Another South by Southwest is in the books. My 21st out of a possible 23 festivals. Let me start with three acts that were among the most prominent participants there in terms of appearances. It seemed like every time I turned aroundday, night, those sunny, warm Austin spring afternoons when the free drinks flow freely and the good times rollthere would be Raul Malo, the Heartless Bastards and/or M. Ward playing yet another gig.
I can see the scene now, Gary, the mighty Max, the Big Man, all standing around the studio, looking at their feet, afraid to tell Bruce that one of his new songs, the otherwise very charming, “Outlaw Pete,” has a melody very similiar to the one found in KISS’ “I Was Made For Lovin’ You Baby,” their successful quasi-disco single off their otherwise weak 1979 stylistic stumble, Dynasty.
The minidustup over Etta James saying she “can’t stand” Beyonce and was gonna “whip” or “whoop” her ass is a hoot. First of all, Etta’s legacy is in no danger. No one will ever top her rendition of “At Last.” That performance, her greatest single track, is in no danger of being superseded.
How great was it to hear all the music at the inaugural. Maybe music and the arts will once again be valued in the country. Maybe someone else than right wing country singers can get a tune in edgewise.
As soon as we pulled up, I knew that this was gonna be the highlight of my trip to New Orleans. When the door to Snake and Jakes Christmas Club Lounge swung open, I got tears in my eyes as I beheld the kind of unclean, unsafe booze shack that I've wasted many an hour in.
One night last week, a bout of channel surfing brought me to the Grammy nomination concert. Not the Grammys mind you, that’s in February, but a televised special to announce the nominations. And only the nominations of the celebritydriven stuff like Best New Artist which is when LL Cool J, who was hosting, walked across the front of the auditorium and ask the Jonas Brothers how it felt to be nominated. As the bile rose in my throat I changed the channel. I found it to be very strange that this was proceeded by a showing of the venerable 1964 stop motion animation special, Rudolph, The RedNosed Reindeer which is narrated by Burl Ives and contains a couple of indelible toon icons in the prospector Yukon Cornelius and a Yeti called a “bumble.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing on satellite radio has been Bob Dylan’s Theme Time radio show on XM, where he uses big themes like “baseball” or “eyes,” and builds shows around music that somehow connects to the theme. The idea for this show, which is worth listening to if only for Dylan’s raspyvoiced patter, may have come from a previous Fortiesera radio program hosted by one of Dylan’s heroes, Woody Guthrie.
A hit abroad but relatively unknown at home. That describes Cheap Trick who I wrote about here recently and also, believe it or not, Otis Redding. He was a big hit in the U.K. and even it seems in Paris before he hit at home with his final single, “(Sittin’ on the) “Dock of the Bay.”
I live by the axiom, “So many records to listen to, so little time.” That’s not an excuse; just reality. And it has nothing to do with being a music writer. If you’re a voracious music fan, there’s no way, no matter how many records per day you slug through, that you can hear it all. If today, I started listening to just my Beethoven Symphony cycles, it would literally be months before I could come up for air.
All Together Now, the DVD that details the making of Love the Beatles collaboration with Cirque du Soleil is coming out on October 21 and from the looks of the trailer it could be fun. I hear there are flashes of Yoko being a dragon lady (now there’s a shock), McCartney being a doofus of sorts (another revelation) and some great bits with George Martin which, all kidding aside, might make this worth the price. The subtitle in this trailer that says, “Yoko hates it,” is a classic.
It’s been a Guitar Fest here in NYC lately. I’ve seen Bill Frisell (always superb), Kenny Burrell (a very rare pleasure because he hates to fly) and Mike Marino (with new Blue Note pianist Aaron Parks). Tonight is a tribute to Fender's Jazzmaster guitar headlined by Nels Cline, J. Mascis, Thurston Moore and Tom Verlaine. Must be frets in the water or something.