Dancing About Architecture
Death and rain come to CenTex
In our music community, we often forget the contributions of the many who don't actually play an instrument, but without whom there would still be a noticeable void. Among those, count "Shoeshine" Charley Miller, who passed away last week, Nov. 14, just as we were going to press. Miller, who was 64, was born in Smithville, and learned all he could as a child by watching a fella shine shoes, taking that knowledge and becoming a shine-boy in a whites-only barber shop in the late Forties. Moving to Austin, he booked music for the legendary Eastside club, Charlie's Playhouse, and the after-hours club, Ernie's Chicken Shack, giving gigs to the likes of W.C. Clark and Blues Boy Hubbard & the Jets. He manned the shoeshine stand again at Antone's before relocating to near the sound booth at the Continental Club in 1991. Nine-to-fivers who never actually make it out to the local clubs may know him from the 81/2 Souvenirs video for "Happy Feet," a KEYE station ID, or the films Lone Star and The Newton Boys. Personally, I'll recall him best for loudly 'n' proudly announcing Jonathan Richman onstage at the Continental Club as "Jonathan Winters." Services took place Monday afternoon, and I'm told that among other things, a portion of the proceeds from the Jerm Pollet, Goudie, and Glamourpuss bill on Nov. 29 at the Continental will go toward the purchase of a bust of Miller for display in the venue. Meanwhile, out in California, former Austin resident Charles Gunning, aka Doug the Slug (Slacker, The Newton Boys, Waking Life), was in a near-fatal car crash in Palm Springs, Calif., on Nov. 3. Gunning slid through an intersection and was T-boned, suffering critical injuries. His management asks concerned friends to send cards or donations during this rehabilitation period in which he is unable to work, to: Charles Gunning, c/o NRT, PO Box 29161 Los Angeles, CA 90029. Also on the ward, I heard that Stubb's owner Charles Attal has been in the hospital with bleeding ulcers. On the positive side, colon trouble poster boy Brit Jones of Stickpony says that since his most recent operation, his ass has never felt better.
Or should that be "Couldn't Stand the Weather"? It's always an impossible choice between those two SRV faves when it comes time each year for a Lone Star music writer to comment on the rains a-coming. And comment must be made, because if there's one thing we Texans are thin-skinned about, it's cold and wet weather. Basically, we see it so rarely that it confuses us. Admittedly, last week's storms made national news, what with a tornado playing chicken with truckers down I-35 up around Buda, and in town things got ugly as well. Cheapo Discs flooded so badly that cars in the parking lot were obscured up to the hood (luckily they keep their CDs stored fairly high off the ground). "We still haven't gotten back to normal," said one employee on Monday. The Cheapo gang figures it'll take weeks before the last blotches of mud are scrubbed from the nooks and crannies, but the front part of the store is open, with the rest to follow shortly. On the club front, Stubb's says they're looking for a make up date on De La Soul, who were rained out by the inclement weather, while Sunday's Pete Yorn show at La Zona Rosa went off without a hitch after the Direct Events folks called off his scheduled Thursday gig for the same reason. Next comes the cold, which as I write this Monday, seems to be here finally, so I'm going to give my annual warning early. Each year, at least one Austin musician loses their home and everything in it due to their use of old faulty space heaters. Just remember, those things can kill you; if you have to use them, keep an eye on them, hokay?
Satyrs and Cherubim
Nice to see the Butthole Surfers' triumphant return home gig at La Zona Rosa on Saturday. Only one technical glitch raised its deformed head despite the band's effects-and-equipment-heavy setup, while the background films, ranging from circumcisions to animated satyrs and cherubim, have caught up to the music technology-wise (they'd better, as I hear the Steely Dan veteran working with them now costs a pretty penny). Better yet, the set was a pleasingly past-heavy collection of faves for longtime followers. This seemed to serve the band, too, as they pretty much napped through the "hip-hop" numbers that stuck out like sore nubs when they popped up occasionally between scathing jazz-punk blasts and surreal guitar, bass, and drum wonkiness. I don't think anyone cared about that, though. I mean, seriously, did anyone spot a single "new" Butthole Surfers fan at the show? I have to ask, because I've never attended a concert before where the more popular a song was, the less enthusiastic the crowd response appeared. Oh, sure, "Pepper" got a smattering of applause, but it was stuff like "Human Cannonball" and "The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey's Grave" that sent people into hysterics, while current hits "Shame of Life" and "Dracula From Houston" seemed to impress the crickets more than anyone else. Weird, indeed...