Off the Record

SXSW news and carryings on

Rok Puppets
Rok Puppets (Photo by Todd V. Wolfson)


Not even Curt Kirkwood knows quite what to expect from the Meat Puppets collaboration with Roky Erickson at the Austin Music Awards tonight. "We haven't rehearsed at all," the guitarist admitted to OTR last weekend, noting that his brother, bassist Cris Kirkwood, was flying in from Tuscon, Ariz., on Monday. "It shouldn't be too hard. [Roky]'s one of my regular plays, and someone I've always tried to turn people on to." There's some extended history between the two – drummer Shandon Sahm's late father, the original Texas Tornado, Doug Sahm, produced some of Erickson's seminal 1980s recordings – while the Puppets share similar early influences with the Texas psych patriarch. "We thought what we were doing was scientific, like under the clinical supervision of a doctor," laughed Kirkwood, "except we were our own physicians." The rejuvenated trio's garnering support for the upcoming Lollipop, a heavily distilled version of the Puppets' spaghetti-punk fusion, with some tracks, like Elvis tribute "Incomplete," dating as far back as 1983. "I kept stressing to the guys that we have to put it together one piece at a time," says Kirkwood, "but it has to look like a Tinker Toy Circus when it's done."

Louisiana Fairytale

James Petralli (r) and Jim James
James Petralli (r) and Jim James (Photo by Austin Powell)

White Denim's James Petralli added speakeasy soul to Jelly Roll Morton's "Mamie's Blues" at the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's Austin City Limits taping at ACL Live at the Moody Theater on Thursday night. The historic occasion later found Jim James of My Morning Jacket crooning "Louisiana Fairytale" through a megaphone and literally sneaking up behind the Del McCoury Band to add barbershop harmony to set closer "I'll Fly Away." "I learned the tune a few minutes ago," blushed Petralli backstage, his notes smeared across his hand. "I'm still pretty weirded out right now." White Denim closes out the SXSW whirlwind at Jo's Coffee for South by San Jose (3pm) with a new lineup – including second guitarist Austin Jenkins – and a new album, D, due May 24 via Downtown Records. "It's a little more focused and definitely Southern," relays bassist Steve Terebecki, though not at the expense of the locals' squiggly funk and scattershot charm. "There's a country tune, some prog stuff, and a little more groove."

Double Fantasy

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger looked and sounded like an indie tent revival at Other Music's Lawn Party at the French Legation Museum on Friday afternoon. As Yoko Ono looked on, son Sean Lennon balanced guitar and drums while his statuesque girlfriend, Charlotte Kemp Muhl, impressively juggled (a taped-together) bass, glockenspiel, and accordion, both of them accented by various auxiliary horns. The two seem to have a budding romance that seems better suited to old French cinema, a busking aesthetic and Old World charm mixed with Dixieland jazz and 1960s Brit pop. As Lennon joked before "Rainbows in Gasoline," "This song was a big hit for us in the Philippines." GOASTT opens Lennon's Chimera Music bill at Elysium tonight. Tune-Yards' SXSW itinerary includes a 1am appearance at the showcase, making vocal contortionist Merrill Garbus a likely member of the Plastic Ono Band.

Animal Rights

Wolfgang Gartner doesn't normally gig locally, much less during the daytime. His billing at Stubb's for the Spin party illustrated why. The local electro-house specialist had one of his two sets canned due to schedule delays, and the other overpowered by sound checks. Gartner didn't fare much better at the Grammys. "They were really good, definitely not nosebleeds," he said of his seats at the ceremony. "I had a pretty nasty cold and didn't end up going to any afterparties, so unfortunately I didn't have a chance to really meet anybody." Having made waves in house music for the past decade under his real name, Joey Youngman, Gartner doesn't really need any more connections. He's remixed Britney Spears, collaborated with Deadmau5, and signed to Ultra Music for his proper solo debut, which already boasts a cameo from on the lead single, "Forever." Asked what the warning sticker should read for his upcoming album, Gartner responded: "May contain traces of nuts."

SXSW Overheard

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (Photo by Austin Powell)

With the recent release of The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology, OTR sat in alongside his colleagues for Friday's SXSW Panel, Fun Fun Fun?: Thirty Years Chronicling Austin Music (see "Ballroom Dancing," p.10). Here are a few choice highlights:

• "A girl broke my heart, and suddenly I understood the blues." – Music Editor Raoul Hernandez on his move to Austin

• "The only thing I knew about rock & roll was being a groupie." – senior Music writer Margaret Moser on her early career

Wolfgang Gartner
Wolfgang Gartner (Photo by Gary Miller)

• "I was pretty mean when I wrote for the Chronicle." – the Austin American-Statesman's Michael Corcoran

• "I get that a lot that – that [Off the Record's] a gossip column or that I only write about my friends. I don't gossip. And I don't really have many friends." – yours truly

• "This panel is in desperate need of an editor." – moderator Doug Freeman

Random Play

Austin Powell (l) and Doug Freeman
Austin Powell (l) and Doug Freeman (Photo by Sandy Carson)

According to Music Director Rick Carney, Brent Hinds will sit in today with the School of Rock for renditions of Mastodon's "Crack the Skye" and "Divinations," as part of the program's Guest Professor series, coordinated by Dimitri Coats of Off!. While the event is private, expect to see some footage soon on Channel Austin. The local public access channel will produce a weekly reality show about the students.

Now that Kanye West has been confirmed for Vevo's unofficial afterparty tonight at Seaholm Power Plant, local bookies have practically been taking bets on his other probable guest appearances. Those who prefer to play against the odds should check out Weezy's longtime backing vocalist, Fort Worth's World Famous Tony Williams, who promises to be bringing some good friends to the showcase at Red 7 Patio, 9:50pm.

Despite some issues with the city of Austin, Jovita's still hosted Sir Bob Geldof at the Dancing in the Moonlight day party on Friday afternoon.

If you see the Hobart Brothers & Li'l Sis Hobart on a handbill, check it out. It's local ringer Jon Dee Graham, Freedy Johnston, and Susan Cowsill. After collaborating at last year's SXSW, the trio recorded a debut album due in May, At Least We Have Each Other, and just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its release. "It was an accidental album," says Graham. "That's always the best kind."

Music news

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Meat Puppets, Roky Erickson, James Petralli, White Denim, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Sean Lennon, Yoko Ono, Wolfgang Gartner, Kanye West, Jon Dee Graham

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