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

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Happy Fifth Birthday, Momo's!

Brian Keane and the Band of the Heathens aim to please. Joy Davis and her "Rockstar" sister Patrice Pike just came by to show their support for one of their favorite clubs and listen to some of their own favorite friends. Also on the bill were Wendy Colonna, Suzanna Choffel, Rachel Loy (with a special appearance by 54 Seconds), and the South Austin Jug Band!

I got to Momo's just in time to catch almost all of 54 Seconds - my first time to see them (I rarely get down to the Lucky Lounge or anywhere else downtown during rush hour -- but I really ought to). Very impressed with Spencer Gibb -- always good to hear Stewart Cochran. Jeff Botta was playing drums, and of course Rachel Loy on bass -- and singing harmony vocals. Songs like "Ben's Letter" pierce through the night and make you want to hear the band again -- indeed, there are over 10,000 hits on that song on the 54 Seconds myspace account.

I had noticed that Rachel has lighter and longer hair - and the guys teased her about her newly revealed "dark side" (something about a fist!) -- but when she took the stage (backed by Botta, John Sanchez on guitar, and Sam Lipman on keyboards) I was astonished to see the formerly soft-pop sugar plum fairy had turned into a free-wheeling, funny girl diva (reminded me a little of Reese Witherspoon's on-screen June Carter in her ability to keep people smiling and a lot like Ruthie Foster in her new command of the stage. No more cute card tricks on songs, just deep-down gut wrenching soaring vocals and a dance-like energy that I first saw from Natalie Merchant a long, long time ago. Botta says that Rachel's "heart is a lot closer to her skin" in her singing these days -- the honesty is what makes a true singer touch your own soul, and Rachel is doing it! This is a HUGE change from the last time I saw her six months ago -- and light years from the high school girl I first saw at Jovita's many years ago. Most of the songs from still fairly new CD have been totally redone -- and "Unscrew You" was scorching!

The night continued with the ""Band of the Heathens" (missing Colin Brooks, who was on assignment) -- with Botta sitting in for his very first time on drums. Bassist Seth Whitney (from Olympia, Washington, originally) is the glue that holds the lead players to the fire -- and on this night South Carolina native Brian Keane (keyboards and guitar on one of his songs), New England refugee Ed Jurdi [our Red Sox have fallen apart with Jason Varitek on the disabled list] and NATIVE TEXAN Gordy Quist on guitars -- trading leads when not singing (for the most part). There may not have been a lineup of singer-songwriters working together as a band since the guys who made "Music from Big Pink" -- and Gordy informs me that HE lives in a pink house!

Now this was a real treat for me - Brian is an old favorite, and Seth has, I believe, played bass for just about all of these guys -- but I had never seen either Ed or Gordy live but had heard their music here and there and Ed is a friend of various friends and Gordy was a big winner at Kerrville this year and also won a songwriters' competition in Dallas a year back. Their upcoming CD, Live at Momo's, will be out in a few weeks (I hope to get out a review soon) and from what I heard on Saturday (and what folks can hear every Wednesday at Momo's and quite a few Mondays at Gruene Hall) these guys may have to put their solo careers on the back burner long enough to get famous collectively (just for economic reasons -- Gordy has a new CD he just completed up in Nashville which may take him places fast! but then The Band needed Mister Zimmerman to make themselves household names).

Last year, when El Goins played me the early versions of Brian's CD, "I Ain't Ever Lonely," I laughed at his funny songs and mellowed out reveling in the rest of the songs. On Saturday, the band the title cut as a duet with Ed and Brian as well as the hilarious "Odysseus" (updated for the venue) plus "Ain't No Great Mystery," which you can pick up on Brian's myspace site.

Ed made two notable recordings before moving to Austin about a year ago, and "Walking and Talking," "Bumblebee," and "Keep on Trying" were all from his newer release "Longshores Drive." This guy is pure white soul -- I hear a little (and paler) Sam Cooke or Lou Rawls... Ed writes a lot of songs about cities (maybe where he has been). The wonderful Nancy Coplin first turned me on to Ed's music -- and I urge ANYONE who has not heard him (or seen his hirsute chest, ladies!) to trot on over to myspace.com/edjurdi and treat yourselves to a taste of what I am talking about!

Now Gordy I heard on KUT - was blown away by his songs (and I am clearly in good company here) - and found out his beautiful bride (of three months) went to high school with my daughters. Gordy himself is from Klein High School (home of Lyle Lovett -- a VERY good sign) and went to college at a little Ivy League school in New Hampshire. "Judas Iscariot Blues" and "Rehab Facility" are new songs from his forthcoming CD, plus the band did a song that might be "What Love Makes You Do." The final number of the evening featured all three - plus Seth - taking the vocal lead on verses of "No More Cane on the Brazos," which sounds like something Colin Brooks would write but is in reality an old Texas prison work song that Leadbelly learned before he was released and which The Band also recorded. [Judas Iscariot will also be on the forthcoming Heathens CD.]

I did stick around for the South Austin Jug Band, but I was exhausted from three hours of fabulous music that was mostly new to me (well, Rachel's PERFORMANCE was all new! even on her old songs) and just relaxed - hanging out with Ginger Leigh, Nina Singh, and Wil Landin who had driven up after their gig in San Antonio and with Rachel Lynn -- and lots of other folks. Earlier in the evening I got to greet the abfab sister team of Joy Davis and Patrice Pike -- Joy has a gig coming up at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, by the way - and is also finishing up her debut CD (with help from A. J. Vallejo, sister Patrice, Wayne Sutton and a cast of thousands). Joy and Patrice share an amazing grace with people and a gentle optimism that is infectious. But you knew that!

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Beneficial Evening at the Nutty Brown!

Left: Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies of Central Texas was the prime beneficiary of this benefit, which also supported the work of the La Leche League, the Mothers Milk Bank (center), Mom's Place, and other related organizations. Music for the evening was courtesy of the Grass Onion Band and Jabarvy (including Margaret Harn on trumpet, Jon Olson on guitar, and Meg Kemp on alto sax. [For more on Jabarvy, see our August 11 entries.]

Lots of door prizes, a silent auction, and a donation at the door helped raise money for a new program aimed at educating new moms about the benefits of breast feeding -- to mothers and babies. Emcee for the evening was Janet Jones, whose husband "Sham" is bassist for the band Jabarvy. Pay close attention!!!! The Mother's Milk Bank of Austin -- the nation's second largest, which provides mother's milk to babies in 10 states -- is in need of more mother's milk donors to help babies whose moms cannot provide them with "booby juice." Jabarvy performed an instrumental entitled "Your Mom" in honor of the event. The band will be at Momo's Club on September 2 squeezed in between Uncle Lucious and Carolyn Wonderland -- sounds like fun!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

At Love on the Lawn Friday: Ginger Leigh; Suzanna Choffel with John Thomasson (& El Goins)

Tuesday, 9:00 pm (NOT 8:00!)

Austin's own Patrice Pike is in the FINAL SEVEN as she vies to front the new band that includes drummer Tommy Lee, guitarist Gilby Clarke, and bassist Jason Neusted -- and all of us with AUSTIN PRIDE want her to continue all the way to the end of this competition -- after all, the Tommyhawk himself last week acknowledged that Patrice has the goods to front their band. Last night, I stopped by LOVE on the Lawn and the lovely and talented Ginger Leigh was excited to tell me that Patrice's longtime guitarist, Wayne Sutton, Ginger and her partner, and a few other Austinites were flying out to Los Angeles to attend the taping (on Sunday) for the Tuesday night program -- which airs this week an hour later than has been the case. Let's give little Patrice a BIG BOOST on Tuesday by trekking over to www.rockstar.msn.com and voting for Patrice a dozen dozen times apiece ... no more "bottom three" for our good friend. [MORE on the Love show later on.]

Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies Benefit!!!
Nutty Brown Cafe, Sunday 5-10 pm
Music by the Grass Onion Band and JABARVY!!!

The Nutty Brown has become a major benefit sponsor - this week the money goes to fund an education program at OBGYN offices throughout the Austin area about the benefits to moms and their babies of breast feeding. For a recommended five dollar donation, you get to sit out under the oaks, chow down on some great Nutty Brown food (costs extra, of course), and listen to the bluegrass sounds of the Grass Onion Band and the horns and twin lead guitars of the highly recommended (by flanfire, at least) Jabarvy. Best of all, you get to help a great little all-volunteer nonprofit -- the Central Texas Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition (www.hmhbcentx.org) .

Back to LOVE on the Lawn!

Ginger Leigh has long been a favorite of this writer -- as much for her hard work for the community as for her sassy vocals and ebullient spirit onstage (back to the Ginger and Sarah Band days, at least). On Friday Ginger was playing solo - with super assistance from Marie Leal on drumbox (or whatever they call it). But I was really at the show to catch the Suzanna Choffel trio -- on a tip from the handsome El Goins, half of Suzanna's rhythm section that also includes bassist (standup here) John Thomasson -- indeed, they had been the rhythm section for Wendy Colonna the night before.

Suzanna is a native Austinite who played at the Saxon and Broken Spoke as a young teenager (Red-Headed Step Child), gigged with the Humblebums during college in San Marcos, then got a little more serious about her music and completed her formal education at the College of Santa Fe before moving back home. She's already got a new CD in the can ("Shudders and Rings," due out next month or so), but her current sound is a little different than what is on the recording.

My pal El has finally got a band worthy of his amazing talent! Half the bands in which I have seen him play he is so musically bored he is working out arrangements for another project while hitting the sticks (not that these are not good bands - just musically easier), but here he is focused -- and he has to be, because Thomasson is blowing away the crowd with some amazing notes and phrases on this big standup bass that Suzanna does not need a lead guitar and instead picks out her unique rhythms and stays out of the way.

I feel somewhat as though I am in Paris - or perhaps Tuscany (since it's Ginger as well) - and in a cabaret with Edith Piaf or someone intricate and precise, where every word matters and every note is a Zen fest. Two new songs (not on the unlreased CD) -- "Inch" and "Stumble" - the latter includes a line, "Isn't it grace that we get to begin all over again" [after stumbling time after time]. Somewhere in the lyrics to "First Breath" (which speaks of the beginning of life) is the title of the recording (so listen carefully or cheat and find the printed lyrics later on).

The wind was blowing outside at Love, and Suzanna started the set with her hair blowing in the breeze and wiggling a little here and there (reminding me a little of the young Natalie Merchant in a way), but it was getting in the way of her guitar strings and she put it up. No matter -- she still swayed and drew us into her world. The popular "Hey Mister" (check out her myspace page for a downloadable version) is all about how mere physical attraction ("now I know what fingertips are good for") is not enough for a relationship ("I don't need your dirty dishes in my kitchen sink"). Sadly, I had to leave while the band was still mesmerizing the crowd, yet though her regular gig here is at midnight on Wednesdays at Momo's, I am certain I will be hearing more of this muse. Maybe at the Y Bar & Grill on September 15!

Friday, August 18, 2006


The wonderful Wendy Colonna (the pride of Lake Charles, Louisiana!) wowed the crowd at her headliner debut at Antone's on Thursday night -- though it was not until she laid down her guitar and freed herself to wiggle and writhe and direct traffic on and off the stage that she blew the roof off the place. She exploded into the stratosphere during the rockin' "Fe Fi Fo Fum," then got all her musicians playing solos as she led the audience in her no-religion gospel tune, "Nothin' Gonna Take My Love" -- not fear, not greed, not jealousy! No! No!

Digging into the depths of her repertoire, Wendy went all the way back to her 1997 debut, "Girls of Stone" to pull out "Summer Sweat" -- "I'm dancing with no shoes and I'm setting my hair free, I'm trying to turn my blues into opportunities, And the music with no stopping sings a swinging melody" -- lyrics that described Wendy at 19 and almost a decade later just as well. She also pulled out chestnuts from the fiery 2000 release, "Red," which is still available on CD Baby, but most of the songs are from her 2005 release, "Right Where I Belong" [reviewed on May 14, 2005, in FLANFIRE].

The sultry waltz, "October," was joined by the equally delicate "Vacancy," fleshed out and mournful with the full band sound -- provided by Eldridge Goins on drums (see photo), John Thomasson on bass, Charlie Richards and Mark Addison on guitars (and lap steel for Charlie), Ron Dyer on percussion, and Dave Madden on keyboard -- plus the added bonus of New Orleans refugee Dale Spalding on harmonica (as good as it gets!). "May Day" and "Right Where I Belong" were smooth as silk, and "Easy" just makes guys (and gals, too, apparently) want to crawl on their bellies to get Wendy's attention.

Big Blue Hearts Brings Back Orbison's Sound!

Earlier in the evening we were serenaded (the appropriate word) by the Los Angeles transplants, Big Blue Hearts -- well, truth be told, bandleader David Fisher is really from Richmond, Virginia; way back in 1997, he formed Big Blue Hearts while living in San Francisco, got signed by Geffen, got double crossed during a corporate merger, and got out. The NEW band has Madison, Wisconsin's Scott Minchk on lead guitar, Greg Sobol on drums (I think he is from Detroit), and Nashville NATIVE Greg Easterling as the new guy on bass (he's tall!). New dad Fisher still spends lots of time in Nashville, and his songs have been featured on many a network television program.

Early this year the boys packed up and moved to Austin, where they have been well received (one benefit -- A-town is centrally located for touring both east and west and Great Lakes coasts). The band first came to my attention while appearing on KUT's Eklektikos show last month, and this was my first opportunity to catch them live. Given that in my humble opinion, Roy Orbison is the greatest singer of the 20th Century, I was struck (as have been a huge number of reviewers and fans) by the fact that the BAND sounds like Orbison's bands (and Fisher's voice is somewhere between Roy and Gene Pitney -- some say Chris Isaak, but I will NOT put that label on a happily married man!).

Whether it's "Lovin' You (is the right thing to do)" or "Feel So Right" or "Don't Mind Messin'" or the title cut, "Here Come Those Dreams Again," you just get into that 1950's comfort zone when you hear this band play. Last night they also did a fine cover of Radney Foster's "Nobody Wins" and made it sound like one of their own. Guitarist Minchk is also a luthier of sorts and built the guitar seen in the photo himself -- he is available to build guitars for others, too. This one is a hollow body Tellie clone with an f-hole that sounded GREAT!

Wendy, BTW, is playing on September 1st at Momo's and at Love on the Lawn (with Susan Gibson!!!) on September 10. Big Blue Hearts is on tour (into Virginia and Iowa) through the end of August.

David Fisher
Scott Minchk

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Left -- Bryce and the band jam out. Center: Bryce fell off the first time he jumped up on the bass drum, but got right back on ... Ray Strucker on trumpet, and Grubdog Mitchell on drums. Right: Craig Marshall and his golden-toned Gibson....

Marshall and Marshall - what bookends for a fine evening (on top of good medical news of sorts). First, it was down to The Saxon Pub to catch a solo acoustic set by the pride of Nacogdoches, Sheila Marshall (and her longtime squeeze Scott Steinsiek on guitar). Sheila - who gained national exposure on Nashville Star two years ago - has a voice as pretty as her face, and writes some beautiful songs. I had not seen her live in far too long. Sheila's latest CD, "Makes Perfect Sense," was released a while back, and Sheila says she is already working on songs for a new record. The band is about to release "Makes Perfect Sense To Me" as a single, and maybe also a new song about snake handling, "The Big Revival." Somewhere between Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry, Sheila belts out song after song with grace in motion -- Believe, Radio, Wrong, Intrigued, Angel without Wings, How Long, Beautiful, Sun's Gonna Rise, The Garden, and Heaven -- and more besides, including her own version of "High Road Easy," the Sass Jordan song covered by Austin's Patrice Pike a while back on Rockstar:Supernova.

It got a little rowdy at at the Saxon during Sheila's set - thanks to fellow Nakanowherean (and former bandmate) Heather Webb and Adrian Conner - two-thirds of Adrian and the Sickness! Heather also mentioned something about a party and a very interesting photo of El Goins on his myspace page (and other photos not suitable for public viewing. {www.myspace.com/eldridgegoins}

After Sheila's set, I moved on over to Ego's to catch up with my bud Bryce Clifford and his band mates (who had helped out at our benefit a week ago). Sitting in with Bryce, Grubdog Mitchell and Zachary Firnhaber were Kim Deschamps (pedal steel, lap steel) and Ray Strucker (who also plays in Mr. Brown with Kris Brown and a whole bunch of other local bands) on trumpet. As you can see, Bryce was having a pretty good time ... and the set was rockin'.

[see THESE photos at the top]

But the highlight of the evening had to be the very late acoustic guitar, mostly solo set by Craig Marshall (with help from Strucker on a couple of songs and HUGE PROPS for his golden-toned Gibson guitar). I had caught the tail end of Craig's set (with a backing band) last week at Woody's South and wanted to hear much more -- and there he was! This guy could be Tony Bennett's favorite songwriter ... with songs like "Take a Good Look," "The Corner of Lost and Found," "Radio Girl," "Popular Crime" - the title cut from his recent CD --- and the brand-new "Lost in Space," which Craig performed for the first time ever last week at Woody's. I could listen to this guy all night long (and in fact I did, I guess).

I had missed an earlier set by the new band, Son of Man, which won a first-round battle of the bands over at the Red-Eyed Fly and is gearing up for round 2. Ronnie, Carter, and Moshe have an acoustic soung that brings out lots of their friends to cheer them on.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Jessica Shepherd dropped by Club 115 today to catch the Natalie Zoe-Mike Cross Happy Hour show and ended up on stage. Here she is singing harmony vocals on the "Posse" song that Natalie and Mike wrote about helping Katrina victims.

Also joining Natalie and Mike was club owner Brent Williams on drums.

Mike Cross was in fine fettle for the gig, which is the first of what is hoped will be regular Friday afternoon funfests. Club One 15 promises $2 domestic beer and other drink specials.

The club is located at 115 San Jacinto, next to Dona Emilia's half a block north of the Four Seasons Hotel. The rationale for this happy hour fiesta -- why would ANYONE want to jump on IH-35 at five o'clock on Friday afternoon and spend an hour in traffic when they COULD hang out with Mike and Natalie and relax until the traffic thins out. Club One 15 has some of the best acoustics for live music in all of Austin -- and why not? The room was designed by musicians.

Now here is a good report! The lovely Nancy was blessed with well over two thousand dollars in donations as a result of the August 7 benefit concert organized by -- Natalie Zoe and friends. North by Northwest says it has been blessed by having lots of new people visit for the first time, many of whom have vowed to return with friends. Lots of people made new friends -- including Natalie and Jessica, who today shared the stage for the first time ever (not the last!).

Left: Kyle Clayton of About:blank;

Right: Margaret and Meg (the M Squad) of Jabarvy
Like Spirit (thank you, Andes brothers and family), Jabarvy IS a band that lives up to the totem, "The family that plays together (stays together)" - and this band has ALREADY lasted longer than the original Spirit lineup (yes, that's the title of Spirit's second release - and one of my favorite records of all time). After only one exposure, I am hooked, and I could listen to the band's debut record for a long, long time!

What's more - Jabarvy is from LUBBOCK -- and we are talking junior high daze and playing together for many many years. The band threw quite a party at The Parish on Thursday to celebrate the release of their brand-new CD "Jabarvy" -- but their REAL CD release party was back in Lubbock last Sunday, where the band unveiled their T-shirts and tanktops for the first time ... designed by the "M-Squad," aka the band's two-woman horn section, Margaret (Whitt) Harn (her NEW last name!) on trumpet and Meg Kemp on alto sax. As Jabarvy sez, "There's something about that dirt there in Lubbock that creates good musicians and great music."

Jabarvy has been playing around Austin for a while now - they were, after all, voted one of the city's top ten jam bands in 2005 - and the band has switched out personnel over the years. For example, singer Andy Harn used to front the band playing acoustic guitar, but now he rides herd from his drum kit. Ryan "Sham" Jones (the guy with the goatee) is the bassist, and lead guitar licks are shared by Charlie Narayan and Jon Olson.

The band's press kit tells us that "jabarvy" means "celebration of the spirit" OR "barefoot ceremony," while their myspace page says the name means "chosen family." Indeed Jabarvy reminds me of Spirit in its eclectic approach to music and song lyrics as well. I could only stay for part of the gig, but Meg and Margaret make for one of Austin's official top 10 horn sections (some would say a "perfect 10" horn section), and the band really has FUN on stage. Influences range from Beethoven (Ludwig, not the dog) to Bela Fleck to Herbie Hancock and Dave Brubeck and Chick Corea to the Allman Brothers, Pearl Jam and Steely Dan - and, yes, Snoop Dogg!

SONGS! (all lyrics by Andy Harn) -- but let's start with the powerful instrumentals -- 'Shamstrumental' by Sham, of course, 'Nice Young Lady Leaving for the North Country' by Olson, and the 'Outro Jam," which does have some lyrics ..."A dream for you, the catch of a perfect breeze .... a lesson that lesser tomorrows teach ... teach me the way."

Lady opens with a beautiful trumpet solo that gives way after a minute or so to a tantalizing guitar solo (also quiet); then the pace picks up, and the guitar gets sultrier and the cymbals overlay the melody; next comes the saxophone joining the fray, and the dance begins ... and the pace quickens again, and all of a sudden we are into full tilt boogie driven by a screaming sax. Shamstrumental sounds like something out of The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus -- except with a horn section.

'Sweetness in the Sunshine' is alt-country, and 'Legs, Feet, Sheets' is Andy's (he's a tall dude) lament that "I wish my bed had thought ahead and grown to be six foot-four." 'Way To Be' is folky ... "There's a place that's greener than you know, then you know that you're green, too." This is one of several duets with Andy and Margaret ... this song too shows the band's soft side.

'Syzygy' is a fast jazz shuffle and funky love song, while 'Marcia Martian' is a West Texas ode to looking up at the sky and daydreaming while hanging with one's best pals -- and spacing out, feeling that "we need more love down here" that maybe a spacewoman might supply.

'Through the Garden' is a richly textured song (has a rhumba feel) that again comes from spending time in nature - "Ever taller than the falling rain, between the weather and the wind, the sound of a thunder cloud is my passion; Gently waying on the frail breeze among the seed and the bone, the garden and living earth is my passion." The horns are hot hot hot here -- but so is the sassy guitar work.

'Climb to the Sparrows' is a wine song (and a love song of sorts) and a duet with Andy and Margaret -- but this song is notable even moreso for a guitar solo that would fit right in on an Allman Brothers (or Spirit!) live set ...

You can listen to lots of Jabarvy songs on their website (www.jabarvy.com) ... but I recommend that you waste no time in catching their live shows, which include various dates at the Troubadour Saloon and Momo's).

Opening for Jabarvy was the "psycho-funky-jazz band About:blank, and indeed I was at the event at the invitation of bassist Kyle Clayton (whom I know from his work with the Free Brass Cartel). The core of this band is also a horn section - Kevin Gibbs on sax and Paul Luedke on trumpet - and Danny Anderson on guitar and Dave Adams on drums. But for such a special occasion the band brought out DJ Stillness and singer Idol-C. These guys got started playing First Thursdays on South Congress. Normally, their music is instrumental, but as noted, with Idol-C and DJ Stillness the hip-hop element was in full force on a number of their songs. The band is playing tonight at the Blanco Rose Cafe in Blanco and has a number of upcoming dates at the Troubadour Saloon (and more). Check their website -- www.musicaboutblank.com.

In other news, Jenny Obert has an afternoon show on Sunday at Freddie's that folks can catch after closing down Maria's Taco X-Press (an event that goes from 9 am till 3 pm or so and features lots of groups that have made Maria's THE place for south Austin to hang out). Jennifer Cook's new group, "Smash Riley," begins a residency at Woody's South next Wednesday, and Boris and Natasha (er, Mike Cross and Natalie Zoe -- who wowed everyone at North by Northwest on Monday) will be debuting their new Friday Happy Hour gig at Club 115 (at 115 San Jacinto) THIS VERY AFTERNOON!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

[Nancy with new "do" and Jessica Shepherd!]

WOW! From six till way past ten thirty North By Northwest was ROCKIN' -- Thanks zillions to all who came, all who wanted to come but had other commitments, all who just sent good vibes our way, and especially to the people who worked tirelessly to help us out and make this show a fantastic event (and success). Thanks supremely to Natalie Zoe and the lovely and gracious (and super vocalist) Sasha Ortiz (Austin will be hearing BIG things from Natalie's little girl all grown up), to Chad Pope (brand-new Austinite - from Fort Worth and the virtual brother of blueswoman Beth Garner -- and, oh yeah, Natalie's new music partner on Wednesdays at Woody's on Ben White), to Richard Vannoy who helped set up the sound, to everyone who brought stuff for the silent auction (I will list them all once I get the full info), to Winker and Eileen and everyone else (especially you Travis -- great videos) who took pictures, to all the gang who played -- (see story below for details) -- to all the folks (KEYE, Quorum Report, the Statesman, the Chronicle, and I have no idea who all else) who promoted the show -- and let us not forget North by Northwest itself (and I will mention that someone from my own Hope Chapel won the keg that they had donated to the silent auction), which provided a superfabulous venue, great food and drinks, and NO HASSLES -- and even a private room for the musicians to relax and grab a bite. Special thanks, too, to the great God who brought a nice breeze and cooler temperatures so that no one had to pass out from heat exhaustion despite the nonstop outdoor dancing (thanks Laura Rose, Amanda, and especially Melody and Caleb).

Okay, here's a little rundown of who played and all that stuff -- and then a little more private info.

My half-Canadian, half-Texan friend Bryce Clifford opened the show with a band that included Grubdog Mitchell on drums, Zachary Firnhaber on bass, Bryce on lead guitar and vocals, Kullen Fuchs on accordian and trumpet, and the inimitable Kim Deschamps on pedal steel. The band - along with fellow travelers Slowtrain (featuring Adoniram Lipton, who was having a very good time himself last night) - will be playing TONIGHT at Ego's starting about 10 pm or so ... and a bunch of us intend to be there to thank these guys for their fine work in warming up the crowd.

Kim stuck around to augment the sounds of Jessica Shepherd's guitar and vocals ... Jessica opened some eyes with her strong show that got longtime pal Shelley King to join her for a couple of knock-down drag-out duets. [Jessica will be playing up in Wells Branch on September 17 - Constitution Day - and has other gigs around town and all over Texas; Shelley's Wednesdays with Carolyn Wonderland at Artz Rib House are legend, and the full band plays Saturday at Aunt Tilly's, a new music venue and island cafe on Lake Travis.]

Then it was my very dear friend Wendy Colonna - and all I can say is WOW -- when she has a band behind her it must be out of her generosity to the guys because she's all right all by her lonesome! [Wendy plays Thursday at Cypress Creek Cafe in Wimberley, Friday at The Iguana Grill on Loop 620 (great TexMex and a super view of the lake), and will debut at Antone's on August 17 where she will be recording a LIVE album for release later this fall -- BE SURE NOT TO MISS THE ANTONE'S GIG AND GET YOUR HOOTS AND HOLLERS ON DIGITAL TAPE!
[Beauty AND talent -- what a combination all night long!] Next up it was the hostess with the mostess, Natalie Zoe herself, along with super songwriter (and fine guitar player - well, so is Natalie) Mike Cross, Tommy Holden on percussion (drums plus), and some amazing guy whose name I will supply later came up and killed on some kind of trumpet thing -- and well, Natalie got Shelley and Jessica to join her on one number that absolutely rocked the house, the hotels down the street, and even the grocery shoppers waaaaay caddy-corner across the street at Whole Foods. But then the place had already gone nuts when the band covered the Subdudes' Late at Night! [Once again, Natalie plays Wednesdays at Woody's and Fridays (at least the next two) at Club 115 on San Jacinto ... and I forgot to mention that on that hugely rockin' number Chad Pope jumped up and played Natalie's guitar behind her back ... (and if you need graphics, just wait for the photos to come out!).

The star of the show for me, though, was Sasha Ortiz - Natalie's own "spawn" - who showed she belonged on stage with the seasoned professionals who preceded her. [See photo at top with her mom and Chad.] Okay, maybe she was a little shaky following the number her mom had done with Shelley and Jessica and the big band sound -- and maybe she was a little unsure of whether her guitar was too loud - but when she opened up those beautiful pipes and brought the audience into her own world through her original song, I actually heard gasps ... Now I had seen Sasha singing with her mom (but doing only backup vocals with her and the amazing Donna Hightower), and I know she has been a huge high school singer who once fired her band for not being serious enough about the music, but to my knowledge this was her adult Austin solo debut and it was indeed a memorable occasion. Rumor has it Sasha will be performing solo this fall around town ... but let's not rush her -- she has a definite plan for building her career, and this level-headed teenager is quite likely to work her plan to near perfection!

There was a little time loose while the Imperial Golden Crown Harmonizers set up for their amazing set -- and even with Gurf Morlix surely in Canada by this time in the summer, the stage was too small, such that keyboardist (Nancy's favorite!) Nick Connelly had to sit on the stage with his keyboards out on the dance floor, there were three guitars -- Malcolm Welbourne (Papa Mali), Carolyn Wonderland, and Scrappy Jud Newcomb - Sarah Brown the woman of renown on bass (and she sang a song especially for me), and my good buddy Paul Bhudda Mills on drums. THE VERY BEST BAND IN AUSTIN -- Catch them (minus Jud, who'll be in Colorado) this Sunday as they close down the old Maria's Taco X-Press and get their equipment off the stage just before the wrecking ball hits the building ... And yes there will be all-day music at Maria's on Saturday, too!!!!! Lest I forget, the Harmonizers were joined on stage for their very first number by the prodigious Clark Drake on harmonica (see photo).

All good things must come to an end -- and so the evening ended with an amazing performance by the man who has long been the best male vocalist in all of Austin -- and my very very good and dear friend, Malford Milligan (whose next Austin gig is Saturday at The Oasis -- also on Lake Travis -- looks like a good time to have a margarita and watch the sun go down!). Malford introduced me to his band mates, but I did not write their names down and will have to report and thank them by name a little later on .. but Bhudda Mills did play drums for Malford, too. I seem to recall (the events blurred as the evening went on) that New Orleans refugee Dale Spaulding (I think that is right) joined Malford on harmonica at some point during the set. This guy is AWESOME -- second time I have heard him blow in less than a week -- the first time was at Ruta Maya last Thursday -- see my notes.

So after all of this, I finally got home around midnight and popped in the two DVD's my pal Travis had made videotaping the early part of the evening -- just so my Nancy could get some of the experience up close and personal. We even got clips of my grandson and his mom shaking a leg (okay, some of me, too!) -- lots of dancing, indeed -- and lots of great action from the performers and some of the wonderful friends. Stop by for a visit sometime and I will throw the video into the hopper and we can sit back and reminisce and laugh and sing along.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Adoniram Lipton has been in Austin for about five years, but I first met him playing piano for my pal Bryce Clifford. Did not know he was really a guitar player (in fact, I have learned it was his brother who was the piano player in earlier versions of his band Slowtrain -- dating back to their early daze in upstate New York (the Mets fan finally has something to cheer about again!).

Slowtrain has a brand-new lineup (well, since May), and on Saturday night the band was at Trophy's (with a full house, many of whom had come to catch the early band, The Fault Line). Bryce's band would close out the night (but I had to get home). So the new lineup [which you can learn more from at myspace (/slowtrainmusic)] is Adoniram on keyboard, guitar, and harmonica and vocals; Brett Staggs on drums and vocals; Matt Roth on bass; and newcomer to Austin Andy Keating on guitar (a Marylander! whose other band here was Underwood).

Now I had caught Adoniram and Slowtrain much earlier this year with a very different lineup (also at Trophy's), but had not really heard the songs ... and so I was pleasantly surprised - in fact, downright thrilled! The band, BTW, is playing Jovita's on August 19 -- and if you like songs with catchy lyrics or if you just like a guy with a major Fro, they will not be turning folks away.

Most of the songs from the set will likely end up on a forthcoming CD, Adoniram's first since a 2003 Slowtrain record (Escape the Sun) when it was mostly a family band. He started out on guitar with a humorous ditty called "About You," which is a kind of love song with words you would never say to the one you love though you might be thinking them to yourself ... "It might not be that bad (to spend the rest of my life with you -- and other such punchlines)." Moving to his Yamaha, Adoniram belted out the bluesy "Bound to Find You Out" (also the working title for the new CD), and then "Love Me Again," which begged for a guitar or piano solo. Next up was the ballad, "Beautiful Soul," which you can hear on the Myspace.com/slowtrainmusic website.

Then Adoniram switched from Billy Joel to Randy Newman (figuratively speaking) with "Nobody Loves Me Like You Do," and then "Take Me Home," which featured a nice guitar solo from Andy. Andy also had a nice solo on "Not the Only One," and then the band paid its debt to the author of "Slow Train Coming" by covering him. "Waiting Just for Me" (a spiritualized number with Adoniram on guitar and harmonica) was next, followed by "I Thought I Would See You Again," which reminded me of McCartney in its feel. Then it was back to piano for the rockin' boogie "Don't Say It's the End" (and it wasn't) - a song the audience begged the band to do twice (to no avail). The end did come with a cover of Bryce's own ballad "Beautiful."

The kinks are still there in the performance (partly due to the awkwardness of the Trophy's stage and setup), but this was a set well worth hearing from start to finish. And as for Bryce, he will be playing at Monday's benefit concert and on Tuesday at Ego's (about 11). [PS -- Hi Sophie from Toronto!]

On Saturday afternoon I did get down to Antone's for part of the School of Rock showcase, but I missed the set I had wanted to hear, a band that featured the very cool Sasha Ortiz. But folks, she will be singing on Monday night at the "Lose the Medical Blues" benefit (for my wife Nancy) at North By Northwest (near Whole Foods at Gateway Shopping Center on FM 360 near its origin at MOPAC). So will some of the folks I got to see on First Thursday at Ruta Maya.

Austin Daze knows how to shine on Austin nights (especially First Thursdaze)! On August 3, the city's best alternative newspaper held its monthly fundraiser - as always at Ruta Maya Coffeehouse - and this time the event doubled as an indoor barn dance, complete with potluck dinners, tasty Independence Ale, and even multiple birthday cakes for super South Austinite Priscilla (who had a real blast!).

The music was not half bad, either. LZ Love started things off, backed by guitar whizzes Charlie Pritchard and Adam Raven -- in a special bonus, LZ asked Shelley King to hop on stage and recreate a duet they did on LZ's latest CD (done in San Francisco last year). Next up was Leeann Atherton (with Jackson and Sunny Coleman) -- and Leeann got both Shelley and LZ to help her out on a couple of songs .. and some extra help on harmonica and washboard. Shelley's own band played next, with Kyle Judd on guitar, Jackson sitting in on lap steel, and Clark Drake on harmonica (lost my notes, and I cannot remember the name of the fine harpist who played with both bands who recently relocated here from the Crescent City). This was a ROUSING set that got most of the crowd up and dancing. Closing out the evening (though I had to go home) was Kris Brown's Mr. Brown (reggae music per excellance).

A few side notes -- the minister of music himself, Courtney Audain, was very excited to tell me he has become an official representative of both RKS Guitars (played by folks like Dave Mason, who helped design this radically different instrument, and Rickie Lee Jones) and Epifani amps. RKS is a new company, born of the frustration of industrial designer Ravi Sawhney after he began taking guitar lessons. First, the guitars (and basses) all have grooves running just outside the fretboard (in the body area) that allow the player better access to the very high notes; second, the pickup selector switch and the control knobs are set within these grooves. Now I have not heard them played yet, but Courtney (who runs Coinhead studios) is excited about them. He would be thrilled to get a chance to show these instruments (and amps) off to you.

BTW, Kris and Courtney flew up to Baltimore with Cyril Neville and Tribe 13 for a major gig on Saturday to play the Baltimore International Festival (along with the Iguanas, the Average White Band, Ashford and Simpson, and others) ...

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