of barbershop quartets, Christmas carolers, children's choirs, and banjo groups. Great care will be taken to create the illusion that visitors have actually been transported back in time to the 1890s, and having recently watched the entire PBS miniseries 1900 House in one sitting, I can't wait to see the looks on the faces of people when they open the doors on the portable toilets and find nothing but moustache wax and a chamber pot inside!
Speaking of moustache wax, Emo's owner Frank Hendrix continues to report nothing but positive news since he took over the club in March, and says that discussions toward expanding the club into adjacent properties are continuing apace. He's currently avoiding too much detail so as not to sour the deal (hint, they're not moving in the direction of the old Blue Flamingo -- a club called Plush is now in place there), but says that with luck, by the next South by Southwest, Emo's "outdoor stage," as he refers to the larger room off Sixth, will be enlarged and have a proper backstage area to help lure larger bands to the club. Plans call for an Emo's record label as well, and one expects the signees will be typical of the type of acts that perform at the venue. Again, Hendrix isn't naming names, but jokes that "Man's Ruin may end up short a couple of bands." As far as the club's current popularity, he credits loyal employees, and the fact that he also owns a salvage yard. What difference does that make, you ask? Because, he explains, poor punk rock bands traversing the country in rickety old vans "know if they can make it to Austin, they can get their shit fixed." Meanwhile, the Hole in the Wall continues to prepare to expand -- within the confines of their own club. The weekend of December 8-9 is the venue's planned christening of their back room as "Townie Hall" (mainly since the name "Back Room" was already taken). The plans call for utilizing the larger stage in the back, which was already built for SXSW 2000, only this time with a sound system that won't blow out over the course of an evening's rocking.
A New "Double" Album
As the Chronicle goes to press early due to the Thanksgiving holiday, papers are being FedExed to Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon to cement a deal between Double Trouble and the Tone-Cool label, home to Susan Tedeschi, among others. Technically, I can't guarantee the contract has been signed as you read this, but on Monday Layton confirmed that all the legal rigamarole has been done and "everything is in order." Look for the already completed album, featuring Tedeschi, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and a host of other big names, hopefully to come out in February, close on the heels of the band's star-studded January 12 Austin Music Hall concert, which follows an accompanying Austin City Limits taping.
The Show List Must Go On
Wondering what happened to the Texas Show List, the Sound Exchange-sponsored weekly Web list of all the punk, hardcore, garage, ska, experimental, and hip-hop shows in Texas? You're not the only one, and while the solution is simple (www.soundexchangeaustin.com), the reason behind it is much more interesting. Turns out that the Recording Industry Association of America ("You know, the people who've spent the last 10 years attempting to remove artists' rights to their work," notes Sound Exchange's Craig Koon) bought the rights to the shop's former URL www.soundexchange.com from the Houston store (who technically owned it), and the forwarding link to the new site is currently not working correctly. The Houston crew was nice enough, says Koon, to offer a portion of the "substantial chunk of change" they got from the RIAA to the Austin store, and the unexpected income went to paying off the bills incurred from the store's recent massive alley party with Poison 13 and the Motards. The irony is not lost on Koon, who says he's pleased that at least the RIAA ended up paying for an event that was specifically designed to say "fuck you" to their brand of corporate thinking.
Puerto Rican native Lourdes Perez, heading up a group of concerned artists and performers including Raul Salinas and Indigo Girls member Emily Saliers, appeared at the state Capitol in Austin on Tuesday to announce the upcoming departure of two human rights delegations to Vieques, Puerto Rico, the epicenter of a campaign of peaceful civil disobedience to end U.S. Navy occupation, bombing, and weapons experimentation there. The death of a civilian in May 1999 by a stray bomb was the "last straw," according to OCTAAV (Organization of Concerned Texas Artists and Activists for Vieques), which is sending the groups of Austin and San Antonio-based artists. The first delegation visits Vieques November 25-29, the second December 7-8... Willie Nelson is not the type to pass on returning a favor, so look for him to duet with Francine Reed on her debut solo album for CMO Records, due for release spring 2001. Reed, of course, appeared on Willie's Milk Cow Blues album and in live shows with his Blues Band... Another place to find Willie is on the cover of KGSR-FM's latest Broadcasts CD (see "Texas Platters," p.86), this time featuring a bonus third disc including otherwise unavailable tracks by Shawn Colvin, Eric Johnson, Toni Price, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, Jimmie Vaughan, Kelly Willis, and Willie, too. The release date is this Friday, followed on December 1 with the station's annual anniversary party on the Austin City Limits soundstage, this year featuring Taj Mahal, Shelby Lynne, Rickie Lee Jones, and naturally, "special guests." While tickets to the 10th anniversary party are only available by winning them from the station, look for a proper CD release party at the Waterloo Brewing Co. on Dec. 9, that show featuring Joseph Arthur, Jon Dee Graham, Steve James, and more... Merle Haggard sideman Redd Volkaert has been at work on his next album for Hightone subsidiary HMG. Insiders tell me the Hag himself is expected to put in an appearance on the CD, but I'm not clear on whether he did so while in town recently for his Austin City Limits appearance... Latest live TV appearance by an Austin band was Fastball (of course) on Charmed last week... Equal time for equal porn: Last week I plugged SINIS' link-up (no pun intended) with the female-run erotic site www.hiddenself.com. This week, check out Sunday's Forbidden Fruit-sponsored "The Gynomite Readings: Fearless Feminist Porn" night at Gaby & Mo's, with MC Ruby Lamb and special guest Holly Woo, starting at 8pm, a tie-in with www.gynomite.com... Beatles freak Daniel Johnston got his Christmas present early this year when he got to visit Abbey Road studios in London during a short European tour in November. Now that you've seen the photo, I'll leave it to your imagination as to what happened to the other three figures on the street... Animatronic Records have found a novel way of marketing their new CD compilation titled God Stripe Gum and including Kissinger, Ringer, PlayDoh Squad, Erik the Butcher, Halley, Ten Speed, Bo Bud Greene, Coco Candissi, Hotwheels Jr., and Girling. The CD will be distributed free of charge by all of the bands involved. "This ain't the kind of communism your parents warned you about," says the label. "This is the kind that works." The release parties will be three consecutive nights at the Red Eyed Fly, featuring nine of the 10 bands, starting next Thursday... As said here a while back, Junkyard -- Chris Gates and David Roach's hard rock band from the Eighties -- has escaped the compactor. The latest Album Network industry mag reports that their new Tried and True EP on Smart Records is out and a "bluesy 'let's see those lighters in the air' gem"...
-- Contributors: Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer