Stranger than Fiction: Spoon previews new album, the smoking ban returns, the Gourds let a few fly
Keeping a secret in Austin is hard enough as it is, but when it's a word-of-mouth Spoon show, it's flat-out impossible. By the time the local quartet took the Trophy's stage last Tuesday as Cherries Etc, the place was predictably packed. As Adoniram Lipton and Underwood warmed up, half of Austin and Interpol singer Paul Banks filed in to watch the group preview songs from May's Merge LP, Gimme Fiction. "Welcome to our secret show," deadpanned frontman Britt Daniel (pictured) after methodical opener "The Beast and Dragon Adored." Fiction's "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine," "The Delicate Place," and "Sister Jack" also cropped up, falling somewhere between the well-scrubbed pop of 2001's Girls Can Tell and the pricklier stream of-consciousness missives off '02's Kill the Moonlight. Daniel was in good spirits for the hourlong set, honoring a shouted-out request for "Car Radio," even if the stifling heat caused him to sit down during the valedictory "The Way We Get By." "I'm fucking dead," concurred sweat-soaked drummer Jim Eno afterward. Why choose the gritty South Congress dive to shake off the cobwebs? "I wanted to play somewhere nobody knew about," insisted Daniel while waiting in line for Interpol the next night. Better luck next time.
It's baaaaaaack! The city clerk's office announced Monday that Onward Austin, an anti-smoking group sponsored by heavy hitters including the Lance Armstrong Foundation and American Cancer Society, had gathered enough valid petition signatures to place a referendum banning smoking in bars and live music venues (but not separately ventilated restaurants or bingo parlors) on the ballot in May's municipal election. Many who derive their livelihoods from such places feel Onward's well-funded efforts smack of overkill, especially since Austin already has an ordinance that severely restricts public smoking. "For them to come back so soon, when our compromise just took effect last June, strikes me as a little disingenuous," says Elysium owner and former Air Quality Task Force member John Wickham. According to figures on KeepAustinFree.com, only 200 out of 46,000 local businesses permit smoking that's well under 1% and 400 bars are already smoke-free. Wickham's chief concern is the same as last year, that the loss of business sparked by the ban will start a ripple effect that could squeeze out many of the city's developing acts. Clubs, he says, "will have to be swinging for the fences and only book the more established bands. That's going to kill [Austin's] cultural vitality." And so it begins, again
Some salty language during the Gourds' Lone Star State of Mind KGSR broadcast last Friday at the Saxon Pub caused the station to pull the plug 15 minutes early, and a lot more of said language afterward between the band and deejay Kevin Connor. The fracas started when engineer Bobby Ray heard something he shouldn't have and alerted Connor, who in turn warned the band. They continued, so Ray switched to a CD, and when Connor informed the band they were off the air, the fellas launched into an anti-KGSR diatribe that culminated in a Gourds-led chant of "KUT! KUT!" "I let a few fly," cops singer/bassist Jimmy Smith, ascribing his word choice to the heat of performance. "Trying to edit myself, it just didn't click." Smith reckons someone at the station should have noticed only one of his songs on new CD Blood of the Ram is curse-free, but maintains, "There was never any kind of intentional foul on my part." "We have to make a judgment that if something on-air is inappropriate we pull it off," acknowledged Connor Tuesday, adding, "I'm not going to say anything bad about the Gourds. That doesn't do anybody any good." Smith's confession notwithstanding, the band's lyrics can be notoriously hard to decipher in the best of times, so Saxon manager David Cotton, who was working the door, can't say for sure what was or wasn't said, but the incident became instant local legend either way. "I went out to dinner Saturday night," he notes, "and I couldn't get through the restaurant without people asking me about it."
Guess What KUT Means in Dutch?
Bob Wills' 100th birthday, March 6, is about as big a milestone Texas music has seen since Willie Nelson hit 70. Lone Star outposts from Turkey to Jacinto City have planned observances, but the jewel is this weekend's A Ride With Bob: From Austin to Tulsa, the State Theater's Ray Benson-steered dramatization of Wills' life and music. Former Texas Playboys steel maestro Herb Remington, who will join Benson and Asleep at the Wheel at the State, was all of 20 at his 1946 Hollywood audition, which he thought was for the Fresno-based band led by Wills' brother Luke. "I played a couple of tunes and Bob said, 'Hey, let's just keep this kid,'" says Remington, who today makes and ships custom steel guitars all over the world from his Houston headquarters. "I joined Bob at the height of his career every record that came out was a hit." Half a century later, Texas audiences still swoon to "Panhandle Rag" and "San Antonio Rose." "It wasn't just a bunch of notes," Remington affirms. "We were making music."
What Makes Bob Holler
Bullet the Blue Sky Yes, it's true: Sound Team is now on Capitol. The high-energy quintet signed with the home of Radiohead and the Beatles just after Christmas; the label gave them an option to license May's five-song EP to another label or release it themselves, with their nearly done full-length which they've been recording with Mike McCarthy following as soon as possible thereafter. "I think [Capitol] felt the future slipping out from under them, so they're trying to branch out into more underground areas," says Team member Sam Sanford. "It works out well for both of us."
U.S. Marine Reserve Lance Cpl. Trevor Aston, an El Paso native and former Parish/Mercury bartender, was due to come home next month but died last week in a nonhostile vehicle incident, now under military investigation, in Iraq's Al Anbar province. Condolences to his family and friends; a memorial Web page has been set up at www.trevorastonusmc.com.
Pop nightingale Sarah Sharp met the right person at SXSW Film last year, and soon enough she was in charge of choosing songs for the Jason Lee/Crispin Glover caper comedy Drop Dead Sexy. The film, featuring locals Sharp, 54 Seconds, Boombox, the Crack Pipes, Bruce Hughes, Soulhat, and many more, has its SXSW Film premiere March 12 at the Paramount.
More fun film stuff: "TCB" predecessor Ken Lieck, featured in highly touted SXSW doc The Devil and Daniel Johnston, becomes the "Smut Keeper" to host A Star Is Porn, the Alamo Downtown's cockeyed but sex-free montage of porno spoofs like Edward Penishands and A Clockwork Orgy tonight (Thursday) through Saturday. Midnight shows only; raincoats highly recommended.
Perverted Son Records may be defunct, but copies of the label's Keep Frozen compilation are still available at www.pervertedson.com. Label co-founder Josh Chalmers says the Web site will stay up until the domain comes up for renewal.
Competing in the Austin Music Foundation's second Incubator program for $15,000 and expert advice toward making a new album are KJAE, Will Taylor & Strings Attached, and Debbi Walton & the Sweet Soul Vibe (Category I); Guy Forsyth, Rachel Loy, and Brent Palmer (Category II); and Pong, Kissinger, and Friends of Lizzy (Category III). Finalists perform March 5 at Antone's and the Lucky Lounge. Good luck, all.
Hot SXSW rumor of the week: the Arcade Fire and Spoon as special guests at Merge's March 17 Parish showcase. Better line up now