This week's column brought to you by the letters J, O, U, R, N, E, and Y
Any Way You Want It
When Emmis Communications bought out the LBJ radio family last year, the Indianapolis-based media parent vowed to let well enough alone. Then several advertisers pulled out, so they axed longtime KLBJ midday jock Peg Simmons and bumped multiple Austin Music Award winner Johnny Walker to part time. Read the long version in News (p.20), but "TCB" discovered their hidden agenda. Emmis' gambit is part of a far-reaching plan to make terminally hip Austin safe for the middlebrow likes of Journey, a scheme already paying dividends at such unlikely spots as Room 710 and Jackalope. As a product of Journey-crazed Houston, "TCB" has no problem with this whatsoever, but when it comes to supposedly uncool bands whose lyrics everyone mysteriously knows anyway, he still prefers REO Speedwagon.
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
Local metal maniacs HeKill Three were torn asunder when frontman Zak McMakin decided to relocate to Louisiana to be closer to his ailing father. Though he'll assume vocal duties for Baton Rouge band 4Mag Nitrous (friends of his from college), word from HeKill HQ pegs the split as more or less amicable, with the remaining members now searching for a new singer. Beloved indie-rockers Fivehead also reached the end of the line (for now) when guitarist John Hunt's wife was accepted into a two-year graduate program in Massachussetts. Hunt will join her following a July 31 farewell gig at the Parish with Moonlight Towers and the Amazing Letdowns.
Los Lonely Boys, Omar & the Howlers, and Ray Wylie Hubbard headline a benefit at Antone's Wednesday for pancreatic cancer-stricken Lyn Dykes, wife of lead Howler Kent "Omar" Dykes. Tickets are $30 through Star. Moreover, all the proceeds from Thursday's, Friday's, and Saturday's shows at Howler home base the Saxon Pub will go toward her hefty medical bills.
Their much-publicized SXSW fracas with the APD couldn't break Ozomatli up, but manager Amy Blackman-Romero, bassist Willy Abers, and percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi each received 180-day deferred disposition sentences last week, meaning the city is as eager to be rid of the whole mess as the band. Those "Free the Ozo 3" T-shirts should show up on eBay any time.
Trixi Stix, founder of Flametrick Subs ladies' auxiliary Satan's Cheerleaders, is presently unable to cheer due to a slipped disc suffered in a collision with an uninsured motorist. The Subs, Honky, Charter Bulldogs, and fetish star Masuimi Max, plus myriad DJs, go-go dancers, and something called a "carnival of sins" converge on Emo's for the Devil's Backbone fundraiser Friday. $10 minimum donation.
A former keyboardist for Austin electro-poppers Matson Belle has threatened to sue if they release new CD Goodbye Juggernaut because, he says, he owns the songs' copyrights. Lawyers have advised the band a payoff would be cheaper than a court battle, so the band is hosting a party 7pm, Friday, at the Swerve Lounge, 2310 S. Lamar. $10 for all the beer/wine you can drink; $20 buys that and a CD.
Don't Stop Believin'
Kinky Friedman, governor of Texas? Reached at his soon-to-be campaign headquarters outside Kerrville, the Texas Jewboys founder, best-selling mystery novelist, Texas Monthly essayist, Austin City Limits pariah, dedicated animal-rights activist, and melanoma survivor says "stranger things have happened." He might just be right.
TCB: Why run for governor?
Kinky Friedman: Why the hell not? It's something that I decided maybe four score and seven minutes ago, and every day seems to bring more people that are more serious about my running than I am.
TCB: What sort of platform do you have in mind?
KF: Well, I've said I don't have a platform. I might try to build a trap door in it. I'm the teacher's pet. Teachers, librarians, lesbians no lesbian left behind. All the people that have been disenfranchised, especially the young people, we hope to get aboard.
I'm interested in the Texas Peace Corps, a voluntary service organization. I want to legalize casino gambling so places like Corpus Christi and Galveston and Padre Island have casinos. And I want to bring back the Southwest Conference. I've already consulted with Darrell Royal on this. I know it's a political football, but I think I can handle it.
TCB: What about taxing strip clubs to pay for public schools?
KF: I tell you what, let's write that chapter in Texas history together.
TCB: Has Willie Nelson given you any campaign contributions yet?
KF: The best ones he can make are in the coin of the spirit. He's already said that he wants to be part of a Friedman administration, and that's good enough for me. I think he wants to be head of the DEA or Texas Rangers. I would like him to be involved with the small farmers, with agriculture.
TCB: As a well-known cigar buff, what's your opinion of Austin's new smoking ordinance?
KF: I think it's ridiculous. It's one reason I go to Vegas so much, because you can smoke on elevators there. In fact, I've mentioned before that I'll probably be in Vegas for most of my administration. But I'll see that things run smoothly. I'll call in things by videoconferencing.
TCB: Ever think about making another record?
KF: Not really. I think music's loss has been politics' gain.
Friedman and "Texas' next poet laureate," Billy Joe Shaver, play as part of Antone's 29th Anniversary, Saturday, July 17.
CHANT, Beginnings (LiveorDie Music)
STORM A-BREWING: Chant is the brain-
child of Brewtality, INC. drummer Bradley Bills, who whips live percussion and preprogrammed tracks into a whirling dervish of sonic mayhem. Quick reflexes and a custom-built kit help.
THE BEAT GOES ON: Beginnings beats, throbs, and pounds with a half-electronic, half-tribal pulse that lands somewhere between Nine Inch Nails, Crash Worship, and the drum circle at Eeyore's birthday. Live pyrotechnics add to the primal aura.
CD release Friday, July 16, at Elysium
Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'
Attack Formation, led by Ben Webster (center), rock as best they can in the close quarters of North Loop record store Sound on Sound last Saturday. Though the loose-knit avant-punk collective could've undoubtedly used more room, it's nice to see Sound on Sound stepping in where Jupiter and Thirty Three Degrees left off. Sleeper Cell, Storm the Tower, B.S.A., and Camp X-Ray squeeze in Saturday.
The Ridgetop Syncopators, the latest project from longtime Bad Liver and local klezmer ambassador Mark Rubin, sometimes open their sets with "Faded Love," but please don't call them Western swing.
"Western swing meant what those guys out in California were doing, like Spade Cooley and Tex Williams," says Rubin by phone from his day job, managing Violins Etc. "It was more of a genteel and urbane and uptown kind of sound."
Rubin prefers the geographically more specific "Texas swing," citing the "raw, unhinged" music of semiforgotten practitioners Milton Brown and Cliff Bruner. Further investigation led him to the Dallas String Band, an African-American ensemble that played street corners in Deep Ellum for tips in the Twenties.
"They did this wide variety of tunes, like Tin Pan Alley and popular ballads and blues," Rubin says.
The Syncopators Rubin on tenor guitar, banjo, and occasional fiddle; George Carver on lap steel; upright bassist Ricky Rees; clarinetist Ben Saffer; lead fiddler Sean Orr; and tenor saxman Mike Stinnett likewise cherry-pick their repertoire from sources near and far, obscure and familiar. Sometimes surprisingly familiar.
"Every one of those Western swing bandleaders, when you asked them who their big hero was, it wasn't Bob Wills," Rubin says. "It was Bing Crosby."
The Ridgetop Syncopators play 9pm Thursdays at the Longbranch Inn. Shorty Long follows.