'Almost Famous,' part two, starring What Made Milwaukee Famous, the Murdocks, the Good Looks, Gibby Haynes & His Problem, and Endochine
As Zykos found out in last week's "Almost Famous" (austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2004-11-19/music_feature.html ), life on the road is often plagued with all manner of indignities, from nonexistent promotion to uncooperative slot machines. Several other Austin bands that have likewise been taxing their odometers this fall would like to add awkward stage wear, surprisingly well-kept street people, mischievous bandmates, and insomnia-induced hallucinations.
Emerging indie rockers What Made Milwaukee Famous report their first-ever tour, two weeks to Chicago and back, was hit and miss. The show at their destination was "awesome," relays singer/guitarist Michael Kingcaid, but the dozen or so rockabillies gathered to see Wayne "the Train" Hancock election night in Milwaukee "just weren't having it." Better was Halloween in Iowa, unless you're drummer Josh Vernier. The band took the stage in skeleton suits as the Karate Kid's evil Cobra Kai clique, but were short one costume. "[The store] only had one for 8-to-12-year-olds," snickers Kingcaid, "so we made our drummer wear the kids' costume."
Another drummer, the Murdocks' Ryan Cano, reports his band just returned from a "long and hard and expensive" 24 shows in 25 days. The trio's trip was further extended when their van broke down in Philadelphia; Cano says the East Coast's extensive system of toll roads basically wiped out any profits the alt-rockers might have made. "It costs $22 to get through Pennsylvania alone," he sniffs. "It's not that big a state." One thing that did go right was the Murdocks' CMJ showcase at NYC basement club Siberia, even though it wasn't in the best location. "Meals on Wheels had just shown up, so there were all these bums there," Cano says. "A lot of them were dressed better than us!"
Grungy Seventies throwbacks the Good Looks traveled an equally eventful, if much shorter, road. Their smash-and-grab long weekend in the Midwest began charitably at a hometown benefit for St. Louis' Phonocaptors, who happened to be in Houston the night the Cardinals defeated the Astros for the National League pennant, and whose Missouri-plated van was molested by revenge-seeking fans. In Chicago which apparently loves Austin bands more than Austin does their show with the Bon Mots at the Hideout was "as packed as that place could get," says drummer Jake Perlman. In Cincinnati, they even found two cases of Lone Star, as well as several of guitarist Matt Drenik's high school friends, but Drenik's impending tonsillectomy meant a 25-hour haul straight home. "We must have stopped for coffee at least 25 times between Texarkana and Austin," Perlman says. "Anything to keep white bats from attacking the windshield."
The vehicular malady plaguing Gibby Haynes & His Problem on their recent cross-country trek wasn't imaginary rodents; it was a van so laden with equipment it couldn't break 50 mph on certain mountain roads. Despite sellouts in New York and San Francisco, the group hit a dive about every third night. "Gibby knows," relays drummer Shandon Sahm. "If it was a really bad club, he'd just shake his head and say, 'Another shithole.' It went, like, good club, good club, shithole ..." In L.A., opening for Ween, Haynes scattered pieces of Sahm's kit about the stage, placing each where it would cause maximum obstruction. Sahm got to pull some mischief of his own later at a party with Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante. "I had just washed my hand, and he stuck his out," he says. "He said, 'What's up with your hand?' I said, 'Oh, I just came from the bathroom. I just finished whacking it.'" After an extremely awkward pause, Sahm, Frusciante, and the Mars Volta's Omar Rodriguez-Lopez spent the next two hours engrossed in a Kiss DVD.
Most recently back in town is Muse-channeling rockers Endochine. Their Saturday night set at Stubb's was flush with exhaustion, relief, and that feverish sort of tightness bands get after extended stretches on the road. As well it should be: Since the local quartet's sophomore effort, Day Two, got picked up for national distribution, and save a weekend stopover around Halloween, they hadn't slept in their own beds since the Austin City Limits Music Festival nearly two months ago. They were so happy to be home they hardly even stuck around to party.
Fresh off winning the 2004 Shortlist Prize for their debut full-length, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, TV on the Radio electrified La Zona Rosa Saturday night. The Brooklynites' bass-heavy stew of post-punk, soul, funk, and gospel left the sold-out crowd nice and sweaty for headliners the Faint, who worked a heavy Depeche Mode vibe for most of their set before unveiling a slow, sinister reading of Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer."
THE RAIN WON'T HELP YOU WHEN IT'S OVER
W.C. Clark stays nice and dry as a handful of hardy souls braves the elements to watch the veteran local bluesman perform at the new Austin City Hall's grand opening Saturday afternoon. Fellow performers Cornell Hurd, Malford Milligan, and the Nash Hernandez Orchestra, plus Austin Mayor Will Wynn and Councilman Daryl Slusher, were on hand at the quirky new seat of municipal affairs which, by the way, would be next door to Liberty Lunch if Council hadn't sold it down the river to the Computer Sciences Corporation. Thanks again!
Bullet the Blue Sky
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, Freddy Fender, Delbert McClinton, and Ruben Ramos take vocal turns on Heard It on the X, the third album from loose-knit Tex-Mex collective Los Super Seven. A tribute to the border radio days of the Fifties and Sixties, X is due March 22 on Cleveland's Telarc Records.
MOOG, the story of soft-spoken electronic genius Robert Moog and his invention that facilitated the births of genres like prog-rock and synth-pop, opens Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Yes keyman Rick Wakeman, DJ Spooky, Money Mark, and Mix Master Mike all appear in the film. For those who prefer fiddles, the Alamo Downtown is offering free tickets for "bungee-bull" rides at its Urban Cowboy screenings this weekend. Wear a cup.
Austin's Invincible Czars, who call themselves "ethno-mathological prog-rockers," will perform their arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker suite 7pm Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Church of the Friendly Ghost. The Czars promise to incorporate several different styles into the program, including a heavy metal version of "Arabian Dance." The Golden Arm Trio, on loan from scoring Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly, joins in the fun.
Rock a Mole productions has just released the seven-minute VHS short "Everybody in, Nobody Out," which examines the always-touchy subject of health care for musicians. Copies are available free for musicians at PO Box 341305, Los Angeles, CA 90034. Everyone else must pay $10; see www.rockamole.com for more info.
The Punk Rock BBQ, the loudest regular SIMS Foundation benefit going, has moved yet again. Previously housed at Ego's and Trophy's, the barbecue has landed at Headhunters on Red River, and usually gets going Saturdays around 4pm.
"TCB" has a lot to be thankful for, but he's mostly thankful for getting through this year in one piece. So far. Happy Thanksgiving and Go 'Horns!