The Year of the Gourds

Sunday’s Statesman may have told us that we’re entering the Year of the Dog. But could it be that we’re entering a different year here locally – the year of the Gourds? Could it be that an Austin band that has been fostering a slowly growing worldwide cult comprising long-in-the-tooth beer drinking good old boys, over-testosteroned 20-year-old college jocks and Whole Foods moms will be able to transcend their cult this year and stick a toe into more mainstream waters?

One of the first signs that this might occur came when I read Michael Corcoran’s all encompassing feature on the band in the XL a couple of weeks ago. As he noted, the Gourds have been somewhat taken for granted in their hometown. While other lesser Austin bands have gone on to take their place in the spotlight, the Gourds have been touring the world, writing hundreds of songs and still taking the time to work on side projects while also raising families.

But here’s where I share the major travesty. Since “Austin City Limits” has married itself off to the fortunes of Capital Sports and Entertainment and their yearly music festival, I’m sure some people have been questioning whether we should change the name of the television show to British City Limits. Where’s the Austin? Sure, it’s featured Tift Merritt and What’s Made Milwaukee Famous recently, but how is it that it could overlook an Austin gem like the Gourds? Aren’t these guys are considered the Beatles by Dutch folks?

I have to admit that I myself have been guilty of the same crime. I’ve been going to Gourds shows so long that I’ve forgotten just how good they are. It didn’t occur to me what an oversight Austin City Limits had made until I read the following letter to the editor in the Statesman:

Why aren’t Gourds on ‘Austin City Limits?’

Re: Jan. 19 XLent cover story, “Gourds, ripened with age”:

Michael Corcoran’s long overdue, superlative praise of The Gourds raises the question that’s bothered most of their fans for a long time: Why have The Gourds never appeared on “Austin City Limits?”

The best band in the Live Music Capital of the World can’t get booked on that city’s namesake showcase? What gives, Terry Lickona?


Yeah, what gives, Terry? Do these guys have to move to the UK to get on the show now?

But like I said, I think this just might be their year. KUT has called this Gourds week, and critics are calling “Heavy Ornamentals” their best album. There may be hope for that long overdue ACL appearance yet.

Related: Gourds’ bassist Jimmy Smith shares his favorite music.

Update: Courtesy of the “Austin City Limits” newsletter, I discovered this NPR piece by David Browne that addressed my above questions.

1 Comment so far

  1. Pat Doyle (unregistered) on January 30th, 2006 @ 3:58 pm

    Boosters often want their favorite version of the local sound to be broadcast. ACL has presented their rather limited definition of Austin’s musical ethos for a long time now. I had a lengthy email exchange w/ Mr. Lickona after the second ACL Fest, bemoaning the dearth of diversity at the fest and the fact that ACL (the show) consistently portrays Austin as some cornpone backwater where we all still pine for the days of the Armadillo and skinny-dipping with our old ladies at Hippy Hollow. He politely acknowledged that the show had not kept up with the times but that they didn’t let trends affect the content. (Now that ACL Fest is such a huge financial success that apparently is no longer the case.) He also said they never professed to speak for the Austin music community, which leads me to question the show’s name.

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