There is live music 365 days a year in Austin - I'm just going to report on what I've seen or what new music I'm listening to!

Monday, May 24, 2010

That old guy from West Texas can still ROCK

With Jo in Mexico for the week I had plans to catch a lot of live music this weekend. It didn't turn out exactly like that but landscaping projects overruled music several nights. My original plan on Friday was to see the Band of Heathens at Antone's but during my drive back to the ATX I heard about a free show at Republic Square Park sponsored by Car2Go. Car2Go is a company that has smart cars all around town and if you are a member you just swipe your card and drive off in the vehicle for as long as you need it. Pretty cool idea for city dwellers who use public transit for normal transportation. Just not sure it will catch on in Texas!

As part of this event there were 5 bands playing starting at 4 PM. Considering it was a 90+ degree day I decided to catch the later acts and arrived at 7 PM just as the Gourds were taking the stage. I have been wanting to see these guys for a couple of years ever since their CD "Noble Creatures" came out. I really like the song "How will you shine?" and recently I heard Mr. Springsteen say when he was dj'ing on E Street Radio "Man, I wish I wrote that". Pretty good recommendation in my mind. Anyway they are 4 guys who look nothing like a rock and roll band. More like some mechanics but they put on a fun show. They are high energy in a funky NOLA kind of way and closed with Shine - overall it was a good hour long set. And I know the pictures are crappy but all I had was my Blackberry so they have to do.

The headliner for the night was Joe Ely. I had never seen Joe with his band, only with Bruce twice at Austin shows where he was called up to sing "Working on the Highway" along with "All just to get to you". We'd hear neither of these this night but a lot of other great songs. I had to look it up when I got home but Joe is 63 and still puts on a heck of a show. It started out a little slow for my liking but of course I was there by myself. Things picked up when he played Robert Earl Keen's "The Road Goes On Forever" which is always a hit in Austin. From there he really featured the excellent guitar playing of David Grissom who is one fine player. He had a lot of solos and each one seemed to get better. Highlights for me were "Workin' for the Man", "Me and Billy the Kid", "Dallas" and "Cool Rockin' Loretta" to close. I will have to say that "Loretta" in the final spot is the way a rock and roll show is supposed to finish - long version, lots of guitar, crowd sing along and everybody just having a good time. Joe is constantly on the road so make sure you catch him when you get a chance. I know we'll be out to see him again. A great way to spend a Friday night that's for sure.

My Saturday night plan to see Jimmy LaFave at Threadgill's and Sunday night to see Junior Brown at the Continental Club was scuttled by some shrub removal and flower bed building. I will see Junior soon on the advice of my friend Christopher but it was not to be this weekend.

Up next - maybe Alejandro at the Continental Club Tuesday night, if not Big Head Todd at Red Rocks in Denver in 10 days and then Neil Young solo acoustic in Dallas on the 7th. Neil was my target for 2010 so I am really looking forward to that show.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

West Coast listenin' and buyin' - The Bay Area

After a few more days in Seattle and some more great food we were headed to the Bay Area. Unfortunately Jo had to head back to TX to help Brittany find an apartment in Houston (she is going to be teaching 4th grade there in the fall). This kind of scuttled some of our Bay Area plans but I forged ahead. Before I leave the Seattle review a couple of recommendations for eating – the Potato Latkes (think hash brown pancakes) at the Steelhead Diner near Pike’s Place Market (they were so good Jo went back for a second order one day) and the “Little Doughnuts” at Lola which are really beignets. A box of those made the flight back to the ATX with her along with the spectacular rhubarb jam! My Bay Area music highlights paled compared to Seattle but leave things to do the next time. In a recent article in Paste they named Amoeba Records as the best indie record store in the country with Waterloo in second. So Thursday night after dinner with my old boss from the Trend Tech days in Round Rock I ventured out to Berkeley to see this Amoeba place.

I agree it’s a huge store and the staff seems very knowledgeable and maybe the other locations are better than Waterloo but the Berkely location is no Waterloo. One of my favorite things about Waterloo other than the great selection, rare CD’s and IPod listening stations is that all music is alphabetical. You don’t have to know what genre they think an artist is to find them. Tift is a perfect example – is she rock, is she country. To me she is rock and roll but to Amoeba she is country so it’s a pain in the neck to find people. I love that about Waterloo – you know the artist you can find them! I did really enjoy the fact that Amoeba has recommended racks of new music that each have a little write-up from a staff member about the disc. I used this to buy 2 bands I had never heard of.

Mayer Hawthorne’s A Strange Arrangement – I had never heard of him. If you look at the CD you probably aren’t buying it as he looks like some kind of nerdy computer geek and maybe it’s some kind of electronica. So far from what you hear. How surprising to find out it’s really R&B and sounds like it was recorded in 1968. It brings back the sound of Dozier-Holland-Dozier with the rich sounds. It was a definite good addition to the collection and not my normal rock / Americana sound. The second CD I grabbed was The Soft Pack. A new group with a pop/rock mix it is a solid CD and I am still working on it.

I also got a copy of KFOG Live from the Archives 16 from my friend while I was in the Bay Area. Similar to the KGSR Broadcasts CD this disc includes many bands I listed to but some new ones that are making me investigate them. I’m especially enjoying Susan Tedeschi’s “People” and David Gray’s “Fugitive”. I have been listening to David for a while and struggle because it seems like every song of his sounds the same but I always like the sound of individual songs. I think I’m going to have to jump out there and get a whole CD to really test it out. The compilation also includes Alejandro, Gomez, Chuck Prophet and a host of others. It’s a really good mix of artists and a good way to sample new artists. It’s why Austin loves the KGSR Broadcasts discs so much and donates all proceeds to the food bank which makes it even better.

That was the end of the journey and I came home with a bag of new CD’s and a lot of new music to listen to. Even more new music is coming with all the Spring releases and in the last two weeks I have added new music from The Hold Steady, The New Pornographers, Courtyard Hounds, Alpha Rev and The National. Reviews to be coming in the next week or so as we wait on the mailman to deliver the new Tift CD by June 1.
Hope everyone is enjoying all the great new music that is out there!

West Coast Listenin' and Buyin' - Seattle

Our trip to Seattle and San Francisco resulted in a bunch of new CD’s, a good show and a confirmation of one of my beliefs. We started out in Seattle staying at Hotel Max, a trendy boutique hotel in downtown Seattle. Highly recommended for any of you headed that way as not only is it convenient to downtown but also to the Seattle Center area. Just make sure you ask for a room with a big bathroom because even those are small. After a little shopping on Saturday we headed out early Sunday morning to the Experience Music Project at Seattle Center. The EMP is a “museum” of rock and roll focusing on Seattle bands but also covering the whole rock era. One exhibit has continuously running films on Jimi Hendrix and I have to say I learned quite a few things about him. I haven’t been the biggest Hendrix fan but have a new found appreciation for him after watching several of the films. I had no idea he had been in the Army before becoming a rock legend. Unbelievable the amount of music he created in his far too short life.

They had an awesome exhibit going on of rock photography curated by Graham Nash, a veritable who’s who of rock and roll and it was fun to look at the exhibit and realize the great music that has been made in the last 50 years. Then it was off to the area of the museum where you can play nearly every instrument. This is where one of my core beliefs was confirmed. I HAVE NO MUSICAL ABILITY. I am sticking with playing my Ipod. I tried them all – guitar, drums, keyboards. None, Zero, nada, not even a clue. You’d think I could at least get one of them. Jo instantly picks up on the drums and is ready to play with Mick and Keith the next time the Stones tour. Oh well, at least I can find good music because I sure can’t play it.

After the EMP we walked over to Easy Street Records in the Queen Anne district. This is my favorite record store in the world not named Waterloo. A few years ago we stayed around the corner and every day I came to the store and had one of the associates pick out something to buy. It’s where I found out about Brandi Carlile and Josh Ritter on that trip and on subsequent trips about Star Anna and Shane Tutmarc (he actually sold me his CD). They are very similar to Waterloo in having musicians who are trying to make it working there and lots of in-store appearances by bands. I have bought recorded in stores from Brandi and Pearl Jam that are excellent. Definitely on the "must do" list when I am in Seattle. I picked up a few new CD’s with the highlight being The Cave Singers. They would definitely fit in the Americana segment of the music world and I like it a lot. They had just been in Austin for SXSW but I had never heard of them. They are on the follow-up list now and I look forward to seeing them the next time they come around.

Sunday night’s target was a show at the Crocodile CafĂ© by Jackie Greene. The Crocodile is a classic rock and roll place. Stage, cement floor and a few tables and chairs. A pretty big crowd was on hand for a Sunday night and I soon found out that at least on this night the crowd was hear to drink first and hear music second. One of my pet peeves is people who have to talk during or over the music – if you want to gab there is a Starbucks across the street! We have a similar problem in Austin but this crowd was far worse. We moved twice to try and get away from the shrieking girl and then the two drunk 50 year olds with their 20 year old girlfriends (as Jo said “Yuck”) and still it was hard to focus on the music. I have not seen that many trashed 50 year old women in quite some time – maybe the constant rain just gets to them but they could barely stand up and on a Sunday night! Besides that Jackie put on a great show. He played several songs from "American Myth" I knew including a nice version of "Farewell, So Long, Goodbye" and finished with a great version of B.B.’s “The Thrill is Gone”. His first set was an hour and he was coming back for a second set but it was 11 PM and our thrill was gone so we walked back to the hotel. A great music day in Seattle with a museum, a record store and a live show- can’t get much better than that.

Next - On to the Bay Area and America's #1 record store.