Thursday, March 31, 2005

Historical EZ's in Dallas to Be Demolished

One of the best-preserved examples of "Googie-style" coffee shop architecture in Texas is the recently-closed EZ's at the corner of Northwest Highway and Hillcrest in Dallas. For photos, check out Eric Green's Cosmicool site dedicated to Mid-Century Modern design.

Opened in 1964 as Kip's Big Boy, the building retains most of the optimistic, space-age design elements first popularized in Southern California by the architectural firm of Armet & Davis. If memory serves me correctly, this was the last Kip's Big Boy operating in Texas when it closed in the late Eighties or early Nineties.

EZ's, the San Antonio-based hamburger/pizza eatery, took over the Kip's building sometime in the mid-Nineties. Much like they did with the old 2-J's on North Lamar here in Austin, EZ's renovated with an eye toward the building's growing historical significance. Unfortunately, 7-Eleven owns the land and wants to tear it down, so they raised the rent and forced EZ's out.

Although getting a historical landmark designation for a structure less than 50 years old is a long shot at best, Preservation Dallas has taken an interest in saving the building. Having spent a good portion of my adolescence wired up on bottomless cups of coffee at a now-razed Kip's Big Boy in Houston, I hope they succeed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Glory of Shrimp

I know it's not cool to like Red Lobster, but when they're handing out platters of 30 shrimp for just $11.99*, I can't help but be enthused. That's a lotta shrimp, folks. They'll even throw in a salad, baked potato and some addictively tasty cheddar biscuits. But you'd better hurry, because a great deal like this will be gone before you know it - just like the 30 shrimp I could eat in less than the time it took me to write this.

*Prices vary in Hawaii, Canada and Times Square.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Closing the Book on Buster

I finally got to see the "Sugartime!" episode of Postcards from Buster for myself last night. As I suspected, the two-moms angle was handled briefly, tastefully and matter-of-factly. No one in their right mind could possibly say the show was "promoting the homosexual agenda," though anyone who seriously uses the phrase "promoting the homosexual agenda" automatically gets their sanity called into question in my book.

Not having kids myself (that I know of), I'd never seen Postcards from Buster before. It's actually quite a good show. Buster is a wide-eyed cartoon rabbit who travels around the country in a private jet with his dad, who is managing a touring rock group. Each episode, Buster meets an interesting new family that shares its life with him. He carries a camcorder to make video "postcards" of his adventures to send home to mom. This unique artifice allows the show to be shot from the perspective of an eager, shaky-handed little boy.

"Sugartime!" takes place in Vermont during the maple syrup season. Despite residing far outside Buster's target demographic, I learned plenty about the process of making maple syrup. For example, did you know it can take up to 40 gallons of maple tree sap to make just one gallon of steaming hot girl-on-girl action, I mean maple syrup? Now that's what I call a sticky situation!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Pour Some Sugar On Me, Buster

Don't forget that KLRU airs the infamous "Sugartime!" episode of Postcards from Buster tonight at 8pm. It's the one where Buster goes to Hindsburg, Vermont to learn about maple syrup and dairy products from two families that each have two moms and no dads.

After Bush's education secretary Margaret Spellings complained about the show's federally-funded promotion of that particular "lifestyle," PBS immediately caved and pulled the episode from its schedule. Fortunately, Buster producer WGBH in Boston decided to make the episode available to individual PBS stations. In order to allow families to watch the show as a unit, KLRU is bringing "Sugartime!" to prime time.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter. Where's My Salad?

I thought my pal David was a wee widdle bit weird for buying Sunday dinner makings last night at 10pm. Then I come to find out H-E-B is closed today. At the risk of sounding like an Iscariot, I forgot Easter was still a big enough deal to disrupt the religion of commerce to such a degree.

I'm glad everyone's taking the day off to spend time with family and whut-not, but I sure wish I had a Fresh Express salad bag. The body needs roughage. And I'll be doggoned if I'm going to go to Randall's and pay the non-Remarkable Card price.

Anyhoo, happy Easter, everybody. Don't eat too many Marshmallow Peeps.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Austin Punk Photos 1980-1985

During his early Eighties tenure in Austin, photographer/eroticist Geoff Cordner took some amazing black and white photos of the local punk scene with bands like the Dicks, the Offenders, the Big Boys and the Butthole Surfers. His photos of Black Flag's 1984 show at the Skyline Club are particularly inspired. Since then, he's been hailed by On Our Backs magazine as "the Charles Bukowski of porn" and denounced by Ms. magazine as a "reprehensible, socially parasitic artist," which must mean he's doing something right.

Friday, March 25, 2005

My Government Office is Moving

I first set foot in the squat industrial shed where I'm currently officed back in 1995. Initially fabricated as a training facility for IBM, this afterthought of a building in the North Austin commerical wasteland surrounding the intersection of Braker and Kramer Lanes was never intended to be a permanent space. We were told we'd be moving within a year or so.

Ten years later, we've finally gotten word we'll be moving to a renovated patient facility on the Austin State Hospital campus this summer. Naturally, we've all been going on about how that makes perfect sense because "our office is so darn crazy!" I'm told there are still showers in the restrooms, so maybe I'll start bathing there to cut some time from my commute.

While everyone complains about the dilapidated state of our current office, especially the woefully inadequate restrooms, at least most everyone has their own office. The new place will be cube city, but as long as the checks keep clearing, I don't really mind too much. Now that I live alone, I probably need the extra human contact.

That said, I'm going to miss the old dump on Kramer Lane. I've worked there through two marriages, three bands and at least seven bureau chiefs. While I still hate waking up early, I've grown to appreciate the relative stability of civil service. It's been a nice elixir for my messy personal life and it rarely gets in the way of my creative pursuits. I kind of like being exiled in a faceless satellite office, scrivening the day away far from downtown scrutiny. Anything that might upset this imperfect-but-servicable apple cart is bound to evoke feelings of sentimentality.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Go Team Contrarian!

Despite really enjoying the Go! Team's album, Thunder, Lightning, Strike (currently only available as an import from Memphis Industries), I was very much underwhelmed by their sold-out SXSW showcase last Friday at Buffalo Billiards. The celebrated dance-rock band from Brighton was unable to bring their studio dynamic to the stage and vocalist Ninja seemed utterly superfluous against the roar. The show certainly wasn't worth a long wait in line (though, to be fair, I probably wouldn't wait more than an hour or so to see Jesus jam with the Beatles).

Then I discovered this dismissal was bucking the critical consensus in a big way. Jon Parales from The New York Times raved about the Go Team's show. So did Billboard. Just when I was starting to feel completely out of step, Sam Machkovech at the Dallas Observer came through with this. While you've gotta be true to your own critical faculties, it's always nice to have a little company in the "Why do you hate America, ice cream and puppies?" tent.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Makeshift Living Will

One positive thing that'll come out of Tom DeLay & Co. wagging the poor Schiavo lady in Florida (why is it always Florida?) to appease their nutter brethren is that more people will think about getting a living will to spare their families the agony of having to decide whether or not to pull the plug. I should do this myself, but it's one of those things you wind up putting off because it costs money and it's not exactly fun to think about.

So in lieu of an actual living will, in case something horrible happens to me and I wind up vegetative with no reasonable hope of recovery, my wish is to be unplugged, detubed, heroically dosed with morphine and left to die naturally with Pet Sounds playing on some headphones. Don't know if this'll hold up in court, but hell, it's free and worth a shot.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Post-Pancho's Depression and More SXSW Notes

Firstly, let me thank everyone for the outpouring of sentiment regarding the closure of Austin's only Pancho's Mexican Buffet. Particularly my singing/songwriting Uncle Mark, who generously offered to take me to Pancho's in Houston to keep the cold turkeys (or enchiladas, as it were) at bay. I'm sure some folks find it hard to understand the allure of all-you-can-eat Tex-Mex slop, but when you're introduced to Pancho's as a young child, it's a hard beast to shake. The fact that Pancho's played the same escape valve role in my adolescence and young adulthood as the diner in Diner made the mark that much more indelible. One of these days, I'm going to write a book about Pancho's. Or at least a really long pamphlet.

Turning back to SXSW for a moment, my online review of the UNCUT showcase with American Music Club, Willard Grant Conspiracy and Micah P. Hinson (among others) can be found here. A full review of the showcase is slated for the June issue. I also wrote a boatload of stuff for the Austin Chronicle daily issues, including reviews of KVRX'S day party at Cream Vintage, the 13th Floor Elevators panel, The Grates, the Brian Wilson/SMiLE panel and The Crimea. If these reviews seem a little slapdash, it's because they were written in an hour while wanting to get back out on the streets as soon as possible to see more music.

I'm pleased with how my interview with Van Dyke Parks turned out. I wound up with more space to work with, which enabled me to include a bunch of his recollections about the L.A. music scene in the mid-Sixties. At last Friday's panel, I believe it was David Leaf who referred to Parks as "the Tennessee Williams of rock." That just about gets it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: Austin is Pancholess Again!

It is my sad duty to inform fans of Pancho's Mexican Buffet that the remaining Austin area location on U.S. 290 has closed down. Even worse, the company has shuttered its venerable Waco and Killeen locations (the latter a likely casualty of Fort Hood troops mobilized to fight in Iraq). That leaves the San Antonio location as the only Pancho's within a 100-mile radius of Austin.

I am reminded of a similarly sad day 10 years ago when Pancho's first pulled out of Austin in June 1995. We were sans Pancho's for almost eight years until the now-shuttered Round Rock location opened in January 2003. I was there the day they opened and there was a line of faithful out the door. Obviously, those long lines didn't last long.

I can't say I'm as broken up or surprised by this recent closure as I was in 1995. The first cut, as they say, is the deepest. I'm coming to accept the reality that I may well outlive Pancho's Mexican Buffet altogether, perhaps by many years. I can live with never having children, but the prospect of not being able to take my hypothetical nonexistent children to Pancho's to raise the flag and eat sopaipillas really bothers me.

At some point, I guess you just try and steel yourself with a stoic resignation to the inevitable truth that all things must pass. Still, what a goddamn shame.

Monday Morning Coming Down

Man, I hate going back to work after pretending to be a full-time music geek for a week. I suppose it would start to suck to be a full-time music geek after awhile, too, but at least I wouldn't have to wake up so damn early. What're ya gonna do?

Here are a few more random fun moments from SXSW I haven't yet mentioned:

1. Seeing the Rezillos rock the house a second time at their Cheapo in-store Saturday afternoon.

2. Having Susan Cowsill apologize to me for using the men's room at the Dog & Duck Pub during the Pop Culture Press party.

3. Watching Steve Wynn greet the arrival of Saturday afternoon's brief but heavy thunderstorm with a makeshift rendition of Eric Clapton's "Let It Rain."

4. Original X-rated rapper Blowfly cracking my friend Adam up so much that he literally fell over backwards laughing.

5. Walking down to Auditorium Shores Friday to see Alejandro Escovedo and realizing I actually enjoy being in the presence of little kids at such events.

6. Being introduced to loverly Parisian singing sensation Keren Ann at the SXSW trade show.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Crowne Plaza Affair

While celebrity blogging is best left to experts like Felt Up, sometimes even I manage to be in the room with someone famous.

Earlier this evening (or last evening, as I write this), I went to the 18th Floor at Crowne Plaza this evening to catch Rachel Fuller's set. The London singer-songwriter is a certain Mr. Townshend's partner, which resulted in a flood of speculation as to whether there might be a cameo appearance. He did not, but former Mrs. Jagger and native Texas gal Jerry Hall got up to do spoken-word verses in one of Fuller's songs called "Around This Table." It was something about "love" and "mistresses," which was certainly appropriate.

The still-radiant and surprisingly tall Hall was escorted by a gentleman whose SXSW namebadge read "Phil Bronstein." That happens to be the name of Sharon Stone's ex-husband, who's a newspaper editor from San Francisco. Former governor Ann Richards also attended the performance with screenwriter/literary outlaw Bud Shrake.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Unhappy Feet

By not drinking too much and eating relatively well, I'm feeling pretty good for a SXSW Saturday. The only parts that hurt are my feet. Anyone know of a good foot masseuse?

I'm about to head downtown to cover a panel on health care for musicians. Panel attendance has suffered this year with the explosion of day parties, but I've really enjoyed the 13th Floor Elevators and Brian Wilson/SMiLE panels. Dave Marsh is hosting the health care panel, and that usually means a lively discussion.

After that, I'm going to try and see some of the daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra at Stubb's if there's time. Then I'm going to Dog & Duck for the Pop Culture Press party. I saw the Rezillos at Elysium last night and it was a wonderful punk rock scrum. They're playing again at 6pm today at Cheapo.

Okay, that's all for now. I gotta go find a place to park.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Elevators, Grates and Chinese Stars

I spent yesterday morning doing some writing and pre-show research before heading down to the Convention Center to see the 13th Floor Elevators panel. You can read my review of it in today's Austin Chronicle daily supplement, which isn't online yet but can be found at finer breakfast spots and rekkid stores about town. Roky Erickson looks so much better these days. He spoke sparingly, but said some pretty cool things. For example, he recalled playing a "church social" with Janis Joplin (who was briefly considered as a second vocalist in the Elevators) and Mance Lipscomb. Meanwhile, drummer John Ike Walton said the Elevators once played a dance in the gym at Bellaire High School - my alma mater. By the time I arrived almost two decades later, we were lucky to get a D.J. that played "Rock Lobster!"

It's important to realize the fact that everything the Elevators pioneered made them a target in Texas. Whether it was having long hair, playing rock music or taking LSD, lots of people were threatened by their sensibilities. They dealt with hostilities that made it much more daring to be a "freak" than it was in San Francisco, yet they were doing what would come to be known as psychedelic music before the Grateful Dead had a record deal. It's nice that most of them (except, unfortunately, for guitarist Stacy Sutherland and second drummer Danny Gallindo) have lived to see their legacy properly enshrined.

After writing that panel up, I headed over to the Velvet Spade. I watched a little of Edie Sedgwick, a mediocre drag queen track act, before heading to the patio to catch the Tuxedo Killers. I was quite stirred by their spazzed-out prog-punk assault. They play interesting music with a refreshing sense of youthful, fuck-all whimsy. Any singer who ends a set with pants around ankles is probably gonna get my vote.

I was at the Velvet Spade to review the Grates, a three-piece guitar/drum/vocal combo from Brisbane, Australia. Despite obvious similarities to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Grates put a "grate" big smile on my face with their fun, lo-fi pop tunes. Singer Patience Hodgson embodies some of the odd goofiness of Karen O., but Hodgson's take on it is less cutting and more fun. Their song "Trampoline" is one of the catchiest things I've heard all year.

Yet another quick writing break, then I caught up with my Bay Area buddies Tamara and David to see zZz at Flamingo Cantina. The Amsterdam organ-and-drum duo was intriguing, but we lost interest after four or five songs. The Chinese Stars were on the indoor stage at Emo's and they kicked ass with a relentless barrage of quick right turning disco-punk. Now I remember why I liked Six Finger Satellite so much. 400 Blows were up next. I could appreciate their their anti-melodic spanking machine, but experienced quite enough of it after five minutes.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Strange Vibes

A lot of good bands at the UNCUT showcase last night, but the Vibe proved to be a wholly inadequate venue for such a showcase. The show got off to a late start that continued spiraling more and more out of sync as the evening progressed. Sound problems were endemic and the crew was overwhelmed (which is putting it much more politely than the bands would). When there are six bands on a bill with backlines going well beyond guitar, bass and drums, you really have to run a tight ship. That didn't happen.

It all came to a head when the American Music Club finally took to the stage just before 2am with the sound guy telling them they had no time. Mark Eitzel was pissed and in rare form. The band's set collapsed in Replacements-like shambles after just four or five songs. To his credit, he did apologize between kicking at and head-butting audience members. Between the sound problems, late starts and the fact that there was no place in the Vibe to escape the cold, it probably had to end on a middle finger note like that.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Hot Damn, It's ON!

No time for blogs today, but I'll try anyway. Thanks to near-divine intervention, I secured a wristband for the out-of-town friend we all have. Then I went to Cream Vintage for the KVRX day party with VietNam, Frank Jordan, the Six Parts Seven and others. I alternated between there and Hole in the Wall, where noted rock scribe Jason Cohen and zine queen Susan Shepard were celebrating their recent marriage. Robyn Hitchcock performed a short set and also did ministerial duties by signing their marriage license as official officiant. This happy couple of former Austinites will reside in Cincinnati, where they say the chili sucks. Cheers you lot, guys!

As for me, I'm now covering the UNCUT showcase tonight at the Vibe with American Music Club, Richmond Fontaine, South San Gabriel, Micah P. Hinson and more. I'm very psyched about getting to write something for UNCUT. They cover music from a lifer's perspective, which I guess is what I've let myself become.

Okay, that's all the time we have for now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

SXSW Battle Plan: Saturday

Midway through Saturday night is usually when I start to fade at SXSW. It takes something really compelling to keep me from dropping off. Sometimes it's a great set from a band I didn't know about, sometimes it's a train hitting a truck parked on the railroad tracks behind Gallery Lombardi.

Tia Carrera, Whisky Bar
Well-oiled power trio doling out big, thick slabs of mind-numbing hard rock in the tradition of Black Sabbath.

Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Eternal
I thought this family slide show band concept was brilliant the first time I saw it, but they performed almost the exact same show the next time I saw them and it was tedious. If you haven't seen them, it's worth a look.

Harold Ray Live in Concert, Jackalope
Atomic-powered swingin' Sixties rock and soul act from Oaktown.

127, Tambaleo
Experimental combo from Tehran mixing jazz and traditional Iranian sounds. I haven't heard them, but it isn't often you get to see a band from Iran here. You can only imagine what they'll probably go through at customs.

Sluts of Trust, Latitude 30
Art school new wave meets trade school heavy metal on a Glasgow streetcorner. The collars clash and the crowd goes wild.

Gore Gore Girls, Continental Club
Four gang debs from Detroit playing garage rock with a sexy, sneering presence Russ Meyer would've appreciated.

Harvey Sid Fisher, Chuggin' Monkey
It wouldn't be SXSW without Harvey Sid and his astrology songs.

The Paybacks, Continental Club
Wendy Case sings like Rod Stewart after swallowing a beehive, and I mean that in a good way.

Petty Booka, Elysium
If you've seen one Japanese ukulele duo playing songs by the Ramones and Hank Williams...

The Original Dirty Rapper a.k.a. Blowfly, Jackalope
Clarence Reid a.k.a. Blowfly was doing the X-rated rap thing when Luther Campbell was still in Pampers. Reid was also an instrumental figure in the mid-Seventies heyday of Miami's T.K. Records.

The High Dials, Soho Lounge
Great Montreal psych-pop band that sounds nothing like Broken Social Scene, the Arcade Fire or the Dears. I'm going to try to catch their Cheapo in-store instead so's I can see Blowfly.

Ron Flynt, Habana Calle 6
Former 20/20 frontman Flynt put out one of 2004's best local releases with the autobiographical L.A. Story.

Rockland Eagles, Habana Calle 6
Their good-natured resurrection of big top arena rock sound never fails to disappoint me unless I forget to bring earplugs.

Vanilla Ice, Cedar Street Courtyard
Word to your mother, indeed. This is pretty clever booking on SXSW's part, but I'm still holding out for Brian Austin Green.

Monday, March 14, 2005

SXSW Battle Plan: Friday

By Friday, I fully expect to be rewarded for my many years of rock criticism with a raven-headed escort who's "working her way through grad school," an 8-ball of record company cocaine and a suite at the Four Seasons with a TV in the can. If that doesn't work out, here's who I'll be interested in seeing that night:

Titan Go King's, Carribean Nights
I'm a sucker for these cute Japanese punk girls who rock out like Lolita No. 18 and Mummy the Peepshow. Actually, I'm a sucker for all cute punk girls. Okay, I'm just a sucker.

World/Inferno Friendship Society, Elysium
Nine-piece Brooklyn punk cabaret act with the big sound you'd expect from such an endeavor.

Blanche, Emo's Main Room
Dan and Tracee Mae Miller sing haunting, twang-laden tear-jerkers in the style of the Carter Family if the Carter Family had emerged from the indie circuit.

Gretchen Phillips, B.D. Riley's
Former Two Nice Girl is a fine singer and a heckuva songwriter, too. Her version of "Could It Be Magic" out-Manilows Manilow. She'll be playing with her new band here.

Wreckless Eric, Elysium
Honestly, the only song I know by Wreckless Eric is "Whole Wide World," but that is one great song!

The Aquabats, Emo's Jr.
Orange County Saturday morning cartoon punk loaded with sugar power.

The Black Lips, Beerland (10:15)
I've heard these guys are either incindiary or terrible live. Their recorded output reminds me of a Sixties-leaning version of the Dwarves, which would explain it.

The Go! Team, Buffalo Billiards
One of the most excitingly seamless hybrids of vinyl scavenging D.J. culture and high-energy rock I've heard. It sounds like a really good mash-up played live.

Mavis Staples, Austin Music Hall (11:30)
The Staple Singers were one of the last great groups to emerge from the Stax/Volt era, and Mavis Staples can still bring it. I saw her at ACL Fest 2003 in the gospel tent as the sun was going down. Absolutely transcendent.

The Ditty Bops, 18th Floor at Crowne Plaza
Two harmonious girls drawing on ragtime, folk and pop to create a sound all their own. It might be a little too cute for some, but their skew is unique.

The Rezillos, Elysium
One of the great lost punk bands of the late 70s. Comic book humor, guy/girl vocals and wild abandon. The Rezillos formed in Edinburgh in 1976 and were done by 1978, but their sole album is one nugget after another. Prior to their current tour, they'd only played one U.S. show.

New York Dolls, Stubb's (12:30)
David Johansen and Syl Sylvain are the only surviving original members, but this'll still be a big show.

Exene Cervenka & the Original Sinners, Elysium
I haven't always liked Exene's post-X stuff, but the Original Sinners have the fire.

The Frames, Antone's
Perhaps a tad bit overblown, but that's what happens when you trade in 21st Century sing-along anthems.

Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Austin Music Hall (12:30)
His studio work isn't quite there yet, but Randolph's sacred steel inferno injects new life into the tired notion of guitar heroism when experienced in person.

Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Parish
I've liked the nervous indie rock energy put forth by Andrea Zollo and Co. for quite some time, but haven't seen them live yet.

Bobby Conn & the Glass Gypsies, Nuno's
Modern-day glam-addled lounge singer who's taking the piss out of the homeland, but not forgetting to put on a show.

Gorch Fock, Room 710
Explosive acid rock noise collective leading the funeral parade into hell.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

SXSW Battle Plan: Thursday

Aside from not wearing green in hopes of getting pinched by girls in tank tops, here's the battle plan for Thursday, March 17:

Electrocute, Elysium
Berlin girl duo doing bubblegum dance pop in the vein of Junior Senior. I have a feeling they'll either be really fun or really bad, but my interest is piqued.

Tuxedo Killers, Velvet Spade Patio
Young jagged punk band from Austin I still need to see live.

Apollo Sunshine, Exodus
Intricate, longing pop that reminds me a bit of listening to AM radio at the swimming pool as a kid.

The Grates, Velvet Spade Patio (8:50pm)
Celebrated Australian lo-fi pop trio with drums, guitar and vocals. Think Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile, etc.

Thunderbirds Are Now!, Whisky Bar
Scattershot supersonic art-punk from the Motor City.

Robyn Hitchcock, Blender Balcony at the Ritz
Ol' Soft Boy is playing at least four different showcases. The Cactus Cafe would probably be the better venue, but this is show is the one that best fits my proposed sked.

The Morning After Girls, Calle Habana 6
Another Australian group, this one with more of a psych-pop drone akin to the Velvet Underground's first album.

Go Betty Go, Emo's Annex
Latina punk rock band from L.A. with hints of L7, Agent Orange and Screamin' Sirens. The drummer and singer are sisters and their old band was called the Nerd Vomits, which is the best band name I've heard all year.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Austin Music Hall
Watch a lifetime of classic rock pass before your eyes. I haven't heard the new album, but I really liked Behind the Music.

zZz, Flamingo Cantina
Organ and drum duo from Amsterdam that ought to be playing in a place where go-go girls dance in cages.

The Futureheads, La Zona Rosa
It's not like we need more angular young bands pretending to be late Seventies British art school students, but their songs are catchy and they're supposed to be really good live.

Li'l Cap'n Travis, Room 710
One of Austin's greatest bar bands, equally comfortable channeling the Replacements, the Byrds and George Jones.

Tony Joe White, Antone's
The undisputed king of swamp pop. By the way, he wrote "Polk Salad Annie" and "Rainy Night in Georgia" while living in Corpus Christi.

LCD Soundsystem, Elysium
NYC techno funk for indie rockers by an expatriate of the latter.

Pong, Room 710
If LCD isn't putting on a show, I'm walking across the street to see some locals who definitely will be!

Gogol Bordello, Emo's Annex
Although they're playing at the same time, Pong drummer Lyman Hardy told me I should see Gogol Bordello and he hasn't steered me wrong yet. Extreme Eastern European-style gypsy punk, whatever that means.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

SXSW Odds and Sods

Two good SXSW-related Web sites to know about here:

See You In the Pit is a super-swell MP3 blog of bands playing SXSW put together by the Queen of the Front Row of New York City and Little Miss Rock 'n' Roll of Austin. I don't think I know either of them, but they know their stuff.

The venerable Austin Show List has a comprehensive listing of non-SXSW shows taking place during SXSW week. You can see plenty without a wristband if'n ya know where to ogle.

I should go see the Dicks tonight at Room 710, but I'm probably going to wimp out and conserve my energy.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Jimi Hendrix's Penis is Coming to Town

I just got late word that the third installment of "The Rawk Show" will open on Monday, March 14 at The Space, 4803 Airport Blvd (next to I Luv Video). The show features original artwork and photography from musicians like Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, Rikki Rockett of Poison and our own Randy "Biscuit" Turner from the Big Boys.

Of course, the "piece" d'resistance of this show is Jimi Hendrix' penis as cast by Cynthia Plaster Caster. As rock lore has it, Jimi enjoyed being cast so much, he finished himself off with the gloppy mold. They'll also have a cast of Peaches' boobs, but who cares?

"The Rawk Show" will be open every day from 12-8pm during the week of March 14-19, with an afternoon party for the show will be on the 19th.

SXSW Battle Plan: Wednesday

In homage to my friend Kent's very useful "SXSW Shopping List," I've decided to develop my own "SXSW Battle Plan" this year. The Chron runs a grid of each critic's top hour-by-hour showcase picks, but if your 8pm pick is at the Cactus Cafe and your 9pm pick is at the Continental Club, it prolly ain't gonna happen. Therefore, I've tried to give myself a handful of options for every hour that take location, travel time, crowds and mood into account. Here's my planned strategy for Wednesday, March 16:

Boyskout, Lava Lounge Patio
Garage-flavored new wave from San Francisco with a surgical sensuality and latent Lene Lovich leanings.

Hobble, Room 710
Hard rock/punk hybrid with a taste for taboo. Tornadic vocalist Oriah Lonsdale is one of Austin's best frontmen.

Pinetop Perkins, Austin Music Hall (7:55pm)
Muddy Waters' longtime piano player now living in Austin. Received Lifetime Achievement Grammy this year. He's well into his Nineties and he still dresses sharper than you ever will.

John Cale & Alejandro Escovedo, Austin Music Hall (8:45pm)
I don't know exactly what they're doing, but it ought to be interesting and probably quite good.

Hubert Sumlin, Antone's
Sumlin played guitar for Howlin' Wolf on his early and mid-Sixties Chess Records sides.

Devin Davis, Velvet Spade Patio
Unable to find a band upon moving to Chicago, Davis recorded Lonely People of the World, Unite! almost all by himself. He has a good ear for Sixties and Seventies Top 40 hooks and plenty of wit. I think he's bringing a seven-piece band for this show.

Susan Cowsill, Cedar Street Courtyard
Best known as the youngest Cowsill ("The Rain, The Park and Other Things"), Susan is a richly emotive singer and songwriter whose latest work is reminiscent of Lucinda Williams. She sang a song at the Pop Culture Press day party last year that just blew me away.

Fantasy's Core, Room 710
Nagasaki band that combines punk, blues and yock-worthy slapstick to grand effect.

Jason Falkner, Tambaleo
I've always had a soft spot for the L.A. Paisley Pop underground. Before going solo, Falkner played with the Three O'Clock, the Grays and Jellyfish, so he definitely knows his way around the stuff.

Drums & Tuba, Blender Bar at the Ritz
New Orleans by way of New York by way of Austin drum, tuba and guitar jazzartrock trio that'll blow your mind with consummate precision. Believe it or not, drummer Tony Nozero and I were once bandmates and next-door neighbors.

Enon, The Parish
Art punk scavengers making dance music for folks about to take a ride on the Logan's Run carousel.

The Octopus Project, Velvet Spade
Though I liked what they were going for with the groovy confluence of synth and skronk, I wasn't completely converted by the OP's first album. I think they've improved greatly since then.

The Thermals, Emo's Main Room
Unhinged Portland pop-punk in the vein of the Buzzcocks, but operating far outside the Underwriters' Laboratories seal of approval.

Elvis Costello & the Imposters, La Zona Rosa
I saw E.C. for the first time at ACL Fest in September, but his short set was plagued by bad sound that left with the wind, so I may try to catch him again here.

Palomar, Tambaleo
Brooklyn indie pop with none of what that implies, Palomar lays down warm left-of-the-dial tones that never get too cute for their own good.

Billy Idol, Stubb's
It would be nice to make up for the time I was denied the chance to see Idol at Astroworld on the Rebel Yell tour because I couldn't get my parents' permission before they went out for the evening (only millionaires had mobile phones back then, kids!).

Sleater-Kinney, Emo's Main Room
If the music of Sleater-Kinney doesn't necessarily drive me to typical critical consensus hosannas, they still put on a great live rock show. If you've never seen them, you should.

The Real Heroes, Tambaleo
Greetings from Russia was one of last year's best local rock albums. Lotsa hooks, glam and wit.

Grupo Fantasma, Flamingo Cantina
Eleven-piece pan-Latin ensemble combining Tejano, funk, jazz, salsa, hip hop, dancehall and just about any other musical idiom that makes men feel stupid for never having learned how to dance.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Steal from the Poor, Give to the Rich

If you live in a household that brings in under 100 grand per annum, the Texas Legislature is fixin' to put a hurtin' on your ass with House Bill 3.

In order to lower property taxes, a measure that disproportionately benefits the wealthy, HB3 would raise the state sales tax to a national-high 7.25% and create a payroll tax for all employees earning under $90,000 a year. There would also be new "sin" taxes on cigarettes, snack foods and newspapers (since you're better off not knowing).

According to the Lege's own budget board, households earning more than $100,593 per year will collectively pay an estimated $437 million less in state taxes, while households earning under $41,963 will pay $532 million more. Using census data, the Houston Chronicle estimates households earning over $100,593 would save $591 per year, while households earning under $41,963 would be asked to fork over an additional $236. Even if you own property, you'd still wind up paying more unless you're pulling in six figures.

That'll teach you to be poor, sucker. God bless Texas!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Kimarie Lynn Sent Me

One thing I really enjoy about not living in a huge media market back east or out west is the opportunity to see lots of low-budget TV commercials with a generous side of canned corn. Much to the chagrin of young creative hotshots with Mogwai on the brain, this is one area of advertising where the most ill-conceived, insidious jingles still manage to thrive.

Right now, the best ones going are for Chapman Motor Sales. In addition to their six Austin area locations, the Chapmans are fortunate indeed to have a niece who's a bona fide singing sensation. Click here to learn all you need to know about the life and times of the enigmatic Kimarie Lynn (not to mention her up-and-coming lil' sis Kacie).

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Osama Bin MBNA

More than a few pundits have posited the notion that reforming Social Security is a smokescreen for the far more insidious and laughably named "Bankruptcy Abuse and Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005," which the Senate is expected to pass any day now.

I don't think it's hyperbole to call this bill economic terrorism on the part of the credit card companies and the whorish senators doing their bidding. In applying a standard, across-the-board "means test" to determine who gets to file for bankruptcy under the less-invasive Chapter 7 code, people who've become insolvent as a result of illness will be just as screwed to the wall as some hapless Imelda Marcos wannabe who maxes out her Nordstrom account on shoes. Meanwhile, the credit card companies can go right on charging usurious interest rates and ridiculously high late payment fees. Some consumer protection, right?

If Joe Biden tries to nab the Democratic nomination in 2008, folks need to remember he's the senator from MBNA, not Delaware.

Monday, March 07, 2005

I Was A Teenage Quincy Punk

The Alamo Drafthouse downtown resurrects the golden age of American anti-punk paranoia this evening at 9:45pm with the infamous Quincy episode in which Oscar Madison, M.E. tries to ascribe a teen's demise to punk rock. They'll also be showing the lesser-known CHiPS punk episode where Erik Estrada shows teaches misguided punk rockers a thing or two about real music by singing "Celebration."

Both of these episodes surfaced in the early Eighties, when the Germs, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks and Fear were scaring the hell out of prim Southern California parents and raising the billy-clubbed ire of area constabularies. In vapid "ripped from the headlines" fashion, the dangers of punk rock were hammered home with all the subtlety of Reefer Madness. You almost have to wonder if the cluelessness wasn't a deliberate attempt on the part of the writers to sabotage misbegotten notions of social relevance.

And it's dollar night at the Alamo, too!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

15 Steps to a Lazy Saturday

1. Woke up around 9am
2. Dozed in bed for 45 minutes while feeling vague mix of elation and dread about the future
3. Began writing up interview with Van Dyke Parks
4. Re-watched David Leaf documentary Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of SMiLE for research
5. Had scrambled eggs, bacon, Husband Pleasin' beans, coffee and a banana for breakfunch
6. Continued writing
7. Got rid of charity telemarketer by telling her I'm in the middle of a divorce
8. Kept writing
9. Got out of pajamas at 5pm
10. Walked in the rain for 45 minutes
11. Went to Barton Creek Mall to see Meet the Fockers with David and Rachel, saw trailer for Passion of the Christ Easter re-release, made snide quip under breath about "new surprise ending," thought I felt someone kick the back of my seat in response, realized that was probably just wishful thinking on my part
12. Noticed I was laughing at things no one else was laughing at and thinking things everyone else laughed at were unfunny
13. Went to Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, ate grilled cheese sandwich with basil and drank hot cocoa for dinner, played Trivial Pursuit, learned "eating timothy" means "eating grass," not breaking sodomy laws
14. Went back to David and Rachel's, watched half a rerun of Saturday Night Live from before the election, felt generalized sense of sadness and disgust
15. Came home and wrote this lazy little post

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen, Jefferson Starbucks!

Last week, Starbucks held a licensed stores awards ceremony at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. According to an on-the-scene report in The Stranger (scroll down to Thursday, February 24), the corporate bigwigs decided to give attendees a "treat" by dressing up like rock stars (e.g., pink wigs, white fishnet shirts), calling themselves "Jefferson Starbucks" and pretending to play a song called "We Built This Starbucks" to the tune of Starship's retch-inducing hit, "We Built This City." Attendees were appropriately dumbfounded, as most sane people would be upon hearing their corporate overlords mouth along to cultish lyrics like:

"Living the way of being,
In the Green Apron book!
Don't you remember?
We built this Starbucks on heart and soul!"

I've long been a fan of horrible corporate sing-alongs designed to improve employee morale, and I haven't heard anything this bad since I picked up an Ortho Pharmaceuticals album from the Sixties where they sing about hawking birth control pills and diaphragms to the tune of "There Is Nothing Like A Dame." I can totally see our government using "We Built This Starbucks" to torture detainees at Gitmo. Hear for yourself, but listen at your own risk.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Dallas DJ Ron Chapman Retiring

After more than 40 years in Dallas radio, Ron Chapman announced his retirement (Dallas Morning News, registration required) yesterday. The KLUV-FM morning man will step down this June. Chapman came to Dallas as "Irving Harrigan" in 1959 during the Top 40 heyday of Gordon McLendon's KLIF-AM ("The Mighty 1190"). During the Sixties, he hosted the local TV dance show Sump'n Else on WFAA, which aired from the station's remote studio at Northpark Mall. Chapman really hit his stride during his three decades at adult contemporary powerhouse KVIL-FM.

Chapman is the exact opposite of a shock jock. His genteel, inoffensive banter is of another time, when radio was more of a constant companion for lonely housewives going about their morning routine. Chapman is also heavily invested in the community, which sharply contrasts with the trend toward syndicated radio personalities. The fact that he's managed to hang on this long says a lot about how good he is at what he does.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Memories of SXSW: 1989

If it seems like my posts have been a bit pinched lately, it's because they have. I'm spending almost all of my waking, non-day jobbing hours doing SXSW writing. Tons of 75-word blurbs about just a few of the 1,200 musical acts coming to town in less than two weeks. It's not the ideal way to listen to music, but there's so much to hear.

I've been "doing" SXSW in some fashion every year since 1989. Back then, Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper were the big draw. The conference was still small enough to fit in the Marriott on 11th Street and I worked as a security volunteer there in exchange for a badge. As a scrawny college junior, I wasn't exactly bouncer material, but no one was likely to bum-rush the Robert Christgau keynote. It was the perfect set-up because my volunteer shift ended well before the bands started playing.

At some point, Mojo himself walked up to me and said, "Howdy there! Keepin' out the riff-raff?" That was just about the coolest thing ever, and I knew then I'd never be spending Spring Break at South Padre.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Texas Independence Day

March 2nd is Texas Independence Day. Many states celebrate their date of admission to the Union as a state holiday, but not Mother Texas. Here in the Lone Star State, we throw down for the day we told Mexico to go screw. Never mind the fact that Texas only lasted as an independent country for nine measly years. Of course, that could all change if these guys ever get their way.

So long as I get a day off, I'll be glad to observe Texas Independence Day by having some enchiladas at the Dart Bowl Cafe.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Gilley Middle School

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone
They paved over Gilley's and put up a middle school..."
-Joni Wayne Mitchell

I'm not sure whether this counts as a mark of social progress, but the Pasadena (Texas) Independent School District has decided to build a new middle school on the former site of Gilley's, the sprawling Spencer Highway honky-tonk made world-famous in Urban Cowboy. I wonder if they'll teach mechanical bull riding as an elective?