Playback: Antone's Resurrected
The return of Antone's, Free Week, and the Austin Music Poll Ballot
Technically, it wasn't a "grand opening," but there was nothing "soft" about the New Year's Eve unveiling of Antone's. The comeback of Austin's brand venue, reopened Downtown after two years on mute, proved a heartfelt cause for community celebration. And a reason to stand in line.
A lively scene sparked outside the club's box office last Thursday when TV news crews began buzzing about as a line of hopeful ticket purchasers stretched around the block. Twenty minutes after the box office opened, co-owner Will Bridges faced a firing squad of disappointed faces as he broke the news: Tickets were sold out.
The 400 who got in – a goulash of young locals, AARP-certified blues aficionados, Austin music cognoscenti, and at least one rock star (Billy Gibbons) – were welcomed by longtime greeter Ilse Haynes before entering the big, white room to witness the Antone's All-Stars breaking in the new stage.
"I had the responsibility of deciding what the first song played at the new Antone's would be. Of course, it had to be a shuffle, and it had to be in 'E,'" pianist Marcia Ball announced upon the completion of an epic instrumental, stoking solos from a trio of supreme string-burners: Denny Freeman, Derek O'Brien, and Eve Monsees. A rotation of house band alumni carried the set that featured several vocalists, including gorgeous Georgia Bramhall singing the open-carry blues classic "Forty-Four," once recorded by her father Doyle Bramhall, one of many departed Antone's legends invoked that night.
"I turned 21 at Antone's on Sixth Street. I won't tell you what year that was, but it's a birthday I'll never forget," chuckled headliner C.J. Chenier, decked out in a spandex shirt and sequined boots matching the classic red Antone's sign behind him. From the first pump of his squeeze box the party was on, moving feet matching his zydeco boogaloo, accordion blues, and Cajun-spiced "Auld Lang Syne," fired up at midnight before Chenier and his sumo-sized washboard player took a lap around the dance floor.
At side stage, flanked by O'Brien and Freeman, stood Susan Antone – sister of late blues patriarch Clifford Antone.
"It reminds me of the original location on Sixth Street," she says of new club, which bumps Friday with Muddy Waters sideman Paul Oscher and Saturday with jive-talking soulman Bobby Patterson. "Partially because it's Downtown, but it just looks a lot like it, it sounds a lot like it, and it seems like there's a lot of soul in that room."
"Did I get punched last night?" I wondered Monday morning, staring at my black and blue face in the mirror. No. The ink from a weekend's worth of Free Week entry stamps had transferred from the back of my hand to the front of my face while I slept. Consider it symbolic of the two-week club free-for-all, a 15-year local tradition currently involving 20 venues and up to eight bands per stage.
"My booking approach this year was to represent the musical diversity in Austin," says Transmission Events booker Marcus Lawyer, who slotted roughly 60 acts into Free Week 2016. "I made sure there was a show for each style that we work with in our venues and festivals year-round, from indie-rock/folk, electronic, garage and other subgenres of psych, punk, metal, and hip-hop."
"Playback"'s ears intercepted sound waves of 18 acts on Free Week's first four nights. My top experiences: noisy, nervy quartet Super Thief's artistic hardcore beatdown at Sidewinder, Subkulture Patriots' family-style raps and blunt fumigation of Empire, and Milezo's experimental guitar pop love-in at Mohawk. Strangest band: a trio called Auntie, consisting of doom metal drums, electronic melodies, and a silent frontwoman unrolling scrolls featuring strange illustrations.
The free music buffet, for which bands bravely accept paltry pay in hopes for something called "exposure" (see "Live Shots," Jan. 8), rages through the weekend. Remember, the adage "You get what you pay for" is a fallacy.
Austin Music Poll: Texas Primary
While enjoying a cold soda at Beerland over the weekend, I spotted a dusty plaque nailed above the bar: "Best New Club, 2001 Austin Music Awards," reminding me that it's time to vote in the Austin Music Poll. Same for you: Fill in the blanks on p.53 and mail it in before Feb. 1, or get with the times and complete it online at austinchronicle.com/musicpoll. Music winners celebrate at the 34th annual Austin Music Awards on March 16, while the workhorses get honored at the Industry Awards, March 7, hosted by myself and Chase Hoffberger. Now excuse me while I cast my ballot – no peeking!
Band of the Year: OBN IIIs
Best New Band: Boan
Musician of the Year: Mike Flanigin
Album of the Year: Kingdom of Fear, East Cameron Folkcore
Song of the Year: "Every Night," Walker Lukens
Blues/Soul/Funk: Golden Dawn Arkestra
Country/Bluegrass: Mike & the Moonpies
Cover Band: Manor Threat
EDM/Dance: Bird Peterson
Folk: Ben Ballinger
Hip-Hop/Rap: Dowrong & Eric Dingus
Jazz: Bob Hoffnar's Mood Illusion
Latin: Conjunto Los Pinkys
None of the Above: Chasca
Rock: OBN IIIs
U-18: Residual Kid
World Music: Gourisankar & Indrajit
Bass: Ingebrigt Håker Flaten
Drums: Brannen Temple
Female Vocals: Tameca Jones
Guitar: Slim Richey
Horns: Hard Proof
Keys: Margaret Wright
Male Vocals: James Hand
Misc. Instrument: Jeff Johnson (telephone mic)
Songwriter: Wild Bill
Strings: Ralph White
Album Art: Problemas, Grupo Fantasma
Best Music Venue: Hotel Vegas
Club Lighting: Parish
Club Sound: Saxon Pub
Equipment Rental: Rock N Roll Rentals
Instrument Repair: Lauren Ellis, Strait Music
Live Music Booker: Jason McNeely
Live Music Photographer: David Brendan Hall
Local Label: Holodeck
Music Business Hall of Fame: Steve Wertheimer
Music Store: Street-Legal Guitars
Music Support Nonprofit: HAAM
Music Writer: Michael Corcoran
New Club: Stay Gold
Ongoing Music Residency: Austin Mic Exchange
Music Venue Outside City Limits: Triple Crown, San Marcos
Poster: Mishka Westell
Producer: Jacob Sciba
Radio Personality: Kevin Connor, Sun Radio
Radio Program: Twine Time, Paul Ray
Radio Station: Sun Radio
Record Store: Waterloo Records
Recording Studio: Arlyn
Specialty Instrument Store: Switched On
Hall of Fame: Davy Jones
NPR's Tiny Desk contest, the public radio equivalent of Hustler's "Beaver Hunt," opens submissions for its second run on Tuesday. Record your band playing an original song at a desk, upload it to YouTube, and enter the link at www.npr.org/tinydeskcontest. The winner tapes a real Tiny Desk Concert and embarks on a four-date tour. Last year, 150 locals failed to impress Bob Boilen.
R.I.P. Gina Medez, singer for local dark rockers Tombstone Union and a School of Rock teacher. Mendez, a 35-year-old mother of two, was killed when her car hit a tree on Dec. 30. Tombstone Union has disbanded in the wake of the tragedy.
This is Austin, Not That Great, a three-day punk fest put on by former Chaos in Tejas day-show organizer Al Pastor, runs this weekend at Spider House. Tickets sold out fast for the 27-band bill, uniting essential locals Breakout (oi!) and Impalers (D-beat), with NYC scene-setters L.O.T.I.O.N. (radioactive digital crust), La Misma (Portuguese-language hardcore), and Crazy Spirit (screechy punk heroes).
HAAM's re-enrollment deadline looms. Thus far, 1,059 members have secured services for 2016, leaving 1,000 still needing to enroll by Jan. 31. Visit the office at 5900 Airport, Mon.-Thu., 9am-7pm; Fri.-Sat., 9am-4pm; and Sun., 1pm-5pm, to see if you qualify for medical coverage through the musician health care nonprofit.