Saturday, October 01, 2005

If Bowie is the 'thin, white duke,' is Steve Earle the 'heavy, angry duke?'

Last week or so, Seldom_Seen left Alaska and headed to the heat, Chuy's and the Austin City Limits Festival. If you've read his comments on this site, you know he is a man of opinion and passion, especially when it comes to music. Take this thought on seeing some of the younger, newer bands: "A lot of the 'new' stuff sounds like a bad version of the Sex Pistols - without the intelligence, the true rebellion, and even (hard to believe) the melody and talent."

Here are observations taken straight from his notebook. Enjoy.


  • Steve Earle: Opens with "Revolution Starts Now" = no surprise. Less surprising: before taking stage, recording of "Revolution Will Not Be Televised" blares from speakers. If Bowie is the '"thin, white duke,'is Steve Earle the 'heavy, angry duke?'
  • Robert Earl Keen: Same old, same old. During intro to "Dreadful Selfish Crime," guitarist was toying with Dead's "China Cat Sunflower." Gee, guess what he closed with???
  • Martin Sexton: Awesome performance, just him and his guitar. What a voice. Of course, all the kids are on their cell phones. Typical Austin music scene: everyone yakking away.
  • Bruce Robison: Now, fact: Bruce rules. "What Would Willie Do?" and "Angry All the Time." Then "Tennessee Jed" (Grateful Dead) but Widespread on SBC Stage and Jet on Cingular = hard to hear Bruce. And in Austin, that's just not right. At one point, Bruce remarks, "Wow ... silence. What happened? Let's hurry!"
  • Oasis: Um, whatever. Aren't we cool? This is why I was never into the shit you hear on the radio (after, say, 1982 or so).
  • Maneja Beto: Fun, good, happy. Everyone's having a great time.
  • Rachel Yamagata: Sarah McLachlan redux? With a bit of an edge. Poorly mixed ... lots of rumble noise.
  • Jason Mraz: Safe. Why do I think of Andy Roddick every time I see this kid? Isn't there a middle path ... one between the painfully loud crap and this schmaltz? Talent, to be sure, particularly vocally. His arrangements (granted, this is my first exposure) are impeccable. But are such vocal skills simply the providence of birth? If so, has he honed his writing skills to accompany such God-given talent?
  • Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men. The definition of rock 'n' roll guitar. Toying with "My Favorite Things" calling Coltrane to mind. Elements of blues, jazz, R-and-B ... And just goes to show that professional doesn't mean dead. You don't have to lose your edge just because you're professional.


Monday Recap
Austin yesterday hit 108 degrees Farenheit (a mere 107 at Camp Mabry). That's a record for the date, and also the hottest day of 2005 thus far.


The bottom line is this: it's just too much. Too hot. Too dusty. Too loud. Too big. Too much going on. In the future, I'll pick a long weekend with good shows around town and do that. This arrangement just made it too hard to enjoy the music. It was too hot to sit for an hour; it was spread out so you couldn't find a spot and camp; and it was too loud so you had to sit out in the open, middle area to be able to hear -- so that eliminated a real "live experience." And it's a shame because if they did the fest in the spring (or maybe a month later than now ... say, in October) it'd be killer. That said: I did fill out the post-fest e-mail questionnaire in hopes of winning free tickets for next year. And I was mostly positive except for the heat (which they can't control), the fact they don't let single-day ticketholders go out and come back in, and especially the too-loud sound.

Asleep at the Wheel: Same as it ever was
Steve Earle & the Dukes: Good; sound issues
Robert Earl Keen: Same as it ever was
John Prine: Always a classic
Lyle Lovett: Solid; drowned out by Crowes

Martin Sexton: Great performance
Bruce Robison: Solid
Oasis (briefly): Whatever

Maneja Beto: Fun
Rachel Yamagata: Sarah McLachlan only louder
Brave Combo: BIG fun
Jason Mraz: Talented and smooth
Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men: True rock 'n' roll
Wilco: Good show; what's the gig?
Tortoise (brief): Loud New Age?!


Seldom_Seen is dead-on with his comments of due-praise for Bruce Robison. Bruce is the silent, tall figure in what is becoming the first family of Austin music. Bruce is married to angelic singer Kelly Willis and his brother Charlie, a songwriter and performer, is married to Dixie Chick Emily.

It must be a decade ago, Bruce wrote a great song entitled "Angry All the Time." Kelly made it a favorite around Austin. And a couple of years back, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill turned it into a country hit.

Bruce has also been on the other side of luck with the song, "Travelin' Soldier." The Dixie Chicks topped the Billboard chart for a week with "Travelin' Soldier." The next week - following Natalie's comments against the war, the song shot down the charts (and never recovered).

Here's Bruce and wife Kelly singing their song at Gruene Hall.


Other recommended ACL coverage


At 9:51 PM, Blogger tj1972 said...

I was at ACL last year and a few things stood out: Bruce Robison, Ryan Adams and the overwhelming heat. Looks like a few things didn't change.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

I can just imagine what a cluster-fuck was caused by all the ACL fans renting hotel rooms and tens of thousands of people from the Gulf Coast coming up to Austin at the same time to avoid Rita.


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