Off the Record
Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1
Though long considered a threat to the Red River entertainment district, the Red River Flats across from Club de Ville may actually become a model of coexistence between urban development and live music. The four-story, 120-unit apartment complex, which is scheduled to open in June and will have year leases that range from $1,400 to $2,600 a month, has agreed to help fund and construct a 10-foot sound wall that will border Mohawk's fence line, along with installing a canvas overhang above the venue's stage area, similar to Stubb's. Both projects are awaiting approval from the city. According to Greystar developer Derek Brown, the flats have installed dual-pane acoustic windows on the south and west side of the property and will incorporate "unique lease language" in its contracts to ensure that renters understand they're moving into an entertainment district. Ironically, the Red River Flats have inadvertently led to a decrease of noise complaints for Stubb's since the building blocks a portion of the sound that funnels down Waller Creek and into surrounding neighborhoods. "The expectation was that it was going to be an adversarial relationship: big developer versus big music venue," says Mohawk owner James Moody. "But the city is growing so rapidly, because it's the 'live music capital of the world,' and these guys understand it makes sense to embrace that and partner." Next week, examining the creation of the Live Music Task Force.
Doug Hall, 1959-2008
Heralded for his elegant and impressionistic pianism, Doug Hall, who shared stages with jazz titans like Dave Liebman, Chet Baker, and Bill Watrous, among others, died on March 23, following a long battle with brain cancer. Born in Dallas to a musical family, Hall, 48, made his orchestral debut with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at age 9, later receiving a Memorial Composition Scholarship from North Texas State University, now the University of North Texas. He moved to Austin in 1979, performing regularly with his brother Bruce Hall on drums, and held a monthly residence at the Elephant Room for several years. "His music was so beautifully sensitive and subtle," recalls local jazz vocalist Suzi Stern. "I've never had the honor of working with a better musician. He was a master of the instrument and content to make music wherever he was." According to Japanese Buddhist texts, JiHi, the title of Hall's last album with his namesake quartet from 2003, means compassion and is formed from two characters: "Ji" (to give happiness) and "Hi" (to remove suffering). Those who knew Hall would struggle to find a more apt summation of his life and music.
Sing For the Laughter, Sing For the Tears
Not long after the ruling on the Smoking in Public Places Ordinance by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals discussed here last week, Ego's owner Gail Johnson, a plaintiff in the case, turned his beloved venue into a karaoke bar, although he insists there's no correlation. "I've had Ego's about 30 years, and I've had some tremendous music in there," says Johnson, who runs karaoke in three of his other Central Texas venues, the Canary Hut Pub, Canary Roost, and the newly opened In Between. "Hell, George Strait used to be one of my stand-in singers, but business is business. It was starting to lose money. Nothing was going right. Karaoke involves the least amount of headaches." No one in Austin does karaoke like the Dead Motley Sex Maidens, who host an evening of Karaoke Apocalypse at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on Friday, providing live backing and lyric sheets for classic jams spanning Motörhead's "Ace of Spades" to Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker." There's also a cowbell contest for those lacking vocal dexterity.
The Stage Names
On Monday, C3 Presents and Perry Farrell announced the official lineup for Lollapalooza 2008, taking place Aug. 1-3, in Chicago's Grant Park. Locals Explosions in the Sky, Electric Touch, We Go to 11, and What Made Milwaukee Famous all made the grade, appearing alongside the alternative trifecta of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Rage Against the Machine. Don't book airfare or accommodations on headliner Kanye West's spiffy new travel site (www.kanyetravel.com) just yet, though. The Austin City Limits Music Festival uploaded a mash-up this week by Car Stereo (Wars) that previewed 29 of the artists headed to Bat City in September, including Lollapa holdovers the Raconteurs, Gnarls Barkley, Duffy, MGMT, CSS, and Austin's Okkervil River and the Octopus Project. If OTR's not mistaken, expect to find N.E.R.D., Neko Case, Robert Earl Keen, Hot Chip, Silversun Pickups, and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings on ACL's official 2008 itinerary, which drops next week. Sit tight, and pray Jack Johnson doesn't headline.
Philadelphia's the Roots is the only hip-hop group that could hold its own on the jam-band circuit. Headlining UT's annual 40 Acres Fest on Saturday, Black Thought and company provided a 20-minute medley and crash course on the history of hip-hop, sampling everything from Biz Markie and Salt 'n' Pepa to the Wu-Tang Clan and Mims, before stripping down to trio for an enthralling 25-minute interpretation of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," with drummer ?uestlove and guitarist Kirk Douglas delivering blitzkrieg solos from the front lines.
• Longtime Austin favorite Chris Gaffney of California's Hacienda Brothers has been diagnosed with liver cancer and will soon undergo chemotherapy. A portion of the proceeds from a forthcoming, untitled LP will go toward Gaffney's medical expenses, and a website has been set up for donations: www.helpgaff.com.
• The Black Angels let loose their highly anticipated sophomore LP, Directions to See a Ghost, through Seattle's Light in the Attic Records on May 13, but beginning Tuesday, fans can preorder the album and receive an instant download, along with a limited edition four-song EP when hard copies arrive in stores. The local drone disciples also inked a deal with Interscope imprint Suretone, which will handle all future releases.
• Chanteuse Suzanna Choffel, who recently participated in the Austin State Hospital music series (see "Musicophilia") and takes the stage at Momo's on Friday, won the FameCast Pop Fenom competition, the Austin-based, online equivalent of American Idol, worth a cool $10,000. Choffel will also appear as part of the 15th season of KGSR's Unplugged at the Grove series, which kicks off tonight (Thursday) with the Gourds and the Gougers and includes, among others, Ruthie Foster, South Austin Jug Band, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and the Band of Heathens.
• It goes without saying that Chronicle mascot band Monroe Mustang moves at a slightly different pace than most bands. The local slo-core pop outfit, which has placed four of its five members here at the paper, digitally drops Monroe Mustang, the Imaginary Band, Regretfully Declines, follow-up to 2000's I Am the Only Running Footman, on Tuesday via Jagjaguwar. Plans for some summer shows are in the works.