Flanfire (Duggan Flanakin) is bringing LIFE to Austin music -- and telling the world how sweet it is!

Saturday, April 30, 2005

In Austin music, Leeann Atherton IS the gold standard - but more and more folks in town are beginning to see the newlywed Jean Synodinos (whose ebullient personality and powerful pipes remind many of Leeann herself) as golden in her own right. Last night we got to do a back to back comparison, and boy were we well pleased!

After taking the spouse out to Chez Zee for some of their renowned cuisine (and cool environs), we trekked down to Maria's Taco X-Press and walked in just as birthday boy Sunny Coleman was boogieing to a John Lee Hooker standard. Kris Brown was in the house, and soon up on stage, joined by soulful San Antonian Giles Whitsett, and the five-piece band (with Jackson playing some wicked guitar, too) did some old-style R&B before Kris launched into a new song of his, "I'm Invisible to You" (we are guessing the title - but what a fine song in reggae style). Kris is playing around town this weekend (Alligator Grill Saturday night) with Five Ton Chicken and promises to get a new band featuring his own stuff on the stage before too much longer.

Then Giles (whose wife is pastor of a Unity Church in SanAn) blew us all away with his own composition, "Agent of Change," which features lines like "If I help you to see your light, will you turn around and help me, we can make the world so bright ....." Then Giles and Leeann did a strong duet of "Stand By Me," before the boys launched into "Little Wing," in which Giles, Jackson, and Sunny (Kris had to leave to write horn charts) all took turns with stunning solos. Somewhere in the fray, Jackson was pressed to sing one of his incredible songs, and then after some more joy, Leeann closed out the evening with "Piece of My Heart" followed by the Jackson original "Brown Eyes." Then, with the audience calling out for another "one more," Leeann and Jackson got everyone to join in to sing Happy Birthday to the Sunnyman.

By the way, both Jackson and Leeann have new CD's virtually in the can, and early reports are that BOTH are "Da Bomb" - so start saving your pennies. Send love gifts to Kris, too, so that we can all enjoy his own forthcoming reggae release (he's working with Courtney Audain on this, so you KNOW it's gonna be gooooood!).

Then it was over to Waterloo on Sixth and Lamar for the Pill Box Hat show - featuring Ms. Synodinos (whose hubby, Southwind Studios producer Charles Rieser, had to leave early to set up and play with The Scabs at Antone's) and fellow songbirds and songwriters Kerry Polk, Jenny Reynolds, and Catherine Berry. The quartet opened with a rousing rendition of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," with each lady taking a verse and all singing four-part harmonies on the choruses. In this their third or fourth or fifth show together, they had rehearsed enough to play and sing harmonies behind each other, and at times the effect was magical.

Waterloo had arranged the tables in a square, leaving a huge dance floor that was soon filled by two little princesses (ages four and three) who made everybody smile. Winker and Tom Pittman were in the house - so you knew you were in the right place. An early marker for the evening was Catherine's "Alice Wonder," which featured Jenny on bass and Jean on harmony vocals, then it was Jenny singing her signature song, "Bet on the Wind," followed by Jean with a song about a "bad day to quit cigarettes." Kerry especially shone on "Shoot for the Moon," which followed a Catherine song that got everybody dancing, Jenny quieted the house with a song for her mother. Then it was Jean doing the title track of her CD "Lucky" and the song Jean says is her very very favorite of all - "Little Bird" ( we only guess at the title, but what a song). Later, Jenny blew everybody away with a song, "Next to You," and then Jean sang a song about "misfits" after Kerry's supercool "Blue Neon" - Kerry will be warbling deep down in Longhorn Cavern out near Burnet at the end of next month, by the way. The quartet closed out with a mesmerizing version of Bruce Cockburn's "Wondering Where the Lions Are."

And by the way, Jenny's Boston pal, Lisa Bastoni, was in the house - she's new in town and ready to make her name known here, too ... check her out at www.lisabastoni.com and find out where she's playing. Lisa apparently was headed from Boston to Los Angeles and stopped in Austin and the rest is what usually happens when a Yankee finds Paradise. Here in heaven we all love the contributions of folks from all over who add their own voices to our chorus of joy.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Just some tidbits. Jimmy Lee informed me that People Skills also includes Freddy Cruz on lead guitar (formerly of the Headhunters and Hayter's Beach and Michelle Solberg's band) and his own drum buddy Grady B. Humble. He also reminded me (I remember little from the early 70's for reasons that ought to be obvious) that Commotion is a Credence song and World Turning is from Fleetwood Mac. Both of these songs were in the band's regular rotation in the old Shaggy's daze.

BIG NEWS -- The Arlo Guthrie show at Alice's Restaurant will be on June 9 -- and one might suggest heading to their website (www.alicesrestauranttx.com) to see about reservations or whatever.
The spirit of Shaggy's came to life in a big way on April 16 down at Freedom Oaks (outfitted with a brand-new beacon at the gate that is complete with covered wagon). Even though we had to miss the grand finale, we had a wonderful time (and some very tasty jerk chicken). Longtime bartender deluxe (and good bassplayer) Steve Voorhes is credited with organizing this event, but we know he had a lot of help from a number of his and Shaggy's closest friends. Lots of credit too to Dave and Cindy Cassels, the stewards of Freedom Oaks -- Dave had to spend half the day at work (assisting a heart surgeon) but got home in time to eat and have a very good time - that he truly deserves.

We missed the opening band, Catch a Dream, and can give no report at all, but got there in time for most of Neal Kassanoff's set. Many of us know Neal's music more from other people covering his songs (Carolyn Wonderland on "Heart", the Dead End Angels on "Red Letter Bible", and his work with Guy Forsyth that produced the score for the indy film, Hands on a Hard Body). Neal's forthcoming CD he hopes will make more people aware of his own singing and playing talents, which are considerable. Accompanied today by Lauren Gurgiolo of The Pistol Love Family Band (on bass, fiddle, and omnichord - not her usual guitar and mandolin), Neal kept a small group focused with the above songs and my personal favorite, "Noah," which again will soon be available sung by Wenda Colonna on a new Will Taylor and Strings Attached collection.

Next up with The Skeleton Crew - with Lane Wiegert and Steve Heppler swapping leads and vocals, bafcked by bassist Charlie Ervin and shirtless 20-year-old drummer Jason Blank. The Crew plays the kind of music I grew up listening to - old-fashiong fifties rock and roll - an old Floyd Cramer instrumental (but with guitars, not piano) typifying their sound. The Crew will be performing at the Saxon Pub on May 20, with covers and original songs like "Push and Shove" and more. Steve, who drives a school bus in the burbs these days, has the flashy footwork, and the band really enjoys performing. This is good music to dance to - I give them an 84!

What is there to add about the Shelley King Band other than to state that today it was Kyle Judd and Tony Velasco backing Shelley and Perry (whose voice could be heard once again on stage). Shelley reminisced about Shaggy's, which gave them their real start in Austin. "Call of My Heart" was first performed during an open mike there, and it led to their first real gigs. They opened with "Tennessee Whiskey," cowritten by Shelley and Tony and first performed on the Shaggy's "stage." Kyle provided lead vocals and some stunning guitar on "World Shining" (or whatever this as yet unrecorded song is called), and Shelley belted out a new (?) song which must be called "Commotion" before the band closed with a lengthy version of "Ooh Las Vegas," dedicated to sister Robyn of the brand new job!

Half the band (Perry and Kyle) stayed on stage for Jessica Shepherd's powerful set (she was also backed by bassist Greg Bumgardner and percussionist Ryan Mullins). Jessica, who spends time in Australia and travels extensively across Texas, brought up Floramay Holliday to sing with her on "Honky Tonk Angels," a song written about Floramay during her sorely missed residency at the Chili Parlor Bar. Jess opened with the (Michael John) Jackson song, "Something Sweeter," which goes back to their Sweet Pappa Hatley days, and closed with "One Way Ticket to Austin," which she cowrote with the aforementioned Ms. King.

Tony V. was back up on stage to perform and sing with his "other" band, People Skills (also featuring Russell Beach on vocals and rhythm guitar and I am embarrassed to say I do not remember the names of the bassist and drummer but will report them when prompted). Tony switched to guitar to sing "Greasy Hair," an oddball love song, and "Down in the Hole," which might just be an anti-lovesong. Russell's fun spirit prevailed on a song that must be titled, "Sixty" and has a twist in the lyrics at the end. These guys rock - and it was especially nice to see them on a larger stage than Room 710 or even the Longbranch -- but we want to see product and a new website!!!!!

Voorhes himself played bass for Jimmy Lee Hannaford, one of those guys (from Mississippi, by the way) who just makes life seem a little sweeter. This was pure Southern rock and bluesy music, with Grady B. Humble on drums and Lane Wiegert of the Skeleton Crew on lead guitar. Songs like "Southern Rain" (which thankfully did not fall that day), "Moon Over Mississippi," and "The Ballad of Joe Thibodeaux" all convey Jimmy Lee's soulful adventures in living and some showed off his prowess on the harmonica. One of my favorites is "Suit of Armor," which features lyrics like these:

Security is nothing but a superstition running
Through your head like a catchy nursery rhyme
In the day I try to hide it but at night I just can’t fight it
I know that freedom’s coming some time
Life’s arrows bend and break
When I’m wearing my suit of armor to protect me

All these songs are available on Jimmy Lee's debut CD - and we hope he will soon follow up.

I will write little about the duo of George DeVore and Doak Short other than to say the pair, who spent many Sunday evenings doing the same songs at Shaggy's, reminded us of what it means to sit down together and play your hearts out for the few who come out to hear you. [I was eating jerk chicken during their set and it was hard to focus on their music!]

Jane Bond brought out yet another new band (featuring Spencer Jarman on guitar) and a bunch of old tunes AND her high heels and polka dot dress to mesmerize the mostly male audience. She sang songs like "Breakaway" and "My Chauffeur" and two songs by Mark Ambrose and one by Charles Alberti called "Yes" that was really really good. She closed with what must by now be her theme song, "Sorry 'Bout That!"

I had to leave in the middle of Matt the Electrician's set but finally got to hear why people flock to his gigs all over town. He recalled how he would come home from his electrician job (YUP!), shower and change clothes and head over to Shaggy's with guitar in hand (I would hope). By the time he got to his seat, Steve V. had his beer and water on the table - knowing just which brand of beer and knowing that Matt would need the water after a long day of real work. That's the kind of "Cheers" bar that Shaggy's was - though he did not recall anyone shouting out his name as he walked through the portals. The guy's charm and fun spirit (we don't play loud, he reminded us) have gotten him through four CD's and kept his name in lights. It was good to finally get to hear this real Austin original.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

EliZa at Zilker ... in perfect weather. Can it get any better than this? My bud Kevin Hollingsworth had invited me down to Zilker Elementary School for their annual fundraiser and I felt compelled to go. Had NOTHING AT ALL to do with the fact that the lineup included Handy multi-winner Marcia Ball, Grammy nominee Eliza Gilkyson, the legendary Darden Smith, Leeann Atherton, and Misspent Youth (a band of youngsters whose reputation is growing fast about town and whose chops are increasingly excellent). Kevin had already jammed with Leeann by the time I got there, at the end of the Youth's set (they also played later at the Allilgator Grill, and I caught only snippets of that very hot set).

But there was long, tall Marcia Ball - all by herself on the big stage that parents and friends of the school built with proceeds from earlier annual soirees as part of an outdoor learning center. [Yes, the school, like many others in town, has plenty of temporary classroom buildings, too. And, yes, last year's headliners for the show included The Gourds and Dale Watson - at an elementary school party!] One cannot say enough about how Marcia gives it all to her audience. She encouraged the kids in the audience to stay in school and NOT to follow her example (she dropped out of LSU to move to Austin after what was it - one semester or one year? - but then introduced her short-term college roommate to a guy playing bass in her band at the time, and 30 years later that pair is still together and living in Austin). One dude in the audience mentioned that Marcia today may be better looking than she was 20 years ago. One thing's for certain - she can still kick those long legs around a piano and boogie woogie all night long (wearing out much younger drummers and other players, we are told). I believe she mentioned a new CD on the way very soon.

Also awaiting the release of a new CD (Paradise Hotel, due in August, from which she opened with the title cut), Eliza brought out her son Cisco Ryder as percussionist, along with guitarist Mike Hardwick (whose wife teaches at Zilker) and as added spice, guitarist Rich Brotherton (who told me he is just finishing up his production work on a new Robert Earl Keen recording). Eliza has two more Austin gigs (tonight at Threadgill's and Tuesday at the Cactus with Richard Thompson) before heading to Europe (Holland and England) with Jeff Plankenhorn for about a month - then it's Kerrville.

Eliza and the boys did songs like "Highway 9" and "Peace Call" off The Land of Milk and Honey and perhaps my personal favorite, "Beauty Way," from Hard Times in Babylon. Her performance came just as twilight was surrending to evening, and at the end of her set the entire crowd appeared to be comforted and warmed. Last I had seen her on stage was at Mike Fracasso's CD release, where she sang backup vocals along with fellow Grammy nominee Patty Griffin. Mike gets back today from his two week tour of Japan, and I am eager for some of his stories of that journey to be turned into songs.

Our evening did not end early, as we moved over to the Alligator to party with Rene Harmon and catch a little of the Shelley King Band set before turning into pumpkins. After all, it's a long SHAGGY day today.

Thursday evening I decided to take the frau out to NXNW for a draught brew and some wild duck and a few songs from the precious Natalie Zoe (with guitarist John Heagle, another Wisconsin import by way of New York City). Heagle played florets of notes on his Gibson electric as Natalie sang mostly other people's songs (Georgia on My Mind, by Hoagy Carmichael, Ruby Tuesday by the Rolling Stones, and a couple of Stephen Bruton numbers come to mind). The gal is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery on her strumming arm (with another arm to go), but is a trouper and did not want to miss the show. Last time I had been to their outdoor stage was to hear Shelley King back when the place had no real stage and absolutely no shade. Now they have the entire patio enclosed and covered with a tentlike structure to keep out the sun, the birds, and most of the other flying things.

Nat also mentioned that I should go see Beth Garner (who had introduced her to Heagle) and Harmoni Kelley (of the Gene Pool) at Ego's on a Monday night, and given that Harmoni is practically my own daughter's big sister (long story), I will certainly get down there. She also mentioned the soon opening of a new club, The 115, at 115 San Jacinto, where she will be hosting a songwriters' showcase starting sometime in May. Place is rumored to have some super sound.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Another Cloud 8 experience - again at MoMo's. Ann-Marie says last week's show at the Saxon Pub was even better - and maybe so. There, her car was not hooked up to the tow truck (but graciously unhooked in return for a $25 fine) for parking in Katz's Meow spots. Ah, family feuds.

New drummer Chis Stelley joined Ann Marie and (Michael) Jackson - and they make return trips to the Saxon next week and MoMo's in two more weeks. The band did 11 songs, including a poem set to music - "The Web," which includes the great line, "Hysteria binds itself to the stakes of our souls." "Immergence," one of three songs on her demo CD (produced by El Goins), this time featured a screaming, pyrotechnics-laden slide guitar solo from Jackson. The lad went one better with some amazing riffs to accompany, "Quiet Acquiescence," in which Ann Marie proclaims, "The power of justice has just been born." "Cross" beseeches us that, "We need to have a belief that will last." "Sin" speaks directly about missing the mark, while "Sharp Knives" is a dark song about what can happen when kids play with knives.

Ann Marie informed the audience that today, April 11, we can celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 13 flight, when everybody made it home after an accident in outer space; the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 by our own Lyndon Baines Johnson; and the liberation of the Buchenwald death camp in 1945 by the Allied Army. A great day in which light has triumphed over darkness - even though Ann Marie acknowledged that "dark and creepy is fun quite frankly." Asked to do a Halloween song, she explained that her final number, "Dig," was kind of a Halloween song, but more about All Saint's Day - about light emerging from our deepest darkness. Indeed, her opening number asks the question, 'How many times do I have to tell you, "we are one."

Those few who saw Cloud 8's debut performance last year at a Barn Dance but have not seen the band since will be blown away by the remarkable improvement in Ann Marie's vocals - which are now powerful when needed and nearly always under full control. No more barely whispering in that soft voice (except where it is appropriate), thanks to a whole huge lot of very hard work and an apparently inspired vocal teacher. Trust me, this band (and this woman's performances) will only get better. Bring ALL your friends next time.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Chicks with Picks at MoMo's happens every Sunday evening. This night we would be going to see our friends Tahni and the Toneheads as special guests of hostesses Aimee Bobruck and Chelle Murrey. But we started the day in church (at Hope Chapel) where we were treated to an absolutely BEAUTIFUL song by Laura Harris entitled "Comprehend," with lyrics that describe "a love profound, resplendent sound, that sings o'er those who grieve and struggle to believe... Please help us comprehend a Father who's a friend." Hope has its annual Arts Festival this July - and almost always has local art on the walls of the building.

After a restful (working) afternoon, we trekked down to MoMo's and got there just before they opened the doors. It was a debut night for the Toneheads, as both the Taste Buds (Tina Allen and Colleen Schoonmaker) got to sing one of Tahni's original songs in her own style (with the other plus Tahni handling harmony vocals). Tahni also did four other brand new songs of her own during the set. In short, a typical MoMo's night of experimental musicianship.

This Toneheads lineup saw Danny Bennett returning on lap steel, Johnny Vogelsang returning on bass, plus newcomer Donnie Wynn (longtime drummer for the late, great Robert Palmer) and Tahni on rhythm guitar. The place was hopping with fans, who applauded loudly despite a few technical glitches (Tahni's guitar went out for a couple of early songs, it is always hard to see on the MoMo's stage). Any why not? The harmonies and strong lyrics carried the day - these shows will only get better with time. To hear this "real deal" performer check out her website, www.tahnitonehead.com

Then it was the chicks who put on this show - folksy (this time) Aimee Bobruk (celebrating her 24th birthday on stage) and former folkie turned country rocker Chelle Murrey with full band. Bobruk's acoustic guitar set was the quiet in between the bands, and it took a while for the audience to warm up to what she was doing. But songs like "Precious Jesus" (in which she pleads with Jesus to "come and heal this broken heart, for I have loved one, like no other, come and raise me from the dark") and "Shores of Gold" (pure mythology in music) off her EP Small Town Girl (she's from Huntsville!) and a new song written to honor Ana Egge and even some covers of traditional folk songs brought forth her colorful voice. Aimee has a new CD in the works that we hope to review soon. As she sings on her EP, "I've got stories of my own - histories and tales I've never shown."

Chelle's first CD, Uncomplicated, was all acoustic and features her story songs, but Sunday night, she brought out a band featuring Paul Martinez on guitar, Gary Fiest on bass, and Bryan Breaux on drums and ROCKED THE HOUSE. Her second number must be titled, "If I Had Boots Like Emmy Lou's," and I was quickly reminded of another blonde belter, Mary Chapin Carpenter from my old East Coast stomping grounds. Other songs that will be on Chelle's own forthcoming CD included "Push Me Away" (a song about ex-boyfriends) and "Diamonds in Disguise." Chelle and Aimee will be hosting two or three more Chicks with Picks at MoMo's, then will take a month-long break (Bonnie and Blythe are the rumored replacements) to work on the new CD's. Their April 24 show will feature the legendary Jean Caffeine, punk rocker par excellence who doubles as a kindergarten art teacher.

Okay, we stayed around to see Warren and the Hoodlums (who wouldn't?), featuring (of course) Warren Hood on fiddle and mandolin and guitarists Seth Walker, Mike Keller, and Andrew Nafziger plus bassist Nathan Rode. This band is the baby brothers of The Resentments, who perform earlier on Sunday evenings down the road at the Saxon Pub. WELL - Warren, Seth, and Mike take turns singing, and they all support each other with great leads and fills.

Warren's mom Elizabeth was in the house, and she told me the true story of his song, "Savannah" (which I will NOT repeat here) and also beamed with a mother's pride at Warren's hot instrumental number, "Black Cat," which featured equally hot guitar licks from the left-handed Nafziger (you can also catch him with Elizabeth McQueen). Warren opened with a swing tune, inspired by watching Johnny Gimble and the Texas Swing Kings at a benefit not far away. He also did (for perhaps the first time) an old Uncle Walt's Band number, "Children of the Heavenly King," plus "Going to New Orleans" and more.

Walker opened his "set" with "Ain't That Love?," and continued to reach back in time, finishing with a gut-wrenching version of "You Don't Know Me" that in no way resembles the Klaus Nomie version. Keller did a bunch of old blues (and R&B) tunes, including Jimmy Reed's "Oh, Baby," and "You're So Fine," and both rocked the house with great guitar solos. All of these guys are fine singers and wonderful entertainers, and all are clearly having a good time playing with each other. Seth and Mike do another gig together on Monday's in East Austin, BTW.
Karen Mal is infectious - so despite promising myself I would stay home on Saturday night, I was running through some Sheila Marshall songs on my computer and there was Karen's beatific voice - and I KNEW she was gigging outside at BB Rovers on the back side of US 183 WAY NORTH (nosebleed country for 78704 folk). What I did NOT know was that her sidekick for the night was none other than Houston (and Kerrville) folk legend Ken Gaines (the show also featured bassist Eddie Block).

Ken is still doing a number of his songs from his 2002 CD, "Real Men," which ought to be in any folk music lover's collection. The title cut reminds us that real men don't like lawyers or rules, don't complain, but fight - and think their fathers never die. "Shadow on the Wall" talks of a man's quest 20 years after coming home from Vietnam, while "Only a Fool/The Healing" tells of an amazing cure from cancer. Ken can be tongue in cheek or just downright sentimental, and his powerful voice not only carries his own songs but adds texture to Karen's clear tones. The highlight of the evening was his new song, "Einstein's Violin," of which woodworker Ken says, "It's a song for us adults; those who have had our hearts truly broken and those who are working on staying in love." The song closes with these lines:

And if Einstein was right
As we approach the speed of light
To find the feeling’s not so far away
Then maybe in this universe
That separates us now
We'd discover how to fall in love again.
Playing Einstein's Violin
We'd discover how to fall in love again.

and has this chorus:

If we could only play Einstein’s Violin
Would the notes reveal the truth we wish to hold
If we could only play Einstein’s Violin
Would the secrets of the heart unfold?

Karen herself played mandolin on most (if not all) of Ken's songs, and guitar on her own. Several of her tunes are soon to be released on her brand-new Irish music CD (which we hope to review in the very near future). This soft and gentle adventuress (she spent 19 days last summer rafting down the Grand Canyon and wrote a beautiful new song about that experience - and last winter went kayaking and hiking and snorkeling in the Everglades) takes years off your tired feet every time you hear her sing or just see her smile. The effervescent Verena Edwards was in the house - celebrating her brand-new status as a U.S. citizen!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Lamar Pedestrian Bridge as a music venue? Absolutely! Just don't tell the cops or the city nannies who might shut it down. Austin High's Will Thompson (age 16) and a huge number of his friends and friends of friends (well, several dozen at least) put on yet another in an almost impromptu series of gigs on the bridge on Friday evening, to which I was invited thanks largely to his impresario dad Bill III. It was a high energy evening of pure youthful joy - but the hidden little secret is that the three (or four?) all-teen bands were all stocked with quality musicians.

Guitarist Will has long been the lead singer and organizer of The Steps, which in this reincarnation includes 14-year-old cousin Sam Thompson on lead guitar (whose ever increasingly hot licks can in part be attributed to hanging with Geno of the Gene Pool), Zee Lynch (also 14, we are told) on drums, and Travis Perlman on bass. These guys are doing all original songs, with Sam and Will sometimes playing twin leads for added energy. Will says he is hoping to spend the next couple of months writing new songs and working in harmony vocals with Travis, his longtime bow hunting buddy. But if all goes well, they will be back on the bridge to polish their act before returning to clubs (the earlier version of The Steps has played Stubbs and other venues).

Next up on the improvised stage (thanks to the bridge designers for the plug and play) were The Offisaurs - who started out with a freestyle tribute by a tall, lanky kid who is not really in the band, then morphed into a Beatles tune. Jacob Hamrick is the chief singer (screamer?), and some of the other guys are Henry on bass and Damon on guitar. The highlight of the evening (at least for the slam dancers in the crowd) was the hot set by the punkish Stiff As Snakes - also featuring Will on guitar along with a kid named Tomas who hails from McCallum High and Henry on bass with a drummer whose name escaped me - plus Travis Perlman (in skin-tight pants without a shirt, 5-8 and all of 101 pounds or so it seems) in high-energy vocal studliness. This band, too, has original songs, and it was obvious they were a crowd favorite. The on-stage acrobatics seemed scary to some mothers lurking in the background (Town Lake is more than a few feet down!), but everything was under control.

To get to the bridge, I had left Central Market while Roscoe Beck and his new band (maybe The Readers?) were still wowing a huge audience under the stars. David Murray on guitar, Riley Osborne on keys, Brannen Temple on drums, and Mike Cross on vocals -- plus Roscoe's patented bass leads and original songs by most of the members of the quintet. This is NOT the Blue Monday Band, even though many of the players are the same guys. Gigs are lining up, songs are being recorded, and Austin and the world had best pay attention. And they already are - in the house (among others) were Grammy nominee Eliza Gilkyson, song stylist Natalie Zoe (recovering from carpal tunnel surgery), and gospel impresario Greg Adkins, plus the usual dozens of happy, dancing children and their significant adults.

Thursday evening late (yes, your columnist makes great sacrifices for his readers) I fulfilled a promise to go to MoMo's to hear Adrian and the Sickness - having met Adrian herself (compleat with long blonde dreads and a winning smile) at the Back Room the Friday before. I was rewarded not only by the presence of pal Cheryl Latimer (local sculptor and CD jacket designer par excellence) and one of Austin's premiere left-handed female bass players and budding singers, but by an amazing set of high-energy rock and roll. Adrian's alter ego is as lead guitarist Angus Young in the all-girl AC/DC cover band, Hell's Belles, and even in this trio (also featuring bassist Heather Webb and drummer Ric Furley) she writhes on the floor, shakes her dreads until you wonder if her neck is coming off, jumps around on and off the stage, runs through the audience and plays hot licks right in your face, and says a few (0kay, more than a few) naughty words that seem to be part of a well-developer persona and not her sillier self - and then rocks you some more with her little girl voice and fully grown guitar riffs. The hidden secret in this band, though, is Heather Webb's voice - she needs to sing more. [As a side note, one wonders how long this hard rock diva can continue burning herself out to please her fans and how soon before she fully wakes up to her more soulful side.]

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Kevin Carroll is probably best known in central Texas as the lead guitar player with the Charlie Robison Band, but on April 6 the Idaho native (and Boise State grad who once sold guitar strings to Willie Braun and his buds when they were kids) debuted his new band and a bunch of songs he has been singing at recent solo gigs at MoMo's over the past few months. Backed by bassist George Reiff, drummer Daren Hess (who also plays with James McMurtry), and omnimusician Ron Flint playing keyboards and singing harmonies, Kevin made quite an impression on the two dozen or so folks in the audience at Flipnotics. The small stage did cramp Kevin's on-stage antics a little, but we did get a taste of the man with the moves.
I was sitting next to Michael Fracasso, who's off on a 10-day tour of Japan in the morning, and we were both enjoying Kevin's songs, including Box of Wine (what a nice way to spend an Austin spring day), Dark Valley Serenade (in which Kevin sings of someone dancing like you don't need the money and laughing as if it was funny), Disappear (a song about a hitchhiker seeking anonymity), and Spirit of a Clown (with a cameo of J. Edgar Hoover in his party clothes). We were also much enjoying his (acoustic) guitar riffs. Maybe the most intriguing song I heard was the dark Wintertime. These are all songs that need to be heard again - and a third time, too.

On Tuesday evening, the whole family trekked down south to Evangeline Cafe for some good Cajun food and music by Brennen Leigh (with the lovely Jen Obert on fiddle). Brennen had a second gig that evening at the Saxon Pub - and she has just gotten some great press from John Conquest of Third Coast Music (and some of his gust contributors as well). Later in the evening, owner Curtis (as is usually the case on Tuesdays) welcomed piano player Gene Taylor to the stage. What a treat to have one of the Alvin Brothers' original Blasters and current keyboardist for the Fabulous Thunderbirds entertaining you over dessert (Dixie beer and bread pudding - what else?) with old standards ranging from Professor Longhair's Going to the Mardi Gras to Ain't Misbehavin' (an instrumental version of a song I last heard sung by youthful Bonnie Whitmore three days earlier).

Then it was home to stay up late and watch Nashville Star. Folks, this year's show is getting to be too much like American Idol - even down to shots of the pitiful wannabes and the cutting back on original songs by the artists. This year's talent pool was fairly evenly matched, but none of this year's crew is as good as, say, Texan Sheila Marshall, who only got about halfway through last year's competition, and surely not as good as first year third place finisher Miranda Lambert of Lindale, who is finally getting her breakout CD on the charts (40,000 copies in week 1, I read somewhere, for the girl I remember singing songs by real Texas legends during her weeks on the USA network program).

Monday, April 04, 2005

Alro Guthrie will be performing at Alice's Restaurant on June 11. Ours - not the old one in Vermont which inspired a song and then a movie. That's a week after Toni Price graces the Alice stage. If you have not been out to eat Nina and Walther's cooking and enjoy the quiet countryside in Niederwald (Niederweird?), you had better get there soon or else you may have a long wait to get a place in the food line. We chowed down there on Sunday to our great delight.

Now to business. I am hereby republishing my February 3, 1968, review of Arlo's first concert in Washington, DC, that appeared in the Washington Free Press. This is not great writing - but you may get a buzz anyhow just allowing me to reminisce.

"I don't want a pickle .... I just want to ride on my motorcycle ... And I don't want to die ... I just want to ride on my motorcy ... cle."

Arlo Guthrie gets you involved. He tells of smoking, riding on cycles, getting busted in Rittenhouse Square Park, putting on FBI agents at Kennedy Airport, and of course of the incomparable Alice. You listen, you sing along, you laught, you applaud. And you go away thinking, "Man, that guy is great!"

He also plays (acoustic) guitar, sings straight folk ballads, and plays the piano. But the son of Woody Guthrie will move you with his humor, because he, like his father, can express the anguish and frustrations of his generation without being angry. He mocks law enforcement:
"Why do police guys beat up peace guys?" He prods the FBI: "You gotta be over 40 and in the force for 25 years to be THAT much of a bastard." And he urges everybody to sing loud:
"Remember, he's only five blocks away, and I want him to hear us." [LBJ in the White House]

Arlo is folksy. He is real. He is our own. And after hearing him talk and sing for two hours at Lisner Auditorium [on the George Washington U. campus], you begin to believe that you CAN get anything you want at Alice's, particularly if Arlo is with you.

So the night before we were down at Waterloo on Sixth and Lamar to hear Bonnie (Whitmore) and (Jamie) Blythe - and there was a reasonable crowd, including Jamie's family just back from a month away from their New Braunfels ranch and tired from weeding and working out at the garden festival. The gals will be back at Waterloo and will also be playing more Austin gigs, but not until Bonnie returns from a month-long escape to New York City where she will be playing in famous venues before the rich and powerful (we hope). Both had new songs to display as well as other originals and well done covers of some of the area's best and brightest women songwriters (and a few from out of town, too). They put on a good show that gets better. So go.

The night before was a little wilder - the Back Room for (drum roll) The Jolly Garogers, Lucid Dementia, and The Addictions. Bet you did not know the old Flanfire dude could handle the loud, the lewd, the lurid, and the labyrinthean? For those who have not seen the Garogers, it was amazing to see a guy closer to my age than birth jumping up high in the air and doing air splits while wearing pirate pants and a serious wig and pirate hat. But that's The Dread Pirate Stagedive (who makes Johnny Depp's pirate seem civilized). Fellow singer (and shouter) Captain Phleabag is huge and over the top - looks like Lunk (aka Sloth) from The Goonies. Twin leads Redbeard and Darenger also provide backup vocals, as does bassist Scurvy Dave Bloodbath Seagraves XVI. The band, which plays weekly at Treasure Island on Sixth Street, has gotten a whole lot tighter of late and puts on quite a show. High energy and loud - my favorite was "Calling in Dead (on Monday Morning)" - sounds like a true story. Folks, their website is also a scream, and they have gear that furthers their image as displaced marauders. This band is at least a one-time MUST SEE - and maybe you will like their music, too.

Next up (we did miss the earlier bands) was Lucid Dementia - a band led by 6-foot-tall Xenobaebe alien Luci - whom we understand is having neck problems but still showed up for her opening number, "Creep." This band describes its music as "Dark, Danceable, Orchestrated, Tongue-In-Cheek, Political Aggressive, Nihilistic, Mechanized, Manic Music." I will testify to all of the above, as I could not stop dancing for about half of their short set. Puppet master Sheldon Reynolds nearly a decade ago started this band, which merges industrial sounds with images of darkness (though Sheldon himself wore whiteface for this gig). Chanteuse Holly (compleat with black wings and black dress with fishnet stockings) has been Luci's (and Sheldon's) foil for years now - she pouts with the best of them. Female drummer Azil (her stage name) and guitar contortionists (that's their word!) uzeful and Lord Byron Payne are joined by newest member (and our pal) Ann Marie Harrop (queen of the dark) to fill the stage with sound, distortion, angst, and dry humor - but also a sadness that leaks out of hidden crevices onto the stage.

Lucid Dementia was just awarded Best Industrial/Goth Band by the Austin Chronicle SXSW Music Awards! Not only that, but they placed 4th best Metal band, 3rd best punk band, and Sheldon Reynolds won 2nd best Record Producer! They attended the much anticipated awards show last nite, and graciously accepted the award, with Luci in tow, much to the crowd's amazement, and the Austin press wonderment. And no wonder. They are unique in many ways, and well worth a visit. Next BIG show is Friday, the 13th of May, at Elysium on Red River - when the band promises a LOT of props and great ghoulishness.

Okay, so after all that, I was a little tired when The Addictions came on stage. But I did watch as they energized the crowd with their targeted song list and hot guitar licks. Folks who know Jason and Beth Richard and their longtime band mates have their own opinions as to whether this band is "as wonderful" as Quatropaw, but the simple fact is that this band is feeding their children and Quatropaw was not. Moreover, it is quite clear that the band members are fully enjoying putting on a show musically as well as with the stage pyrotechnics. I just want them to go all out - get some smoke, get some serious strobes, and maybe even get a rope ladder or whatever -- and play a little earlier in the evening.

Gotta go.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?