West Austin Studio Tour – South

Took a short tour of a couple South venues on the West Austin Studio tour. I’ve been curious about the Space music rehearsal studio on Manchaca Road for awhile.  The Sound : Vision show featured work from the Austin Art Refugees, a roving band of artists I will be following, shown in the gallery below: Hannah Lee, Ann Wieding, Dave McClinton, Patrick Moran and Bart Kibbe.  I had to stop in at David Amdur’s studio to see his new stone and wood carvings and check out the latest addition to the Manchaca Road corridor, Articulture, making art out of life.  More to come next week, when we’ll have another chance to explore more Westside art.

His funkiness Maceo Parker @Antone’s

Hornplayer My first trip to the new Antone’s was also my first live Maceo Parker experience. I’ve been a fan since his James Brown days, then ParliamentLife on Planet Groove and beyond.  He’s still 2% jazz and 98% funky.
Soul PowerThe band  featured in the video below  includes: Maceo Parker (sax/flute/vocals), Dennis Rollins (trombone), Will Boulware (keys), Bruno Speight (guitar), Rodney “Skeet” Curtis (bass), Marcus Parker (drums), Martha High (vocals) and Corey Parker (vocals).

Hard to keep the camera still when you gotta shake everything you got.  Happy music for him and all the fans getting their groove on.  I liked the new Antone’s location, next to Eddie V’s and the Russian House, which long since replaced Amdur gallery on 5th.  What’s old is new on a block where I worked and played for many years.

Community First – Creating a village in East Austin

Mobile Loaves and Fishes and a consortium of private partners and foundations have created a community for homeless residents that could serve as a template for many who are interested in sustainable co-housing .  The village consists of tiny homes, tent and teepee dwellings with a section for RVs with hook ups. Residents pay rent, ranging from $225 to $400 (all bills paid) depending on whether they opt for a tent, RV or house.

The collaboration of non-profits, architects and Austin residents has come together in ways that highlight their talents and commitment. As you walk the grounds, the feeling of being in a village built to encourage community, while still allowing for privacy and uniqueness is reflected in the diversity of homes and styles, obviously crafted with pride and creativity.  It is a very human  community on 27 acres designed to be partially self-sustaining.

Bath houses with private shower and toilet facilities and a community kitchen, gardens, a chicken coop and a small herd of dairy goats provide work, sustenance and healthy social opportunities. Bee hives are planned and an art house, a forge and onsite wi-fi will support  micro-enterprise development and job seekers who wish to reenter or join the workforce. Onsite health services and a new bus stop en route to Austin help residents take care of their basic needs and participate in the care and support their evolving community provides. Members of the Mobile Loaves and Fishes mission are in residence to assist and counsel those with questions or concerns.  As Sociology doctoral student, Brandon Robinson said, “This is a dissertation waiting to happen.” The data from this project will be invaluable in funding future villages and in keeping this one viable. From Invisible in Austin to Community First, there is plenty for our ethnographers to research.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes has been a source of sustainment and support for hungry people in Austin for many years.  Their model of community first is an inspiration to many who have partnered to turn this idea into an exciting reality, founded on love and respect. They = we.

Barton Creek and Blunn Creek – January 2016

It’s always nice to enjoy the trails along Barton Creek in January, when the weather is so very fine. Kids of all ages and their dogs swarm the greenbelt like happy bees with spring almost in the air, sun shining down like honey .

There were fewer people on the trail at the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve, an urban oasis in South Austin and one of several ancient volcanoes that dot the area from St. Edward’s University to Stacy Park in Travis Heights. My favorite oak, probably 500 years old, is queen of the forest and was too big to fit into my camera’s frame.

Water Meditation – Flowing

Shamans of the Avant Garde – Miro and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown

woman_bird_star_AS03162Art is never more obscure than when it invokes the language of the unconscious. Thankfully, we have guides – shamans who venture into the unknown and return, inviting us to join them . Avant garde artist Joan Miro is a shaman of symbolic art.  I saw his “Experience of Seeing” exhibit at the McNay Museum in San Antonio and entered the realm of the body/mind in order to see it.  Joan Miro acknowledges:

It is difficult for me to talk about my painting, since it is always born in a state of hallucination, brought on by some jolt or another – whether objective or subjective-which I am not in the least responsible for.

Joan Miro - BirdArt critic Waldemar George described it in 1929 “as the painting of a physical vacuousness that easily balances out its interior magic, with ties to cosmic sentiment and the intuition of mystery seen in the ancestors, like those who painted the caves of Altimara, whom he specifically mentions on one hand and to “congruent paintings, brought to life by strange homunculi and fantastical plants on the other. In this defining moment there came to be an encounter between the escape from speres and the attraction to the abyss.”
Miro, Joan-Head in the NightJacques Dupin elaborated, “There remains a space where things and beings can abide and encounter one another through a series of exchanges and metamorphoses, and this passing site is none other than the earth: neither sheltered from the risk from below, or the beckoning from above.”

Arthur Brown knows something of above and below, exhorting us to hold a vision in our heart, to face our fears and join him in the formless depths of Zim Zam Zim.

Miro’s paintings and found object sculptures beckon us to see space as a psychological landscape – to respond without preconception to what comes our way, as children do.

I will make my work emerge naturally, like the song of a bird or the music of Mozart, with no apparent effort, but thought out at length and worked out from within . . everything becomes strange, shifting, clear and confused at the same time. Forms give birth to other forms, constantly changing into something else.

ShamanArthur Brown invites us with many of the same numinous symbols as Miro: the spirit bird of our imagination, woman, sex and the fire of fear, rage and ultimate annihilation.  An existential burlesque that finally asks, “Who the fuck am I?” in this montage from his Strange Brew show in Austin (without his full band).

As we traipse from day to dreams, through all the stages of our lives and our imagination, it’s a good idea to keep a healthy dose of humor amidst the drama. So why do we even enter into the shape shifting realm of the unconscious?

Quoting Miro, ” As Kant said, it is the irruption of the infinite into the finite. A pebble, which is a finite and immobile object, suggests not only movement to me but movement that has no end. In my paintings, this translates into the spar-like forms that leap out of the frame, as though from a volcano.

That volcano is the fire of creation  in the heart of Zim Zam Zim.

80’s week @ #ATX music

In a rare twist of musical fate, I found myself transported back to  the dance crazy days of the late 70’s and early 80’s at 3 great gigs last week.  The Psychedelic Furs evoked brat pack nostalgia and did not disappoint the grey tsunami that packed the house @Emos‘s on a Wednesday night. They haven’t lost their sound or their enthusiasm, a real treat for their fans worldwide.

Two of Austin’s punk/new wave faves, The Skunks and The Standing Waves (playing with The Next) brought the fire and their new releases to venues old and new.  The Townsend, pictured below is a new club launched by Kathy Valentine (of  Go-Go’s fame) and her partners on Congress Avenue.

Definitely not in the tradition of Dukes Royal Coach Inn, which used to be just down the street, the elegant lounge sold out in the week before the Skunks raised the roof with an incendiary performance from guitarist John Dee Graham, muti-talented singer Jesse Sublett on bass, and drummer Bill Mansell rounding out the power trio.

180179_1895943761749_4744134_nThe Hole in the Wall is one of the few clubs from the era left standing, (along with the Continental Club), gritty enough for the return of the Standing Waves.  Where else am I going to hear the story from Tom Green, about losing his house (on Tom Green Street) because an Austin City council member used eminent domain to give him the boot?  Even the sadly not weird has a twist.  Perfect segue to the Standing Waves new CD Here Comes the Twist Again.

James Robinson – Soulful Sundays at C-Boys Heart and Soul

C_Boys_heartMy friends and I caught James Robinson and his band in rehearsal mode at C-Boys Soulful Sunday before their gig at the Bitter End in NYC.  This is a clip of Billie Holliday’s Blues for a Day from their September 6th show. Featured performers include Rudy Eccles on bass, Joe Atkins on congas, Chris Clark on drums, and a “cat name Mathew” on guitar.

Cupid, Sam Cook‘s classic love song showcases James’ way with a soulful ballad, and makes it easy to recognize another big influence in  Donny Hathaway.  Like Hathaway, he aspires to record a live album at the Bitter End. From the September 20th show:

I was very fortunate to catch the multi-talented Chandra Washington perform an impromptu jazz poem, backed by a tight rhythm section and that cat Mathew and his mellow guitar.  It would be great to expand this jam with more jazz and spoken word artists.

You can catch James Robinson at C-Boys Soulful Sundays on the first, second and third Sundays of the month. And if you’re in Kansas City for the 18th and Vine Jazz and Blues Festival on October 12th, keep an eye out for him performing with saxophonist Dennis Winslett and percussionist Kahil El Zibar.  Looking forward to hearing more from this versatile and talented musician and his band.

Big Sky Love

I’ll miss you, Texas
You and your giant clouds,
close enough to touch
Blue sky wrapping round
the mighty oaks standing tall,
like broccoli on the horizon

And dragon flies, big as goldfish
skimming waves of grass,
rippling like an ocean
in the golden afternoon light

I can’t say goodbye to cypress trees
and limestone springs, reminding me
that dinosaurs roam these lands
when the seas come and go
You have sunk a taproot deep in my heart
and perfumed the forest of my mind

Krause Springs cypress stand
Krause Springs cypress stand

Taft with Mother Falcon at The Empire Control Room

Taft puts it all out there.TaftBW He is fully, unselfconsciously himself and has become a powerful, authentic voice in the Punctum Records artist collective.  Taft’s debut album Grove Redundant, released earlier this year, was produced by Brian Bender at Motherbrain Studios in Brooklyn.

I’ve known Taft as an artist for many years, he’s family. I’m glad he has not abandoned the visual arts entirely, staying involved as a member of the Studium and serving as the Creative Manager for the collective.  Musically, he’s transforming with every performance.

The noisy crowd at The Empire and the lack of a perch made these videos a little hard to shoot. The show, also featuring Mother Falcon, was so good I’m including them here to give you a taste of what you don’t want to miss, live. Taft is playing with several horn players from Mother Falcon in the clip below. He is fearless.

I didn’t see as much of Mother Falcon as I wanted to, but I’ll be sure to catch them again soon. Great Austin musicians, keeping it real, pura vida!

Jackie Venson – more than Austin’s next guitar hero

Jackie Venson_BWJackie Venson got back from a successful tour of Europe to play an inspired set at the One 2 One last Sunday. Billed as a Midsummer Night’s Groove, she turned up the heat in South Austin, ably assisted by band mates Rudy Eccles, Rodney Hyder, Ray Prim, KJ Hines, and Kevin Prince. The Austin Am Statesman and the Austin Chronicle give good back stories on her classical piano training, Berklee college of music pedigree and her conversion to the blues, guitar that is.

She’s got several styles, more than one speed, a voice like honey and clearly enjoys playing as much as her band does. Always a sucker for a melodic, funky bass, Rudy Eccles did not disappoint. Veteran Austin musicians, Ray Prim and Rodney Hyder kept the groove going, while KJ Hines and Kevin Prince brought edge to When I Fall.

What struck me more than the packed, multi-age crowd and Jackie’s guitar pyrotechnics was the soul in her groove and in her lyrics. And the flow between the bass, her piano and guitar and the drums. Was it witchcraft?

The train has left the station, it’s all happening Now for Jackie Venson.  See them soon, for they will blow you away.