Off the Record
Men From Plains
Alejandro Escovedo is nothing if not a man of perpetual perspective. "I've played a gig with Ian Hunter, wrote songs in a room with Iggy Pop, saw the [New York] Dolls the first time they came to L.A., Patti Smith with Lenny Kaye, worked with John Cale and Tony Visconti," he says, "but being at the Democratic National Convention, I haven't felt like that in so long – part of something large that's going to change our lives in a dramatic way. I just have a feeling." The Real Animal played a solo acoustic set at the convention before House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, took center stage. "Plus, I got to meet Jimmy Carter, who's always been a huge hero of mine," gushes Escovedo, who wrote music for Jonathan Demme's documentary Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains, on the former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The True Believer returns to prime time tonight (Thursday) as a last-minute addition on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, where he'll perform the poignant "Sister Lost Soul."
Syrian-born vocalist Zein al-Jundi moved to Austin in 1982 to study architecture at UT, but she never really left her native land behind. The local belly-dance instructor owns and operates the Arabic Bazaar (5013 Duval St.), specializing in handcrafted goods from the Middle East, and hosts the ninth annual Arabic Hafleh at La Zona Rosa on Friday. The extravaganza features performances by al-Jundi and the Saadi M'nawwar Band, along with a belly-dance showcase, authentic Arabian food, and a hookah cafe. "The whole experience is supposed to mirror that of an Arabic market," al-Jundi relates. "It's a way of introducing a different side of the Arab world and culture to the community and hopefully bringing us closer together." Putumayo World Music's latest compilation, Acoustic Arabia, which concludes with al-Jundi's "Wijjak Ma'ii," serves a similar purpose. Her contribution, a contemporary piano ballad whose title translates to "Your Face Is With Me," prefaces al-Jundi's yet-to-be-completed second album, Sharrafouni. "It's actually been in the making for the last two years," says al-Jundi, who's recording the album in Beirut, Lebanon. "Part of why it's taken so long is the political situation there. I keep being forced to cut my trips short or cancel them altogether."
• Less than seven months after opening, heavy metal hangout Rock City Icehouse in the Lincoln Village closed its doors, due to poor sales, among other issues. "It's unfortunate because we really needed a new venue, but Austin just isn't ready to support a rock club that's not on Red River," says Dangerous Toys/Broken Teeth mouthpiece Jason McMaster. The Paul Green School of Rock Music's costumed tribute to Kiss, originally booked for a two-night stand at the Icehouse beginning Friday, has been moved to Hanover's in Pflugerville.
• Texas Music Museum (1009 E. 11th) commemorates the opening of "Texas Country Classics," an exhibit exploring the work and influence of the Lone Star State's country mavericks, such as Bob Wills and George Strait, with a reception on Sunday as part of the all-free Austin Museum Day. Scheduled performers include Jody Meredith, Jim Grabowske, Don Keeling, and Sarah Jane.
Eric Laufer, 25, singer/guitarist for local rockabilly act the Two Timin' Four, was killed in a hit-and-run accident last Thursday while returning home on his motorcycle from a gig in San Antonio. Police are still looking for the driver of the white pickup truck responsible for the accident. A tribute ride to raise motorcycle awareness, led by Wayne Hancock, among others, is planned for Nov. 7.
Ray Wheat, 39, a former member of Empire of Shit, Floozy, and All Get Out, died on Aug. 26 of undisclosed causes.
Guitar prodigy and Vans Warped Tour veteran Flash Bathory died last Wednesday, also of undisclosed causes. She was 19.
When You Wish Upon a Star
Alpha Rev (pictured) is headed to Hollywood. The local alternative act signed a partial 360-deal with the Disney-backed label (and former home to Fastball and the Butthole Surfers) that will split a percentage of the band's touring and merchandise sales. "They've been following my career since Endochine," relays singer Casey McPherson, who graces the Oasis on Saturday, Sept. 20. "These people have some really creative ideas, and they have the money and outlets to push us. We won't be competing with Hannah Montana or the Jonas Brothers. We're a whole other ball of wax." Most indie bands might be wary about signing to a major, but after three years of wrangling with private investors, Hollywood seemed like a storybook ending. "It's been a lot of pain, sweat, and tears to get to this point," McPherson says. "We're finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel." Alpha Rev is still looking for a producer for its label debut, tentatively scheduled for spring 2009, but McPherson notes that former U2 helmsman Steve Lillywhite, in Texas to produce Blue October's next album, was in attendance at the band's show last weekend at Antone's.
The Book of Shadows is used by followers of neo-pagan witchcraft traditions as a way of documenting successful spells and magical practices. The same could be said of the Austin-based experimental outfit of the same name. "I record everything we do, not just the studio work but all the shows and even the practices," says Carlton Crutcher, a founding member of space-psych juggernaut ST 37, who formed BOS with his wife, Sharon, in 1999. "When it's time for an album, I just go for whatever I feel is the strongest." In recent weeks, Book of Shadows has added six new chapters to its ever-growing catalog of mystical enchantments: You Were Seen in a Time Machine (Unfun Records), The Cosmic Doctrine (Ruralfaune), Dream of the Blue Hummingbird (Palustre), 777 (Ikuisuus), Isadora Shadow (mymwly), and The Veil (Keben). Each improvised incantation is its own vacuum of ominous tones and creeping darkness, but as Crutcher clarifies, "They're all exploring the same eternal presence." Book of Shadows bewitches the Carousel Lounge on Saturday with Aunt's Analog, Dromez, the Plutonium Farmers, and Basic.