Off the Record
By Austin Powell, Fri., Nov. 14, 2008
Dust in the Wind
To borrow a phrase from Bruce Springsteen, devils and dust filled the air at Waterloo Park last weekend for the third annual Fun Fun Fun Fest. Though not as bad as the infamous Dust Bowl at the 2005 Austin City Limits Music Festival, the dust knocked the Ice Cream Man and a few of the Chronicle staffers out of commission on Sunday and lent a bit of Depression-era authenticity to the civic protests howled by Against Me!'s Tom Gabel. Aside from the ground conditions, which event organizer Graham Williams pledged backstage to improve by next year, FFFF was a raging success. The weather was refreshingly pleasant, and Transmission Entertainment deserves credit not only for bringing A-list hip-hop acts – Clipse, Atmosphere, and Kool Keith/Dr. Octagon – into the fold but also for introducing alternative side attractions such as screen-printing booths and a skateboard half-pipe.
All told, OTR caught at least part of 32 different sets, a testament to the comfortable size of the festival. The newly added fourth stage, nestled into the corner of 12th Street and Red River, proved especially versatile, hosting everything from the avant-garde musings of Golden Arm Trio and the ColdTowne Comedy Hour to Frank Smith's lonesome country and the anti-folk raps of Tim Fite. "I'm not really familiar with a lot of the bands," admitted Austin City Limits producer Terry Lickona, who was spotted taking in Brooklyn chanteuse Pepi Ginsberg, "but I really like the vibe."
Elsewhere on the local front, Brownout's instrumental sorcery overshadowed the Cambodian psych-pop spectacular of Dengue Fever. Zeale & Phranchyze kicked out the jams with customized sneakers, mixing Austin-centric rhymes with Chi-Town flair and charisma, while Krum Bums' David Rodriguez retained his title as the people's champ of punk rock, hanging from the rafters and bathing himself and the crowd in Foster's. Down the street at Mohawk for its official aftershow and CD release on Saturday, White Denim fired on all cylinders like the Who Live at Leeds, delivering a telepathic and exhilarating whirlwind of cluttered funk and spastic soul, aided at times by Brazos' Martin Crane.
Nostalgia clearly reigned supreme last weekend, though, with standout sets from the reunited Dead Milkmen, All, and the Adolescents. Most surprising was the throbbing, ugly noise concocted by Killdozer, who deconstructed Neil Diamond's "I Am ... I Said" and came across like the abusive, alcoholic father to fellow trios Mammoth Grinder and Young Widows, while Riverboat Gambler Mike Wiebe of High Tension Wires gave a midday shout-out to Bad Brains on Sunday, proclaiming, "Somewhere, Tim Kerr is smiling."
Don't bet on it.
In 1982, Bad Brains infamously stole from and vandalized the home of the Big Boys' Randy "Biscuit" Turner with hateful, homophobic slurs. A small Internet-based movement was actually launched to get the New York hardcore band booted from last weekend's bill. That said, H.R. and company provided a vicious and fitting end to Fun Fun Fun Fest 2008, sounding hopped up on Leftover Crack and closing with a classic coupling of "Pay to Cum" and "I Against I." It was as close to an apology as the city of Austin will ever get.
• Out on bail and awaiting a trial date or plea-bargain agreement for his April 2007 altercation in Lorena, Texas, honky-tonk hero Billy Joe Shaver will be packing heat at Ruta Maya on Friday as part of a fundraiser for the local nonprofit Child and Youth Focus of Austin. Cowboy poet Red Steagall, meanwhile, shares stories and songs at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum on Sunday, Nov. 16, at 8pm to raise money for music education initiatives for the museum's annual Music Under the Star series in July. Buy tickets at www.thestoryoftexas.com.
• The free-jazz equivalent of Kurt Cobain donning Daniel Johnston's "Hi, How Are You" T-shirt, renowned Scandinavian trio the Thing has sported logos of Ruby's BBQ for nearly every show since South by Southwest 2005, and on Friday, the group helps commemorate the restaurant's 20-year anniversary with a rare U.S. appearance, presented by Epistrophy Arts. A limited number of advance tickets are available at Ruby's BBQ (512 W. 29th).
• Changes are afoot for 101X's Sunday night lineup. OTR's Next Big Thing airs only from 6 to 8pm, followed by Joe Sib's Complete Control and the return of Loveline, but beginning Monday, listeners get a three-song daily dose of The Next Big Thing each weeknight at 9pm. Tune in. Turn on.
"The secret of life is in the sauce," Carlos Santana opined Monday night at his Maria Maria (415 Colorado) in the Warehouse District. Named after his smash second single from 1999's comeback collaborations collection, Supernatural, the franchise restaurant is the fourth of its kind and resembles one of Willie Nelson's Texas Roadhouse eateries more than a Hard Rock Cafe. Culinary partner Roberto Santibañez previously served as executive chef at Fonda San Miguel, and OTR personally recommends seafood guacamole and soft duck tacos, which are topped with a heavenly roasted tomato-habanera sauce. "The opposite of Taco Bell," clarified Santana, who was headed to the Latin Grammys in Houston and hinted at an Austin date for 2009. The guitar deity also riffed on the Fabulous Thunderbirds ("They upheld the principles of Little Walter and the real Chicago blues"), the politics of fear, and the healing power of food and music. "The universal language of Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, or John Lennon – I represent them because I'm still alive," Santana said. "Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and Elton John have been knighted by the queen. I got knighted by Bob Dylan, who said to me, 'You're one of the few that continue to uphold the principles of the real hippies of the Sixties.'"
The Greatest Gift
The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, which has provided low-cost medical and mental-health services to more than 1,300 members to date, announced this week that its third annual HAAM Benefit Day on Oct. 7 raised $150,000 through donations and a challenge grant from Wofford Denius and the Cain Foundation. While the sum fell a bit short of the nonprofit's original goal of $200,000, the number of participating Austin-area businesses – led by presenting sponsor Whole Foods Market – rose from 175 to 194, nearly double that of the inaugural outing, and more than 100 music performances took place throughout the city. "The economic conditions changed a great deal after we made that goal," notes HAAM Executive Director Carolyn Schwarz optimistically. "We're jazzed with the results. Each year we open more people's eyes to who we are and why it's so important to be giving back to this community." The 2009 edition has been set for Sept. 22. To make a donation or apply for membership, visit www.myhaam.org.