Off the Record
After partnering with blues landmark Antone's in mid-August, Emo's owner Frank Hendrix is now expanding into Riverside Drive's former heavy metal lair, the Back Room (1973-2006). The Red River baron is already deep in the permitting process to completely renovate the facility, turning what was once three separate rooms into one large venue that combines characteristics of Washington, D.C.'s 930 Club and New York's Knitting Factory with, according to Hendrix, two stages, a 45-person mezzanine level, and a moveable sound wall that allows the capacity to fluctuate from 300 to 1,700 people. Conceptualized by Austin's esteemed Michael Hsu Design Office, the tentatively named Emo's on the Hill will also feature a year-round restaurant, 500 parking spaces, and laundry facilities for touring bands. "With the W [Austin City Limits Live at Moody Theatre] raising the bar, we knew it was time to make a change," surmised the club owner as he looked over the blueprints on Tuesday afternoon. "It's been a rough area, but it's making a turnaround. It's kind of the last bastion of property that's close to Downtown, and that area between I-35 and Pleasant Valley is really developing." Upon its completion for next fall's touring season, Hendrix plans to close Emo's current outside stage for remodeling, though the space may not reopen as a venue. The inside room will continue to host shows unabated. That's not all. Hendrix is in the preliminary stages of taking over the booking duties at Ruta Maya International Headquarters and another, undisclosed venue, which he says will be handled by his team – Kevin Hoskins from Cambridge, Mass.'s Middle East Nightclub recently replaced metal booker Will Evans – with the usual help from C3 Presents and outside promoters. "I recently turned 50, which made me feel like I have 10 more productive years to really leave my mark," reflects Hendrix. "And the opportunities were there. I've always been told that you expand in a down economy. We'll see if that's true." Elsewhere on Sixth Street, Nashville venue the Stage on Broadway, known for hosting mainstream country acts like Miranda Lambert and Toby Keith as well as a Texas Music Night, is setting up a new shop, the Stage on Sixth, in what was once Radio Room and Bourbon Rocks (508 E. Sixth), to open at the start of next year.
"Sometimes you live too long and become a legend," raps Bobby Womack – a supreme understatement from the 66-year-old singer who named his 1987 album Last Soul Man. Given the recent passing of his friend (and 2004 ACL headliner) Solomon Burke, that title has proven aptly prophetic. He was first signed by Sam Cooke in the Womack Brothers; penned the Rolling Stones' first UK hit ("It's All Over Now"), as well as material for Janis Joplin ("Trust Me") and Wilson Pickett ("I'm in Love"); and served as backing guitarist for Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Sly Stone. "But I never thought it was coming back," surmises Womack from the Swissotel in Chicago, his voice thick and rough, scarred from too many valleys. "I was in the dumps, mentally and spiritually. Forty percent of my life was the music; the other 60, I was getting high, and I was not happy. All of a sudden my manager come in and asked if I would be interested in working with this band. I said: 'I've heard of the Monkeys. I've never heard of no Gorilla.'" After cleaning up his act, Womack contributed to "Cloud of Unknowing" and "Stylo" on the Gorillaz's latest, Plastic Beach, the latter spawning his first ever No. 1 single, and he joins Damon Albarn's league of extraordinary gentlemen – Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of the Clash, Little Dragon, and De La Soul, among others – at the Frank Erwin Center on Friday. There's even talk of Albarn helming Womack's next album. "Everything started to open up to me again," concludes Womack, whose last national tour was with the Stones in 1981. "I started to be hungry for what I love with a passion. I feel like I'm part of the family, for real." For the complete interview, see austinchronicle.com/earache.
Sounds Under Radio, the biggest Austin band you've never heard of, might be coming to a Hot Topic near you. After landing three songs on the network teen drama The Vampire Diaries, the local indie pop quartet not only nabbed a spot on the accompanying television soundtrack – a blockbuster duet with Alison Sudol of A Fine Frenzy – but also is touring with the cast as part of a national promotional push for the second season. "I never envisioned when starting a rock band that I'd ever play at a mall, but it's actually been a really great experience," relays frontman Lang Freeman, who's also putting the final touches on the group's forthcoming second LP, Where My Communist Heart Meets My Capitalist Mind, due in January. "The whole record is about the duality and internal conflicts of the self. We want to capture grand, epic moments in supremely intimate spaces."
Test for Echo
Echotone, a fractured documentary attempting to capture the changing landscape of the local scene through the eyes of Indierect Records' owner and film co-producer Daniel Perlaky, debuts as part of the Austin Film Festival at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz on Saturday, Oct. 23, at 1pm. An encore screening takes place at the Texas Spirit Theater at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 10pm, while some of the film's subjects (Sunset, the White White Lights, and Dana Falconberry) – minus its unintentional star, the delightfully candid Quality Seafood deliverer-turned-soul stirrer Black Joe Lewis – perform at Mohawk on Sunday, Oct. 24. For an alternate perspective, Austin City Limits house photographer Scott Newton narrates a slide show of his personal collection at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz on Monday, 7pm.
There's only one rule for the Chronicle Music staff's annual ballot casting for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: "No more Texas artists until the 13th Floor Elevators and Doug Sahm are accounted for," reiterates Senior Writer Margaret Moser, momentarily forgetting to add Stevie Ray Vaughan (now in his third year of eligibility) to the list. That meant that East Texas bluesman Joe Tex was dismissed almost as quickly as Bon Jovi, Beastie Boys, and J. Geils Band ("I love them, but I can't really vote for another bunch of white guys doing black R&B," surmised Music Editor Raoul Hernandez). With no disrespect intended toward Donna Summer or Donovan, the Chronicle quickly whittled the 15 nominees down to the true originals: late-1960s songwriter extraordinaire Laura Nyro, nighthawk troubadour Tom Waits, New Orleans' Night Tripper Dr. John, The Jazz Singer Neil Diamond, and eternal spookster Alice Cooper (cue the Wayne's World fanning "We're not worthy"). Better luck next year, Chic.