Will Wynn has it in for AMN, as does the Austin Hotel & Lodging Association
Can't Wynn for Losing
Last Thursday's City Council meeting to decide the Austin Music Network's fate (again) was the definition of anticlimactic. To absolutely no one's surprise, Mayor Will Wynn pulled his resolution seeking the network's termination, the council instead passing 4-2 Jackie Goodman and Raul Alvarez's resolution to seek alternative means of support. Wynn repeatedly mentioned the city had already sunk $4.8 million into the network, but not that the figure was the total amount over 10 years until Goodman brought it up. The mayor also criticized AMN for drawing down their cash reserves, even though general manager Louis Meyers said the council was fully aware that would happen when it slashed AMN's budget from around $600,000 last year to the $160,000 it now receives from hotel bed taxes (see right). Since it began selling advertising six weeks ago, Meyers added, the network has met its budgetary projections. Both financially and contentwise, AMN has indeed turned a corner, and Austinites are beginning to catch on. Nearly 50 citizens showed up to speak on the network's behalf a lot, considering council scheduled the item for 11am, when most musicians are asleep and its profile around town is light-years ahead of where it was a year ago. It's just a shame the current budget shortfall leaves no money for Wynn to buy a clue. Thursday's meeting made it clear that we live in a city where the mayor's only real interest in the music community lies in what it can do for the bottom line, and that should trouble us all.
A House Is Not a Motel
An interesting side note to Thursday's council meeting came when Mayor Wynn read a letter from the Austin Hotel & Lodging Association objecting to the use of hotel bed-tax revenue to fund AMN. Wynn played up the letter as an example of AMN's perceived poor performance, but the real issue concerns the network's scope, not its content. State law stipulates that hotel taxes go to organizations that promote tourism, a requirement that AHLA executive director Liz Reyna thinks AMN fails to satisfy. "Since it's only broadcast in Austin, it's not really bringing people to Austin," she says. Expanding AMN's reach, through Time Warner Cable at least, doesn't look promising either. (The channel is available in San Antonio and San Marcos through Grande Cable.) TW Vice-President for Public Affairs Lydia Agraz said that as a municipal access channel, Time Warner's agreement to carry AMN only applies to incorporated areas of Austin. Even if somewhere like Round Rock wanted to add the channel, she added, they probably wouldn't be able to: "We have more requests to add channels than we have capacity."
SXSW Sprinkles: 11th Hour
The hotels are booked, extra beer ordered, and area stores are running low on Dr. Scholl's: SXSW is upon us. As the first wave of wristbands sold out, showcasers the Demons' equipment was stolen from in front of Gearhead Records' San Francisco offices. Everclear frontman Art Alexakis takes over for scratched Detroit garagers the Romantics at Pop Culture Press' Thursday night Vibe bill, and party boy Andrew WK hits the wheels of steel at Flower Booking's free day party Saturday at Emo's. Locals sneaking in under the wire are the Golden Apples, Real Heroes, and Bells of Joy, who join Guy Forsyth, Grupo Fantasma, Junior Brown, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Los Lonely Boys at Auditorium Shores Saturday night. Wednesday morning, SXSW confirmed that Brownsville-born, Oxford-educated "Pilgrim, Chapter 33" Kris Kristofferson would join Toots & the Maytals and White Stripes cover girl Joss Stone on Friday's free Shores bill, brought to you by KGSR and Tracks magazine. Makes sense, because "Help Me Make It Through the Night" is a perfect theme song for this or any other year.
Little by little, the next Pong record inches toward completion. "It's pretty much in the can," swears keyboard/ vocal man Shane Shelton. "We're paying for it ourselves, so we've kind of been doing it piecemeal." Shelton promises more of the same liquid dance grooves and surreal lyrics as on the group's 2001 debut Killer Lifestyle. "It's less noisy, but no less rocking." Working with producer Josh Case, onetime bassist in pre-Pong outfit Gold, the group hopes to finish recording next month. Meanwhile, before taking the stage at Room 710 with Cat Scientist, they'll premiere two videos at Gallery Lombardi Saturday evening as part of the ongoing "Rawk Show": an animated clip for "Incapacitated" by a 17-year-old fan who previously did their "RNA" video, and Shelton's own directorial debut on "Secret Meat," which he says crosses old Gene Autry-style serials with the "Pong mythology." That would be superhero Owl's ongoing struggle against the evil Bubbleheads. "We're broadcasting an illegal show all over Bubble City," Shelton explains. "It's a cowboys and robots thing." Of course it is.
Pleading the Sixth
Don't look now, but live music is again flourishing on Sixth Street. The lushly appointed Capitol Drafthouse (pictured), once known as the original Mercury and before that the White Rabbit, last month joined the Flamingo Cantina, Vibe, Bigsby's, Ritz Upstairs, Rockstars, and the Parish as original-music oases on cover-band/dance-club row. Frat boys, oblivious, downed another collective Jell-O shot.
Back on Track
In their "natural habitat" of the Broken Spoke, the Derailers took the stage Friday for only their second show since founding singer-guitarist Tony Villanueva's New Year's Eve departure. With six-stringer Casper Rawls sitting in, they hardly missed a beat as it took the twangsome quintet all of 10 minutes to fill the dance floor at the South Lamar landmark, which turns 40 in November. Earlier, guitarist/vocalist Brian Hofeldt revealed the group's in no hurry to replace Villanueva: "Tony and I were singing together for 15 years, and in the Derailers for 11," he said. "It's kind of like a divorce." Albeit an amicable one: "He's still my buddy," Hofeldt added. Bassist Ed Adkins alternated lead vocals with Hofeldt on boot-scooters like "Waltz Across Texas," "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down," and "Act Naturally," while soundman Bradley Jaye Williams hopped onstage for some saucy Tex-Mex. Hofeldt, after admiring owner James White's vintage 1948 jukebox, said the group has been preparing for their next album, but has no plans to hit the studio anytime soon.
"Long Way Home" or "Sing Me Back Home"? "Miss Independent" or "Mr. Bojangles"? "Get Down Tonight" or "Take It on the Run"? These are some of the questions looming as Austin's other marquee March event, the Star of Texas Fair & Rodeo, returns to the Travis County Expo Center Saturday. Things kick off with a free cowboy breakfast at Auditorium Shores 6-9am Friday; see www.staroftexas.org for details.
March 13: Cross Canadian Ragweed
March 14: Ramon Ayala
March 16: Steve Wariner
March 17: Kelly Clarkson
March 18: Gary Allan
March 19: KC & the Sunshine Band
March 20: Clay Walker (2 shows)
March 21: Emilio, Ram, and David Lee Garza
March 23: Wynonna
March 24: Merle Haggard
March 25: Django and Jerry Jeff Walker
March 26: REO Speedwagon
March 27: Tracy Byrd
Bullet the Blue Sky
One of Austin's own was caught up in the latest round of major-label purges when, after 18 years, Warner Bros. pink-slipped sometime Chronicle contributor and former Austin Sun music editor Bill Bentley. Someone please give him enough money to start his own label.
Burnet speed-metal burners Hatchetwork took top honors over the mesmerizing, Cure-like Shady Angels and Killing Joke-esque False Affliction at Music Lab's Battle of the Bands last Sunday night at the Back Room. "TCB" enjoyed the generous open bar while bonding with fellow judges Zak McMakin of HeKill Three, Ben Ballard of Born to Lose, AMN VJ Naomi Toni, and 101X morning show producer Jason Alvarez.
The lovely and talented ladies of Tosca appear on good buddy David Byrne's forthcoming album, Grown Backwards (out Tuesday), and will join him on tour starting March 22 in Italy. As a warm-up gig, they'll back the erstwhile "Psycho Killer" on Late Night With Conan O'Brien this Friday.
Strangeways, here they come: Elysium has landed the former Smiths rhythm section of Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce as special guest DJs Wednesday, March 24. Morrissey could not be reached for comment, but the more you ignore him, the closer he gets.