Dancing About Architecture

The local music community holds its breath as it waits for the music-industry target-study set to go before the City Council's budget meetings.

Dancing About Architecture
Dancing About Architecture

Giving Music the Business

The buzzwords at the latest Austin Music Commission meeting -- the last one before the city decides on its budget -- were "cultural vitality." Those two words form the key phrase of the commissioned music industry target study that the city will be reviewing soon after the budget meeting on Sept. 13, and they came up often during and after a "sneak preview" of the study John Hockenyos gave the Commission on Tuesday. A better description of the atmosphere at the meeting would be "cautious optimism," as discussions of future projects dominated, including the Austin Music Network, Texas Music Museum, the "Hire a Musician Program," and establishing a music business degree plan at SWT. Another popular topic was the current battles over sound levels downtown (see below), AMC chair Kevin Connor repeatedly warning that in the new, tighter economy, "everything's being questioned." Having the meeting at the AMN studios at Threadgill's made at least one thing clear, however: that the Commission will continue to rally support for the network. Overall, though, it was clear that there are more than a few local-music-scene eggs riding in the city's music-industry target-study basket. At first, Connor says, "I thought, 'Oh, yeah, great. Another study,'" but now he thinks a study could be the key to getting the city to finally pay proper attention to how important music is to Austin. Among other things, the study points out that music is among the top 10 drawing industries in town, and that its positive influence goes far beyond that. Sure, we all knew that, says Connor, but again, an official audit will finally "give the mayor and others something to hold up and say, 'This is real!'" There's still a chance for everything to fall apart during the budget process, but for now, hopes are resting on the study. As Connor says, "I've always thought, 'If the city is going to use the slogan "Live Music Capital of the World," the city has to live up to that slogan.' This will give them the hard evidence to do it."

Turn It Up! Turn It Down!

Who says that Sixth Streeters don't stick together? A week after I reported that the Austin Sheraton Hotel was suing the tiny Empanada Parlour claiming that their live music, though below official city sound level standards, was driving away the inn's customers, a fundraiser has already been organized to help the Parlour raise money for legal expenses (for a full report, turn the page and see Reasonably Offensive). That'll be at the Mercury on Saturday, Sept. 8, with Grupo Fantasima, Spacetruck, and another band TBA, plus Trey Lopez spinning discs in between. Until then, why not support the Parlour directly by going to see some live music this weekend (see City Beat). The latest news on that whole lawsuit front, by the way, is that a mediator has been assigned to work with the two parties. A member of the Music Commission tells me that the mediator's first action was to ask the Sheraton and the Parlour to "stop sending out press releases" and talk to each other instead. Good advice!

Meeting Your Waterloo

An e-mail from a Waterloo Brewing Co. bartender (and former roommate/disgruntled Chronicle letter writer) brought this bummer to my attention: "As of this Sunday, Waterloo Brewing Company is closing its doors forever. And that means yours truly is out of a job. But to put a bright side on all of this, this weekend all beers are $1 a pop all night. Please come in and give your support to your friendly ex-neighborhood bartenders." Word is that the rent went wa-a-a-ay up on the property, but all the closed roads and dead construction in the area couldn't have been helping business any -- thanks again, dot-commies. (Anyone besides me expect to see that spot remain vacant for the next few years?) David Thomson, who books venues for South by Southwest, was crushed by the announcement (one less club and all), but says the Hard Rock Cafe has expressed serious interest in taking part in next year's music festival with their new location on Sixth Street in the old Limelight building. That's assuming they're fast enough to be ready for at least a soft opening by next March. Damn! Why did I go and unload those autographed Stevie Ray Vaughan contracts I found in a dumpster behind my old South Austin apartment? I probably could've doubled my money selling them to the Hard Rock!!!

Shore Things and Shore Failures

"We never got one single band," admits French Smith, referring to the would-be revival of Riverfest at Auditorium Shores, originally planned for Sept. 7. It's hardly a surprise to find Riverfest sinking -- it seemed doomed from the start, as Smith's Roadstar crew enthusiastically plugged the event, but refused to name any performers connected with it. Now we know why; Smith says he made offers to some 30 bands and looked into another 40 or so, but in the end never found any big-draw talent available to play that weekend. "SFX evidentially took a lot of them," postulates Smith. "They're buying up multiple dates, and I can't compete with that." For a sample of the bands he attempted to get for Riverfest, Smith says to look no further than the lineup for the Sept. 16 Shore Thang, when a number of the bands he contacted will be performing at the Shores. Those bands include Black Crowes, Blues Traveler, Spacehog, Tesla, Vallejo, Joan Jett, Zurdok, and locally based new addition Damesviolet. Over at Middleman Music (aka Capitol Sports and Events) things are set for their two Shore events, the 101X Fest and the B.B. King Blues Fest. The 101X Fest is Sept. 30, with Godsmack, Disturbed, Drowning Pool, Stereomud, Systematic, Adema, and Austin's own Kissinger. King follows Oct. 7 with B.B. King (duh!), Tommy Castro, Doyle Bramhall II, Double Trouble, Jimmie Vaughan, John Hiatt, Buddy Guy, and a finale featuring all of the above jamming like nobody's business. As far as the immediate future of Auditorium Shores, the Middleman staff says that they, like all other events planners, received a letter recently saying that once all the currently contracted Shores fests are done (the B.B. thing would appear to be the last of these), they will be unable to book further events at Auditorium Shores "for the next few months." After that, Smith at least is going to keep his eye on our city government. As long as the issue stays in the press, he believes it's safe to assume that music will return to the Shores in due time. If we let the issue drop, however, he's not so "shore," warning that he believes the city would permanently cease such events "if they think they can get away with it." Even if he, like most of the rest of us, can't imagine why they would want to do such a thing.

Mixed Notes

People, could you try to stay well for a week or so? This city is looking like a big hospital wing. Billy Joe Shaver suffered a heart attack following his appearance at Gruene Hall last Saturday, and will undergo quadruple bypass heart surgery Friday in Waco. The 62-year-old honky-tonk outlaw had performed with his band when he became ill after the show, and after visiting his doctor Monday, it was determined surgery was needed. Shaver will probably be hospitalized for close to a week, after which the recuperation period will be as long as he needs. Obviously, his September dates will be postponed for the time being. Get well Billy Joe, we don't wanna lose you, too!…The Dallas Observer confirmed this week that the Toadies have broken up. Singer-guitarist Todd Lewis called the Observer last week, saying the decision was made on the band's last tour, when bassist Lisa Umbarger told the rest of the group that she was quitting and going home. "She's given a lot of reasons, but I haven't been able to make a whole lot of sense out of it," Lewis told the Observer, who added that the band had seemingly reached a perfect creative balance when Umbarger declared her intentions… Closer to home, word is out that the Ignorance Park guys have decided to call it quits, having reached the point where several members of the band are ready to move on to something new. Woody Weiderman at Room 710 says that he's not positive that the show last Friday at the 710 was their last, but he knows it's the final one they'll play at his place, at least. Asked for a confirmation number for the band, Woody advised the Chronicle that the odds of finding one of them with a working telephone would be slim to none. I'll take his word for it… All the recent talk about Reivers reissues must've brought out the competitive spirit in Michael Hall. The current Texas Monthly associate editor tells me that his old combo Kris McKay, er, I mean, the Wild Seeds, will be having a reunion Oct. 5 at the Hole in the Wall. Even bassist-turned-career military man Paul Swift is coming in from Minnesota for the event, says Hall, plus there will be a compilation CD coming out at the beginning of October as well. That disc will feature material from the band's three albums and will be called, naturally, I Can't Rock You All Night Long, with liner notes by that classic song's co-author, SXSW Creative Director Brent Grulke… I have to follow that bit with a True Believers reference, of course, and luckily I have one handy. Word comes via Kent Benjamin that there's a gospel band by that name making the rounds. Now the question is, who'll be the first to sue? Alejandro Escovedo or Stan Lee?… The Fuckemos are working on recording new material, says Russell Porter, who is still beaming after finding out that the Tenacious D Web site lists the FEs alongside Radiohead as the D's current fave combos. No mention of the Diamond Smugglers, who the D seemed so enamored with before Jack Black made a movie about another Neil Diamond cover band (the Smugglers play this Friday at Stubb's). If you were still unaware of the latest events in the lives of Black and Kyle Gass, their debut is due out on "Zep-tember" 25, after which they'll be returning here for a gig at the Austin Music Hall, "Rocktober" 19th… Junior Brown's turned up in some pretty odd places before, but the soundtrack from the lowbrow Spongebob Squarepants cartoon finds Brown backing and producing a squirrel called Sandy Cheeks on an atonal howler called "Texas Song," squeezed uncomfortably between a shoe-tying lesson from Ween and a tooth-loosening Pantera instrumental. If that doesn't take the urinal cake, I don't know what does…

-- Contributors: Michael Chamy, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer

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