Its title may be grim, but Before the Music Dies director (and frequent Chronicle photographer) Andrew Shapter says his new documentary is anything but depressing. "The title may be misleading," he admits. "I think the film is a lot more positive." If audience reaction is any indicator, he's right: The film premiered to raves at SXSW, and its unique distribution community groups arrange their own screenings has led to heavy promotion from XM Radio and endorsements from Bob Dylan and Dave Grohl. Spurred by the death of his brother, Shapter and partner Joel Rasmussen asked every musician they could get their hands on (Dave Matthews, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, Questlove, My Morning Jacket, Hubert Sumlin, Calexico) how the music industry's American Idol obsession and boardroom mentality affected their art. "Pop culture has taken over the music industry, and the musicians have become secondary," says Shapter. "If you're going to be a successful musician in the larger scope of things, you need to be a pop star, a pop-culture personality. Just being a musician is not going to cut it." A 15-year local fashion photographer, Shapter says he noticed something was amiss when the musicians he was shooting on the side wanted to look as glammed-up as the models at his day job. "They were so image-conscious it seemed to interfere with their creative process," he says. Before also explores how the Internet has kept certain avenues of exposure open that major labels and big radio have long since closed. "It's like winning the lottery, but it can be done without ever using any of the major mechanisms of the existing music industry," explains Shapter. Screenings of Before the Music Dies are scheduled for 7:30pm, Friday, at St. Edward's University's Jones Auditorium; 1pm Sunday at the Alamo Downtown; 7:30pm, Nov. 29, at the Alamo South; and 4pm, Dec. 1 and 3, at the Alamo Downtown. Shapter and Rasmussen will attend the final three.
A Dying Breed
Of things you imagine Ray Benson is unlikely to say, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Swishahouse family!" is pretty high on the list. But there was Benson, hosting the Texas Chapter's first-ever Recording Academy Honors at the Austin Convention Center's swanky Ballroom A, introducing Swishahouse founder Michael "5000" Watts, at the turntables for a spin through the Houston label's biggest movers. Paul Wall struck up "Still Tippin'," Lil' Keke brought it to the "South Side," then the rest of Watts' roster (Yung Redd, Archie Lee, Crystal, E-Class, Coota Bang) came out to instruct the big-hairs in throwing the H-town hand sign known as "chunking up the deuce." Happily nodding along was Chronicle Editor Louis Black, a fellow honoree, with SXSW partners Nick Barbaro and Roland Swenson, and slipping in the back was ZZ Top, whose pal Billy Bob Thornton joked about being mistaken for Slim Thug in his introduction. The fourth recipient, Houston gospel superstar Yolanda Adams, had the biggest and best-dressed entourage, and the smoothest introduction from R&B maestro Jimmy Jam. Another friend of Swishahouse, Austin DJ Rapid Ric, talked about touring with Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, and Devin the Dude and how vinyl is too fragile to cart overseas. Ric will soon host the fourth volume of his Whut It Dew mix-CD series, duties previously handled by Chamillionaire, Bun B, and Trae. "I don't think a DJ has ever hosted his own mix CD before," added Ric's assistant Tony C. New Orleans' Robert Fortune Band, selected by Top hand Billy F. Gibbons, had selection-committee member Sara Hickman boogying to "Jesus Just Left Chicago"; afterward, Gibbons signed an autograph for a grateful waiter, and Barbaro remarked his award's accompanying Tiffany bag would be good for "regifting." Academy chairman and Austin City Limits producer Terry Lickona said the Dixie Chicks will fly home for a Dec. 6 taping, and Texas Music Office director Casey Monahan assured TCB he's down with Swishahouse: "I've thrown up the deuce before."
With enough politicking to impress Nancy Pelosi, the Chronicle music staff completed our 2007 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ballot in record time Monday, even when Senior Writer Margaret Moser wouldn't stop talking. ("When do I ever stop talking?") We were "Glad All Over" to dispatch the Dave Clark Five out of hand. Sorry, Little Steven. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five and Chic were tougher, until TCB pointed out that the first rappers to entice the rock public were Run-DMC, and "Good Times" and Power Station notwithstanding, Chic's actual output as a band was a little light. Joe Tex, born near Belton and reared in Baytown, lost to Moser's insistence Texans be stricken until Doug Sahm and Roky Erickson get their shots. (Fun fact: Wilson Pickett, Ben E. King, and Percy Mayfield were pallbearers at Tex's 1982 funeral.) That left unanimous No. 1 the Stooges, who should have beaten the Sex Pistols last year. When the Y chromosomes endorsed the New York twin bill of Patti Smith and the Ronettes, the Xs were amenable to Van Halen, probably because no one brought up the Van Hagar/Gary Cherone years. Our remaining vote was an up-or-down yes to first-time balloteers R.E.M. Coming next year: Mötley Crüe, Cars, Metallica?
The Rock & Roll Free for All, a longtime Monday-morning bane during the Nineties, has returned Sundays at the Hole in the Wall. Paul Minor and the Superego All-Stars take on house-band chores once again for a revolving cast of bands (Tiny Adventurers, Breathers, Sheboygan this Sunday) and musicians (Miles Zuniga, Matt Hubbard) that more often than not climaxes with a spirited version of Willie Nelson's "Whiskey River." Or it might be the late Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," which Minor says hit home after he saw Fender sing it from the Hole stage at a Texas Tornadoes SXSW day party. "From that moment it became the Hole in the Wall national anthem for me. It's immortal." 7pm Tuesday on Time Warner Channel 12, Minor's "Made to Be Broken" will be the latest bit of Austin music heard on popular CW private-eye serial Veronica Mars.
Bullet the Blue Sky
The Maze: Twisted folk troupe Peter & the Wolf return from tour to play the Mohawk tonight (Thursday)... Down the street, the White Ghost Shivers celebrate City Council's earlier proclamation of "White Ghost Shivers Day" with Chili Cold Blood at Beerland... Friday, fashionistas the Platforms return to the Red Eyed Fly... Save some threads for Saturday's Team Fabrication splash at the Parish, with Clap!Clap!, Loxsly, and Til We're Blue or Destroy, and the Gothic Prom at Elysium... Ballcaps and shorts are fine for Saturday's Fivehead reunion at Woody's South... Alejandro Escovedo, Roky Erickson, and Topaz play a fundraiser for the Circus Tent rehearsal space 7pm Sunday at Ruta Maya World Headquarters. Suggested donation is $15.