Dancing About Architecture
Alt.rock and Woodshock out, Michael Corcoran back in.
A Whole New Buzz
Who could've guessed that when the Red Eyed Fly started "test marketing" Wednesdays as country music nights, the stage was being set for a reconceptualizing of its niche? I mean, sure, things have changed since the Fly opened its doors as a sort of "new Electric Lounge" a couple of years ago, welcomed into an Austin where the alternative rock crowd had been dealt a series of major blows with the closing of the aforementioned Lounge, Bates Motel, and the doomed Liberty Lunch. Now it seems the whole of Red River Street is one big alt-rock street festival. In addition to the pre-existing (and now expanded) Emo's, there's also Stubb's, whose inside stage is now devoted mostly to loud local acts, Room 710, and any day now, Beerland is expected to open and split the market a little further. Given the increased competition and the problem of area residents complaining about the increased noise element, someone was going to have to start doing something a little different.
That someone is apparently going to be the Red Eyed Fly. A May 31-dated memorandum from co-owner John Meyer to the venue's staff notes that, "As of July 1, 2001, the entertainment format of the Fly will change As our business has suffered from more and more competition in the indie-rock world, we are fully expanding to all forms of music, booking only the crème of the crop from each genre." The memo lists a number of genres as examples of those one can expect to hear at the club in the future, including jazz, hip-hop, singer-songwriter, honky-tonk, funk, blues, and yes, indie rock. With the venue's two-year anniversary coming up this Saturday (featuring Syrup, Moloko, Velocette, God Drives a Galaxy, and Creeper Weed), Meyer says, "Basically, I'm tired of just making ends meet," and with several personnel changes in the works already, he figured the time was ripe for the format change.
Out along with the daily dose of alt-rock are booker Ron Suman and co-owner Lance Farley, the latter of whom has moved to Dallas but maintains an interest in the business. In are operations manager Jeff Crenshaw and former Charles Attal associate Anthony Garcia as booker/promotions manager. The Fly's jukebox full of loud and obnoxious favorites is on the way out, too, says Meyer, replaced by a 60-CD changer programmed with "music to fit the clientele" of each particular evening's entertainment. "The Rockbusters on the jukebox doesn't really bring in the 'walk-by' crowd," Meyer asides. (Watch out, John -- it sounds to me like your new format is ready-made for those troublemaking Bush girls!) It remains to be seen how different the "new" Fly will be; Suman says he has too many responsibilities to give the club the time it requires, but says he doesn't believe the format change will be as drastic as it sounds. If nothing else, however, the turnover in staff is fairly overwhelming. In fact, one of the few remaining longtime Fly employees, when asked about the club's future, simply snorted, "I don't know, and I don't care. I'm quitting!"
The 'Shocking Truth Pt. II
News of the Fly's impending format change couldn't have come at a better time for Emo's main man Frank Hendrix. Less competition for the local punk rock dollar might just soothe him somewhat in the aftermath of the chaos that was Woodshock 2001. A disclaimer from Emo's has already been issued via e-mail from Emo's press liaison Joe Sebastian, stating that, "We at Emo's regret to report that due to poor turnout and organization, the Woodshock festival this weekend was not a truly smashing success. While the caliber of the music can certainly not be faulted, at the end of the event, ourselves, the promoter, and the intended recipient of any profits (the SIMS Foundation) were looking at big, double-ought 'zeros' as far as proceeds were concerned. We at Emo's are willing to write off our losses in order to keep an important Austin tradition alive in the face of our fair city's expansion and overall gentrification. We certainly hope that the interest of the public and the spirit of the festival will allow it to happen next year, and in the future. We just hope that future cooperation and organization will allow it to succeed." (That and people showing up for more than the last couple of hours would be nice.) Meanwhile, Mike White at the Hole in the Wall says he's already had people show up at his club trying to get paid for their Woodshock appearances, and says for the record, "I want to make it clear that the Hole in the Wall had nothing to do with Woodshock 2001." The two-day festival seemed doomed from, well, a week ago. That's when it was announced that due to the inability to get liquor liability insurance, the show would be pulled from its planned location of Waterloo Park and relocated to Emo's.
The heat and humidity kept people away in droves on Saturday, the first afternoon of what was originally intended to simulate the wild-ass, 24-hour debauchery that was the Woodshock of the mid-Eighties. By the end of the first night, however, promoter and Hole in the Wall co-owner Jeff Smith was reportedly $1,600 in the red. By the time Smith's band the Hickoids played toward the end of Sunday, it appeared the "Frank & Jeff" was in full swing. A panicked Hendrix had issued a call an hour earlier for spare bands to pad out the evening and keep people spending money at the bar instead of leaving by midnight as planned. Smith declined to delay the Hickoids' appearance (this being his show, after all) and instead heckled the club owner from the stage, to which Hendrix responded in kind. How fucked up was the whole situation? Well, I'll put it this way: As the only act that showed up to assume "on call" status, my band Caühaüs ended up "headlining" Woodshock -- and we weren't even on the bill!!!
Though it appears that some of the first day's acts may have gotten paid, non-local acts like the Ex-Husbands found themselves without recompense after coming in from Nashville for the show. Walter Daniels, whose Big Foot Chester played midafternoon on Sunday to a near-empty room (they'll have a proper "reunion/anniversary show" at the Hole this Saturday before Texacala Jones goes off to L.A. for some Horseheads reunions of her own), says, "I knew things were bad when Jeff announced from the stage that he owed the Ex-Husbands $1,000, and started asking for money from the crowd." Smith had told Daniels prior to playing that Big Foot Chester would not be paid either, but Daniels says he considered it "no big deal." Hendrix also says he's harboring no ill feelings. "After I got over being mad," he recounts, "I realized that Jeff isn't a promoter, he's a musician who was just trying to keep this tradition alive, and if he hadn't done it, no one would have."
Smith himself was still off somewhere recovering at press time, but a close associate said, "There's this 'I-told-you-so' air about everything right now, but he saw this thing through, and he'll take his lumps." Perhaps if he'd simply taken his lumps beforehand and moved Woodshock to his own Hole, some of the weekend's problems could have been circumvented, though even in hindsight it's hard to say. Just as with all the mess that resulted when the original Woodstock festival was revived in New York, perhaps these things were never meant to be successfully brought back from the past. It might have been worse, though; with the Republic of Texas Motorcycle Rally in town over the weekend, Smith could've made a poor decision regarding whom to hire for security and we might've ended up with another Altamont instead!
I announced two weeks ago that one of Austin's musical treasures was finally getting long-needed medical attention, and now people are making sure it continues: Pong, ST 37, and Winslow will play the first in a series of Roky Erickson benefits on Sunday at the Red Eyed Fly. This concert is the first of hopefully many to set up a medical and housing expenses fund for Erickson The Ike Turner show set for Friday, June 29, at Antone's is off and will be rescheduled for some time later in the summer, says an e-mail from those involved. No reason was given for the cancellation Fuckemos frontman Russell Porter insists that the legendary Rohypnol rockers have in fact broken up, but the band's new, improved offspring, U.S.S. Friendship, is preparing for its first gig opening for Foetus at Emo's this Friday. Says Porter, "We got a six-piece band of rock stars and we're shooting for the top." Fun time comes when you combine a wide variety of live music with a big garage sale. That's the concept behind this weekend's Swap & Bop, which is back at Waterloo Brewing Company Saturday, 11am-6pm. Performing will be the Woggles, Low Brow, Li'l Cap'n Travis, Two High String Band, Casey Sisters, and Imperial Golden Crown Harmonizers. Wonder if it's too late to get a booth Confirmation comes from the Four Seasons that yes, Elton John made an appearance at the fine hotel over the weekend. That's all they'll cop to, but rumor has it that he was hired to play the piano at a Dell executive's retirement party. The figure I've heard tossed around as EJ's supposed fee is jaw-dropping ($1.2 million), but then again, there are far richer people who had to die to get the same honor. Now you know what they mean when they say "Your money or your life!" Finally, from the Austin American-Statesman comes the news that music columnist Chris Riemenschneider is moving to Minneapolis and former Chronicle music columnist Michael Corcoran is "returning to the music beat full time" at the daily. (Here I was worried that he was after my job!) In response to that announcement, we on the Chron music staff couldn't help but assemble a Top 10 list of "Reasons Corky's Back Writing About Music":
10. Spate of calls from Susan Dell to Statesman Editor Rich Oppel voicing the complaint that Corcoran has been hogging all the hors d'oeuvres at her parties.
9. Copy editors' constant query of "What was this 'Liberty Lunch' again?" rapidly becoming annoying.
8. Possible position as spin doctor for controversial Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban fell through at the last minute.
7. Worried Bob Schneider or one of the Gourds might break wind and no one would be around to report it in "Street Soundz."
6. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, and Dennis Quaid have all left town.
5. Local musicians have much less money than politicians, socialites, and "real" celebrities, and are therefore less litigious.
4. Statesman brass concerned wholesale bequeathing of music section to electronica junkie Jeff Salamon could lead to newsroom Ecstasy epidemic.
3. Overwhelming reader demand to bring back "The Bomb Squad" no longer possible to ignore.
2. Coveted Round Rock Express beat already snapped up by Michael Point.
1. Used party invitations don't sell for squat on eBay.
-- Contributors: Christopher Gray