Dancing About Architecture
Steamboat returns, SXSW looms closer.
The Read Badge of Coverage
It's only Monday morning as I finish up this column, and already things are a mass of action. Not only is there South by Southwest, there's also various other elements like Spring Break, the Live Stock Show and Rodeo, and the Austin Record Convention turning Austin into a veritable whirlwind of activity for the next week. Radio reports that the airport has been operating at peak capacity (if not beyond) since the beginning of last weekend, and traffic, already a problem here in River City, has slowed to a sluggish drool. Luckily, I haven't had to go to the airport, but for those arriving or stuck there waiting for someone, the city has scheduled afternoon performances, including Thursday sets from Ginger Mackenzie and one of this paper's "Picks to Click," the Weary Boys.
Meanwhile, me and the rest of the friendly Chronicle staff are running around at a frenzied pace to provide you with as much SXSW news as possible, both in this bulging issue and the special Chronicle Daily issues coming out on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week. We'll be busy enough that I'll no doubt have to turn down the invitation to the Second Annual Governor's Salute to Texas Music on Wednesday with Gov. Rick Perry, who was spotted at the SXSW Film Festival premiere of Dubya doc Journeys With George, which means I'll be missing music by Junior Brown. Hell, exactly five minutes into my inaugural appearance at the Convention Center last Saturday, freshly adorned with my SXSW Platinum badge, I ended up being videotaped for Saturday's 10 o'clock news on K-EYE. Even before that, though, I'd already ended up backstage at Stubb's on Friday with Willie Nelson thanks to my new roommate Jon Blondell, who plays in Willie's blues band. Mr. Nelson came onstage fresh from recording a guest vocal on a locally cut track for Rolling Stone photographer Mark Seleger, with Blondell, Willie's sister Bobbie Nelson and others, which will be sent back to exec producer Lenny Kravitz, who didn't make the trip.
The Chronicle's Andy Langer was pretty busy himself, out front during Nelson's gig with pal Billy Gibbons, who later made his own guest shot at Antone's with Jimmie Vaughan before heading back to Houston to do some recording, which one assumes will be for the next ZZ Top extravaganza. Also spotted over the weekend were stalwarts of the film world Cheech Marin and Dennis Hopper, both of whom took in Cheech's art exhibit in San Antonio and then sped back to Austin for their film fest panel. One of my former roommates says he had the honor(?) of sharing a urinal, not once but twice, with Jeffrey Tambor at a party Saturday night. After the second occurrence, Hank Kingsley warned him "If this happens a third time, I'm calling the police." Needless to say, the warning was tongue-in-cheek, and my friend confirms what former Duckman producer Ron Osborn has told me: Tambor is a sweetheart.
Personally, I ended up disappointed Saturday night, having decided to make Last Party 2000 director Donovan Lietch my first musical experience of SXSW. By the time I arrived at the party where he was performing, he had finished his set, and according to insiders, had promptly split for nudie bar the Show Palace. In fact, I'm not sure which is the more pathetic story I've heard so far regarding SXSW week -- the one I just related, or the fact that numerous people thought that it was his legendary dad, who merely goes by the single-word moniker Donovan, that was playing at the party. In any case, let's hope those are the worst things I hear during SXSW, and beyond that I say welcome to you out-of-towners. Don't move here.
... to the same old place that you laughed about. Well, as always, it's not exactly the same place that visitors to SXSW 2001 encountered a year ago, but this year, there have been nearly as many changes for the better as there have been for the worse. Just last week, Austin lost one beloved eatery and temporarily went without another; neither was known for hosting live music, but both were favorite hangouts for local musicos and their out-of-town guests. Pato's Tacos on East 38th burned down when homeless people tried to build a fire nearby, and the legendary Texas Chili Parlor, immortalized in Guy Clark's "Dublin Blues," was shut down by Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander. For those of you who are new to our city, Rylander is best known as the woman who ended the golden age of Austin music by tearing down the Armadillo World Headquarters, and has subsequently attempted to sate her appetite for grandstanding with stunts like raiding Antone's on busy nights. Fortunately, the owner of the Chili Parlor was able to work things out by selling the business to a longtime customer, and the eatery is now open for your visit. Rumors had Austin's famed Music Lane studio closing, but they called to announce that they've merely reverted into the hands of its previous owner, who plans to continue with business as usual.
Meanwhile, Debbie Rombach at the Drag-located Hole in the Wall says she's getting sick and tired of persistent rumors that has the club closing prematurely. The latest rumor that refuses to die is that the club will be taking the money they earn during SXSW, using it to pay off the Hole's debts, and then closing their doors the following week. "Hello!" she counters, "our lease isn't up until June 30! We are not closing the week after SXSW, or if we are, nobody's told me about it, and my name is on everything." That said, you might want to take some pictures while you're at the Hole, because the odds are that next time you come around, it -- like Liberty Lunch, the Armadillo, and so many other Austin musical landmarks once thought to be eternal -- may well be gone, since the entire block is up for sale.
Definitely, there will be no more Palmer Auditorium come this time next year, as plans are afoot to replace it with a larger facility. So, while you're wandering around Palmer during your visit to the Austin Record Convention this weekend, you may want to take a few mental snapshots of that edifice as well. On a positive note, not only did Beerland finally open properly, but legendary local rock club the Steamboat has returned in a big way, with an enormous new location on Riverside and Congress. The Empanada Parlour, for its part, has finally settled its long-running feud with the Sheraton Hotel (over noise complaints by the latter), and the Red Eyed Fly -- also a victim of noise complaints -- has closed and reopened since last SXSW! The rule of thumb in Austin these days is: Keep it down, and you'll stay out of trouble, okay, folks? Oh, and please, if you see her, don't buy any drinks for Jenna Bush. We've been through that mess enough times already.