Dancing About Architecture
Antone's Anniversary off to a bumpy start, and the same goes for local CD outlets.
From Bad to Anniversary
Finding out that your headliner is sick at noon on the day of the first show isn't the best way to start off your anniversary, but that's how it went for Antone's last weekend. R.L. Burnside had been blacking out, preventing him from flying, and needless to say, preventing him from performing as well. "We were lucky James Cotton was in town," says Stephanie Seeley at Antone's, but that luck applied to having quality blues for the weekend, not to drawing people to the venue. Some 175 people came out to see Cotton on Friday, with a slightly higher draw on Saturday as Monte Montgomery's show was expanded to fill out the evening. This weekend, Friday and Saturday, Jimmie Vaughan and Sue Foley are expected to make up some of the losses, but it's a shame that Cotton's style of blues didn't fill the place last weekend. Perhaps Antone's has let its blues reputation slip a bit in order to please the college crowds. Seeley hopes that hearing about Burnside's malady will give some people a shove in the right direction -- toward the Chicago blues greats playing the club tonight (Thursday). "Between Burnside and [the death of] John Lee Hooker," she warns, "maybe people will start thinking about the fact these guys aren't going to be around forever."
Taking Stevie Ray Vaughan's place at the microphone is a tall order, but filling his guitar case is a hell of a lot tougher. In the vocal department, the malleable mouth of Malford Milligan has been capably fronting SRV's former rhythm section, Double Trouble, this year as they've kick-started their post-Stevie career with Been a Long Time. Now comes the news that Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon will have had to go on tour sans Milligan -- doctor's orders. "I love Chris and Tommy," says Milligan, but severe bouts of manic depression have dictated that for the time being, a life on the road is not for the singer. After occasions where he became "a whole different person" and sometimes felt suicidal, Milligan says his doctor advised him to stay in town for his own safety. "He even gave me a note [to give to the band]," says Milligan. "I felt like I was in school!" The singer says he's doing well on new medication, but declined to name a future date for fans to come see and hear him. "I'm taking things on a day-to-day basis," he demurs. Double Trouble, meanwhile, have been appearing with a temporary replacement on the road, and as of this week, signed on George DeVore to "Roam in," with their first date together being in Minneapolis on July 19. DeVore's manager Mike Porter says the band asked for the singer/guitarist sooner, but between clearing up some previous commitments and dealing with the hell of getting a Canadian work permit, it was best to wait until they returned to the States. This way, Porter says, "I can clear his schedule without pissing off any promoters" -- a good idea since DeVore doesn't plan to ditch his own band anytime soon. Lisa Tingle will be joining at the same time to handle the female vocal chores, and as someone who's sung backup for William Shatner, the new job should be a picnic.
Finding a Niche and Scratching It
Panicked message of the week comes from a reader who sweats, "As of late, I have heard Cheapo's has stopped buying used CDs for the time being, Technophilia has gone out of business, and my personal favorite ABCD's is being bought by CD Warehouse. That makes me really sad to think that we are losing our stores, and our sources for good music. [signed] The girl who wants to still buy great music in Austin." Well, to start with, GWWTSBGMIA, you're right and wrong. Yes, Technophilia shut their doors at the beginning of this month, but no, Cheapo's has not gone mad and stopped buying used CDs. In fact, when I went by this weekend, the woman behind the counter desperately tried to make 1,000 or so "new arrivals" disappear using the power of her mind. And ABCD's has not sold out to CD Warehouse -- at least not yet. "We've been talking to them," acknowledges ABCD's part-owner Randy Anthony. The store has survived through two names and locales since 1987, he notes, but he sighs that the "music industry is in a state of flux right now, and that spells bad news for most local retailers." He notes that Austin is a peculiar market, and points out that while it's commendable that local giant Waterloo Records inspires fierce loyalty among the populace, "as Austin expands, it would be nice to see other [local] stores getting that sort of respect and dedication." Having thought that it had found its niche, the store has concentrated on two strengths over the years -- local recordings and a large industrial/goth/electronic selection. With competition increasing over the years, however, that niche has kept shrinking. While he certainly doesn't gloat over Technophilia's departure, he says he hopes to get a few of their former customers, but won't be surprised if the ever-expanding chain stores and Internet-based music outlets end up getting most of the business. As far as selling the business, he makes it clear that it's the locally based owners of Austin's CD Warehouse franchise that will get ABCD's, not some faceless national group, and thus the store will continue to be able to fly the "buy local" flag. "It's gotten too easy to be seduced" by the lower prices and other perks of chain stores, he mourns. Anthony nevertheless remains active as a member of the Austin Independent Business Alliance ( www.austingogo.com), and "will continue to do what we need to do." Even if the new owners are not strictly a national outfit, something tells me they may be changing the URL of ABCD's' Web site, www.chainstoressuck.com.
With all the fuss over the Butthole Surfers album finally coming out, it was inevitable this other, equally squirrelly proposition should once again raise its ugly head, so: Gammon Records, a new label put together by former E-Music executive Jordan Trachtenburg and Which? Records founder Taylor Clyne, has announced that its inaugural release will be "the first studio album in seven years by legendary Austin singer-songwriter-artist Daniel Johnston." Producer Brian Beattie long ago grew tired of labels batting the disc about and released an Austin edition himself, so many locals have all but forgotten that Which? Records, the last company to claim it was issuing Rejected Unknown, had never in fact done so. According to the Gammon gang, RU will be released Oct. 9, 2001, and hopefully, this time, it will actually happen. One thing we do know for sure is that Johnston's song "Speeding Motorcycle" is appearing in an upcoming television ad campaign for Target stores. At press time, the Chron was unable to determine whose version of the song will be used for the ad campaign -- it's reportedly not Johnston's original -- but both the Pastels and Yo La Tengo have had reasonable success in the UK with the song, plus innumerable other versions have been recorded over the years, including outstanding ones by Austin's Rhythm Rats and Houston's Dishes.
You can also expect some confusion over the new Bill Hicks album from Rykodisc. Rather than issue another hour or so from the archive of unreleased material on the late comedian (there's at least enough in the vaults for two more albums of unheard prime cuts), the label has issued a new compilation of material from its four existing CDs under the title Philosophy: The Best of Bill Hicks. Longtime Hicks associate and producer Kevin Booth, who was not consulted for the project, thinks that maybe that title is a bit pretentious and suggests, "Lets call Bill's next CD Comedy." That might help clear up some potential confusion, since as things exist now, Amazon.com has got a disc by an old-time fiddler with the same name mistakenly listed as the dead comic's new release. Considering how upset people got back when Hicks experimented with musical accompaniment on the 1991's Arizona Bay, an all-fiddle/no-funny album doesn't seem destined to go over particularly well.
Lord of the Trail Mix
The members of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have been keeping relatively quiet lately as they record their major-label debut for Interscope Records.
The band's Web site notes that the Northern Californian Prairie Sun studios they're recording at was once a chicken farm, but in the words of indie rock webzine Pitchfork, "now will hatch the major label hopes of the anarchist sonic youths." (They doubtlessly had another chicken joke besides that one, but didn't want to pullet.) Previously, the Trail recorded songs at Brooklyn Bridge studios for an EP on Merge/Domino, but that material has yet to appear publicly. In anticipation of the inevitable backlash, Pitchfork cries cheekily, "To those who cry sell-out to the Dead for signing under Fred Durst's name, remember: it costs a lot of money to destroy your gear each night." The Dead are reportedly planning to unveil some new material during their show with a reunited Glorium on July 21 at Emo's.
Charles Attal is happy as a kid at a Birthday Party over getting Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds to play one of only two Texas dates at Stubb's in October. And well he should, too, since if Cave's played Austin before, none of us here can remember it, though we're fond of the story of a young Scratch Acid racing up to Dallas in the mid-Eighties to see the Birthday Party. Tickets for the local show go on sale at the end of August 2am Productions is having a fundraiser on Sunday for an indie film shooting locally August-October. That's 5pm on the roof of Waterloo Brewing Co. for $5, with free beer from 5-6:30 pm. Bands include Masonic, Bedbug, the Gardeners, Tia Carerre, Nozomi, and Soul Funktafied We're still trying to figure out what the Statesman meant about Lou Ann Barton joining Jimmie Vaughan's band -- and so is she. "I mean, I've played 'with' Jimmie's band, if that's what they mean," postulates a confused Barton Mary Cutrufello has returned from a two-year hiatus with Songs From the 6, an acoustic album recorded live to cassette in Room 223 of the Goodlettesville, Tennessee, Motel 6, exploring "loss, learning, revelation, and the truth about life in times like these." Said disc includes covers of songs by Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mellencamp alongside her own material, and its release is on her own independent label, following an extended battle to be free from Mercury Records. "It took a long time to get them to release me -- and along the way, I think parts of me got pretty beat up. This record isn't about that, exactly, but it's not not about it, either." The album won't be available in July, but it won't not be available come August 6
-- Contributors: Michael Chamy, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser