The politics of dancing, or at least politics and dancing

Photo By Gary Miller

Every Day Is Halloween

Nostalgia is, by definition, nothing new. But the Regression scene at Elysium Sunday nights is less nostalgia than genuine phenomenon. Week after week, Austinites crowd into the Red River Goth palace not so much to relive the Eighties as revive them. "TCB" sat down Monday night in an empty Elysium with owner John Wickham and Regression DJs Pumpkin Spice (also Wickham's wife) and Spider Lily to discuss why Austin just can't get enough Eighties. "They never really went out of style," notes Pumpkin Spice.

TCB: Why have Sundays at Elysium taken on such a life of their own?

John Wickham: Mainly because the Eighties is something that all of us of a certain age can relate to. Everybody has their Eighties songs. I think everybody has a frame of reference for the Eighties. It's like talking to somebody our age about Star Wars. Everybody knows what you're talking about.

TCB: Austin has had an Eighties night continually since at least 1989, and since 1997 at Atomic Cafe/Elysium. How has it evolved over the years?

Spider Lily: In the beginning, it was always the same song you hear by Blondie all the time, the same song you hear from the Cars all the time. Now the crowd requests more obscure Cure songs. They're tired of "Fascination Street," they want to hear something else.

JW: When we get 25-year-olds in the bar, they obviously don't remember Trio's "Da Da Da" from the Eighties, they remember it from the Volkswagen commercial. When Donnie Darko came out, we had Tears for Fears and Echo & the Bunnymen. It changes. The more that the music gets back out into the mass media and people hear more of it, the more they go, "Oh yeah, I like that song."

Pumpkin Spice: It's funny, because a lot of them don't know the actual name of the song. They'll request it by the commercial.

TCB: Are there certain songs you know will be a hit?

SL: "99 Luftballoons."

PS: "She Bop."

SL: "Rock Lobster." "I Love Rock-n-Roll."

PS: Those are the ones where if you play a song and clear the dance floor – actually it's never really cleared, but if you go, "Ooh, I shouldn't have played that" – you play something like that and it brings them all back.

TCB: How much do you think it's about the music and how much is about the scene?

PS: If you look at the dance floor, it's pretty packed usually. There's no room to dance.

SL: I think [people] like to be in a place where they can do whatever the hell they want to and not be embarrassed. I think they like being in a huge crowd of people where they can dance to songs they know are cheesy as hell and no one cares.

Alejandro Escovedo and Brian Standefer (seated) at the Texas Union Theater
Alejandro Escovedo and Brian Standefer (seated) at the Texas Union Theater (Photo By Todd V. Wolfson)

Por Favor

Currently "going crazy" organizing next Thursday's Por Vida bash at the Paramount, manager Heinz Geissler says the evening's honoree, Alejandro Escovedo, is doing well. "He did great," says Geissler of Escovedo's two-night stand at the Texas Union Theater earlier this month. "He was definitely inspired by the crowd's reaction. They just loved him." Geissler says the Por Vida album has sold around 17,000 copies since its July release, bolstered by glowing reviews and all the proceeds going to help Escovedo battle hepatitis C. "It's doing really well considering that everyone is sick of tribute albums," Geissler acknowledges. Por Vida performers, including Los Lonely Boys, John Cale (see "Insecure," p.74), Calexico, Ruben Ramos, Tres Chicas, and Caitlin Cary, were only too happy to sign on for the show. Charlie Sexton will anchor the backing band, with Jon Dee Graham and Lenny Kaye, among others, sitting in. Careful not to get too far ahead of himself, Geissler says there's already been talk of making this an annual event, and possibly having shows in New York and San Francisco. Thursday's concert (tickets are still available), also marks the establishment of the Alejandro Fund, which in the future will help other musicians stricken with hep C. "It's the one good thing to come out of all this bad," Geissler says. See for more.

Photo By Nathan Jensen

Come Together

This used to be such a cool country. Unless the subject was abortion, you could disagree with someone and still have a civil conversation. Now a good friend of "TCB" predicts actual fistfights on Election Day Tuesday, and it's hard not to agree. A recent New York Times column compared America's current polarization to the climate of the 1840s and 1850s, and we all know what happened after that. People are stressed out, nervous, and afraid, not just of another 9/11, but of losing their jobs, catching the flu, and being unable to afford retirement, health insurance, college tuition, or even gasoline. Worse, they can't even turn to music for comfort and release anymore, because music itself has become as bitter and vitriolic as the average episode of Crossfire or The O'Reilly Factor. As old "TCB" buddy Sarah Hepola wrote in the Dallas Observer last week, anti-Bush songs have gone from legitimate protest to simply being the latest pop trend, and are fast becoming self-parody. When even Sum 41 jumps on the bandwagon, that should tell you something right there. And besides, hatred is hardly something to admire, no matter who or what the target. Remember, that's how we found ourselves in this mess in the first place. The people who flew those planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon hated everything America stands for – not just our alliance with Israel, but our music and movies and fashion, the very things that define us as a nation and a society. The more combative and divisive we become, the more we lower ourselves to their level. Is that what we really want? No, if there's anything worth fighting for, it's democracy, so please refrain from taking any swings until after you've cast your ballot. If you really want to be an American, find someone who voted differently from you and buy them a beer.

Bullet the Blue Sky

The 2004 Austin Music Awards' Best New Band, the Greencards, announced Tuesday they will relocate to Nashville at the beginning of 2005. "Much of the band's business in the future is to be handled by people living in Nashville, and we must physically be there to ensure matters are handled appropriately," the band said in a press release. The winsome bluegrass trio plays the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capitol Area benefit with the Gourds tonight (Thursday) at La Zona Rosa.

Passing the Greencards somewhere on I-35 as they leave Austin is art-punk trio the Faceless Werewolves, who recently relocated here from Denton.

Austin power-pop vets the Rite Flyers have landed their song "I'm in a Way" on this week's episode of teen-sleuth series Veronica Mars, airing 6pm Tuesday on MTV and later that evening on UPN. It's an inside job: Veronica's creator and executive producer is former Hey Zeus! bassist Rob Thomas. The Flyers jangle the Hole in the Wall Friday, Nov. 12 with the Wannabes and Subset.

John Peel, 65, arguably the most influential DJ in British history, died Monday night while on vacation in Peru. Before spending nearly four decades at BBC pop flagship Radio One, Peel got his start in, of all places, Dallas, where he spun R&B as John Ravenscroft on WRR's Kats Karavan program in the mid-Sixties.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Christopher Gray, June 29, 2007


Christopher Gray, June 22, 2007


Alejandro Escovedo, Por Vida, Heinz Geissler, Elysium, Regression, John Wickham, Pumpkin Spice, Spider Lily, 1980s, Decision 2004, Greencards, Faceless Werewolves, Rite Flyers, John Peel

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