Off the Record
Forsaking the Song, Part 14
After two months of delays and legal intervention, the University of Texas finally released to the Chronicle in compliance with the Open Records Act e-mails between KUT staff and Vice President for Student Affairs Juan González, Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly, and the University Unions regarding the Cactus Cafe. The big payoff: two inconsequential e-mails between KUT General Manager Stewart Vanderwilt and the UT administration on Feb. 23 and April 20.
Given that almost all of the dialogue between the two entities leading to the May 19 announcement of their partnership took place off the grid, the finding only reiterates the lack of transparency and public oversight in the process. While Friends of the Cactus Cafe co-founder Reid Nelson was resigning from the initial Cactus Conversations, KUT and University Unions drafted a four-page memorandum of understanding on April 2 – four days before the possibility of a partnership was even presented to the public – that covered trademark and copyright issues, revenue, and terms of contract: an initial 10-year agreement that granted KUT the right to suspend operations at the Cactus for up to two years or terminate the agreement in its entirety if the endeavor becomes "commercially impractical."
"There wasn't a great deal of communication other than several conversations on the phone where we reached out and said we would be interested in helping out if we could," maintains Vanderwilt. "That was pretty much the extent of it."
As the so-called "iconic years" dwindle to a close, Cactus luminaries ranging from David Garza (Aug. 2 & 9) to Butch Hancock (Aug. 10-14) star in the final programming run of longtime booker Griff Luneburg (see "Blood on the Tracks," Feb. 6, 2009).
"It's something that we really wanted to do and that I worked out with Griff," says Leatherbag's Randy Reynolds (Aug. 4), who cut his teeth through countless open mic nights there before working his way up to headliner status in 2006. "This was a place [where] I could express myself and know if a song works or if it doesn't. It taught me to hear myself in a much more professional way."
"Griff matters," adds Terri Hendrix (July 31), a regular fixture at the venue since 1996. "Any time you have someone that books with their heart over their wallet, that makes a difference in the world. I'm going to play there one last time, pack my guitar, put it in its case, and close the door on that chapter."
Not everyone's preparing for a last hurrah, though. Sam Baker (Aug. 5) remains characteristically hopeful about the future of the venue under the direction of KUT, and Darden Smith (July 30) insists, "The Cactus isn't going away."
That may ultimately be the case as close sources confirmed that Luneburg has applied for the position of Cactus Cafe manager, a job posting that has since officially closed. Regardless, the important thing is that there's "respect for things that have happened and for the journeys that are ahead," relates Barbara K, who took her final bow there last Saturday.
Here's hoping KUT demonstrates both in moving forward.
If You're Gold, I'm Gone
It's no coincidence Austin's Woven Bones opened the Hardly Art showcase at South by Southwest 2010. After impressing some label employees at a house party in Seattle, the bare-boned swamp rock trio signed to the Sub Pop affiliate in January but delayed the announcement until the dust settled from the band's Hozac debut, In and Out and Back Again. Woven Bones kicks off a West Coast tour in support of its new 7-inch single "I've Gotta Get" b/w "Hey Kid" at the United States Art Authority on Friday, Aug. 6, with Happy Birthday and Residual Echoes. "After that, my main goal is actually to get a real job, chill out, earn a real living," reflects frontman Andy Burr, "and then I'll try to write the next record."
Sad Days, Lonely Nights
From the Heartless Bastards and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to Iggy & the Stooges, countless artists have channeled the dark hypnotism of late Mississippi bluesman Junior Kimbrough, but only his eldest son, David Kimbrough Jr., embodies his legacy. "I am my father," states Kimbrough, who, after doing hard time in the Mississippi State Penitentiary, released his 1994 debut for Fat Possum, I Got the Dog in Me, under the alias David Malone. "Don't nobody know him like I do. He always kept me with him. I know every move he made, his sound, and the history. I know the depths of it." Who better then to blow out the candles for Kimbrough's 80th birthday celebration at TC's Lounge on Saturday? The bash also features New Mexico's CW Ayon, Black Keys tribute the Black Squeeze performing Chulahoma in its entirety, and Austin's Old Gray Mule, which commemorates the release of its debut, Sound Like Somethin' Fell Off the House. As OGM guitarist and event organizer C.R. Humphrey boasts, "It'll be the closest thing to a North Mississippi juke joint night you'll see in here in Austin." For the complete interview with Kimbrough, see austinchronicle.com/earache.
Ostensibly named for a 1971 documentary about a shark-hunting expedition in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Blue Water White Death is the new collaboration between Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart and Jonathan Meiburg of Austin's Shearwater ("The Empire That Dreams of Us," Feb. 26). The duo's self-titled debut, which drops in October on Graveface, was helmed late last year by John Congleton. "A week later it was hard to remember that we'd even made the record; it seemed like a dream, something outside of time," relays Meiburg from the basement of the famous Paradiso in Amsterdam. "It's a very unusual record."
Local lunar-pop outfit Candi & the Strangers scored Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission, which traces the Austin-based Origin Systems founder's civilian ride to the International Space Station (see "A First-Class Seat to Stargazing," Screens, Aug. 7, 2009). The film recently took home the silver at Utah's Park City Music Festival for Best Impact of Music in a Documentary. Congratulate the Strangers at the Ghost Room on Friday.
Michael Point, a former jazz critic for the Austin American-Statesman, has been charged with arson for the July 21 fire at the Shoal Creek home he was facing eviction from. Point is still recovering at the University Medical Center Brackenridge but upon his release will be held on $75,000 bail.
Bassturd, the ghetto-fabulous alter ego of Austin's Daniel Butler, drew a unique cover for each pressed copy of his 7-inch single "Dirty Dirty South" for Shrug Records. The remaining 200 pieces are on display at the Parlor (4301 Guadalupe) through August, with a grand opening set for Wednesday, Aug. 4, 7pm.
Rolling Stone reports that Amy Adams has been tapped for the lead role in the forthcoming biopic Janis Joplin: Get It While You Can, directed by City of God's Fernando Meirelles.
Capping off a week that included an appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman and a performance at New York's Bowery Electric lauded by Rolling Stone's David Fricke, Alejandro Escovedo & the Sensitive Boys received a historic hometown boost from Bruce Springsteen last Friday at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. The Boss sat in for the trifecta of "Always a Friend," Street Songs of Love's "Faith," and an eight-minute-plus retread of the Stones' "Beast of Burden" that will leave you slack-jawed in front of YouTube. "It's gone viral," laughs drummer Hector Muñoz, returning to the Continental Club with Escovedo on Tuesday. "We were just locked in, talking to each other instrumentally. It was one of those moments where everything disappears and all you hear is him."