Off the Record
Dispossessed Men and Mothers of Texas
Even by his own incomparable standards, Doug Sahm's Mendocino is the ultimate crossover album, a borderless rendering of Tex-Mex, San Francisco psychedelia, and British Invasion rock by his Sir Douglas Quintet. South by Southwest commemorates the 40th anniversary of the LP with a panel featuring the quintet's Augie Meyers, Frank Morin, and Harvey Kagan, along with Shawn Sahm. "Doug was pure magic, even more so in the studio," muses moderator Bill Bentley. "It's a mystery to me how he really put his music together, and this might be one of the few chances we'll have to solve it." The celebration continues with a Texas Tornados showcase at Antone's on Thursday, March 19, featuring Jimmie Vaughan, Dave Alvin, and the Gourds, all of whom are spotlighted on Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm, due the following week on Vanguard Records. The previously mentioned compilation (see "Off the Record," Nov. 21, 2008) now features Little Willie G. with Ry Cooder ("She's About a Mover"), Flaco Jimenez alongside the West Side Horns ("Ta Bueno Compadre"), and Charlie Sexton ("You're Doin' It Too Hard"). As if that weren't enough, Alejandro Escovedo has been added to the special SDQ2 showcase at the 2008-09 Austin Music Awards on Wednesday, March 18. Tickets for the event are $15 in advance, $20 day of show, and go on sale Monday, Feb. 23.
The Justice League
"I don't know if I'm ever happy," Trail of Dead's Conrad Keely told OTR shortly before mastering The Century of Self. "I'm always focusing on what I should have done rather than what I've done." Commemorating the album's release at Waterloo Records on Tuesday, Keely appeared content as TOD steamrolled through new standouts such as "Far Pavilions." Part of this new sense of Self comes via the art punk institution finally making music on its own terms, the local sixpiece's new Richter Scale imprint branching off Houston's Justice Records. Originally formed in 1989 as a jazz conduit before breaking out into country and blues, Justice returned in 2007 after a near-decade-long hiatus and promptly reissued 18 titles from its vaults, including albums by Carolyn Wonderland & the Imperial Monkeys, Jesse Dayton, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and the underrated tribute Twisted Willie. The label further bolstered its local credentials with new efforts from Bobbie Nelson, Nelo, and Electric Touch. "We don't own the masters," explains label general manager and Austinite Jan Mirkin, who managed Ian Moore for 19 years. "We're working in partnership with the bands. We provide everything for the artist that major labels do, but we don't enslave them under the old model."
Music Is Happiness
The Octopus Project always finds ingenious ways to illustrate its animated instrumentals. The local electronic luminaries flip the script Wednesday at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, performing original scores written specifically for a series of short films of their choosing. "The earliest one is from the Forties, and it's hand-drawn on actual film, with watercolors and scratch outs; it's like this moving painting," reveals multi-instrumentalist Josh Lambert, adding that roughly two-thirds of the material will likely end up on the band's next LP. "Most of the films are between seven and 10 minutes, which was pretty challenging for us, but they're all really colorful and kind of explosive." The Octopus Project will be performing two sets, 7 & 9:30pm.
Gym Class Heroes
The Music Gym (815 E. Sixth) is the type of place where White Denim could take a proper Workout Holiday. Essentially a cooperative rehearsal facility and lounge, the Gym opened in December after nearly two years of renovations and features four practice rooms fully stocked with a PA system, drums, and amps. For a flat monthly fee, bands receive credit for eight hours of studio space per week (booked online), along with a guaranteed monthly show at the facility, which will be an official SXSW venue this year. Rooms are also available by the hour, perfect for those in need of a last-minute tune-up before a gig Downtown. "I felt like the ugly, corporate franchise idea could be applied to a creative business paradigm," says owner Ryan McVinney, who founded the original Music Gym in Boston in 2001. "This makes it easy for people to come in and create and share something."
• South Austin landmark and live-music staple Artz Rib House closed briefly on Jan. 25, due to owner Art Blondin's struggle to pay his back taxes and medical bills for his wife, Zenobia Sutton. Thankfully, local businesses and musicians have lined up around the block to lend a helping hand, culminating in a benefit on Sunday at Scholz Garten, with Del Castillo, Slaid Cleaves, Warren Hood, and Carolyn Wonderland, among others. Doors open at 4pm with a donation of $10.
• Vallejo has temporarily postponed all its upcoming gigs after singer/guitarist A.J. Vallejo suffered a mild myocardial infarction last Wednesday. He's expected to make a full recovery.
• There's a bad moon rising for former Creedence Clearwater Revivalist Stu Cook. The longtime local is taking part in the SXSW 09 panel Woodstock: Untold Stories, and his classic rock recordings with Jackdawg, alongside the Doobie Brothers' John McFee and the late Keith Knudsen, are finally being released by Sonic Past Music, nearly two decades after their completion. The 15-song flashback includes a cover of Roky Erickson's "Cold Night for Alligators," fitting considering Cook produced 1981's The Evil One.
• The Blanton Museum of Art opens its new exhibit, "Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury," on Sunday, celebrating the confluence of innovation that led to West Coast modernism. Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Dave Brubeck, among others, provide the soundtrack at various listening stations throughout the exhibit, which also features album-cover art from the era. Jeff Lofton helps set the mood with his tribute to the Prince of Darkness at the Elephant Room on Saturday, Feb. 28. Adding further insight to the movement, Rolling Stone scribe David Fricke will moderate a panel discussion on Davis' definitive Kind of Blue at 50. For a complete breakdown of this year's panels at SXSW, see www.sxsw.com.