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Monday, May 23, 2005


I finally made my pilgramage. Austin, TX is REALLY where it's at. I've been wanting to visit Austin since 1985, when my friend Pat Wilson got back from his ill-fated first semester at UT. From his reports, I had a vision of a place where Tele-Craftsmen and their Strato-Master brothers walked the sun beaten streets, bouncing from gig to walk-on. How often in life do you find the Actrual living up to the Ideal? Not often enough, but it happened for me this past wekend. It would not have happened if I didn't know Chan Chandler, and now I fully realize how lucky I am to call him my friend, my brother.
It began as a side trip after a gig in Dallas - corporate gig. Chan told Peter to bring his mando (Austin for mandolin), and he told me to bring my ass, for it desired so to be in Austin, and we'd have ourselves a session. Chan has been employing Chris and I (Smokeandmirrors) to produce some of his songs out in Brooklyn, and we figured it'd be cool to bring our project down to Chan's good friend David Murray's studio (www.murraymusic.com) because they're (Chan and Dave) using Digital Performer, as do we. Not that we couldn't tranfer ProTools files, but it's easier when you have platform alignment. In the end our files were not useable, becuase I delegated the burning of the files, outsourced if you will, and had not checked the work. I was under serious time constraints, and thusly it seemed a good idea at the time. It was all hunky dory, however, because David was fairly swamped with another project (I could so seriously name drop here...) we only had time to work on the mando track, which wasn't one of the songs I had thought I had with me (notice how I'm leaving another name out...limey bastard!).
We arrived in Austin early Friday evening, after a pleasant drive down Rt.35 from Dallas, passing through Waco (don't stop, don't even look), near Crawford, stopping at the Czech Stop (a must!), and through Temple (again - no names). We cruised through downtown Austin (Texas Stadium - ZZ Top - 'nuff said) and minutes later we were in the promised land - South Austin. Our first stop was Eyebeam/Renaissance Bubba Productions HQ, a studio shared by Chan and his freind and associate, Sam Hurt (www.samhurt.com - okay, the name dropping will now commence in earnest). Sam is a brillaint artist/illustrator/cartoonist/father/breakfast taco enthusiast. Fun guy too.
After a qick chat and regroup (read 'getting high', I suppose I should somehow put it across that any references to anything quasi legal should not implicate Peter, at least this time around....) we walked across the road to Bill Barnett's place (www.wcbarnett.com - great virtual tour done by Sam). To say Bill sculpts is akin to saying Ford makes cars. He's got an awsome sculpture garden, that is at least as much garden as scuplture, which I found extremely pleasing to sit in, and decompress from the gig - corporate gig. After a nice sit, we checked out Sam's paint studio. Here comes the sun indeed. Liked it, a lot! Then it was time for the first of a number of visits to the Continental Club. The Continental Club is sort of the CBGB's of Austin, except people go to the Continental Club. It was around this time that I started to get the feeling that Austin was the best parts of New Orleans and Athens GA (in it's heyday) combined. I had only been there a couple of hours and was already having the best time possible - anywhere. I was already rockin' out to a live blues band and it was only 7 PM.
From there we went to eat dinner at Jovita's. I'm a mexican food freak. Jovita's is a great place to be such as me. I had chicken mole enchiladas, and a tamale mexicano (with suace and cheese). Big ups to Jovita's. While there, Sam's son Nicholas (Misspent Youth), and Todd Sanders the amazing Neon artist (www.roadhouserelics.com) joined us. We wre also lucky enough to catch James McMurtry, who happened to be appearing at Jovita's that evening.
Thusly armed we made our way to Murray Music, located across the river in downtown Austin. First off, Dave is a great guy. Certainly a man with his resume (I think of David Murray as the Paul Schaffer of Austin, and not because of any physical resemblance or demeanor) could come off aloof at the very least, but Dave ain't got time for that. Literaly. David's studio is a sweet set-up. He's got great gear, but what really hooked me was the live room, adjacent piano room (containing Chan's Steinway), and vocal booth. What makes Murray Music an exceptional studio is, of course, David, and I can't wait to get back there. That night we just listened to tracks, and shot the shit for an hour or so (y'know the type - bandana), and then we cut out so David could finish up what he was working on before we had invaded. I was fried as well, having started in with the Pacifico back in Dallas at 11:30 am, a trend that was only briefly interrupted by the drive down to Austin.
Chan dropped me off at studio Eyebeam to crash, while he and Peter went to catch Love County at Ego's.


Breakfast tacos rule. It's not cool to loudly declare that you are a relative of the man that captured Zapata whilst enjoying them at Guero's, however. Potato, Chorizo and Egg if you must know.
Time for the day tour a la Chan, which included, but was not restricted to Stevie Ray's statue in the park down by the river - Colorado that is. We hit Jo's for coffe (and soy chai lattes) and again invaded Murray Music. This was our scheduled appearance for tracking mando, and the point at which I found out that the DVDs I brought with our projects were crap. David, Chan and Peter worked out the arrangement, David and I set up a project, built a click (that tambo is off, damn shit), David liad down an acoustic track (5 minutes, Next!), Chan did yet another scratch vocal (they keep getting better Chan - think about it) and Peter blessed us with some Mandolin. It's hard to track on the spot like we asked Peter to do, and from this guy's perspective, I think Peter did a hell of a job. After we were sure we had the takes, David turned to me and asked if I'd ever seen Redd Volkaert. I replied that indeed I had not not. Peter also intimated that he had not previously been Volkaerted. "You really should check out Redd", said David looking me straight in the eye. "Do ya think?" I asked? Same level gaze; "You really should go check out Redd."
So we went to check out Redd. Redd plays with Heybale, which weren't gigging while we were there, but Redd was doing a Saturday pick-up slot at the Continental Club with piano savant Floyd Domino. Many times you will hear people claim to have had their minds blown, you might hear of epiphanies, life changing experiences; I could only imagine that these people were refering to Redd. I have seen the greats, well a goodly amount of them, and this guy is one of them. I count Redd as one of at least four living guitar players who could wipe the floor with Clapton, and the other three have Grammys. I told David that I hadn't seen him play live yet, so not to worry, I'm reserving him a spot on the list. Dave responded by saying that he was pretty good, but it seemed to be a suicidal notion to share a stage with Redd. I shied away from bringing up Stevie Ray whilst I was comisserating amongst Austin's A-list. Many of the folks I was rubbin' elbows with knew him personally, and I felt thier loss in what wasn't being said. Much like the proverbial pink elephant, I think Austin is still in recovery from that particular tragedy, and the have had so many of that ilk.
It was now Barbeque time. I will let the experts argue over what is best in BBQ. I know what I like, and I like Ruby's. Combo featuring Chicken, Sausage and (oooooh) brisket, with sides. I'm still recovering.
Waterloo records is fantastic. They have records. Vinyl records. Now, I'm not conceeding here, just reporting the facts. Not only is Bruce's latest available on vinyl, but so is that Ryan Adams record (avc.blogs.com) and, amongst a few others, the new Weezer. It would have helped my blog cred if I had purchased a new release on vinyl, like, say, the Weezer (produced by Rick Rubin - should be massive), but instead, as per the usual, I bought thirteen used records, including the live Joe Ely (synchronistic methinks), live Rory Gallagher, live Leon Russell, live Humble Pie, Dr. Hook, Iseley Bros., XTC, Joni Mitchell, Mahogany Rush (an album from 74 that I didn't even know existed), and a few more that I can't remember off hand because i'm so very burnt just now.
After spending my spending money on vinyl, we hopped over to Guy Juke's (www.guyjuke.com) art opening at the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture. Guy Jukes has done a lot of gig posters and album covers, including the Joe Ely I had just purchased (...at the bottom of some dark scottish laaaaaake.) It was here, while watching the artist do his rock n roll thang with some more of Austin's elite (Earl Poole Ball anyone!) that I met Eileen Schwartz, the Writer, who asked me for a light, and then demanded conversation.
I was fading fast, so after we dropped back by Murray Music to do a bounce and watch some footage of David with Pinetop at the Spoke (if you know, you'll undersatnd) it was off to futon once agin. In the morning it was more Jo's coffee, more tacos (this time at Las Manitas -excellent- with Sam, and more Rt.35 back to Dallas, DFW, and home. Phew....

Awesome, man. Been to San Antonio three times now and still haven't made it up to Austin.

Ain't outsourcing a bitch?
I figured, like, how hard could it be, I mean - I've done it. If Mr. "how does this doohickey work" can burn a DVD of a project successfully, then I thought a certain bass player we know could do it!.
What tracks are you adding mandoline to? Have him add some to Harlon if he's got some spare time:-)
fun to read - better to have been there - but anyway...
here is a faster way to see Guy Juke's posters in a larger faster format....
Great Blog about one of America's great cities.

now I have a irresistible craving for tacos and mandoline music...

Thank god for David Grisman/Andy Statman's CD, Mandolin Abstractions for my mando-fix.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about a Taco, the nearest place to get REAL tacos (not the Bell) is 8 blocks away AND IT'S RAINING!

Anyway, great blog as usual, keep up the great work.
UPDATE: Paul is not an idiot, we should have had a chat before I left for Austin, ahhhhh live and learn....we hope.
David Murray rocks. Don't know what he's doing now so much, but he was awesome when I was in Austin at UT.
He still is awesome. I haven't seen him play yet, but I can say he's an awesome dad, and cool dude with a sensible diet.
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