Off the Record
Less than three weeks until its scheduled grand reopening, the Austin Music Hall is still a hard-hat-required construction site. The unveiling, scheduled for Monday, Nov. 26, and originally starring Tori Amos – whose show has been moved to San Antonio's Majestic Theatre – will now benefit both the SIMS Foundation and the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and feature Del Castillo, Bobbie Nelson, Kacy Crowley, and Carolyn Wonderland for $10. "It'll be ready," assured Direct Events owner Tim O'Connor (pictured) last Friday during a walk-through. "I've already spent $260,000 on acceleration and overtime." O'Conner paints a promising portrait of the $8 million venture, one of the first venues in Austin to be specifically designed for live music. General admission capacity will be 4,400, making it a vital destination during the Backyard's off-season, and seated shows, suitable for productions like the Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular (Jan. 12), Zachary Scott Theatre's Porgy and Bess (Jan. 25-Feb. 3), or artists like B.B. King (April 6), will hold somewhere between 2,600 and 3,000 patrons. The mezzanine level boasts an outdoor patio for smokers, while the third floor, known as Tower Club, holds luxury suites for season-ticket holders. "We're trying to make this as exclusive and cool as possible," O'Connor says. Other noticeable upgrades include a larger stage; an $800,000 air-conditioning system to address complaints about the AMH Mach 1; multiple greenrooms, one of which will hold a washer and dryer for touring artists; a sponsored lounge; and undeveloped space that could become a full-time restaurant or bank that would service the surrounding urban developments. Asked why he's risking his once-purported retirement for such an ambitious endeavor – one that continues Direct Events' relationship with Live Nation – the 62-year-old granddaddy of local promoters had a simple answer: "I owe it to Austin."
Roky Erickson's epic comeback story, which dates back to his first full concert in two decades at the Austin City Limits Music Festival 2005, culminated Monday night with the most memorable Austin City Limits taping in recent memory. Backed by the Explosives and Summer Wardrobe's Jon Sanchez and John Leon, not to mention ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, the 13th Floor Elevators' frontman unleashed his timeless, bloodcurdling howl atop the wall of guitars, hemorrhaging through his horror-rock standards like "Cold Night for Alligators" and "Bloody Hammer." Gibbons effortlessly dueled with Erickson during "The Beast" and re-created the psychedelic jug sounds of "You're Gonna Miss Me" on guitar, without effects pedals, before a closing encore of "The Wind and More" and "I Walked With a Zombie." Thank you. The episode airs Jan. 12, while Grupo Fantasma premieres Friday.
Radio personality Deb O'Keefe of KROX's The Morning X with Jason Dick pledged to pose nude in the Chronicle if the program won Best Radio Show in the annual "Best of Austin" Readers Poll. As evidenced below, she won, and Editor Louis Black happily obliged on-air last week. "It was a bittersweet victory," contends O'Keefe. "Next year we're going to have to do it truthfully [instead of bribing folks] ... or maybe Jason will pose for a full-frontal."
Brown Bag Special
Local experimental collective Brown Whörnet has always brandished its eccentric, bastard-pop music with equally bizarre packaging and distribution, most notably the group's expansive Valu Pack, an overwhelming 2-CD/one-cassette collection, which came hand-decorated with an odd assortment of found objects ranging from Band-Aids to cigarette butts. BrownWhornet.com recently debuted Brownloads, a free, monthly podcast series. "Our biggest costs were always the studio time, the engineer, and the printing," says maestro Peter Stopschinski, better known as Run PMS. "Now that we can do all of that ourselves, we're passing the savings on to the consumer." October's installment, "Bored=Oral," featured genre parody on par with Ween or Fantômas, streaming seamlessly from 1970s soul and French electronica to automated infomercials and live extractions from the group's score to the 1926 silent film The Adventures of Prince Achmed. "We have about 300 hours of unreleased material in various states of completion," furthers Stopschinski, whose Golden Hornet Project with composer Graham Reynolds is working on a second showing of its Big Band Frenzy and a new collaboration with the Tosca String Quartet. "These Brownloads are neat because they're brief, but they have a theme to them, and each song triggers a different image." Brown Whörnet commemorates its second load, released Tuesday, with a rare live performance Saturday at Room 710 with T.J. Wade; Terroristic; Oh, Beast!; Hazel; and the Jazzus Lizard.
The annual Help Clifford Help Kids fundraiser, founded by the late Clifford Antone, raised more than $415,000 for the nonprofit educational organization American YouthWorks Thursday night at the Palmer Events Center, while providing a first-class lesson on the history of rock & roll courtesy of former Stax Records house band Booker T. & the MGs. Led equally by guitarist Steve Cropper and keyboardist Booker T. Jones, the seminal instrumental quartet showcased the sound of Memphis with a sensational soul revue, peppered by the pairing of "Melting Pot" and "Green Onions." Howler William Bell reclaimed the Albert King staple "Born Under a Bad Sign," which he co-wrote with Jones, aided by a surprise cameo from Jimmie Vaughan, Eddie Floyd joined in for the encore, the Cropper- and Otis Redding-penned classic "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay."
New Health Rock
On Tuesday, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, which has, to date, provided health-care services to more than 950 members, announced that its second annual HAAM Benefit Day raised $180,000. One hundred and seventy-five Austin-area businesses (up from 105 last year) donated 5% of their Oct. 2 sales and/or made a cash donation to the local nonprofit organization, led by presenting sponsor Whole Foods Market, which donated $25,000. Austin's Topfer Family Foundation and Galveston's Moody Foundation pitched in a pair of grants for $25,000 and $12,500, respectively, while ME Television's daylong telethon raised $27,000, which includes a $10,000 grant from Charity Partners of Austin. "The community is stepping forward and saying that this is an important cause and making it a priority to keep the musicians healthy," says HAAM's director of services, Carolyn Schwarz. "This is something that has the potential to grow each year." HAAM is already planning next year's edition, slated for Tuesday, Oct. 7, with an initial goal of $200,000.