SXSW NEWS

Alejandro Escovedo, Randy Franklin, and Mike Hall were sorry they couldn't rock you all night long.
Alejandro Escovedo, Randy Franklin, and Mike Hall were sorry they couldn't rock you all night long. (Photo By Gary Miller)


You Gotta Start Somewhere ...

And the beginning is as good a place as anywhere, I suppose, especially since as I type this, SXSW has only barely begun. My day didn't start off well -- I had to drive into the demon-infested suburb of West Lake Hills to visit the dentist who had performed a preemptive yank of my wayward wisdom tooth last week to ensure the nearly abscessed monster wouldn't get infected at just the wrong moment and put an untimely end to my SXSW band-hopping. Needless to say, some Bozoid dot-commer's antilock brakes hadn't done so, leaving the only paved road in and out of that pathetic Duckburg totally blocked and sucking up half an hour of my precious afternoon (actual time spent in Dr. Steven Perkins' office: less than one minute as he accurately declared his work had been flawless and there were no complications). Then, after finally getting to the ruins of Austin's downtown area and securing a parking spot between Speedy Sparks and Holy Happy Hour Charlie's houses, a mere block from the Convention Center, I promptly lost my footing in front of the Los Armadillos Coffee Shop on the wet cement presented by the morning's usual pre-Festival rain and wrenched the living hell out of my shoulder. Got my SXSW badge in short order (for a change) after waiting only a few minutes in the INS-style line ("I can't process anyone until they fill out their green card!!!") and proceeded to enter the world of innuendo and gossip swirling around the area. First there was the sad tale of American-Statesman employee Amy Rogers, who had lost her job and thus voided her A-S-paid-for badge the day before, after daring to sip a beer after hours at her desk -- compare that with Chronicle Music Editor Raoul Hernandez's getting the boot from an Atomic Cafe showcase last year for lighting up a joint during the Black Kali Ma set. SXSW staffers made the decision to honor music scene veteran Rogers' application and gave her a badge anyhow, but she hasn't said whether she'll be attending this year's Black Kali Ma gig at Room 710 this Friday, 10pm. (Don't worry, 710 people, Raoul will be too busy to attend.) Stories abounded about that weird guy from American Movie who predictably caused a fuss, reportedly managing to get quite intoxicated, despite an early incident in which he had been told there was free beer at the trade show but not specifically informed that it was at a particular booth, leading to a ruckus after he ordered several brewskis at the Trade Show bar and found he had to pay for them. (Is it any surprise that SXSW early on decided against attempting to also bring on "Dancing Outlaw" Jesco White?) The news also went around that Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer had celebrated Toni Price's birthday the night before by presenting the singer with a Volvo. The folks from the Farm Club television show and record label were seen chasing Kissinger, attempting to track down front man Chopper, which seemed futile as reports were circulating that the show had been canceled the previous day (though it is not known if the reason had anything to do with the producers daring to sip beers after hours at their desks). At the front of the badge line, Emo's owner Frank Hendrix was spotted guaranteeing SXSW staffer and former Emo's manager Dave Thomson a spot behind the bar at the ever-growing punk rock club, since Thomson's apparently going to have some months free due to the collapse of SXSW's Portland, Ore., sister conference NXNW. I wonder if Amy Rogers has any bartending experience?


There Was Music, Too ...

Though in recent years it's been Austin City Limits that has provided this writer with the first musical note of the festival with their Wednesday afternoon tent shows outside the ACL studios, this time around ACL won't be active until today, with a pair of shows including Shawn Colvin with Lyle Lovett, Bruce Hornsby, and a fleet of Columbia execs in the audience, and a second set by Alison Krauss. So first up this year for yours truly was a party for www.guitartown.org, a weblist for fans of alt.country/Americana music, at Opal Divine's. Set up and begun before the rains ended, the sounds of Walter Tragert, Thad Cockrell, Robert Becker, Beaver Nelson, and Lou Ford emanated from within a tiny room upstairs at the homey bar, but sounded fine nonetheless as patrons outside listened, chatted, and freely circulated porn king Ron Jeremy's home phone number. (He was here for the film festival, but I'm not sure who he originally gave the precious 10 -- well, 93/4 -- digits to.)

The next party/music extravaganza to rear its head was "The Governor Salutes Texas Music" at La Zona Rosa, where visitors included lots of legislators (including Governor Rick Perry, duh) and Maria Elena Holly, widow of the late, great Buddy Holly, and where rumors circulating included one from a CNN reporter who let it slip out that a certain aging radio/TV show host with a bum ticker is not only a horndog, but is also remarkably flatulent during interviews. Apparently, the only celeb to call him on it so far is Jack Nicholson, and supposedly the Chinatown star's horrified comments can be located among the show transcripts on www.cnn.com. Gov. Perry gave a speech, and no sign of his predecessor, George W. Bush, was noted, though I did spot some young female relatives of the president walking in Hemphill Park off the Drag on my way to the governor's bash. I didn't get close enough to get a positive ID of which Bush gals were there, but from the number of late-model cars parked around the area with large, conservatively dressed gentlemen inside, I'd say that either the Secret Service was doing its job with aplomb, or the problem of perverts in our city parks has been seriously underestimated. I did tie off my evening (so far) with a visit to the Music Awards, where Slaid Cleaves performed a well-received set, followed by the "86ed" performance by members of "New Sincerity"-era bands including Alejandro Escovedo, Steve Collier, Cindy Toth, Kim Longacre, Randy Franklin, Michael Hall, Joey Shuffield, Jon Dee Graham, and Kathy McCarty. Songs included Glass Eye's "Christine," the Wild Seeds' classic Brent Grulke co-written "I Can't Rock You All Night Long," and Doctor's Mob's "The Cage." While John Croslin's vocals were missed on the Reivers' "Freight Train Rain," bandmate Garrett Williams made a surprise appearance to sing the unsurprising closer "Sweet Jane." And as Beatles/Rutles associate Martin Lewis has said, "When it comes to band reunions, three out of four ain't bad."

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Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

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