Rumor had it that the Star Systems division of the Capstar radio conglomerate was about to issue massive layoffs of its employees, leading to yet another chapter in the lives of those Austin deejays like L.A. Lloyd and Rachel Marisay, whose career turns continue to pop up in this column like some long, protracted season of The Real World. That's not so, says Star Systems president Jason Kane, who says what's happening is that the company is downsizing its Austin operations. You may recall the confusion the company caused when it first began soliciting local radio personalities to moonlight for its services, which involves them announcing six to eight different stations across the country from Star Systems' home base. Basically, this meant that touring musicians and the like started hearing familiar voices coming from their car radios far outside of Texas, when they knew damn well that the person they were hearing in Minneapolis was, impossibly, the same one they'd heard when pulling out of the driveway in Austin! Kane insists that the on-air talent are in little danger of losing their positions, but they'll likely find themselves moved away from Central Texas' cozy base of operations to one of the company's existing stations. "Basically," Kane says, "they're trying to decentralize as much as possible." In the radio biz, you can never be too careful about keeping your paychecks coming, so it's no stunner to hear 101X deejay Ben Blaze comment that the current situation has "everyone making a lot of calls!" Besides Star's downsizing, calls to 101X (not a Capstar station) have been equally inspired by the fact that there's a rare position opening there -- and he's providing it. Blaze is leaving the station permanently to take on a new position with travel and excitement. Turns out he's going to be the Riddlin' Kids' tour manager when they go off to conquer the world in upcoming months. The local quartet, one of the Chronicle's "Class of 2001" featurees back in January, just finished mastering the final mixes for their Columbia debut, having waited for remixes by Tom Lord-Alge of the last two they recorded, with the album release date set for the last quarter of this year. Blaze says he's been eyeing the Kids since they started getting airplay on 101X and he realized they were sans management. Now he's with 'em all the way and is having a farewell party at the Red Eyed Fly on Saturday from 5-9pm with the Riddlin' Kids and newly signed Schatzi playing. Does Blaze worry about getting back into radio at a later date? "It's not something I want to get back into," he grunts.
In fact, Blaze is more excited about an event he's involved with on Friday. That's when the first Austin entry in a compilation series called Bombtrax is being released and fêted with a showcase at Lucy's. Blaze is the associate producer of the disc and Jeff Hanson, manager of Creed and Sevendust, is the executive producer. Despite the downbeat, Austin Curse-inviting title, Bombtrax is a big deal for new artists, funded by Island/Def Jam as, according to Blaze, "a sort of A&R entity that enables them to more effectively find the best talent in different regions of the U.S." Orlando and Atlanta have both released comps in the past few months, and the new disc showcases 15 Austin acts plus several other up-and-coming national acts that are either managed by Hanson or are on Island/Def Jam. The Austin acts, which were handpicked by either the producers or co-sponsor In Site magazine (each regional disc has a similar tabloid partner), include Kissinger, Riddlin' Kids, Schatzi, Jeff Klein, Dewato, Steamroller, Cruiserweight, Knife in the Water, Kevin Fowler, Household Names, Failsafe, and Active Radio. That last act features ex-Ten Percenter guitarist Aaron Barrera and is a particular favorite of both Blaze and Hanson, whose "people" will be in town for the Friday show. In addition, says, Blaze, since Bombtrax sends a mass industry mailer of the disc to hundreds of A&R folk, you can also "expect to see some [industry] weasels in attendance."
I certainly hope the members of Kissinger are up to the pressure of their Bombtrax appearance. They just finished a two-week tour of the Southeast, starting in Birmingham and working their way back west -- and not without at least one slight error in navigation. "After spending [guitarist] Steve Garvey's birthday in Memphis drinking $1 Miller High Lifes on Beale Street until 5:30am," singer Chopper hazily recounts, "we headed to Huntsville, Alabama, where we were expecting to meet up with Ian Moore for a show at a place called Sneadwheelers. We'd tried for three weeks to advance the show, calling and leaving message after message to no avail, so we rolled into town with the hope of looking the place up in the phone book. When we got there, we discovered that the area code on the hotel phone didn't match the area code to the club." A few additional telephone calls later, the Kissinger clan learned exactly what the problem was: Moore was playing in Huntsville, Texas, 17 hours -- or 588 miles, as the crow flies -- away from their then-current location. "We phoned that we wouldn't be there and headed to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to our next show," reports Chopper. "It was one of those things." At least they didn't end up in Fayetteville, North Carolina! The band did finally manage to get in the same state as Moore the following night in Little Rock, then continued on with him and his band to close out the tour at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, and Chopper says the evening was worth a few wrong turns at Albuquerque. "Steve Garvey, Lucky, and I joined Ian and his band for an encore where we plowed through a version of 'Dreaming' by Blondie that somehow turned into 'Baba O'Riley.' When Ian and I started doing windmills, the place lit up and Ian went nuts. He sliced his hand on Steve's guitar, tore off his strap, and started swinging his Strat around like an axe. People were climbing up on tables and waving for him to throw the guitar to them. I thought Ian had lost his balance when he fell back against the Hammond, but he signaled out three chords to the band then staggered forward. They hit this incredible change and the whole thing ended with Ian leaping into the air and landing on his knees. No shit! It was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen!" Moore concluded the evening by signing autographs for the next half-hour, as his bass player gave the Kissingers two platefuls of hot fried chicken for the nine-hour drive that would (hopefully) take them home.
Somebody send a Band-Aid to Gourds producer/promoter Mike Stewart. While finishing up mastering on an album by French/American/Dutch (yes, he has three passports) singer Michael de Jong, Stewart broke his shoulder in a bike accident near his new home in Holland. Says a friend, "Learning to ride a bike is one thing, but rid[ing] one in the Netherlands is something completely different. Never speed on a bike while you pass a double-parked truck. The chauffeur may open his door while you are racing your bike. And that's what happened" One guy in Austin's music community who refuses to take things lying down is contrabassoon player John Upchurch. A couple of weeks ago, headed home from rehearsals of the Austin Musical Theatre's production of Oliver!, he was driving down Cesar Chavez when he encountered a car going the wrong way down a one-way street, at a high rate of speed. Upchurch swerved his car to avoid collision and slammed head-on into a steel pole, which is the only thing that kept his car from going into Town Lake. He sustained two broken knees and a broken arm in addition to numerous internal injuries, but trouper that he is, he's playing the run of Oliver!. Of course, before every performance he has to be helped down into the pit, crutches and all, and while English horn proved to be an impossible reach for his injured fingers, musical director Fred Barton has rewritten Upchurch's parts for bassoon. When the show closes May 20, Austin's iron man plans to take a few months off for recovery -- unless something else comes up, that is.
Even though I used up all my good lines on the subject last time, I should mention that Clifford Antone's Help Kids benefit one more time -- if only to clarify that the $125 ticket price is for those who want the whole foofaraw of a catered dinner and such. Tickets for those who just want to see the bands at the show tonight (Thursday) are far less prohibitive; advance tix to see Toni Price, Bob Schneider, and Vallejo are on sale now at Antone's Records for $20, and they'll be $30 at the door Well, you knew that something was going to happen soon with the Caucus Club, as this column reported before South by Southwest, and now the change of ownership has apparently taken place. The club has closed its doors, and though I haven't managed to catch anyone inside working on the renovations to the building, inside word on Red River says that coming soon is an establishment by name of La Privilege, with an eye cocked toward a Spiros-type clientele Austin's favorite troubadour Ted Roddy sends word that James Henry, the owner of Henry's Bar & Grill, is currently battling cancer, so his many friends are putting on a benefit this Sunday at Outlaws in Liberty Hill to help him and his family defray medical costs. Guests include Junior Brown, Don Walser, Dale Watson, Cornell Hurd Band, the Derailers' Tony Villanueva, Jim Stringer, Susanna Van Tassel, Roger Wallace, Roy Heinrich, Karen Poston, and a host of others. "As you can see this will be a country music lover's dream bill," reports Roddy. The show starts at noon and goes till all the barbecue's been consumed and the auction has ended Fresh off Wednesday's appearance on the Don Imus radio and cable simulcast TV show, Billy Joe Shaver is scheduled to be the subject of a feature in the Friday, May 18, edition of The Wall Street Journal. The article was written by former Chronicle music news columnist Luke Torn Finally, it's apparently not enough for Daniel Johnston that there are documentary makers swarming all over his home this week. The eccentric songwriter is scheduled to go to Johannesburg, South Africa, for a week in early June so that Berlin-based filmmaker Peter Friese can work Johnston performing his 1983 song "King Kong" into a motion picture of the same name, based on the Broadway-style South African musical which debuted in 1959 with Miriam Makeba as the female lead. Johnston's father says that the film is scheduled to be completed in time for a London preview this fall, and that Daniel has been invited to make that trip as well. Note to the Johnstons: If a guy named Chopper calls up and offers his services as wheelman, don't take him up on it
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