After days of rain left a summertime Austin hot and sticky, it was a refreshing break to partake in the air conditioning of Austin's La Zona Rosa on Friday. I had gotten approved to shoot the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on short notice and had been racing around all day trying to tie up loose ends to make the set. By the time I made it down to La Zona Rosa, I was hot and a little exasperated with the rush hour traffic, but ready for a good band and a good night of clubbing. I was expecting to see at least Jay West shooting for Insight at the show but I knew Moondog would be covering Nora Jones at the Backyard for the Chronicle and wouldn't be there. I had not seen BRMC before but had heard lots of good things about them and had been looking forward to the show all week.
Back when I was much much younger if someone said, "There's a party at so-and-so's house and they have a band," you immediately knew that whoever was giving the party's parents were out of town, the liquor cabinet would be emptied in the first thirty minutes, the band was going to be terrible (unless it was Watchtower), and if the cops showed up everybody was supposed to jump the fence and cut out through the neighbors back yard.
Now that I'm an adult, my orthopedist requests that I refrain from the occasional fence jump, and my insurance agent concurs. Luckily, due to my sister being the plugged-in supermodel, my party invites of late have been a bit more upscale in nature. A couple of weekends ago, it was my pleasure to receive an invite to attend John McCall's birthday party. John and I share many common traits, aside from the fact that we both never seem to age beyond 39: John is a successful entrepreneur, has a love of Austin music stretching back to the days of the dillo, we sat next to each other at my sister's wedding rehearsal dinner, and we are both friends with Kinky Friedman. Ok, so John is a much more successful an entrepreneur than I am, but what's six or seven zeroes on your net income between friends?
When John has a party, though, it's almost the complete opposite of my high school experiences. A catered event, with sheriff's deputies providing security and keeping an eye on John's extensive and expensive collection of original artwork and memorabilia, and John's idea of a "party band" -- a private acoustic performance by Lubbock, Texas' legendary Flatlanders. Good food, good music, good company; the only thing missing would be Kinky Friedman, and that was only because a prior speaking engagement kept him away.
Last night I saw the Indigo Girls at San Francisco's Fillmore. I've mentioned it before, I'll mention it again: Seeing the Indigo Girls live in San Francisco is an experience unlike any other. They are incredibly beloved by their fans, and they love right back, and in San Francisco, just multiply that by a factor of ten and you have the energy at last night's concert.
I hadn't even checked out who the opening act was, so when a very young-looking woman with long dark hair, two bald guys who looked like twins, and a guy with a cello came out, I asked the Indigo Girls fan standing next to me. She said, "That's Brandi Carlile," which meant nothing to me.
The 26-year-old Carlile is from Seattle, and her band consists of twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth and Josh Neuman on cello. She's apparently gotten quite a bit of exposure on the Gray's Anatomy soundtrack, which is off my radar. Her second album, The Story, came out in April of this year, was produced by T-Bone Burnett, who also produced the soundtrack for the Coen Brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, as well as the soundtrack to Walk the Line.
Last night, Carlile started to sing, ripping through a song called "What Can I Say" that made me want to put the concert on hold and go home and buy it so I could listen to it forty million times again. It's really just an alt/folk little sad heartbroken love song, but between her gorgeous voice and the beautiful tune and the pure simplicity of the lyrics, it was irresistable. It's got a video, much tamer than the live version, but it gives you an idea.
More Carlile, more video, and the Indigo Girls, including a set list, under the jump.
Flipnotics, the uber hip hippie coffee kahvehane in the heart of south Austin's artist-poet district along Barton Springs, seems to be turning into something of a second home for Jesse Sublett. Once again they hosted another of his acoustic performances last night, and despite the stifling 100 degree heat outside, and performing in a small un-airconditioned room to a packed audience of about 35, he sounded great and everyone there seemed to enjoy themselves, despite being drenched in sweat.
J Mascis, NXNE June 8, 2007 - photo by clint gilders - staff photographer
If asked to pick the one person I wouldn't have wanted to be today hands down it would be Dave Bookman. Dave was the poor soul (sucker?) drafted to interview J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr. fame) during the conference portion of North By North East (NXNE). Dinosaur Jr. is reunited and making a triumphant return to halls of the rock gods and what does J Mascis have to say about all this..... Here's how to play the game. You ask J. any question and then randomly select any one of the answers: "Yes", "No", "I don't remember", "Not much". Easy huh? Try being the interviewer. I sat through the hour of horror and came away knowing nothing more about Dinosaur Jr./J Mascis than I did before hand. They did get J to pick up a guitar and Dave sang Blowin' in the Wind to put the interview out of it's misery bring the interview to it's conclusion.
THe Kiss and Tells at the Black Bull NXNE June 7, 2007 - photo by clint gilders - staff photographer
Night one began with a long streetcar ride to the Black Bull on Queen St. West. Drawing me to the "Bull" were the Kiss and Tells. What a fantastic way to start my night. They are a combination of No Doubt, Storm Large, Judy Garland, and Hole. The beautiful Kait Do-It in her barely holding on strapless dress and, most-recent recruit, guitarist Wyatt Burton resplendent in his red-tracksuit-that-came-to-him-in-a-dream treated us to 40 minutes of show-tunes dripping with sex and distortion.
Well, I have successfully made it to my hotel room. This is only after doing what some might think is impossible; finding a parking spot midday in downtown Toronto. Whoo!!! High five!!!????? Ok, I'm not a big city boy, and Toronto generally scares the hell out of me. The fact that I kept my faculties until I found a spot and didn't just shut the car off in the middle of Spadina and start crying are a big step for me.
I got registered for NXNE and picked up my press badge at the Holiday Inn on King. My next stop was Henry's to exchange my new camera body for one that actually worked. I'd forked over $10.00 for my parking spot so I'm damned if I'll give it up yet. It's the TTC for me, so I bought day passes to last me the weekend and hopped on the Queen St. streetcar.
John at the Henry's outlet store was ready for me and the exchange was painless and pleasant. He's into concert photography too. Maybe we'll see some of his shots on the site soon.
Now, back to my car and off to find my hotel. Don't even ask me how the traffic was! Even at the special show rate the Holiday Inn on King was $200+ a night. Ouch!! I found a Days Inn further west on Queen for under $100. Yeah, the room is tiny and I have to park underground 2 blocks away (I have no plans of going there after dark), but there's a McDonald's next door, a Coffee Time Donuts across the road, and a Thai restaurant in the hotel. Things are lookin' up.
Starting tonight 400+ bands will converge on the city to showcase their talents. I'll be heading out to see as many bands as I can, and bring you the highlights.
With a stiff wind blowing from the east and channeled down 6th Street like a great air conditioner sweeping the heat of the day away, I arrived at the main stage for the downtown portion of the Republic of Texas Bike Rally. It was a 10 block walk from where I had parked, and I was hot and tired after lugging 70 pounds of camera gear and wheedling through the thousands of motorcycles parked between my truck and the stage, hoping desperately not to clip one and send a stack of bikes over like some nightmarish domino set.
On arriving, it became obvious that there was no green room, no real backstage, and no way for me to do a video interview with Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets with the roar of motorcycles competing aggressively with the sounds of the bands playing. I would have to be satisfied with just filming the concert instead. I had already cleared filming the show with Curt earlier and was able to get the assistance of some helpful audience members to get a good, bump free, spot to set up our video camera.