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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Amsterdam in Austin!

Aimee Bobruk with Kim Deschamps on the stage at Amsterdam Cafe, Austin's newest live music venue that features good food AND good music.
Sherry Brokus and Jim Patton -- plus Jodi Adair in a white dress (and of course Mister Deschamps again!) on the triangular stage at Amsterdam on songwriter Thursday last week.
Want to watch great Austin music in downtown Austin, have a pizza and a cold draught beer, and maybe meet some great new friends? All at the same time? Then you will want to trek over to 8th and Colorado -- a block off Congress -- to the Amsterdam Cafe. But, you say, the Amsterdam has been in town for a long long time -- whazzis about live music?
As I walked in the door early Thursday evening, I was greeted first by the wonderful Karen Deschamps and second by music manager Kent Mayhew -- himself a performing songwriter who understands what musicians need and want in a venue. The stage is large enough for a full band but intimate enough for a solo performer playing acoustic guitar.
Food? Paninis, pizza, soup, appetizers, cold samiches and even rabbit food -- plus (for the downtown crowd) a brie plate with green apple and a demi baguette. And, yes, they ALSO have coffee (including espresso) -- and a good selection of beer, wine and even the harder stuff. Fellowship? Well, I had an all-night party (till I had to leave) -- and did I mention there is even a pool table on the lower (side) level near the outhouses (inhouses?).
Aimee Bobruk led off, followed by an in-the-round with Kim Deschamps (playing pedal for everybody but a variety of his own guitars on his own excellent songs), Jim Patton and Sherry Brokus (of Edge City) with songs from their new CD, "Plans Gang Aft Agley," and a young woman whom I have known a while but only this evening got to hear play and sing -- Jodi Adair.
Jodi has a new CD out next week, and Jody Denburg has already been playing a cut or two on his afternoon show on KGSR. Onstage she's like an older Ruby Jane -- full of energy, always learning from her fellow musicians, and ready to take the mike and fire up the audience -- and just as much fun! Truth be told, though, this little young lady from Pasadena ran from high school straight to Europe a while back (a lady never tells her age) and has been singing and busking ever since. Word is that folks like Carolyn Wonderland, W. C. Clark (what a story she had about this legend!), Kris Brown, and many more helped make this recording sound great -- so keep on the lookout because Jodi will find a way into your set list.
Earlier in the week (or sometime recently -- time just slips away) my pal Chris Brecht invited me down to the Cactus Cafe where he was opening for Denton's Doug Burr and San Antonio's Buttercup. Now Joe Reyes of Buttercup is a special friend of mine (goofiest Grammy winner I know), and I love this wacky band of cutups -- who also make DAM good music, and LOTS of it. It's been a year since they released their most recent song collection [The Head Sits Upside Down on the Top of the Head !], so expect another one really soon. The set included "Bellatrice," "In Spain," and a new one called "Superior," among others -- and, yes, Joe DID play the bells. These guys to me exhibit the SPIRIT (though not the style) of Doug Sahm -- irreverent but always inventive and never ever boring.
But back to Doug Burr -- a favorite songwriter of both Chris Brecht and Jeremy Nail (and countless others, from what I hear). A few years back he put out a "gospel" record, "The Sickle & the Sheaves," and lately he has been working on a project called "The Shawl." But the record I want you to hear right now is the amazing, "On Promenade," eleven songs with pithy words and pungent music that ranks among the best I have heard not just this year -- we are talking about Daniel Lanois good.
The record starts out with "Slow Southern Home," voted song of the year by the Dallas Observer -- "A blind man sang, Bells of joy, I was a stranger, but still a boy; my parents dead. The vines had grown through my slow southern home." Then there's "Come to My Senses" -- "There's a darkness hangin' o'er the West here in the land of progess...." The sad tale of Graniteville, a town hit by a toxic cloud from a chemical train wreck --but also a love song.
One of my favorites is "How Can the Lark (My Dear Theo)" -- here the music just takes over. "Should've Known" -- "Nothing changes here .. for all your broken-hearted, bloody souvenirs..."
"Thing about Trouble" "Up ahead at the bend, Seek help from the wind, Open eyes on the river bank where anything can happen, things you can't imagine -- a flood is gonna come this way."
"Last Promenade" is a classic tune -- a march, really -- "Promenade me down, Meet me in the field, A trail of blood upon the leaves, There are two moons out tonight and all the stars are thick as thieves. Now one minute I was sleeping and the next I was awake. And I was uninvited but a guest at midnight made... " The song set closed with "Blood Runs Downhill," with just Doug on guitar and vocals, Todd Pertll on pedal steel, and Glen Squibb on Wurlitzer.

Closing out here, I will just say that the Sideshow Tragedy (great T-shirts, eh?) and Drew Smith played at Momo's on ACL Fest Friday and it was quite a joy. Drew has T-shirts, too -- and a new CD which we will one day tell you more about. Suffice it to say that I tend to stick around to hear this guy either solo or with his band (which again I will write more about someday -MICHAEL!). But not this day.
And, oh by the way -- Blues Mafia made their Momo's debut opening once again for Patrice Pike on ACL Fest Saturday Night -- they have just completed their debut album and are working on artwork and other post-production stuff with the intent to release it prior to their adventures in Ireland in early December for the Blastbeat world finals.
Flanfire -- Bringing LIFE to Austin music.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Will T. Massey's on the Peace Train!
Will T. Massey has long been known in Austin for his songwriting -- and his gracious gentle soul (so enhanced by his friendship with the genuinely lovely Valerie Fremin).
Will, who will soon turn 40, was not even born when I first started marching for peace and freedom on the streets of our nation's capital. -- and yet his new recording, "Wayward Lady," captures the essence of that earlier peace movement that was built on flower power.
Massey introduced these songs at (where else?) Threadgill's Old No. 1 on North Lamar, wearing a shirt with skulls hidden in the pattern. He speaks his truth simply yet without venom -- much more a member of the "Virtuous Caucus" of which I was a proud member during my days with Liberation News Service than of the "vulgar Marxist" hard-liners who beat LNS founder Marshall Bloom to a bloody pulp after the merrie men of the caucus had taken back their printing press from the interloping gestapo.
The Threadgill's CD release party reminded me so much of those early days with my Quaker friends -- singing songs of peace and freedom that reflect a deep love of our country, our people, and our hope for the triumph of everyday people over corporate (and bureaucratic) greed that has infected our entire political system. The band -- I speak with great reverence -- Richard Bowden playing fiddle with a heart the size of Texas; Marvin Dykhuis on guitars and mandolin; Will Sexton on bass; and the amazing Mike Meadows on cajon, gombe, and other percussion -- plus occasional vocals from Sally Allen -- a collection of talent and gentleness rarely assembled on a single stage.
Some of the songs -- "The Crooked Kind" (condemning the corruption of the "policeman of the world") and "You Work for Me" (Mr. President!) come to mind -- show forth Will's disappointment (rather than hatred) with those who have (mis)led this nation in the wrong direction. But this is a man whose heart is revealed in songs like "Peace Train" and "American Prayer," and even moreso in the title cut ("you're a wicked woman but I love you .. my wayward lady, USA").
Will covers Pink Floyd's "The Gunner's Dream" and "Hooker with a Purple Heart," written by Vietnam veteran Michael J. Martin and Bill Carroll. He laughs his way through "Life on the Run," noting quite poignantly, though, that breaking the law is much preferred to killing. But "American Seance" clearly presents Massey's great sadness over the perceived (and perhaps actual) betrayal of America's real core values by a power structure gone mad.
And yet -- how well do we know our own national history? Sure, we can recount the misdeeds of the old Confederacy (and others who were complicit in the slave trade), the ongoing horrors of racists who sought to crush the civil rights movement, and so on -- but dare we remember the internment of Japanese-Americans ordered by President Franklin Roosevelt, or that goon squads unleashed by President Woodrow Wilson arrested an estimated 175,000 Americans for failng to demonstrate their patriotism in one way or another.
Will longs for a country where people can just live in peace, love their children and one another, conduct their business honestly, and share their good times and hard times as fellow travelers on life's highway. A true son of my pals Marshall and Ray -- who would have been right at home at the old Human Be-In's but who can also speak soberly of the way we oughta be.
I was out in Colorado earlier this week with another straight-talking songwriter, Chris Brecht, and my good pal Matt Mollica (who brought his accordian on the plane given that his Hammond B-3 would not fit in the overhead). The boys opened for Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter at Boulder's Fox Theatre, one of the coolest music venues I have ever visited. Lots of other Austin bands play the Fox (Black Angels, Bob Schneider, and Boombox in the near future). We missed Erin Ivey and Alyse Black, who played the Monolith Festival at Red Rocks over the weekend (another great venue out that way).
Just prior to the trip, I moseyed down to Momo's for Warren Hood's CD release -- so many people, so little time to hang out. Pretty darn good stuff, which I hope to report on in more detail. Ditto the Drew Smith CD release party earlier that week at the Continental Club (just WOW!). On the heels of the Dan Dyer show -- and still waiting in the wings, Dustin Welch's forthcoming masterpiece of songwriting and showmanship (and much more!). Here is a photo of Drew later that evening, singing along with Dustin Welch and Kacy Crowley on Dustin's "Two Horses."

I was also fortunate enough to get out to the Carousel Lounge for PART of the David Lazaroff 30th birthday party (cake good!) -- enough to hear David playing with Elizabeth McQueen (she and hubby Dave Sanger are VERY PREGNANT but not due till January!), Lefty Nafziger (who also plays with Warren), Gary Newcomb, Lindsay Greene, and a host of percussionists. Even better was getting to watch David dancing with his honey to the sounds of Elizabeth and her Firebrands (yeah, the same guys, by and large). Neal Kassanoff had played an early set, as had Gary, so I am told. Later that same evening I ducked out to catch a few songs at Beerland from the Sideshow Tragedy (Nathan Singleton, Jeremy Harrell, and Justin Wade Thompson) and pick up one of their awesome new T-shirts (featuring the Elephant Man).
I also got out to the Saxon Pub for a rousing set from Aimee Bobruk and her band, to Central Market North Lamar for Alyse Black and her trio, and to Central Market South for fun and frolic with the Hudsons (and to Roadhouse Rags to see Brennen Leigh). No photos -- but LZ Love rocked the house at the Iguana Grill!

Aimee Bobruk with Jon Notarthomas (also John Bush, Darwin Smith, and Will Sexton); Alyse Black; and Brian Hudson, Hudson Mueller, and the suave and sophisticated Leah Zeger.

Flanfire -- Bringing LIFE to Austin music.

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