Takin' it to the streets with the Dixie Chicks, Real Heroes, Ash, and Onion Creek Crawdaddies
Band on the Run
"Just so you know ..." began Natalie Maines as a sold-out Erwin Center held its collective breath last Wednesday. "We're proud to be from Texas." So maybe Lloyd Maine's daughter isn't quite the seditious Saddam Hussein sympathizer the Fox News Channel has made her out to be -- if anything merited protesting, it was her hair, a hideous mohawk/pompadour concoction that made her look like Alfred E. Neuman with a cowlick. She did thank KGSR for not banning their music, but the best reference to the Chicks' recent controversy came in the somewhat less-than-subtle list of songs on the P.A. prefacing their arrival: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," "Our Lips Are Sealed," "Band on the Run." Egged on by a crack eightpiece band anchored by Austinites David Grissom and Roscoe Beck, the Chicks' opening salvo of "Goodbye Earl" and "Some Days You Gotta Dance" was equally over the top, if later eclipsed by the furious pickin' of "Tortured, Tangled Hearts" and "White Trash Wedding." Over in Vegas, the Academy of Country Music Awards audience demonstrated its old-fashioned Christian values by booing the Chicks' via-satellite performance of "Godspeed." Maybe the trio's choice of the Radney Foster-penned lullaby was a bit evasive; it would've been more satisfying to picture Toby Keith and Travis Tritt wincing at the gay-wedding footage screened during "Truth No. 2." Martie Maguire's mournful fiddle on the riveting "Travelin' Soldier" should've put any lingering patriotism questions to rest once and for all, however. Save an interminable "Top of the World" and a ham-fisted rendition of Bob Dylan's "Mississippi," the rest of the show was excellent, Emily Robison turning in some especially savory banjo licks on "Long Time Gone" and "Sin Wagon." Opener Joan Osborne turned up for a roof-raising duet with Maines on "Am I the Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way)"; during the dark days after voicing her displeasure with President Bush, Maines probably did feel like the only one who's ever felt that way. But by the time they left the stage in their adopted hometown, the Chicks had discovered thousands of proud Texans willing to stand behind them come hell, high water, and cowboy-hatted blowhards wrapped so tightly in the American flag the oxygen supply to their brains has long since been extinguished.
Pour Some Sugar on Them
If a hero ain't nothin' but a sandwich, Austin's Real Heroes would like it known they're much more than hams on wry. The local fivepiece, rocking unapologetically -- and unironically -- since evolving from Bongo Hate in the late Nineties, are putting the finishing touches on their second CD. When their self-titled debut came out in late 2000, audiences were unprepared for such theatrical, in-your-face rock. Most folks assumed they had to be kidding. "People were thinking we were parodying big rock, like SINIS or something," says guitarist Paul "Hi-Watt" English. "We even played a bill with SINIS, and some people were like, 'Oh yeah, I get it.' We were like, 'There's nothing to get.'" Guitarist/keyboardist Kyle Crusham concurs. "I think people laughed harder than we laughed," he says. "People found it funnier than we did." While the band freely admits to being "goofy" -- two-armed drummer Joey Spivey jokes he'd like the Heroes to be "the Def Leppard of Austin" -- they vow their new album will be nothing of the sort. "This time there won't be any confusion," swears singer Benjamin "Save" Hotchkiss. "It sounds pretty heavy, pretty serious." To achieve their goal, the Heroes cut out the between-song patter and strove to find the "essence" of their songs in lieu of heading off on various whimsy-inspired tangents. "Like you hear painters talk about what they do," offers Hotchkiss, "and the better paintings are the ones where they use less strokes." Speaking of Strokes, Hotchkiss credits the disheveled NYC quintet with bringing the Heroes' take-no-prisoners style of rock back into vogue. "They opened doors for a band like us, because it widens the palate of what the general populace can understand, or what they're ready for," he says. "So it's not so strange when we get up there and play some stomping rock & roll." This they will do, complete with bassist Kenneth Dowling, Friday at the Mercury with Pretty Beat Up and Laughing Dog.
All right, all right, all right: ex-Standing Wave Larry Seaman has coerced Mike Reynolds, Doug Koeppe, and Geoff Lasch into forming an ad hoc band for Saturday's Austin Film Society keg party celebrating the 10th anniversary of Dazed and Confused. The foursome will rock under the Moon Tower at Lake Walter E. Long park on such D&C soundtrack faves as "Low Rider," "Cherry Bomb," "Rock & Roll Hootchie Koo," and "Tush," with guests Davey Jones, Steve Collier, Melissa Mullins, and Kevin McCarthy. Get tickets online at www.austinfilm.org, and remember, just keep livin'... To mark the release of the Meat Puppets DVD Alive in the Nineties, Curt Kirkwood performs a solo acoustic set 5pm Friday at Waterloo Records. Afterward, he'll sign autographs... A little birdie tells us to look for Abra Moore's next album, the same one axed by Clive Davis for not sounding enough like Avril Lavigne, in September on Koch Records. Fivehead and Subset also have new albums in the can, neither of which particularly sounds like Lavigne either... Texas' favorite guitar-strumming kosher mystery novelist Kinky Friedman launches his Private Stock salsa 6pm Saturday at Central Market's 38th Street store. Helping wave off the Kinkster's cigar smoke will be Asleep at the Wheel, Billy Joe Shaver, Bobbi Nelson, Jane Bond, Sammy Allred, and Mary Hattersley... Centro-matic has signed to new Austin label Misra Records and will release an album in the fall, with a solo release from Centro-man Will Johnson to follow soon after... Peglegasus' show tonight (Thursday) at the Ritz Upstairs will be their last local date until drummer Peter Voskamp returns from wherever it is he's going... Bomb Hip-Hop Records has picked up local wordsmith Bavu Blakes' debut Create & Hustle for national distribution, releasing it coast to coast May 20... DJ Mel fires up the ones and twos Saturday night at the Mercury for the "Cruel Summer" installment of the ongoing "Rock the Casbah" series. All the Eighties you can handle for $5, but don't blow out your wrist at the Atari 2600 battle...
ASH, Free All Angels (Kinetic, 2001): Ash is like the Donnas in that they've been a band longer than they've been out of puberty. Starting life as a trio, the band came blasting out of Northern Ireland with 1995's 1977, did a brief U.S. tour, and promptly joined the Supergrass/ Super Furry Animals wing of Bands Yanks Never Quite Got. They outgrew their Star Wars fixation and nearly imploded after 1998's Nu-Clear Sounds, but instead added guitarist Charlotte Hatherley and both outlasted and transcended Brit pop with the release of Free All Angels. The album, a brisk blend of Buzzcocks-inspired pop-punk, Weezer-ish ballads, and the odd electronic effect or two, spawned a Thriller-like six singles and was named to Q magazine's "100 Greatest Albums of All Time" list last year -- the same year it was belatedly released in the States. Free All Angels contains two of the best summer anthems you'll hear this year, or any year, in "Walking Barefoot" and "Pacific Palisades."
Ash plays Emo's outside Friday, May 30, with the Rocket Summer and Sound Team. Their idols the Buzzcocks play Emo's the next night with the Applicators and Eastside Suicides.
ONION CREEK CRAWDADDIES, Barn Burners & Bathtub Bourbon (Beergrass Records)
WHERE IS ONION CREEK? Far southern Travis County -- heading south on I-35, Onion Creek Parkway is one of the last exits within the Austin city limits.
O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? None of the five Crawdaddies are related, though you could never tell by their old-timey harmonies.
WHO DO THEY SOUND LIKE? Their fresh-legged hybrid of bluegrass, country, gospel, and Tex-Mex should bring a smile to the faces of the Gourds, the Weary Boys, Split Lip Rayfield, and South Austin Jug Band fans.
WHAT ARE THEY DRINKING? As explained by "Blood in My Veins," "Another Bourbon," and "Fort," the Crawdaddies enjoy a good adult beverage -- so much so they christened both their sound and record label "Beergrass."
Release party 10pm tonight (Thursday) at the Continental Club with Barfield.