Dancing About Architecture

Neil Diamond comes to town, the Metro stays open, Cotton Mather searches for a deal, Hamstein sells its publishing, Wynton Marsalis visits the Elephant Room, and much, much more.

Neil Diamond turns on his heart light at the Erwin Center.
Neil Diamond turns on his heart light at the Erwin Center. (Photo By John Anderson)

Diamond Jubilee

I knew it was gonna be a Diamond day on Tuesday when I woke up to KLBJ's Dudley & Bob, who had a very special guest in the studio doing an acoustic number. Wow! How had they gotten Neil Diamond to perform on their show and ... why was he singing the phrase "blow me" repeatedly throughout the song? Of course, I finally realized it was Steve McCarthy of Austin's own Diamond Smugglers, who Neil does a fair imitation of. That evening, I got an even better opportunity to compare the two, with damn near front-row seats for Diamond's performance, courtesy of the Erwin Center. By contrast, I could only score a cramped SRO spot at the back of Club DeVille for the Smugglers' after-show Diamond fest. (Performance-wise, it was a draw.) Sadly, Neil himself couldn't make it to the Smugglers show, but he did send a couple of representatives -- a keyboard player, cellist, and backup singer -- to spy and take pictures. In addition to the general gushing and comparing brands of sequins, McCarthy reports that the keyman told him he preferred the Smugglers' version of "Heartlight" to Neil's. That's a compliment worth phoning home about, eh, E.T.?

Metro Gnomes

Bad idea of the week? I'd elect the sign on the Metro last Friday noting that the show that evening had moved, but that Saturday's gig with Trial by Fire would be on at the club -- and it would be BYOB. Sure, the club is currently operating sans a liquor license, and Josh Cisneros wants to keep the doors open, but think about it. Sixth Street is a no-alcohol-on-the-street zone, and on Saturday, it was heavily patrolled by Mardi Gras riot-ready APD personnel in full SWAT regalia. Jesus! You'd think even Jenna Bush couldn't manage to sneak a bottle into that scenario! Still, on Fat Tuesday the club's door guy told me things had gone fine that night, very low-key, which was more or less the scenario for the entirety of Sixth Street. Based on the Metro's ad in the Chronicle this week, it looks like the club plans to continue as BYOB, operating primarily on weekends, until Sixth Street sultan Bob Woody assumes the liquor license and the venue becomes a beautiful, 600-700 capacity venue just in time for South by Southwest.

Cotton It Close

Cotton Mather's got a new album out at last -- but only in the UK. The local quartet, which has been plagued with label trouble since their start in the Eighties, found that when they attempted to self-release the disc locally, certain prospective labels were "strongly disappointed," says founder Robert Harrison. The album, titled The Big Picture, will hopefully be picked up by a domestic label by the time SXSW rolls around, but for now it's on ice. This led to a touch of a misunderstanding with the Mercury, as far as the band's gig there this Saturday being a CD release. They'll be playing songs from their upcoming album acoustically at that show, but a release party will have to wait. Hopefully, the extra time means everything will go right this time.

Eatin' Hamstein

It might not make Michael "I Own the Beatles" Jackson blink, but to anyone else it's bad, it's nationwide. Mosaic Media Group, in a joint venture with CDP Capital Communications, have purchased Austin-based Hamstein Music, the music publishing company founded in 1969 by ZZ Top manager Bill Ham. Included are all albums to date by ZZ Top, as well as their future recordings on RCA Records, plus country hits amounting to some 40 No. 1 songs performed by the likes of Clint Black, Terri Clark, Billy Dean, Little Texas, Jo Dee Messina, Tim McGraw, George Strait, and Trisha Yearwood. The first order of business for Mosaic is to place Hamstein songs in film, TV, and commercials, so listen soon for "Party On, El Patio," "(Swanson's) TV Dinners," and of course, the inevitable "She's Got L'Eggs."

All This Jazz

Another prodigal Austin son returned recently -- for one night, anyway. Or didn't you notice ex-local Fred Saunders tickling the ivories with the Lincoln Jazz Center Orchestra when they passed through town a couple of weeks ago (see "Live Shots,"austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2002-02-08/music_phases4.html)? The previous night, Saunders brought his boss Wynton Marsalis by James Polk's Ringside gig before the two went down to the Elephant Room, where Ken Burns' favorite Jazz authority turned in a three-hour set for a very surprised (and presumably pleased) crowd of 30. Word got out that Marsalis was gonna blow his horn there the next night, too, so needless to say, he did so before a significantly larger crowd.

Mixed Notes

The most notable aspect of Eyes Adrift's local coming out last week at Emo's was their tour bus out front. The indie supergroup, featuring Austin-dwelling Meat Puppet Curt Kirkwood, Nirvana's Krist Novoselic, and Sublime's Bud Gaugh, played a 60-minute set for a packed front room and displayed little onstage chemistry and fewer songs, though the number about JonBenet Ramsey did stand out. So did the band, which signed autographs after the show in front of their Willie Nelson-sized transportation... Kevin Russell, in between plugs for his new solo effort Buttermilk and Rifles, says the Gourds have finished a new, yet-untitled disc that'll be out on Sugar Hill in September. That label will likely carry his Rifles as well, but for now go to www.munichrecords.com to take a shot at it... Fans of the Toadies will want to check out the Burden Brothers, the new act featuring Toad Todd Lewis and Taz Bentley of Reverend Horton Heat and Tenderloin. Their first performance (except for one "unannounced" show in Dallas) will be at SXSW... Have you heard of Hedder? No? Maybe you remember them playing around town under their old name Aunt Flossie, then? Either way, they've got their debut album for Gold Circle Records, Ventilate, out this week, and the band is currently on the road and on the radio with their song "Save Your Face"... Not every Sixties Texas garage band is as legendary as the 13th Floor Elevators, but Corpus Christi's Zakary Thaks did some decent rocking in their day, as the new Sundazed CD Form the Habit demonstrates. Closer in time and space, the folks at Dual Tone Records tell me that their Reivers reissues are at last scheduled to be in stores March 19. Look for both Saturday and End of the Day, each with two previously unreleased tracks. Currently, former Reiver Kim Longacre is heading to the studio to record with Larry Seaman for his new album... On that same date, keep an eye peeled for Schatzi's Mammoth Records debut, 50 Reasons to Explode. Currently that band is touring with the Promise Ring, then switching over for a few weeks with Shiner in April and the Ultimate Fakebook in May. Look in the February Alternative Press and you'll see them listed as one of the 100 hot bands to know in 200. Better yet, go by Emo's Friday and check them out... Watermelon Records' Eric Zappa is back with his own record company, Glurps, and its first release is a reissue of Grand Champeen's Battle Cry for Help, now remastered and repackaged for national release. After a CD (re)release gig at Stubb's next Thursday, the band heads back out on tour... Margaret Moser passes along the sad news that Melinda Dee Michels, 41, died in her sleep at her home in Arkansas. The vivacious blonde was a fixture in Austin clubs of the Eighties and Nineties, and one of the original Texas Blondes. Melinda lived her life "like a Fellini movie with South Austin subtitles," said Cool Car Club founder Russell Scott. Friends can visit www.legacy.com to remember her as she goes to meet Esquivel, Dave Van Ronk, Peggy Lee, Waylon Jennings (who died at 64 in his Arizona home as we went to press Wednesday), and the other musical souls that have passed on this year.

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Neil Diamond, Diamond Smugglers, The Metro, Hamstein, ZZ Top, Wynton Marsalis, Cotton Mather, Eyes Adrift, Gourds, SXSW, Robbie Robertson

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