Off the Record
After nine months of discourse, the Live Music Task Force presents its overview and recommendations to City Council today (Thursday, Nov. 20) at 2pm. The 15-page report hinges on the creation of a centralized Music Department that seeks to facilitate communication between all "music industry stakeholders" and manage both the Public Assembly Code Enforcement and all permitting issues associated with live music venues, among other things. Also at issue is the mapping out of an all-encompassing Downtown Entertainment District that would extend from Red River to Butler Park and include designated free-zones for busking. It's worth noting that among the changes to the initial draft released last month is the removal of a provision outlining the administrative permit process for temporary music sites.
The overview doesn't directly address the current Austin sound ordinance, stating instead that more study is necessary to conclude the most appropriate way to measure music frequencies. The task force does, however, recommend requiring all outdoor live-music venues to utilize a city-approved sound engineer, whose standards for operation at each venue would be determined on a case-by-case basis by the Music Department, not to mention prohibiting outdoor music from being audible to a single family residence, which should strike a chord in the Barton Springs area. The task force's recommendations represent only the tip of the iceberg though, as City Council must now weigh each particular item and its budgetary implications.
Local musicians certainly won't see any immediate relief in the form of golden parachutes or government bailouts, but if they're lucky, they might see some long overdue parking breaks and a trickle-down benefit from the proposed infrastructure.
"I'm impressed with its comprehensive nature of the problems facing music businesses and musicians," attests Casey Monahan of the Texas Music Office, which serves as a clearinghouse of resources for music industry professionals. "This is a positive first step at reorganizing and reinvigorating city government efforts."
Show your support by joining local nonprofit Save Austin Music and the Austin Music Foundation at Antone's for a march to City Hall today, 1pm. See "Music Deportment" for more.
Marcia Ball doesn't remember the last time she played with Freda & the Firedogs, her progressive-country outfit that was produced by Atlantic Records' Jerry Wexler and backed Doug Sahm upon his return from the Bay Area in the early 1970s (see "Nowhere but Texas," Dec. 13, 2002). Nevertheless, the cosmic quintet gathered last Saturday at Joe Gracey's Spicewood studio to cut Sahm's "Be Real" in homage to the original Texas Tornado for Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm. The Lone Star-studded compilation, due in late March through Vanguard Records, features a stellar stable of local talent, including Jimmie Vaughan ("Why, Why, Why"), Alejandro Escovedo ("Too Little Too Late"), the Gourds ("Nuevo Laredo"), and Terry Allen with Joe Ely ("I'm Not That Kat Anymore"), while co-producer Shawn Sahm covered "Mendocino" with Augie Meyers for the occasion. "If you start with an artist that was really inspired, the rest tends to follow," opines co-producer and Chronicle scribe emeritus Bill Bentley, whose previous tributes to Roky Erickson (Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye) and Moby Grape's Alexander "Skip" Spence (More Oar) rank among the all-time best of the genre and helped bring both artists long overdue critical and cultural recognition.
The Chronicle Music staff cast its official 2009 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ballot in record time this year, with proto-punks the Stooges unanimously earning the No. 1 spot for the third time. Priority placement was given to the "Queen of Rockabilly," Wanda Jackson, just above hip-hop and rock pioneers Run-DMC and thrash icons Metallica, who ride the lightning at Houston's Toyota Center tonight (Thursday, Nov. 20) with Austin's the Sword and Down in tow. The rest of the nominees – Bobby Womack, War, Little Anthony & the Imperials, and Chic – were deemed too insubstantial for commemoration, leaving the fifth and final spot for Jeff Beck – inducted in 1992 as a member of the Yardbirds – for his status as a historically underrated guitar god and for the profound influence 1968's Truth had on Led Zeppelin and other heavy metallurgists of that time. Stevie Ray Vaughan, who ushered in Texas Flood in 1983, was eligible for nomination this year yet was passed over, along with Doug Sahm, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and the 13th Floor Elevators (still).
At the Compound last November, Ian MacKaye's largely acoustic performance with the Evens turned into a lecture, the Dischord Records co-founder outlining the purpose of the setting and the pillars of the DIY movement he helped create. Last Friday at the St. Edward's University Ragsdale Center, the Fugazi and Minor Threat frontman unplugged completely, fielding questions for more than two hours and riffing on everything from Al Jourgensen to Henry Rollins. Perhaps the most surprising revelation was MacKaye's initial vocal inspiration: "I wanted to sing like Janis Joplin."
• Screen-printing surrealists Josh Chalmers and J.D. Fanning of Oh, Beast! open the doors to their Bearded Lady shop this weekend as part of the annual East Austin Studio Tour (see "Welcome to My Studio"). Patrons can dig through the archives Tuesday through Saturday, 11am-6pm, and score old releases from Perverted Son Records for less than $1. Be sure to scope Bearded Lady's latest show poster at the Scoot Inn on Friday for the Supersuckers' 20th anniversary tour, a benefit for the Handsome Joel Foundation, with Pure Luck, Chaparral, and American Graveyard.
• Elephant 6 alumnus Julian Koster of the Music Tapes is caroling across town on Friday with help from the Singing Saw Symphony. To request a bit of personal holiday cheer, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. Recipients willing to entertain outside guests on caroling night and/or lend the group a place to crash will be given priority treatment. Meanwhile, local soulsmith Dan Dyer, alongside American Idol season six winner Jordin Sparks, helps flip the switch for the Macy's Great Tree Lighting at the Domain on Saturday, 6pm.
• Get in the van: Local nonprofit Operation Turkey, which delivered 3,500 Thanksgiving meals to Austin's less fortunate last year, is in need of large vehicles to help transport food this year. Local bands willing to help out should visit www.operationturkey.com.