Off the Record

Music news

Not John Mayer: Lee Leffingwell (l) and Brewster McCracken last week at the <i>Chronicle</i>'s Hustle for Mayor event, Mohawk
Not John Mayer: Lee Leffingwell (l) and Brewster McCracken last week at the Chronicle's Hustle for Mayor event, Mohawk (Photo by John Anderson)

Fight for Your Right

As the ongoing hullabaloo over the Austin sound ordinance in regard to live outdoor music at restaurants has reiterated, music is politics here in the live music capital. Since the general economic downturn has dominated most political discussions, OTR polled the leading mayoral candidates – Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken and City Council Member Lee Leffingwell – via e-mail on a variety of music-related local issues, beginning with his favorite Mojo magazine queries. Representatives for Carole Keeton Strayhorn didn't return requests for comment, while responses from David Buttross and Josiah Ingalls, along with the complete interviews with Leffingwell and McCracken, are available on the Chronicle Music blog ( McCracken's plan to create a music economy headquarters at the site of the Armadillo World Headquarters is certainly worth the read. For more electioneering, scope the Hustle for Mayor ( Early voting goes through Tuesday, May 5.

Last great show you saw?

Leffingwell: Dale Watson at the Broken Spoke.

McCracken: Bruce Robison, two-stepping with my wife on my birthday.

Album that changed your life?

Leffingwell: Willie Nelson, Stardust.

McCracken: The Beatles, Revolver.

Last album you bought?

Leffingwell: Iris DeMent, Lifeline.

McCracken: Johnny Goudie & the Little Champions, El Payaso.

Saturday night party record?

Leffingwell: Anything by Johnny Cash or Asleep at the Wheel, just add beer and a pool table.

McCracken: MGMT, Oracular Spectacular.

Sunday morning redemption record?

Leffingwell: Richard Wagner, Pilgrim's Chorus From Tannhauser. The most stirring and beautiful piece of music ever, in my opinion.

McCracken: John Prine, The Missing Years; Miles Davis, Kind of Blue.

Austin sound ordinance

Leffingwell: The council recently amended the sound ordinance to create a permitting process that allows for public input; included with these revisions is a one-year review to determine if the new process is effective. Getting the sound ordinance right – achieving the best possible balance between the interests of musicians, venues, and residents – is a work in progress, even after many years. We have to proceed with extraordinary caution on both sides and regularly gauge our successes and failures.

McCracken: I support the recommendations of the Live Music Task Force to provide a fair balance between creating entertainment districts where music venues have greater latitude to host live music and protecting neighborhoods from clubs outside of such districts where excessive sound levels are not appropriate.

Austin Music Department

Leffingwell: The hard truth is that we're facing a serious budget shortfall at the city as the result of dramatically declining sales tax revenue. If elected, my commitment would be to pursue the creation of a Music Department at the first moment that our budget situation allows, but in our current circumstance, I couldn't support cutting basic city services or raising property taxes to do it.

McCracken: I support the creation of a Music Department or a broader Creative Sectors Department that includes music, film, video games, and digital media. While these sectors encompass the creative arts, they are also for profit. That's why placing authority for carrying out policies to promote music, film, and digital media in the Cultural Arts Division would be a mistake. I would fund a Music Department or Creative Sectors Department from two funding sources: from bed tax revenues and from the Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office (EGRSO) budget.

Licensed to Ill

Vintage Rodriguez
Vintage Rodriguez

In the worst-kept secret since Metallica thrashed Stubb's at South by Southwest in March, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, and the Beastie Boys are headlining the 2009 Austin City Limits Music Festival, Oct. 2-4, at Zilker Park. Highlights from the second tier include Sonic Youth; Kings of Leon; Jack White's new digs, the Dead Weather; Ben Harper & the Relentless7; and Austin's Ghostland Observatory. Surprises this time around include Here We Go Magic, Grizzly Bear, Rodriguez, Girl Talk, Levon Helm, and Deer Tick, with the festival deserving kudos for its concerted effort to bring hip-hop into the fold with Mos Def, K'Naan, and the Knux.

Graveyard Shift

Off the Record
Photo by John Anderson

"They've got me held prisoner over here," whispers Scott H. Biram with restrained panic in an answering-machine snippet that opens his latest Bloodshot release, Something's Wrong/Lost Forever. "I need to get out of here." The recording comes from his hospital lockdown in 2003, after he was nearly killed in a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler (see "One in a Million," Dec. 16, 2005). "I had been on morphine continuously for about two weeks," cackles the Dirty Old One-Man Band, who's currently nursing a broken leg he suffered on the last night of his European tour in March. "I thought I was locked in a feed store behind enemy lines." The message certainly sets the tone for the disc, an at times harrowing jukebox collection of bleary-eyed country, penitentiary blues, and bleak gospel redemption that marks his strongest work to date. "I feel like I hit rock bottom last year," Biram explains. "I was a mess, just playing and cussing. I think the spectacle of me being a drunk asshole was more upfront than the music. I haven't quit drinking, but I've definitely toned it down." Biram wheels into the Continental Club on Friday before another long haul across the country.

Random Play

• To borrow a line from Dr. Dre, hope you're ready for the Next Episode, the Chronicle's new MP3 and music-video blog, which launched this week. Download new music from White Denim, Voxtrot, and Loxsly, or check out footage of Lars Ulrich slaying "Freya" with the Sword in Paris. There's also a library of videos from Balmorhea, Diagonals, and Ume, along with the exclusive premiere of Leatherbag's "Wagon Wheel" from his forthcoming EP, Everything I Once Knew. Subscribe to the RSS feed at Bands looking to submit material for the Next Episode should contact OTR at

• Take me out to the ball game: Bob Dylan will be batting third behind Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock Aug. 4, as part of the trio's summer tour of minor league baseball parks. Presale information is available at

• The piñata capping off Latino Music Month in Austin, the Pachanga Latino Music Festival is set to spice up Fiesta Gardens May 30. The second annual event features Tejano hotshot Michael Salgado, Plastilina Mosh, and the Mexican Institute of Sound, along with local standouts Brownout, Ocote Soul Sounds, Charanga Cakewalk, and David Garza, among others:

Music news

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Lee Leffingwell, Brewster McCracken, Scott H. Biram, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Bob Dylan, Pachanga Latino Music Festival, the Next Episode

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