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 Parliament, Life on Planet Groove and beyond. He’s still 2% jazz and 98% funky. The 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.
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.
The 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.
Taft puts it all out there. 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 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.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Alejandro Escovedo live so I jumped at the chance to see him in an intimate venue, lougeside at Strange Brew. As I suspected, it was an acoustic show, with Warren Hood accompanying him on violin and the incomparable Brian Standefer, a long standing member of Alejandro’s orchestra, on cello. The room was packed, both sitting and standing and judging from the applause, with long time fans. I’ve seen the True Believers, Buick McKane, Alejandro’s Orchestra, Rank and File and the Sensitive Boys. In every case, he rocked – which he does just fine with a cello and violin, as his orchestra shows in this video from Bonnaroo in 2009.
So how did he get that edge with only an acoustic guitar, violin and cello? They all took turns being the drum. Granted, Alejandro’s rhythm guitar (and guitar body) did most of the time keeping, but the violin and cello provided an amazing array of textures and back beats. Syncopation aside, the silver string posse (whom Alejandro thanked profusely and often) drove us to our feet by their sheer virtuosity and the tripped out intensity of their soaring riffs. They were possessed by the music, reminding me of another time I saw someone so spellbinding. I caught harmonica player Sugar Blue playing with Willie Dixon at the old Club Foot (now long gone) in a jaw dropping performance – Pan personified. Warren Hood is a more recent addition to Alejandro’s roster. I haven’t yet seen him with his fusion new grass band, the Hoodlums but have fond memories of seeing his father, Champ Hood play with equal versatility. Susan Voelz is the rock violinist who normally tours with Alejandro, but I am so glad to have seen Warren and Brian Standefer throw down.The battle of the strings was fierce, truly mesmerizing. I didn’t take any video footage but sure wish I had.
Of course, there were the stories. With a mixture of songs like the raucous “Everybody Loves Me” shown above, the taut, political lament “Sally Was a Cop” and soulful ballads like Arizona, the small listening room was a perfect setting for the journey we took with Alejandro. From the time he left San Antonio with his family as a child (he is the 7th of 12 children) to growing up in California, then as a punk rocker living in the Chelsea Hotel in NYC with the Sex Pistols, and back to Austin, we were part of his crooked frame. We remembered days when the flow of migrants in an out of Mexico was easier, when his father left Saltillo to find his parents in California. Alejandro’s wife Bobbi’s suicide and his own near fatal illness were part of a story that connected the styles, times and vagaries of Alejandro’s Hard Road. All the stories kept coming back to the way music healed him emotionally, when medication, therapy and alcohol could not. Truth, a passionate heart and the poetry of life are the real gifts of this artist and why we keep coming back to see what’s new in Alejandro’s story.
What’s a local to do among the swarm of music crazed SXSWesters? Some of us were here in the beginning – we’re the ones saying it will never be that cool again. And we’re right, from our perspective. But there are ways to savor the flavor without getting trapped. If someone handed me a Prince ticket I would have braved the crush, but I settled for what promises to become a growing South by South Austin fringe escapade, except for a quick walk across Ladybird Lake to see Alt-J and Richard Thompson (links are to music and interviews). Hats off, by the way, to these Brits for their tasty back beats and edgy vocals. Running into friends, enjoying the serendipity of roaming – a welcome break in the routine – hunting for musical treasure. Anyone notice that the hipsters are getting younger every year?
Heading to South Congress seemed inevitable and given the 25 years I lived and partied in 78704, a homecoming. It’s more of a circus these days than it used to be, so rather than dive into the fray I found a stool at Enoteca and savored a glass of white wine. Then I headed South. As chance would have it, I found myself at one of my favorite South Austin restaurants, Evangeline’s. Besides some fine cajun family cooking they have good music, but better get there before 6 or you’ll have to wait for a table. Fueled and ready for a few hours of dancing, we found exactly what we were looking for at the One 2 One, dancing to the funky soul sounds of LZ Love. The last time I went to the One 2 One I saw Sister 7, another great dance band. Keep this club on your radar, it has a bigger dance floor than most and is a new venture by Danny Crooks, former impresario of Soap Creek Saloon. South Lamar and Manchaca now boasts The Saxon Pub, the One 2 One and Strange Brew, recently named best new venue by the Austin Chronicle. Then there’s Patsy’s Cafe off Hwy 71 and Sam’s Town Point, for a trip from hip into classic Austin. I only stayed for an hour at Sam’s but it was truly a Social Logical experience. I have SXSW to thank for showing me the sad, sweet songs by Rebekah Pulley, the soulful funk of transgender diva LZ Love and Brit sensation’s ALt-J and Richard Thompson’s brief appearance behind the fence at Waterloo Records. To those who want a taste of SXSW without the parking hassle and badges – South Austin might just be a true haven for the weird.