Now that The OC is DOA, NBC's Friday Night Lights is easily the most musically astute high school drama, not least because the Central Texas-filmed program thinks locally. Jon Dee Graham, Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker, and James McMurtry have all been heard, and the Gourds had a brief cameo in October's homecoming episode. Jan. 3 installment "Nevermind" featured songs from Spoon and Scratch Acid, plus one scene filmed at Cheapo Discs and two at the Broken Spoke, including a hilarious performance by one character's Christian death metal band Crucifictorious. "Of course they used a rock & roll band," chuckles Spoke owner James White. "They didn't have no cowboy boots in that band, for sure." White says producers checked out Dale Watson for a future episode last weekend and that actor Taylor Kitsch, who plays bad-boy running back Tim Riggins, came back to play shuffleboard. Explosions in the Sky, who scored FNL's 2004 theatrical predecessor, have had songs in multiple episodes, while several local musicians have found work behind the camera. "They really do a lot of blowing and going," says Crow bassist Paul Crow, who alongside girlfriend and Blatherskyte drummer Bek Sabbath does occasional grip work. "They'll do five, 10 locations in one day." NBC has not announced if the low-rated show, now airing 7pm Wednesdays, will be back next season.
TCB feels like the kid in the back seat asking, "Are we there yet?" every five minutes, but SXSW Music Creative Director Brent Grulke swears they'll release this year's band list as soon as senior staff returns from MIDEM's industry networking bonanza in Cannes, France, next week. New names pop up on the blogosphere almost daily, so here's a few unconfirmed, mind you to chew on: Blonde Redhead, Erase Errata, Mando Diao, Kings of Leon, and a Butthole Surfers rooftop reunion. Happy? (Unfortunately, Arcade Fire, whose Neon Bible is out March 6, will be in Europe, promise.) Grulke estimates 2007's total number of performers at 1,300, 400 of which are from overseas, again record numbers for the 21-year-old conference. They'll be spread among a whopping 68 venues, adding one familiar name and subtracting two: South First outpost Jovita's is in, but the Austin Music Hall is out as it undergoes its $5 million, 18-month renovation. Its shows, including March 14's Austin Music Awards, have been moved to Ballroom A at the Austin Convention Center. Finally, the Back Room, which closed for good Jan. 6, won't reopen for SXSW. Although the Riverside club had been the nexus of SXSW hip-hop for years, "Enough other places are doing hip-hop now that we don't really have a problem finding rooms," Grulke says.
Here now the continuing saga of Prince and Grupo Fantasma, as witnessed in part by Emo's booker Graham Williams. His Royal Badness was most pleased with the Austin cumbia troupe's last-minute Thanksgiving show at his 3121 club inside the Rio Hotel and offered them a weekly residency through its March 1 closing date. Last week, Williams and wife Audrie were watching Grupo when he noticed a diminutive figure clad in yellow and black a few feet behind their table. Seconds later, Prince was onstage peeling off a guitar solo with the band, the first time the parties had ever interacted face-to-face. "It was short and sweet," says Williams. "The Artist was off the stage and gone, like a purple ninja." Act two came Monday night when Grupo was the house band for Prince's Golden Globe Awards afterparty at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. Once again, Mr. LoveSexy, Best Original Song-winner for Happy Feet's "The Song of the Heart," joined the band onstage, as did Mary J. Blige, will.i.am, and Marc Anthony. Anthony's wife, Jennifer Lopez; Leonardo DiCaprio; Diddy; Chris Rock; and Bruce Willis, among others, worked it out on the dance floor, and Cuba Gooding Jr. was so impressed that bystanders heard Grupo's latest CD, Comes Alive, blasting from his car as it drove away.
The Beautiful Ones
Out of nowhere, Ghostland Observatory's fusion of earthy rock magnetism and rigid electronic beats landed a local haymaker, and in 2005 the duo of Aaron Behrens and Thomas Turner went from opening Gallery Lombardi parties to sold-out Emo's outdoor shows almost overnight. Last year, the scale grew larger still: Lollapalooza and a now-legendary ACL Fest set available on iTunes through GO's www.trashymoped.com Web site. Friday night, Ghostland raises the stakes again with the sold-out "Ghostland at the Opera" fete at UT's Hogg Auditorium, co-starring pals the Black Angels who, like Ghostland, are beloved at Seattle/Internet station www.kexp.org Car Stereo (Wars), and Team Fabrication. "There's a lot riding on this show," says Turner, the producer/DJ/drummer half of Ghostland. "This is the first time we've gotten to do a full-blown production. Everything about it is different than what we've done before." Everything, perhaps, but the contagious energy fueled by Behrens' manic onstage contortions, which he likens to a good, hard run. "I'm exhausted, but I feel so damn good," Behrens says. "The endorphins have kicked in. It's a workout."
Prolific Austin producer and musician Ron Flynt (20/20, Big Blue Hearts) fell off a ladder while hanging drywall at the new location of his Jumping Dog studio in September, shattering his elbow and upper arm bone. Although he has regained enough use of his arm to play guitar again, he may need further surgery, and his friends have organized an "Our Man Flynt" benefit 8pm Wednesday at the Continental Club; performers include Peter Case, Dwight Twilley, Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Penny Jo Pullus, Jon Dee Graham, Fire Marshals of Bethlehem, and many more. Donations accepted and complete lineup available at www.ourmanflynt.com.
Bullet the Blue Sky
Popular East Austin restaurant and nightclub the Shack, located at 1167 Webberville and known as the "House of R&B," burned down around 5:30am Jan. 9. Austin Fire Department investigators estimated the damage at $150,000 but have not released an official cause. One theory was an electrical fire similar to the one that claimed Midtown Live in February 2005.
Oops: The volunteer call times in last week's SXSW item were incorrect. Returnees should report to the Hilton Downtown's main ballroom at 12:30pm Sunday; first-timers at 3:30pm.