Off the Record

SXSW news and carryings on

Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono

Unfinished Music

Yoko Ono's reasoning behind her first-ever trip to Austin for SXSW is the same as that for the reboot of the Plastic Ono Band with Sean Lennon for 2009's Between My Head and the Sky. "He's got a lot of associations there, being Lennon's son and all that, but I want to show the world that's he quite a brilliant musician," stressed Ono from New York. "Also, since I brought him in to make this record, I'm going to be with him all the time. I think many parents would understand that in a way. We want some sort of an excuse to be with our children." Of course, the iconoclastic artist has her own affairs to attend to, namely an ongoing remix project, an idea she likens to her Unfinished Music series with her late husband. Ono's latest, "Move On Fast," just notched her sixth No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play Chart, no small feat in a realm dominated by young, hypersexual pop tarts. "That's ageism I think," she counters. "We're all sexy, okay. We're just sexy thinkers .... Music is life." Ono speaks with Jody Denberg today, Friday, March 18, at the Austin Convention Center, Room 18ABC, 11am, and guests at the Chimera showcase at Elysium Saturday night.

You've Got LoveMail

The FanTrail booth at the Austin Convention Center
The FanTrail booth at the Austin Convention Center (Photo by Gary Miller)

"Revolutionary is an overused word," opens Austin's Joel Rasmussen, co-writer of the 2006 documentary Before the Music Dies, "but we bring capabilities to artists that weren't there before." He's referring to FanTrail, a new, locally developed social networking application that allows artists to connect with fans in specific locations and through LoveMail, a voice mail feature directed to specific users. "Some of the most notable sound bytes have come from voice mails," relates co-founder Joshua McClure. "Just think about where the Charlie Sheen thing started." Erykah Badu and the Roots were the first two acts to sign on, with a host of local talent following, including Alejandro Escovedo and Ghostland Observatory. The folks behind FanTrail are making the app available for free to all SXSW showcasing bands and hosting a contest to see who can garner the most active fan base this week, with $40,000 in gear and prizes. Visit for more.

Starry Eyes

Producer and shepherd behind Roky Erickson's triumphant True Love Cast Out All Evil, Will Sheff made a special appearance at the Texas psych dignitary's annual Ice Cream Social at Threadgill's yesterday. While the 13th Floor Elevators frontman was late to the party, Sheff paid his respects with a solo acoustic version of True Love's "Birds'd Crashed." The gruff poet also hit "Lost Coastlines" and previewed Okkervil River's upcoming I Am Very Far with a new duet with Beth Warren that dripped with late-night melancholy even under the full afternoon sun.

Walking On

For as much time and money as OTR's spent at Waterloo Records, it was a distinct honor to be on other side of the autograph booth, signing copies of The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology (UT Press) with co-editor Doug Freeman on Thursday morning, even if most patrons were more interested in Third Man Records' guest DJ outside, Jack White. Local soul belter Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears capped off a fine afternoon with a track off their second and latest Lost Highway disc, Scandalous, "You Been Lyin'," assisted by Dallas' the Relatives, the vivacious gospel funk outfit rescued from obscurity by the 2009 reissue of Don't Let Me Fall. After sweeping the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the Ponderosa Stomp last year, the Rev. Gean West and his incomparable congregation are now working on a new studio album of deep covers and previously unrecorded material from the 1970s with Spoon's Jim Eno. "This will not be a retro soul record," promises Noel Waggener, local founder of Heavy Light Records and a noted album cover designer. "It will be heavy." Black Joe Lewis and company will hit the KUT Radio Day Stage in the Austin Convention Center (1pm) and the Lost Highway showcase at ACL Live at the Moody Theater (8pm), before being joined by Hitsville guitarist Dennis Coffey at South by San Jose outside Jo's Coffee on Saturday, 5pm.

Kontiki Kontinued

Will Sheff
Will Sheff (Photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

Future Clouds & Radar frontman Robert Harrison's mulling a reunion of Cotton Mather. That would coincide with a deluxe reissue of the local guitar-pop group's 1997 classic, Kontiki, the Kickstarter campaign for which boasts vocal support from Oasis' Noel Gallagher and Britt Daniel of Spoon. "If we do it, we really have to make sure it's right," insists Harrison, who landed four co-writes on Nicole Atkins' new LP, Mondo Amore. The two recorded four additional songs for Sir Parker, Harrison's new collaborative songwriting project for female voices. "It's almost a throwback to Sixties shindig thing, bringing out more of the Dusty Springfield side of her," he says. FC&R play a showcase tonight at Easy Tiger, 9pm.

Random Play

• The venue sponsor of today's Dancing in the Moonlight party, which marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott, South First Street eatery Jovita's was closed down yesterday by the authorities over permit issues, throwing the two-stage, 20-odd-act bill – half of them Irish, and including SXSW keynote Bob Geldof – into question.

• After the gates at Auditorium Shores were shut because capacity had been reached for the free Strokes performance there, reports indicate that a multitude of fans pushed through the barricades and security to get inside. No injuries were reported.

Black Joe Lewis and the Relatives
Black Joe Lewis and the Relatives (Photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

• Unintentional viral sensation Antoine Dodson joined the Gregory Brothers for a live, Auto-Tuned rendition of "The Bed Intruder Song" at the Billboard Bungalow @ Buffalo Billards on Wednesday night. Look for it on YouTube.

• Before gracing the Austin Music Awards on Saturday, Sahara Smith will rock the runway for SXSW's Style X, taking place today and Saturday at the Austin Convention Center, 6pm. The sultry local songstress will be joined by Austin rapper Zeale and members of the Soldier Thread, as well as a host of showcasing acts. Both shows are free and open to the public.

• In an alternative to mtvU's Woodie Awards, Austin Music Awards director Margaret Moser presented Sir Bob Geldof with a custom-made Groupies' Choice Award at the IFC Crossroads House. "He loved it," beamed Moser from the Chronicle's Omni headquarters. "He gave me a big kiss and said, 'This is the only award I'm going to put on my wall.'"

Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer will be signing copies of his autobiography, Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top, at the SXSW Bookstore today, 2pm

Music news

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Wednesday Interview
Wednesday Interview
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Yoko Ono, Will Sheff, Future Clouds & Radar, Black Joe Lewis, FanTrail

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