Archive for April, 2008

Austin City Limits Taping – Pinetop Perkins and Bettye Lavette

acl_pinetopI was very fortunate to attend an Austin City Limits taping on Sunday evening. This was my third in the past ten years. I saw Roky Erickson last November and got to see Hank Thompson & Ray Price with Junior Brown in 1999. I seem to have a knack for catching legendary musicians late in their careers.

This time it was “Pinetop” Perkins and Bettye LaVette. Ninety-five year old Perkins was up first. He arrived at the stage in a wheelchair and was helped up onto it by an ACL employee. He made it across the stage on his own and seated himself at the piano wearing an impressive red suit and hat. The backing band consisted of many local veteran musicians including Chris Layton, Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff, Gary Clark Jr. and also included another Blues legend, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, on harmonica. “Big Eyes” has played with “Pinetop” Perkins for many years both on drums and harmonica. I didn’t know this until I started checking him out after the show, but they were both in Muddy Waters band and formed their own Legendary Blues Band, appearing behind John Lee Hooker in The Blues Brothers. Wikipedia claims he’s the only other musician shown clearly on camera in that scene. Time to go check out The Blues Brothers again. KUT did an award winning documentary on Perkins last summer. It was kind of hard to hear Perkins over the band. They turned up his mike after the first song. He’s definitely showing his age, something to be expected at 95, but it was definitely a honor to be able to see him play, one of, if not the, last boogie woogie piano players. In a really weird coincidence, “Down in Mississippi” came on the stereo in the coffee shop where I’m working this morning.

Here’s the set list:


Bettye LaVette was up next after a long intermission between bands.


"Safety" device dangerous

speed bump causes accident
This runaway trailer became uncoupled when it went over a speed hump, and then rolled backward downhill, crossed the center line, jumped the curb, went back into the street, and hit the speed hump on the other side, which caused it to jump the curb again (the second time all wheels left the street entirely) and destroy even more of our landscape and low fencing than it did the first time it jumped the curb. The sturdy resilience of the half-century-old woody shrubbery partly visible crushed beneath the trailer’s wheels finally stopped the trailer before it went entirely, rather than partially, over the sidewalk (visible in photograph) and took down a fence. Or me. I had been standing where I would have been struck, and probably killed. This is a multi-wheeled and very heavy trailer.

Since installation of the “traffic-calming device” we have not had one night of unbroken sleep and we have collected multiple articles of debris, some quite large. But never before a trailer. We had been assured by the City, in writing, that no such device would be placed along our property frontage. The promise was not kept. This experience causes me to to believe that there’s no reason to believe anything that comes in writing from the City.

Our house shakes and our windows rattle and the traffic does not slow its speed. It does, however, since the installation of this abomination, run much closer to the curb, often grazing and scraping it and gradually wearing it away. People now behave as though the street has four lanes, with traffic in one “lane” illegally passing drivers slowing for the humps in order to spare their suspensions. With all the demolitions, “remodels,” and new construction, complete with over-the-road trucks and heavy construction equipment, the noise and vibration never cease. Others have experienced some of these effects, and complained, with no result. I hope I’m not in the wrong place at the wrong time the next time this happens. This was a close call.

Headed for mailboxes all over town

Updated valuations for 2008 are up at the Travis Central Appraisal District site. The 2007 valuations have not yet been transferred to the history page, which at the moment shows numbers for the years 2000 through 2006. Until 2007 info appears on the history page, those property-owners interested in figuring the change in valuation between the 2007 certified number and the 2008 preliminary one must refer to their own records. Those not owning their habitations do not go unaffected; rents will rise to cover these increases. And the changes do seem to be increases in appraised values, not declines. The local daily quotes a local real-estate consultant as saying that these figures are a “lagging indicator of market conditions.” Are you consoled?

Tree of Life Sightings

2280200328_88f9f4d5c1Austinite Terrence Malick’s latest, Tree of Life, has been filming in here since February.

The Wife was in the GNC in Sunset Valley a couple of weeks ago and was told by one of the clerks that she had just missed Brad Pitt.

Today, she’s at ABIA heading out of town and spotted Sean Penn who she described as “taller than I thought”. I told her to tell him that she loves Bad Boys (no, not the one with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith) & Fast Times and to give him props for his appearance on the “Fort Knoxville” episode of Viva La Bam. We won’t speak of I Am Sam, Shanghai Surprise or the overacting in Mystic River. Penn also had a small part in Malick’s last film, The Thin Red Line, along with a ton of other well known actors.

Matt Dentler, who just recently moved on from doing the programming for SXSW Flim. blogged last year about an unexpected dinner with Malick that also included Richard Linklater and Francis Ford Coppola at Vespaio. Malick also produced the documentary about development and Barton Springs, The Unforeseen, which is currently playing at Alamo South Lamar (and mentioned earlier this week on this blog).

Aloha, Mr. Hand.

Opera obstacle course

Austin Lyric OperaIt’s tough to get there these days, according to the local daily (“Weekend events overwhelm Palmer Events Center parking,” byline Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, April 22), tougher than it used to be to reach the Bass Concert Hall on campus, even though this location is closer for many. We used to eat downtown, ride the bus up the hill part of the way and walk part of the way, and then take the bus home. The only bad thing that could happen would be that a performance would run long, so that buses were off the streets, but then it was easy to walk to a downtown cab stand and catch a ride the rest of the way.

Last week, charter buses and vehicles of all sorts were delayed in reaching the new Long Center or could find no nearby parking and were very late to the Sunday matinee performance of Carmen.

ALO’s general manager fired off an e-mail blast today, declaring to ticketholders that this weekend it will be different:

I would like to assure our Thursday and Saturday night Carmen ticket holders that they will not encounter such parking difficulties. On Thursday evening there is a performance at Rollins Theater which holds 250. On Saturday there is a City Wide Garage Sale from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and the University of Phoenix Graduation Ceremony from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Palmer Events Center but both will be finished well before our 7:30 curtains.

I confess, though, that I’m suspicious, since in that same e-mail people are advised to arrive an hour early. If gridlock occurs, cabs won’t help, and it’s frightening crossing the streets around there on foot. It’s so near, and yet so far. We’re still considering the logistics.

Carmen is one of the operas most often suggested for beginners (La Traviata, Tosca, and The Elixir of Love are some others; people will argue for hours over this question). The last performance of Carmen that I attended was the wonderful event staged in the Austin Coliseum, now demolished. Even sitting on bleachers didn’t diminish the pleasure. Last-minute tickets are often available at the box office. Like it or not, the melodies from Carmen are unforgettable and you will hear people humming them as they leave the show.


This last week I was in Austin visiting family and barely had my feet touched Texas soil and my sister whisked me away to a wine-tasting fundraiser for the Angelheart Children’s Shelter — a very worthy cause indeed. The Angelheart provides emergency shelter for kids ages 0 to 18 who have been removed from their homes.

Combining a wine-tasting with a silent auction is a smart move for fund-raising, it turns out, as people (aka me) get a little aggressive with their bidding. And so it is that I find myself the winner of a very geographically specific prize — a gift certificate for a quarterly family membership to the Pflugerville Recreation Center. But my refusal-to-lose is your opportunity-to-gain, if you live in the Pflugerville area and would use this membership. Be the first commenter to say “dibs” and the gift certificate is yours. (I’ll contact you by email to get your mailing address.)

The smell of Hill Country and the wind in your hair

The weather is just about perfect for riding a bicycle right now. Yesterday we took advantage of one of the profligate cycling clubs and joined the Circle C Ranch Cycling Club for their Sunday morning ride. There was a time when I would not have had too hard a time keeping up with them on the route chosen – down William Cannon to Barton Creek Boulevard, then Bee Cave Road to 360 and into the hills of Westlake – but whew! now I remember just how many hills Austin has.

So perhaps you’ve been thinking that getting on a bike would be a good way to get some exercise, but you’re not sure where to start? Maybe you’ve ridden around the neighborhood or participated in a charity ride like the Armadillo Hill Country Classic in Liberty Hill (coming up again on May 10th)? Or you read in today’s daily that May is Bike Month and maybe, just maybe, you’ll try biking to work on Friday, May 16th? Well, be sure to check out:

  • Austin Cycling Association – a cycling club for people of all levels and abilities. ACA organizes rides around Austin every weekend and sometimes during the week, as well as providing information and resources for cyclists. They have a full calendar of Bike Month events.
  • Austin Flyers – another cycling club that has a bit more of a focus on helping beginner racers. It is unusual in that it is led by women – but men are welcome.
  • City of Austin Bicycle Route Map – download a PDF of the bicycle routes or get info on ordering a copy.

See you on the road, hopefully on two wheels! Please be kind to cyclists when you’re out driving, too!

"The Unforeseen" Should be Required Viewing in Austin

Ever wonder why Austin’s traffic has gotten so bad? Perhaps you don’t think it’s that bad if you’re from L.A., but it’s definitely much, much worse than it used to be. If you’re a central Austin inhabitant, you may not venture out to the ‘burbs much. Maybe you’ve been to Barton Springs Pool or hiked along Barton Creek? All of these things may not seem related, but to anyone who’s been in Austin awhile and cares about the natural environment – it’s definitely all related. And now there’s a film that starts to bring it all together – The Unforeseen. You now have another week to go see it at the Alamo Drafthouse South!


Spinning backward

Maverick LP-001
In honor of Record Store Day, on the turntable is a vinyl relic of Austin’s musical past. It’s Maverick LP-001, “For the Record: Austin Country 1973-1978.” Google finds it only on discography pages for Augie and for Doug. I love this LP, without a single dud track, more than I can say and am very happy that it’s still with me. There’s lots of wonderful recorded music out there waiting for you, and tomorrow’s a wonderful day and a wonderful way to seek it out.

Maverick was at 808 West 10th Street. The artist’s signature cannot be deciphered and I don’t find a credit among the liner notes; I hope to be forgiven for the lack of attribution and for the cropping. If there was more info on the inner paper sleeve, too bad, because that’s gone. Favorite tracks from this album are a version of Henrietta by Doug, one of Cowboy’s Sweetheart by Marcia Ball, and, of course, the immortal and rollicking Meet Me in Seguin. The liner notes, attributed to one Teddy Jack Eddy, can’t be beat for summoning up some ghosts (all punctuation copied faithfully):

During the early to mid-seventies, progressive country radiated outward from Austin, being generated by the breeding grounds of the local scene. Bands like Plum Nelly, Rat Creek, Buckdancer’s Choice, The Bronco Brothers, Bill and Bonnie Hearne, Alvin Crow and the Neon Angels, Freda and the Firedogs, Doug Sahm, Jon Emery and the Missouri Valley Boys, Augie Meyers and the Western Head Band, Greezy Wheels, Silver City Saddle Tramps, Steve Fromholtz, Kenneth Threadgill and the Velvet Cowpasture, The Reynolds Sisters and the New Oso Band, Denim, Howlin’ at the Moon, the Lost Gonzo Band, Joe Ely, Doak Sneed, Wild Bill and his Buffalo Yankees, kept a live music scene cooking nightly. Clubs like Alliance Wagon Yard, The Split Rail, the old Soap Creek Saloon, The Broken Spoke, The Skyline, Armadillo World Headquarters, Buffalo Gap, The El Paso Cattle Company, the the Ritz.

Record Store Day is tomorrow. A dozen outfits will participate in the Austin indie record store crawl: Antone’s, BackSpin, Cheapo Discs, DJ Dojo, Encore, End of an Ear, Friends of Sound, MusicMania, Sound on Sound, Trailer Space, Waterloo, and Whetstone. Look for special events and special discounts at each store. Be sure to present your receipt for what you bought at the prior store when you visit the next one. This event is a great excuse for getting out and around without going far from the heart of town.

‘Dillos to disappear?

I certainly hope not. All that would remain would be two routes: one running around the Capitol grounds, going no farther north than 17th Street and no farther south than Barton just off South Congress; the other, circulating constantly west on Sixth and east on Fifth, running only so far as Bowie to the west and Red River to the east. So much for students, southies, and those living and working east of IH-35. What’s obviously a PowerPoint (or equivalent) presentation bills these proposed changes as “improvements.”

There have been rumors about this proposal for months; the April 14 article in the local daily (byline Ben Wear) employs “aims for free ride every five minutes” as part of the print headline (as is usual, the on-line version bears a completely different headline). What good is frequency that’s little better than what already exists if the routes remaining aren’t helpful to Austinites in their daily lives, but exist only to serve tourists?

There’s an on-line map of the existing ‘Dillo routes, serviceable enough, but I love the printed pocket ‘Dillo map and schedule that will work until August 28. There’s a graphic showing each route individually, together with the frequency for each period of the day, and another that makes it clear which route will take a rider to which major destinations. I always carry it with me.

It’s not that the ‘Dillo vehicles themselves are wonderful: they’re tough for older people to navigate, the seats are lacking in comfort and sensible configuration, and the high center of gravity makes them seem precarious. But the imperiled routes are very useful indeed. For example, more than one runs up to the Drag, and often; the Silver route covers an important part of Pleasant Valley and circulates through East Austin, running through downtown, past BookPeople and Whole Foods, on beyond MoPac, and all the way back over east, with very helpful frequencies; and the Orange ‘Dillo runs down South Congress to the precinct offices (and really should go all the way down to Oltorf / Twin Oaks / H-E-B)., and during lunchtime carries people out to the fine dining establishments springing up along Manor. Of these, I think that the Silver route is the most important.

There are to be opportunities for the public to comment (at “informational public forums” scheduled for Tuesday, April 27; 323 Congress; 11:30 am and 5 pm; and on campus at Belmont Hall, room 328, 2100 San Jacinto, at 5:30 pm, on Thursday, April 24; and at a public hearing before the Capital Metro board of directors on Monday, April 28; 2910 East Fifth Street; 5 pm). Capital Metro has announced that those wishing to comment may call 474-1200 or e-mail ‘Dillos are now free, but they needn’t be; if it would save the endangered routes, I believe that most riders would gladly pay the going fare.

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