Saturday, April 30, 2005


i just got eric "roscoe" ambel's new (as in 2004 release; i'm a little slow on the pickup) odds 'n' sods compilation knucklehead and it's great. if you like great songwriting, beery good-time vocalizing, and the rock'n'roll spirit of the sloppy-drunk faces and exile on main st.-era rolling stones crossed with the brooding, rocky side of neil young, you can't go wrong. in fact, imagine the stones hadn't commenced to suck immediately after exile. instead, imagine that they shitcanned mick and hired neil young to be their frontman. that'll give you some idea of what roscoe's gang and the yayhoos, ambel's longest-lived outlets o' expression, sound like. the yayhoos come with the added bonus of splitting the voxxx four ways, the other three being bunn, north carolina's own terry anderson, prolly the most underrated rock songwriter in these united states, as well as ex-georgia satellites frontguy dan baird and _original_ head satellite keith christopher. their 2001 debut, fear not the obvious, was noteworthy for the inclusion of: 1) a song called "get right with jesus" that's about (what else?) kicking somebody's ass; 2) one about hank williams, jr., called "monkey with a gun;" and 3) one that encapsulates my last relationship in a single line: "baby i love you but leave me the fuck alone." their new record should be out any time now.

when they're not being the yayhoos, some of these guys also tour with steve earle. besides all of that, roscoe's also a recording engineer (he twiddled the knobs on crucial sides by the bottle rockets and half of the y'allternative universe), owns a bar down in manhattan's alphabet city, and (if my shakey memory serves) was playing gtr with joan jett the time i saw her wipe the floor with iggy at the old palladium in dallas, ca. '81. if you go to the performances page on his website, you can check out some mp3's of 'scoe singing george harrison covers that'll give you a whole 'nother idea about the "quiet" beatle, as well as assorted roscoe trio, steve earle, and yayhoos wonderment. as roscoe his own self would say, "fuckin' a, it's alright!"

Friday, April 29, 2005

what you gotta do to be a musician in this town

heard a coupla interesting stories today.

story 1: so band "a" played at the fw weekly's spring rally thingy. they got no money, but had to sign a contract saying that they wouldn't badmouth the paper or sue if they got killed. they were paying for their own drinks all afternoon, but a couple of the fellas decided they would try using their "performer" tags to try and bogart their way into the "vip area." no dice. not a big deal, but it reminded me of the time when i used to freelance for the paper that i got invited to the christmas party -- _after_ everybody had eaten. (better i should eat the leftovers than the dogs in the alley, i suppose.) would you like a side dish of insult with your entree of injury?

story 2: a few nights later, band "b" played at a local club, second-billed to another batch of locals. band "b," who have become a consistent big draw in the last year or so, pulled the biggest crowd, like you'd expect. here's the thing: the headliners had a $350 guarantee, so band "b" got nada, even though the door was over $600 and they brought most of the paying customers. sure, it's nobody's fault but band "b"'s; part of the reason gig money in the fort is so lousy is that audiences are used to enjoying live music for free, but the other part is that musos who come up in this environment (a marketplace filled with sluts and hobbyists eager to give away their wares) tend to undervalue their own product. the lesson here, i suppose, is something like this: respect yourselves or no one else will.

chicano space program

first must-see gig of may (the wreck room's weekend-long eighth anniversary throwdown doesn't start till the next day): chicano space program, aka tony diaz (goodwin) and steffin ratliff (pablo and the hemphill 7), performing acoustic versions of some of their favorite songs and _maybe_ (if allah is merciful and fortune smiles) some bindle goodies, on cinco de mayo at the moon on berry st. i have a work thing in dallas until 10pm that night, but i'll drive pedal-to-the-metal to make it back to the fort for this.

the art of the jam

fell by the wreck wednesday night for the lee allen invitational jam before and after taking in a bit of dave and daver's cd release party -- about which i'll just say that dave williams' tunes have even greater authority live than on the record, which is well worth hearing, altho it woulda been nice to hear the musos talking it up more from the stage. then again, not everybody is a marketer. nor do they need to be.

jam sessions are like forrest gump's box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get. jams can range all the way from the sublime to the ridiculous, sometimes in the course of a single song. it helps, of course, to have a guiding intelligence on the set, which lee allen definitely provides in spades. playing his six-string bass, he started out with a spanish theme (which he later said was by chick corea, "although we never got to the 'b' section") with fort worth symphony violinist steven huber (formerly a regular at the black dog jazz jams). then he called up goodwin/pablo and the hemphill 7 drummer damien stewart to add some riddim. after a bit, he said, "i wonder what this would sound like with another drummmer?" and as if by magic, another one appeared. (when was the last time you saw anyone playing double drums in fort worth?) finally he added a guitar player to the mix, then proceeded to direct the band, cueing solos and finally ending the tune, in a manner that recalled frank zappa's onstage band conduction. (maybe that's why, at times, huber's mad gypsy violin put me in mind of zappa's idol/early '70s collaborator sugarcane harris.) even the bartenders were getting into the act: woodeye bassist graham richardson joined in for a minute, and it was a real treat to see ex-gideons frontman carl pack sitting onstage rapping for a couple of numbers.

all jammers, of course, are not created equal. the best are the ones who listen and respond empathetically to what's going on around them. the other kind are those that treat each piece as an opportunity to showboat rather than interact. (that's right, kids; "plays well with others" matters long after grade school.) you see some of both in any jam situation; the wreck's is no exception. but allen is such a great bandleader, transforming warhorses like hendrix' "manic depression," zappa's "muffin man," funkadelic's "maggot brain," and the fonky meters' "cissy strut" into evolving, spontaneous compositions that take on a life of their own, that it's worth sitting through the occasional dodgy bits to hear the diamonds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

blogger haiku

unloading my head
closing the book on the past
ready for what's next

lee allen

move over, hank hankshaw, scott copeland, and darrin kobetich. the wreck room has a new weekly ritual on wednesday nights: a revival of lee allen's all-star jam from a few years back. lee, recently returned to the fort from "america's live music capital(r)," plays a bunch of instruments, knows a bunch of toons, and has a bunch of friends. should be good times. lee and dave karnes are also starting a music school here in the fort. film, as they say, at 11.

airport haiku

amish on a plane
comparative religions
catholic t-shirt

Monday, April 25, 2005


this is incredibly perverse but funny.

how the counterculture spawned the personal computer revolution

oh wow, man. it's in the san francisco chronicle, so it must be true.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

office space

so some magazine recently reunited the cast of office space, mike judge's 1999 sleeper comedy about life in cubicleland. missing from the reunion was jennifer jane emerson, a featured player in the flick (she played the annoying temp who said somebody had "a case of the mondays"). back then, jenn actually occupied the cubicle next to mine at my soul-destroying job in corporateamerica. while she was there, she actually had a couple of experiences worthy of inclusion in the film.

the first came after someone had told our boss (the guy who fired me, later on, whom i'll refer to as "numbnuts" for simplicity's sake) that he needed to spend more time getting to know his subordinates. so, he'd come out of his office and visit with each of the people in our department in turn. numbnuts was an interesting fella, with an mba from a baptist seminary, to give you some idea of what he was about, but kinda short on social skills. when it was jenn's turn to get up close and personal with him, he walked into her office, sat down on her desk, and farted. "i couldn't believe it," she told me later. "it was disgusting."

his predecessor as head of our department, who was kinda anal-retentive and controlling but whom i basically liked and respected, was famous/notorious for conducting the longest pre-employment interviews in the known world -- so much so that when she was interviewing a prospective new hire, we'd have a pool to see who could guess the closest to the interview's actual duration. (her record was three and a half hours.) numbnuts had a similar quirk: whenever somebody walked into his office to quit, numbnuts would invariably spend an inordinate time bullshitting with them about something completely random before they were able to drop their bomb and get the hell out of there. when jenn went in to quit, numbnuts spent a half an hour blabbering inanely about losing weight before she was finally blurted out, "numbnuts, i quit."

i didn't learn about this last one until a couple of years after the fact. at the time, it didn't even occur to me to suspect that something was up, but everytime our administrative assistant -- who looked kind of like dame edna, sat at an island in the middle of the department and absolutely _hated_ to miss a phone call -- got up to use the restroom, her phone would ring just as she was rounding the corner to the women's facilities. hearing it, she'd dash back to her desk, yelling "i'll get it!" what was really going on was this: jenn, whose cube faced our long-suffering assistant's, would e-mail another co-worker (this was before the advent of office im's), who sat in a corner of the office where he couldn't even see the administrative island. he'd wait a designated interval, then call her phone and let it ring just long enough for her to traverse the space between the ladies' can and her desk, then hang up. proof positive, as if any more were needed, that corporateamerica can be a cruel place.

according to the imdb, jenn is also in judge's new movie, fat girls, now in post-production. good on her.

let us now praise famous canadians

been listening a lot to an album called melville, by a band called the rheostatics. they're from canada, and proud of it, too. their songs are loaded with references to rolling prairies, hockey, and lotsa canadian history that's less than meaningless down here. the main guys have been together for over 20 years. one of them's a published author, another is a graphic artist who's done some of their album covers. the cbc declared their whale music the greatest canadian rock album, but you can buy it used on amazon for a dime.

canadian musos have it pretty sweet, at least in their own country. their government mandates that 30% of the music played on the radio has to be canadian in origin. (picture a radio station that played 30% gordon lightfoot, joni mitchell, neil young, ann murray, bruce cockburn, rush, triumph, barenaked ladies. hahahahahahaha!) it also provides loans and grants to canadian musos of all stripes. imagine being able to get a grant from the federal government the next time your band was about to get in the van for a circuit of the rock toilets! the state of texas' ineffectual "music office" should do so well.

these rheostatics are good, though. they're great players, not in the grandstanding virtuosic "look-at-me" manner of most sophisto musos, but in a very subtle way that takes awhile to stir your consciousness. they write great lyrics, too, which actually scan as poetry (or even prose), something beyond the reach of most dumbass lyricists. in "record body count," f'rinstance, you have to be listening very closely not to miss the suicide at the end. "sasketchawan" and "horses" are drawn from canadian history (a battle and a strike, respectively -- i've already confessed my ignorance of the specifics). "when winter comes," based on a letter from a fan, contains my favorite lines: "what about the band, what about the guess who / the day they made the charts in billboard magazine / all the irish armies couldn't teach you / about independence, peace and brotherhood." their melancholic music is tinged with wistful regret, but they can rock out, too.

damien stewart turned me on to the rheostatics, just like steve gray turned me on to the psychodots and geoff ginsberg turned me on to the yayhoos. all of these bands reinforce my faith that it really is worthwhile digging around to try and ferret out obscure music.

Friday, April 22, 2005

the backhands

my gtr buddy jim crye has a new band, the backhands, that tones down the heaviosity of his previous outfit, lifesize, without lowering the rawk quotient. to understand what that means, you gotta listen to their mp3s.


proof positive (as if any more were needed) that real life is much, much stranger than anything you could imagine: today's example is matisyahu, the hasidic reggae superstar, "combining the sounds of bob marley and shlomo carlebach." even better, the cat can really sing, has a good band, projects the proper attitude of spiritual positivity, and has actually performed in texas (his live cd was recorded at stubbs in austin). so, when is he coming to fort worth to play with pablo/kulcha et al.?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

terry chandler

inasmuch as i try to avoid reading the fw weekly these days, well, even a blind squirrel gets a nut sometimes. the proof: this week's ish, wherein dan mcgraw does right by terry chandler, fort worth's very own outlaw chef of fred's cafe fame. y'all dig him, now. we sure do.

some cool streaming music

got this link from paul boll. it's to kcrw, a very eclectic public radio station from santa monica -- my new fave background work noise. all day long, the station shifts seamlessly from genre to genre, without the annoying dj yammer that makes most d/fw radio (notable exception: paul slavens' sunday night slot on kera) unlistenable. generally, i listen super-low at the j-o-b, but yesterday while everyone was at lunch, i heard "aloneagainor" from love's forever changes and had to turn it up for a minute. after all, one can't live by the streaming music on alone. or can one?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

some movies

been watching a lot of movies lately. saw sideways, a silly, self-indulgent movie about silly, self-indulgent people that made me think that it's not necessarily an unalloyed good thing when people no longer have to worry about how they're going to eat, and the fact that paul giammati is american cinema's new everyschlemiel (replacing steve buscemi).

a couple of nights later, watched hotel rwanda, a totally different experience -- true story of an african hotelier (played by don cheadle, who shoulda won the best-actor oscar imo) in kigali, rwanda, who used his position to rescue 1200 of his countrymen during the hutu-tutsi genocide back in '94. i remember sitting in italy around that time at the behest of the u.n. and nato, watching bosnia (while my buddy jay was performing in sarajevo, where citizens dodged snipers to go hear the symphony) and wondering why the u.s. would intervene in the former yugoslavia to prevent further serb-croat "ethnic cleansing" while not lifting a finger to stop a similarly egregious orgy of bloodletting in africa. it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out -- same reason my dad (who served in the post-world war II u.s. strategic bombing survey while _his_ father sat out the war in an internment camp) used to tell me the u.s. would never have used the atomic bomb on germany. that and the fact that we'd just gotten our asses kicked over in somalia (a fact the filmmaker, through cheadle's character, points out). one good thing about being the biggest kid left standing on the block: you get to choose your battles. i also dug how the screenwriter talked (in a "bonus" dvd interview) about starting out with a sprawling, traffic-like script with a multiplicity of subplots which he had to pare down in the event to the essential, and how he chose cheadle's character to focus on rather than nick nolte's u.n. soldier or joaquin phoenix' journalist. this wouldn't have happened a few years ago; maybe we _are_ improving when it comes to race cards.

last weekend, we went to dinner at the home of one of kat's ex-students, whose brother was leaving for the marines the next day. they're a beautiful family; the father crossed the border a few years ago because it wasn't possible for him to make a living or obtain services for his multi-disabled daughter back where he came from. he's worked hard to make a place here for his family. over the past couple of years, the son who's joining the marines -- a great, smart, strong, loving, respectful kid -- really pushed hard and did a lot of legwork to get legal immigration status for his sister, so she can continue to receive therapeutic services after she ages out of the school system this year. between his academics and financial aid, he'd be a shoo-in for college, but he wants to give something back for all the benefits his family has enjoyed from living in america. (it's funny how really advantaged kids never seem to have this sense of obligation.) he's overwhelmed with the opportunities the marines are offering him now. they're telling him he can have his citizenship in three months, so he can get a top secret clearance and go to intel school. i knew a dozen guys like him on active duty; adult men at 19. i can see him in a couple of years, being the young sergeant everybody looks up to. he's aiming higher than that, thinking about college and a commission, but he's really focused on the next 13 weeks of boot camp; we couldn't help thinking about what'll come after that for him. it reminded me of jesse sierra hernandez' painting that we saw on gallery night: a short-haired, bare-torsoed, brown-skinned kid with aztec tattoos, wearing what appear to be desert bdu pants and combat boots, surrounded by the detritus of his history -- a conquistador's helmet and sword next to a kevlar one and m-16. i'm not about to put a magnet on my car, but i'll be thinking about that young man when i read the news, and hoping for his safe return.

Friday, April 15, 2005

this is cod-patriotism at its worst

did you like neil young's "let's roll?" how 'bout lee greenwood's "god bless the u.s.a.?" if you liked those two, or go for post-9/11 flag/angel/firefighter imagery in general, you're gonna absolutely _lurrrve_ this video. at first i wasn't sure whether it was serious or a goof, but i finally decided that the kevin cronin/david coverdale lookalike who sings it is so painfully sincere and the visuals are so baldly literal-minded that it just _has_ to be real. "a-mer-uh-cuhhh" indeed.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

my new favorite rock read online

steve steward, bassist for fw punk-skasters darth vato and a fine gent to know and associate with, now has his own blog. it's boss. let's hope he updates it more often than my other fave local blogger does his.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

flipside, ghostcar, yeti, when faith fails

went to the black dog to see paul unger's flipside trio a coupla weeks ago. paul's the assistant principal bassist for the fort worth symphony (does that mean he gets to give misbehaving basses detention?) who's also played with guitarist tom reynolds and dave and daver, among others. flipside has been together for about a decade, playing a brand of "free" or "outside" improvisational music that you don't hear much in these parts (unless dennis gonzalez' yells at eels is holding forth). recently i was surprised to hear flipside music on kntu. unger's a great player with an unmistakable sound, particularly when he picks up the bow, and his band is a lot more versatile than i'd expected -- in the course of an evening, they might play anything from straightahead to fatback to funk to circus music to stripper-blues. dave monsch plays the fire out of tenor and soprano saxes, as well as percussion and "little instruments." he'll cue the band with hand signals, blow two horns at once a la roland kirk, or pick up a slide whistle for some art ensemble of chicago-like hijinks. drummer dennis durrick is built like a fireplug and kicks up a polyrhythmic cyclone with a physicality that's a joy to watch.

on this particular night, they were joined onstage by two members of ghostcar -- trumpeter/guiding light karl poetschke and bassist chris perdue. ghostcar, unfortunately, is no more. guitarist daniel huffman was also supposed to put in an appearance, but failed to show (probably too busy with comet/day of the double agent bizness). karl has given up playing music professionally (no more six-month jaunts on a cruise ship for this boy) in favor of a dayjob and hadn't played in three months, but sounded great in his usual milesian spacey-lyrical way. he said his chops hurt; he shoulda picked up a maraca like late-period dizzy gillespie; there were definitely enough small instruments onstage for that. perdue, who used to do the two-bass thing with tony chapman in ghostcar, played simple-yet-melodic counterpoint to unger and held down the groove when paul left the stage. he says he has a new project in the works which might involve him singing. looking forward to hearing it, and hoping clay stinnett is able to overcome his recent difficulties.

my junkie alarm was buzzing that night like it hadn't in 30 years and i realized why when i saw three kids doing the familiar shuffle. when they took a place at the bar next to us and one of them bummed a light from me, i scoped them out. two of them were harmless, phased-out, cancelled, but the one that bummed the light, who couldn't have been more than 20, had eyes like a wounded animal. a little later he stumbled into me and i started thinking "if i put my foot behind his and push him, he'll fall into that table over there." when shaggy finally bumrushed them, i kept watching the kid's hands, half expecting him to go for a knife. people like that are usually harmless in those situations, but you never know. while the heroin plague never goes away entirely, it'd been awhile since i witnessed a scene like that. fuck william burroughs and his "algebra of need" bullshit -- i don't want that in my town.

we checked out the final yeti show at the wreck room. it was a weird night. there was a guy in the audience who looked uncannily like yeti's deceased founder/leader doug ferguson. the band (kilesa?) that preceded yeti was noteworthy for being the first band i've seen in a long time that caused my stomach to go into oscillation to the point where i thought i might vomit. and eric and tommy seemed kinda, um, _detached_ from the whole thing. they played one note for what seemed like half an hour. tommy spent a lot of time with his hands behind his back. jon teague was in good drum form, though. he says he's got a couple of projects in the works, and that he'll probably be ready to gig in three months. again, i look forward to hearing.

last weekend, we fell by the wreck to hear darrin kobetich (who's been working a lot more lately, both here in town and elsewhere -- he told me he was driving to houston for a gig the next day) and wound up staying to hear an underaged metal band of mostly hispanic kids called when faith fails. i love being surprised. i saw the guitar player ordering _a soda_ at the bar and asked him if it was his first time at the wreck. he responded in the affirmative, and we decided to stick around. i'm not the world's biggest metal fan -- i _loathe_ the glossy sheen of most '80s metal; so much hair, so much spandex, so much masking tape, so little musicality -- but these kids reminded me more of the bad brains or living colour (both of whom i dug), only with screaming. they could actually _play their instruments_ -- even the bassplayer, who had _braces_ -- and their song titles ("american warhead," "sex and masturbation," "breakin' shit") were indicative of some wit and intelligence, although i'll be damned if i could understand anything the frontguy was singing. they had the correct spirit, though, and what really endeared them to me was watching them grabassing before and giving shoutouts to their friends (and dedicating a song to one of them's recently-deceased dad) during the show. and hearing that they had to go to a quinceanera afterwards.

live local music: the best candy bar your money can buy.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

a soldier's story

yeah, i know, i haven't been writing much. kat and i got married, and i feel like i've been on the ass-kicking machine at work forever (although in reality it's only been about a month). blah blah blah. whatever. and cooking has kind of assumed the role in my life that playing music and writing about it used to occupy, although i'm not yet foolish enough to try and get paid for doing it. but i was surfing my old hometown rag this morning and stumbled on this small gem of prose by an army reservist who just spent a year in iraq. probably the funniest thing i've read recently about war, absurdity of. you might not appreciate it, but tony addison, cary blackwell, rod dove, and frank logan probably would. best of all, this guy's from fort worth. i'd like to buy him a beer sometime. welcome back, sir.

(oh, yeah. his name is craig a. mcneil. he wrote this one too. good onya, cap'n.)