Earlimart, Black Lipstick, John Hunt & Beaty Wilson
Wooldrige Park Day Party, Saturday 17 "Even free beer isn't enough to get people in Texas to leave their homes when it's cold," said Bedbug's Chris Hillen, who, weather permitting, hoped to perform later Saturday evening. By way of comparison, he added, "In Minnesota they'd be out shoveling their driveways to get to the free beer." Thanks to a smattering of friends and passers-by, the kegs of Real Ale didn't go to waste, though admittedly, it was sometimes difficult to see past anything besides the nippy temperature. (Hillen is right: Texans take to cold like Limp Bizkit to needlepoint.) Combined with the verdant surroundings of Wooldrige Park, named for the Austin mayor who organized the city's first public school system, the bleak conditions actually suited afternoon openers John Hunt and Beaty Wilson. The two members of local rockers Fivehead set aside their band's fleet Fender-fueled rush for a handful of delicate acoustic selections that (of course) brought Nick Drake to mind. At that moment, the hilly park across from the courthouse could've been Ray Davies' Village Green. Black Lipstick, a new fivepiece featuring former Kiss Offs Phillip and Travis, couldn't make it any warmer, but musically they brought a steaming batch of happy-go-lucky garage sunshine. They set the tone with a ramshackle version of the Stones' "Let It Bleed," and followed with nearly an hour of melodic, upbeat basement noise loosely knitted together by Travis' guitar. A lot of it smacked of the Velvet Underground, but that could have been the skeletal drum kit and the trenchcoat-and-shades-clad young woman behind it. Having the most fun, it appeared, was the guy in the corner of the gazebo alternating tambourine, maraca, and one of those toy mouth organs you can buy at Walgreens. The audience was visibly disappointed when Phillip announced time constraints prevented the group from unfurling its 15-minute version of "Casey Jones." The ensuing set change meant more standing around, so instead I read the new Mad magazine at the nearby John Henry Faulk Library. Good timing, because after "Malcolm in the Muddle," Californians Earlimart were defrosting things further with drum-tight precision. Alternating whispery quiet passages with full-on bursts of rock, the four-piece (from the same Napa Valley town of Modesto as Grandaddy) had the kind of sound that creates an aural greenhouse effect -- suddenly it wasn't cold anymore. Well, yes it was, and getting colder. But the afternoon was a brisk reminder that good music, let alone free beer, is always worth a little frostbite.