With 4,000 wristbands selling out between 10am-6pm last Thursday, SXSW's reputation as the ultimate hipster bacchanal is secure (latest, unconfirmed rumors: Flaming Lips, Gang of Four), but some people actually work during the festival. These dedicated souls can usually be found at the Austin Convention Center, the site for everything from continuing legal education for entertainment attorneys and mentor sessions to at least one Central Asian ensemble wandering the halls in native garb. This year brings an unprecedented number of big-name daytime interviews Neil Young, Morrissey, Beastie Boys, Pretenders, Sam Moore, k.d. lang, Destiny's Child puppet master Mathew Knowles but panels coordinator Andy Flynn says he wants to give registrants the most value for their badge, not compete with the ever-expanding host of day parties: "We're trying to keep our stable as strong as possible, and this is one of the bedrock components of the event." Flynn, who regularly monitors Billboard and SXSW's own Daily Chord for ideas, went over a few of 2006's marquee panels. "Blogs Gone Wild" not included.
ROCK THE HOUSE GRAMMY TOWN HALL with U.S. Reps. Mary Bono (R-Calif.), Connie Mack (R-Fla.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.): "I like to highlight the issue-oriented stuff; I'm wonky that way. They'll be talking about media ownership, FCC issues, copyrights, and file-sharing legislation."
10 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD with Future of Music Coalition founder Jenny Toomey, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee: "The objective is to show the range of activism it's not just advocating for elections."
NEW ORLEANS MUSIC AFTER KATRINA with Harry Shearer, Allen Toussaint, Cyril Neville, New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Pete Spera: "I'm looking forward to it just to hear the first-person stories."
HOUSTON HIP-HOP with HoustonSoReal's Matt Sonzala, Bun B, DJ Chill: "Is it a fad that's over, or will it continue to have a strong presence?"
She's shared the stage with Bob Dylan, Beausoleil, and Redd Volkaert, but like most things, former Asleep at the Wheel steel guitarist Cindy Cashdollar can trace her new gig backing Van Morrison to Wheel hub Ray Benson. "I think Asleep had run into Van and his people before," she says from her San Francisco hotel. "Ray gave them the green light to hire me, bless his heart." Cashdollar was scheduled to begin rehearsals Tuesday and had yet to meet the enigmatic Irishman. "I remember the first concert my mom took me to," says the Woodstock, N.Y., native. "At this summerstock theatre, I think I was 11 or 12, and Van Morrison played." Morrison hired the country specialists (including Wheel fiddler Jason Roberts) to support his new Lost Highway album, Pay the Devil, wherein the Man covers Hank Williams, George Jones, and Rodney Crowell. Their caravan pulls into Grand Prairie's Nokia Theatre March 6.
Into the Mystic
Jesse Taylor, longtime Joe Ely Band guitarist, renowned folk artist, and leading light of the Lubbock scene, is in South Austin Hospital with hepatitis C complications. Taylor, a Texas Music Hall of Fame inductee at March 15's Austin Music Awards, was said to have shown improvement, regaining liver and kidney function, since entering the hospital last week. "He's doing a lot better [than] when things were looking kind of dark," friend Jo Carol Pierce said Monday. Even so, a procedure scheduled for Monday night was postponed. "Things are always changing," his daughter Chelsea said via e-mail. "There's so many doctors it's hard to know what's going on."
Nick of Time
Nothing like a little grass to cure that lingering SXSW hangover. Bluegrass, that is. The Old Settler's Music Festival returns to the Salt Lick Pavilion and Camp Ben McCulloch April 20-23 for its 19th installation. This year's headliners include Keller Williams, Todd Snider, the Rowan and Rice Quartet, and a Vassar Clements tribute headed by Austin's Heybale! Reserve a wristband now at www.oldsettlersmusicfest.org.
Lovejoy's original owner Chip Tait worked his final shift at the popular downtown date destination Monday evening, but despite earlier reports, the taproom will remain open. Doorman and Militant Babies drummer Davis Comeau said the new owner doesn't plan to change a thing, except put in a small stage for monthly shows. Over at the Ritz, new management is said to be remodeling in order to discourage some of the pool hall's grungier clientele, but Friday's show with Oh, Beast!, Ron Titter Band, Many Birthdays, and Gretchen Phillips will go on as planned at 10pm.
Ray "Raydog" Seggern, who captained K-NACK's Homegroan for a good bit of the Nineties, returns to the Austin airwaves 9am Sunday morning with his new 101X show Chillville. SXSW's Matt Dentler and Hugh Forrest will be on hand to handicap the upcoming film and interactive festivals.
In town for a Bass Concert Hall gig, Bonnie Raitt and band dropped by the Lucky Lounge last Thursday for Ian McLagan's happy hour. Had they gone next door to Antone's, they would have witnessed Mayor Will Wynn's debut as a pajama model at the GAT5 fashion show and fundraiser, a rare instance of a politician airing his own dirty laundry.
Speaking of politics: If you'd like to see the man who wrote "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore" in the Governor's Mansion, do not vote in Tuesday's primaries. Starting Wednesday, Kinky Friedman's campaign needs more than 45,000 signatures by May 11 to get on the November ballot, and anyone who votes in either primary is ineligible. Friedman was reported to be filming a campaign ad around Austin Wednesday; more details next week.