Don Walser, who became an Austin country music icon after retiring from the civil service and whose unearthly yodel earned him the nickname "Pavarotti of the Plains," died Wednesday afternoon at his South Austin home after a long battle with diabetes. Walser had just turned 72 on Sept. 14, and his wife, Pat, and a number of their five children were with him when he died, Walser's longtime publicist Nancy Fly reported.
Here's to Country Music
Funeral services for Don Walser will take place:
Monday, Sept. 25
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
5201 Convict Hill Rd. (Next to the Oak Hill Library)
Visitation is 9am-1pm at the church.
Funeral Services at 3pm.
Donations to off-set medical and funeral expenses can be made to:
Don Walser Memorial Fund
PO Box 90306
Austin, TX 78709-0306
Family and friends are meeting at Threadgill's World Headquarters after the funeral service with an impromptu jam featuring Don's band members and other friends and musicians.
See www.austinchronicle.com for immediate updates and next week's paper for much more.
Willie Nelson got into some mischief Monday morning when Louisiana state troopers turned up more than a pound of marijuana and 3 oz. of psychedelic mushrooms during a commercial-vehicle inspection near Lafayette, La. Nelson and friends were cited for misdemeanors but not arrested because the jail was "too crowded." Ahem. Meanwhile, Asleep at the Wheel dedicated Nelson's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" to late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, shown here with TCB at a 1996 Grammy fundraiser, Friday at ACL.
So Long, Yellow Rose
With all due respect to this year's 130 or so acts, the most impressive performance of last weekend's Austin City Limits Music Festival goes to Mother Nature, who interrupted Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' headlining set Sunday night with a grade-A lightning show that also took care of the stifling, Houston-like humidity. Petty took it in stride, summoning the rain spirits with maracas during a Zeppelin-esque cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" and promising to come back after "Handle With Care." He did, unlike many of the crowd, but first things first.
INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN
Except for Friday, which was just hot nothing unusual there Zilker Park mostly felt like the inside of a wet sock. Sunday also smelled that way, thanks to a noontime downpour that was ACL's first rain since a 2003 sprinkle. Festival producers Capital Sports & Entertainment have tried everything short of human sacrifice to get the weather to cooperate for five years, so 2006 may go down as the year they threw in the towel. Everything CSE could control, however, it did with military-style efficiency and precision.
The biggest stages, AMD and AT&T, were often "locked down," off-limits to all but a select few: performers, their families, crew, and Matthew McConaughey (there as white reggae-mon Mishka's manager). In exchange for the ACL seed money they kicked in, sponsors enjoyed fenced-off "hospitality areas" beside their namesake stages that were difficult to sneak into, but not impossible. TCB breached the AT&T area in time to take a load off, have a beer, and hear Van Morrison's band tackle "It's All in the Game" and one of ACL's all-time trifectas: "Wild Night," "Brown-Eyed Girl," and "Gloria." A mere 200 feet past the backstage gate was plenty to peek over the fence at the Raconteurs' thunderous set, and, as the Shins won him over, TCB discovered that reaching the front is best achieved by skirting the porta-potties that formed most of Zilker's internal perimeter.
The Heineken and AT&T Blue Room stages were much more inviting, offering prime stageside viewing for Cat Power (where Lance Armstrong and Jake Gyllenhaal likewise looked on), Phoenix, Gomez, Finland's charmingly odd Husky Rescue, Austin live-wires Ghostland Observatory, and a crackling New Pornographers. The best vantage point of all may have been the HEB Festival Beach and its welcome shade during Wolf Parade, whose sharp-edged post-punk symphonies were most out of place in the sun-blasted Friday afternoon. A little farther back, the beach was a perfect spot to take in the AMD stage, perched on a picturesque hilltop between live oaks and the moon, for Los Lobos and Willie Nelson. As befits a festival that sprang from Austin City Limits, watching the stage's giant video screen from a deck chair at 200 yards was just like a special outdoor episode of the long-running PBS series.
Ultimately, the view hardly mattered, because something was audible from every spot in the park. Sometimes more than one thing, which worked surprisingly well for an unplanned Nelson/Explosions in the Sky mash-up but not so much for Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Los Lonely Boys. Some of the best sets mirrored the weather: TV on the Radio's moody noise bursts and baritone-sax blasts were as ominous as the gray clouds overhead Saturday evening, just as the Black Angels' pregnant drone captured Sunday's post-downpour steam bath. Others evoked more altered states: The prog steamroller of the Secret Machines and bullet train of Muse; psychedelic trips of the Shins, Tragically Hip, and even Petty on "It's Good to Be King"; reggae satisfaction of Ted Leo + Pharmacists, Damian Marley, and Ben Harper, who welcomed Marley and brothers Julian and Stephen for father Bob's "Get up, Stand Up."
Austin's Palm School Choir was matched for joyous enthusiasm only by their idols the Flaming Lips, to whom they happily presented their CD of Lips covers Sunday afternoon. The hot accessories were multiple New Wave keyboards (the Long Winters, the Dears, Wolf Parade), string sections (Gnarls Barkley, Cat Power), horns (Calexico, Morrison, the Warrior Gospel Band), and two drummers (Phoenix, Gomez, Del Castillo). Biggest missed opportunity goes to singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson for starting Journey's "Anyway You Want It" but not following through. And not a moment went by that somebody, somewhere, wasn't playing some form of the blues: Los Lobos, the Raconteurs, Ray LaMontagne, Lou Ann Barton, Buckwheat Zydeco.
At the teeming artists' compound, everyone seemed to be talking about Ben Kweller's mysterious nosebleed four days on an overly air-conditioned tour bus, or so he said or, also like Kweller, attending to their offspring. The Dears blew bubbles at their stroller-bound babe; members of I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness placated their kids with treats from Ice Cream Man Matt Allen. Danger Mouse lounged on a sofa before changing into his mad-scientist getup for Gnarls Barkley's set; it was karate gear and a "Turning Japanese" opening at Wednesday's packed Stubb's preshow. Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff joked about John Mayer's hearty appetite: "This buffet is a wonderland." Ian McLagan let Iron & Wine borrow his gear and kept mum about opening for the Rolling Stones next month, but he is. Physician and former Prescott Curlywolf guitarist Dr. Ron Byrd talked up his new band, One Mississippi, and warned against overhydrating: It dilutes the amount of sodium in the bloodstream and causes something called "water intoxication." Hmmm. This year TCB also learned how to stay fed without a meal ticket (fill up on bread and salad) and smuggle booze outside the compound (concealed in a plastic water bottle, which works best with vodka & soda).
Friday night, two hellfire-and-brimstone preachers with megaphones tried to convert the masses streaming out of Zilker from their heathen ways. "All we're doing is listening to music," someone remarked. Sunday night the good Lord agreed, easing the elements enough for Petty to play another hour. Seems even the Man Upstairs couldn't let ACL pass without "Refugee" and "American Girl."
They played what!?!
RUN FOR COVER
Cat Power, Paolo Nutini, "Crazy" (Gnarls Barkley)
Gnarls Barkley, "She Blinded Me With Science" (Thomas Dolby)
Paolo Nutini, "Daydream" (Lovin' Spoonful)
Nada Surf, "The Kids Are Alright" (The Who)
Daniela Cotton, "Back in Black" (AC/DC)
Matt Nathanson, "Laid" (James)
Secret Machines, "(De Luxe) Immer Wieder" (Harmonia)
Galactic, "Immigrant Song" (Led Zeppelin)
Los Lobos, "Not Fade Away" (Buddy Holly)
José González, "Teardrop" (Massive Attack)
G. Love & Special Sauce, "Gin & Juice" (Dr. Dre/Snoop Doggy Dogg)
Kathleen Edwards, "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" (Neil Young)
Ween, "Let Me Roll It" (Wings)