Get Me Back to Austin

Five 'Fantastic' reasons the 2003-04 Austin Music Awards shine

Get Me Back to Austin

I told you so.

It was as manifest as tearing into the label mailer that fateful day, taking out OK Computer, and giving it a maiden whirl on the office boom box. That's how obvious Los Lonely Boys was. Is. Will remain.

Not that Los Lonely Boys' breakout is as good as Radiohead's one true masterpiece. Then again, who's to say it's not? Certainly not an exponentially expanding legion of Central Texicans who think Britpop is Britney Spear's new line of lingerie.

What critics across town and country aren't hearing is LLB's KLBJ factor. (Or Austin's KGSR factor, for that matter.) "Heaven"-ly fare notwithstanding, San Angelo's pride and joy are classic meat 'n' potatoes FM rock, or in this case tamales y tortillas rock, though blue-collar Budweiser aesthetics aren't what's transformed the Garza brothers into the phenomenon they've become. It's the limelight.

Under the stage lights of the Saxon Pub and Steamboat on Riverside Drive, long before last year's Los Lonely Boys, the trio was just another hungry local act playing for a sliver of pie (flan, whatever). They had something, and it wasn't just Henry Garza's black diamond mane or SRV licks. Yet they wouldn't have been the first, last, or 10,000th Austin-blessed act to end up just another marquee memory. It wasn't until the album that LLB began blowing up like a newborn galaxy.

Out at Willie's Picnic in front of the massive, under KLRU's nuclear spotlights during an Austin City Limits taping, and of course inside a buckling ACL Music Festival tent; this is where Los Lonely Boys have become Austin's new calling card to the world. Remember when SRV's Texas Flood was just another terrific blues debut? LLB the band, LLB the LP – same thing: easy to underestimate, easier still to overstate. Especially since it's still so early in the game. What makes this case different? Doug Sahm. Make that the Doug Saldana factor.

Jerry Wexler, Atlantic Records man and stone soul brother, was sent a copy of Los Lonely Boys, told only, "Willie Nelson's taken these boys under his golf swing." Wexler, who signed the Red Headed Stranger to Atlantic and produced the ultimate "Bloody Mary Morning" in '74's Phases and Stages, was intrigued.

"In fact," he was further informed, "your friend Doug Sahm would've started a tug-of-war with Willie over this band." Blues, rock, Tex-Mex soul: Sahm lived his whole life for these things and his music paid the tab. Los Lonely Boys, same deal. "Fantastic," wrote back Wexler. "Like three young Freddy [Fenders]," Sahm's Texas Tornados turbine. Freddy Fenders are forged in only one state. Wonder what Baldemar Huerta thinks of Los Lonely Boys?

We have former Austin singer-songwriter emeritus David Rodriguez to give gracias to for one-half of Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez. "Wild Thing," of course, accounts for the other half, and here in Austin at least, KGSR is responsible for the whole enchilada – with a generous assist from the Cactus Cafe.

With Taylor's wily, Southwestern songs and Rodriguez's stunning, china doll presence, fiddle playing, and songbird cry, it's no wonder this Nashville/NYC-based duo has become a homegrown favorite. "Sweet Tequila Blues," with its refrain, "Get me back to Austin," had a hand in there, too. Let's Leave Town, on ATX's TMG/Lone Star imprint, was a hit all around, followed last year by the critical crowning of follow-up The Trouble With Humans.

The trouble with the Class of '78: Ty Gavin from the Next and Terminal Mind's Stephen Marsh; Standing Waves' Larry Seaman & Randy Franklin; Terri Lord of the Jitters; forever Skunks Jesse Sublett & Jon Dee Graham; and the Grand Swing King himself, Randy "Biscuit" Turner from the Big Boys.

Problem children, the lot of 'em, from Austin's punk/New Wave past/present, which, in light of the Eighties echoes dominating contemporary music culture here, there, and everywhere, couldn't be more timely. Sure, sure – celebrating the birthplace of local DIY culture/music, Raul's, is like salutin' the Armadillo: old and hoary. Why not spotlight the scene revolution waged nightly on Red River? The Red River Revue anyone? We're getting to that punk, don't worry your pretty pink Mohawk. Meanwhile, this is where that began.

You wanna talk ancient history? Try this instead: a century's-old English folk ballad squaring off against its bluegrass descendant. That, St. Patrick's Day, and the other thriving, pub 'n' grub side of Sixth Street – Momos, Mother Egan's, Opal Divine's – will take the piss outta your jam band.

Austin's high priest Celts, Cluan, them of the reels, jigs, and "Mattie Graves," lash in with the cap city's naturalized Greencards, they of the Australian, English, and acousticana accents – and "Shady Grove" – for an honest to Irish Paddy's Day throwdown. Like to see U2 and Radiohead do that. In this case, you'll see the electric arc between two continents and one music. A pint the Guinness led a thoil!

Stout is, of course, the only way to describe Tia Carrera. If there's a mayor of Red River, where the nexus of ATX's live music scene now resides in Emo's, Stubb's, Beerland, Room 710, and the Red Eyed Fly, it's Tia Carrera. She's a grand dame, like Medusa. Out of Jason Morales' starburst Afro thrash two more heads: Neptunian hammer down Eric Conn and Promethium bassist Andrew Duplantis.

As a never-ending improvisational eruption, Tia explodes like the "Star Spangled Banner" spewing from the Melvins. The trio's happy hour blasts at Room 710 have become legend, and even the scene's elder statesman venue, the Continental Club, has imported Tia's metallic smackdown. Putting Tia Carrera up front on any big bill is like putting a starter pistol to your temple. Get ready to see stars.

That is, after all, what the Austin Music Awards are all about – the solar system of local music. From the planets (Band of the Year, Album of the Year) to the sun spots (Best Waterloo Records), this is our musical universe. Celebrate it, preserve it, let it radiate.

Austin Music Hall
Wednesday, March 17, 7:55pm sharp






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