Dancing About Architecture
As the Live Music Capital dries up, along comes the Austin City Limits festival to quench parched musical thirst.
"History in the making" is what promoter Charlie Jones called the upcoming Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park during last Thursday's press conference, and he just may be right. Now that the finalized lineup has been released (online at www.aclfestival.com/schedule.html) and word is out that ticket sales on the ACL Web site are coming from all over the U.S. and beyond, the grand scale of the endeavor is starting to reveal itself. Why would that be, in the face of everything else on the local music scene taking the down elevator? Partly, of course, it's the renewed popularity of rootsy, folky music due to ... that movie. The ACL Fest should draw that crowd in droves, what with names like Wilco, String Cheese Incident, Ryan Adams, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Shawn Colvin, Robert Randolph, and around 50 more. Mostly, though, it's the absurdly low ticket price of $40 for a two-day pass; anyone who's attempted to attend a big arena show (or even a big night out in the clubs) in recent years can attest to that. Already, ACL's Terry Lickona is cautiously likening the future of the event to the New Orleans Jazz Festival, looking forward to a time when hopefully the ACL Fest takes up two weekends with heavy nightclub activity in between. "It certainly has the potential," says Lickona. For now, all involved are sticking to their budget and focusing on getting Fest No. 1 off successfully. Ironically, the sets this year won't even be fully videotaped for ACL. "That would cost as much as the tickets bring in," laments Lickona, who adds that a camera crew will be documenting the event as best they can. "It wouldn't look good for us 25 years down the line," he points out, "if we produced a special on the history of the event and had nothing to show from its first year!"
How Low Can You Go?
With the city budget due today (Thursday), things have been mighty busy in the council chambers of late. Mostly they've been fretting and fussing over how to get things together in another down year, trimming here and dumping that altogether. Notably, the primary nonessential project that's getting the go-ahead is the Austin Music Network, with $665,000 dedicated to the station for the next fiscal year. Whether you're a fan or a detractor of AMN, at least it's a sign that the city is sincere about putting some money into the local music scene this year, misguided or no. On the other hand, it's a sure sign of how bad the economy is that it's now dangerous to mention that the city has money available for musicians. At the same time that helpful city staffers like Jim Butler want to remind those in need that the city's Music Industry Loan Program is still in existence, they fear that in this month's budget-preparation frenzy, someone will try to co-opt that dough for some other purpose. Just goes to show how much we currently trust Austin's local government to do what's best for us, don't it? In any case, now that the budget's approved and the money's safe (knock on wood), Butler says that about $167,000 of the total $245K is currently available to local music-related businesses hoping to expand, with more info at www.ci.austin.tx.us/news/01/tra_loan.htm . Somebody definitely needs to put this money to good use, if only to prove that some help to the music community is coming from the city of Austin. Otherwise, they'll think we're satisfied with sad bits of lip service like the "Band of the Week" page (see www.ci.austin.tx.us/telecom/bandweek.htm).
Richard Buckner has something of a history relating to Austin, what with his being a signee to the late Dejadisc Records label. He's also known for being somewhat reticent and private, and as such he was less than eager to discuss his latest connection with our fair city. To make a short story even shorter, the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter has moved to Austin, though for exactly how long or for what reason remains a mystery. "Write about something else," demanded Buckner when reached by phone at his motel room in South Austin. "This isn't interesting. It's just one guy moving his shit from one place to another." Beyond that, there were only negatives to be gleaned from the artist's reluctant conversation. No, he doesn't have a particularly interesting reason for why he wants to live in Austin. No, he has no plans to record here since his latest album is already finished. No, he doesn't feel like naming any local bands he particularly likes. All that's known for sure is that, unlike some musicians who move here, he actually plans on playing locally at least once. Check him out at the Fivehead / Bedbug house-fire benefit tonight (Thursday) at Club DeVille (see Mixed Notes), or at the Cactus Cafe on Sept. 20 -- just don't go asking him any personal questions. On the other side of the fence, at least when it comes to being talkative, Mary Cutrufello called the Chronicle the other day to say she's dropping in for a visit. Turns out the firebrand guitarist, a fixture on the CenTex blues-rock scene during the past decade, is trekking down from her new home in Minneapolis for a gig with her new band at the Saxon Pub next Wednesday, Sept. 18. "The music scene is happening up here," says Cutrufello. "The musicians are so good here -- so professional. Here, they're thinking beyond the next gig." The weather also made a difference for the native New Englander, so she decided to stop splitting time between Mary Richards' place and Houston and do both her "wintering and summering" in the city that launched Soul Asylum, Hüsker Dü, and the Replacements. "This city's past successes make it easier to be taken seriously here," she points out. Cutrufello's past successes, like getting a nice parachute from Mercury when she parted ways with the label following 1999's When the Night is Through, has made it possible for her to concentrate on putting together a new band rather than putting out a new album. In other words, don't expect new material at her Saxon Pub gig, "C'mon out," invites the guitarist. "Trish Murphy, and I think Carolyn Wonderland are also playing -- it'll be fun."
Well, Texas has been awarded yet another dubious honor, as Burleson native Kelly Clarkson was named winner of the Fox TV American Idol competition, aka the world's biggest karaoke competition. Now that the Dallas-area damsel has been propelled into the same league with Kenny Rogers and Christopher Cross, one can only wonder if she's bound for a one-hit destiny like Sixpence None the Richer, or an actual career like LeAnn Rimes. The power of television is monstrous of course, but given the amateur-hour nature of the song she's contract-bound to release as her debut single, it's still a tossup.
Though rumors have been swirling about Charlie Sexton ending his lucrative guitar spot with Bob Dylan, his management says that's far from the truth. Sexton will be spending more time producing other artists, but following his appearance with the Arc Angels at the big ACL bash, he'll go back to busking with Bob. As far as his first planned producing job, it is none other than the return of Dallas' Edie Brickell. Supposedly, several labels are clamoring for her big post-New Bohemians comeback -- as opposed to the 72-minute hits package on the band that just came out ... Audium Records has signed Asleep at the Wheel frontman Ray Benson to a solo contract. Benson has yet to record his album, but the disc is expected out in the first quarter of 2003... Longtime Lucky Strikes frontman Craig Marshall is about to release his first solo album, Popular Crimes. It was produced by Darin Murphy, with a cast of players including Murphy (on drums), Tony Scalzo, Jon Sanchez, Ron Flynt, and George Reiff among others. Craig can be found playing every other Monday at Speakeasy (Sept. 16 & 30)... Charalambides has signed to Chicago's Kranky Records, home of Low and Labradford. Austin's masters of free-form psychedelia will be joining their highest-profile label yet after a decade of recordings that began in their original hometown of Houston. No word yet on a release date... Since members of Bedbug and Fivehead lost their belongings to a Labor Day house fire, there's a two-night benefit tonight and Friday. The lineup is as follows: Thursday at Club DeVille: Sexy Finger Champs, Dumptruck, Richard Buckner, Scott Biram, Blued, Moonlight Towers, Mandible, Winslow; and Friday at Le Privilege: John Hunt & Beaty Wilson, Subset, Zykos, Canoe, Masonic, Stellary, Milton Mapes, Li'l Cap'n Travis... For the second anniversary of H.O.O.T. -- the Harmonica Organization of Texas -- there's a harp-heavy show at Antone's this Sunday, 4-10pm. Scheduled performers include Mel Davis (Blues Specialists), JP Allen, a harmonica trio from Dallas, and Walter Daniels & Wade Driver. Proceeds benefit H.O.O.T. and Big Brothers, Big Sisters... I'll leave it up to your imagination as to which recent Austin export got himself caught up in the events reported in this fascinating story in Atlanta's weekly tabloid: atlanta.creativeloafing.com/2002-08-07/news_feature.html. Damn! "Gang Bang Turns Into Clusterfuck"! How come the Chronicle doesn't have headlines like that?