Conrad Keely and Juliette Lewis? Getting it on with the Trail of Dead, Frenchie, Cheap Trick, the Austin Music Commission, and our own Todd V. Wolfson.
Total Eclipse of the Heart
Chris Smith, known to Austin and beyond as just "Frenchie," wants to keep things on the DL. At least until the Chronicle cover story on his Young Heart Attack comes out. Supposedly, that story would contain all manner of lurid details about their monthlong European jaunt with meth-metallers supreme Motörhead. For now, Smith is coy with specifics, except to say it was "massive rock shit" and "some of the wildest gigs I've experienced in my whole life." His words on Lemmy: "Fuck, dude, that guy ..." The well-traveled guitarist was also quite complimentary of overseas record stores. "You can buy singles like mad," he says. "It's like a lost art." Currently dividing his Bubble studio time between shredders Black Earth and mellow fellows Li'l Cap'n Travis, Smith wonders why YHA isn't more buzzed-about locally. "We're not on the radar at all," he puzzles. Then he admits they may be off the radar because they've "basically been on the road since June." In any case, the drought may be over after a well-received Hole in the Wall gig last Friday with The Action Is and Rockland Eagles. "The vibe was so good I can see doing something like that again," Smith confirms. A couple of other things he'll cop to are a full-length Heart Attack LP in February and that, "I never stopped loving Def Leppard and Judas Priest." Did anyone?
Times are good for Austin's beloved art-noise prodigies and instrument destroyers Trail of Dead. Not only is the foursome at work on the follow-up to last year's grand slam Source Tags and Codes, popular webzine Pitchfork reported Monday that frontman Conrad Keely is engaged to Natural Born Killers star Juliette Lewis (who is also now musically engaged with the Licks). Bandmate Jason Reece confirmed via e-mail the two are at least dating ("she is fucking weird"), before going on to plug the band's gig for "corporate ogre" Smirnoff atop Sixth Street's Shadow Lounge tonight (Thursday). "It's going to be silly," he promises. "Get Back" is in the set list.
Out of Commission
After five years in the post, Austin Music Commission Chair Kevin Connor is handing over the gavel. "I felt like I've done my time, and I've got other things I need to do," the KGSR morning deejay says. The new slate of officers -- Chairwoman Teresa Ferguson, Vice-Chairwoman Natalie Zoe, Secretary Angela Gillen, and parliamentarian David Glassco -- will take over at the December meeting, but Connor will remain on the commission until replacements are found for him and fellow departures Jay Woods and Charlie Jones. Overall, he says, he's pleased with the commission's direction during his tenure, including the fact that the body now includes several actual musicians: "We've been able to attract people who know what's going on in the music scene and who actively participate -- we just need three more." Though Connor says there are "no pressing dramatic issues" currently before the commission, which offers advice and guidance to the City Council on music-related matters, old standby issues like the Austin Music Network and the loading/ unloading struggle aren't exactly going away. Also, he notes, "the live music capital of the world seems to be very concerned about people playing on the street." As for his own future, Connor cites unnamed "private business stuff" and "the money pit that is the home studio."
Room on Fire
The Eighties were back in full force at the Back Room's 30th anniversary last Saturday, though judging by the number of mullets in the audience, they never really went away. L.A. strutters Junkyard lit the fuse with the Ramones, AC/DC, and ZZ Top covers, before Austin's own Dangerous Toys came barnstorming through with a fierce set of favorites including "Share the Kill" and "Teas'n, Pleas'n." The sold-out crowd -- which included KLBJ's Loris Lowe, Johnny Walker, and Kelly Kaos; 101X's Trina Quinn; Edge magazine's Sharon Jones and Greg Matson; Rank and Revue's Tammy Moore; and at least half of HeKill Three -- went home most pleased indeed.
Trick or Treat
Countless guitarists have honed their chops by copying Rick Nielsen's technique on seminal Cheap Trick albums like Live at Budokan and In Color. Nielsen, in turn, learned by copying the themes to such Sixties TV shows as Have Gun Will Travel, Rawhide, and Peter Gunn. "On Top of the World," from 1978's Heaven Tonight, is even a variation of Henry Mancini's popular Gunn riff. "I never got sued, either," marvels Nielsen from New Orleans. The Rockford, Ill., quartet pulls into Stubb's on Saturday, supporting its 19th album, Special One (Big 3).
TCB: What was going through your mind when you took the stage at Budokan?
Rick Nielsen: "This is pretty cool. Holy cow, people actually like us."
TCB: How much per year do you spend on guitar picks?
RN: Jeez ... you're making me do some math here. I don't know, maybe 80 or 100,000 picks [500 per show]. The other guys in the band complain about it, because it comes out of all our pockets.
TCB: Are any of your guitars too valuable to take on the road?
RN: No, I've brought 'em all. Not every show. I own two Gibson Explorers from 1958, and they only made 19 of those. I own 5 percent of the total in the whole world.
TCB: What's your favorite riff you've written?
RN: I haven't written it yet.
Cheap Trick plays Saturday at Stubb's outside with Wayne Kramer and the Damnwells. Tia Carrera plays inside after the show.
Wild in the Streets
Austin musician Freddie "Steady" Krc has Duran Duran and A Flock of Seagulls to thank for getting him back in touch with his roots. On a six-month busman's holiday in England back in 1986, a homesick Krc recorded an album of songs influenced by the music he heard growing up in La Porte, a small French-settled town between Pasadena and Galveston Bay. "A lot of Thibideauxs, a lot of Heberts," he remembers. The result, Wild Country, is solid Gulf Coast country, with a heavy bayou influence and a fair amount of blues and R&B. "I was a rock & roll kid, but if you grew up in Texas, it's all there," says Krc, who at the time was frustrated because "the only ones getting signed were those synthesizer bands." After breaking into the local scene with Raul's-era power-poppers the Explosives and spending several years in Jerry Jeff Walker's band, Krc just re-released Wild Country on his own SteadyBoy Records with four bonus tracks, and will mark the occasion with a 7pm show Saturday at the Saxon Pub. But that's hardly all he's been up to: A new Explosives LP is in the can, and Krc maintains his dual membership in barroom groovers the Shakin' Apostles and Freddie Steady's Midnight Howl. "I feel like that guy on The Ed Sullivan Show that would spin the plates," he admits. "But I like what I do, so it's not a chore."
Hungry Like the Wolfson
Chronicle photog and sometime bongo-beater Todd V. Wolfson's "digitally manipulated" posters will be on display 7-10pm Friday at rubypearl clothing, 507-A W. Mary at South First. Laura Scarborough, one of Wolfson's muses, performs from 8 to 9pm, before Wolfson himself joins in for "an hour with Laura and Todd." Other lady singers he has subjected to his seemingly endless array of Photoshop filters include Chrysta Bell Zucht, Ainjel Emme, and Sheridan Roalson. "I like using my musician friends, because models are just dumb," quips Wolfson.
Bullet the Blue Sky
As we go to press, word comes that Austin City Limits has won a prestigious National Medal of Arts, awarded to Terry Lickona and other ACL execs in person yesterday (Wednesday) at the Oval Office in Washington by President Bush himself. More on this next week.
Radio Station of the Week goes to Z102.3 for playing U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" twice while "TCB" was in the car last Sunday. Friday's Slayer show is an excellent excuse to sample the station's locally produced Masters of Metal program, which airs 10pm-midnight the very next night.
Local cabaret-rockers (as in Tom Waits and Kurt Weill, not Liza Minnelli) the Adam Sultan Moment release their debut CD Heinous Acts of Love, 11:30pm tonight (Thursday), at the Ritz Upstairs. The Transgressors and Makeshift Shelter bookend the bill.
The latest issue of Austin music mag Pop Culture Press, with features on the Flaming Lips, Dressy Bessy, the Riverboat Gamblers, and the New Pornographers, is available now at finer print purveyors around town. Since founder LuAnn Williams departed to become a macrobiotic chef, PCP is now helmed by former Chronicle Music scribe Luke Torn.
South Austin has a new music venue: the Old Alligator Grill. The decade-old South Lamar Louisiana eatery recently underwent a face lift that yielded a 400-seat venue, improved sound system, and better sight lines. Jimmy LaFave and Jack Ingram kick off the Alligator's new incarnation Thursday and Friday. No cover, either.
With Mark Collins relocating to Paris with his family last week, management of Antone's now falls to former Chicago resident Chris Thies. To raise money and awareness of UT's Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Austin's Home of the Blues will continue to host College Band Night Sundays through the end of the month.