Musings on Rock and Roll
by Ken Shimamoto





Ken with Tony Slug of the Spades and the Hydromatics and Pat Todd of the Lazy Cowgirls.

Posted April 17, 2003

SXSW, the annual festival of music in Austin, Texas, was, uhhh, mixed this year.

Got in around 4 on Friday and was immediately turned away at the Continental Club. Private party. Went to some beer garden across Congress and heard some band that I think was called The Lesbian Dykes (actually I can't remember their name) playing Texas cunt-ry. Blues impresario and convicted felon Clifford Antone (yep, he's out) played bass with them on one song. Then went to
my Long Island homeboy Casino El Camino's bar to drink until the evening kicked.

Heard the Dirtbombs and was underimpressed. Ran into a coupla the Sons of Hercules boys. Wound up at Beerland, where I met Tony Slug from the Hydromatics who gave me a copy of their "Dangerous"/"Heaven" 7" he produced. A friend of mine showed me this little portable rekkid player he bought on eBay - just like the kind I started listening to music on. Need to get me one of
those, if I'm ever financial again, to play the growing stack of vinyl singles on my shelf.)

Heard the Lazy Cowgirls, who were OK but not as good as last time, the Riverboat Gamblers, who were no big deal, some fuckin AWFUL band from San Fran, and then the Dragons, who were greatness. I must have been drunk because I lost two packs of cigarettes, went back for a second slice of the worst fuckin pizza I've ever had in my life, and stood six inches away from Dragon Kenny Mochikoshi Horne's guitar neck. After that, I was completely deaf for three hours.

We stayed at the digs of this friend of my daughter's, who OVERNIGHTED me a key to his place. Bless him. Next day, I went to Club 505 at noon to see Slug play with this Dutch punk band called the Spades. OK stuff, except that Denvis the singer reminded me of the guy from Dallas' worst band, The Rock'n'Roll Disciples. He DID have the best line o' the weekend, though, during soundcheck: "Could you speak Dutch, please?" It's funny to see a guy as tall as Tony (he's 6'2") who wears his guitar lower than Jimmy Page. After them, it was Peter Pan Speedrock, who I'm told are big in the Netherlands.

The hot rumor o' the day was that Turbonegro were going to be a "surprise" band at Emo's.

From there, slipped a couple doors down to hear Casino's side project The Bloody Tears with Mike Mariconda, preceded by a horrid surf/rockabilly outfit called Herman the German. The guitar player looked like a high school guidance counselor, and the drummer had a hunchback. These two drunk 40-something school teachers seemed to think they were great, though - doing that silly drunk-woman-hands-over-head-shouting-"Woo-hoo!" thang. Ugh.

Tears were cool. Fun garage-soul. Mariconda plays an Acetone organ. Kory Cook from the Sons/Tears told me he's going to NYC for a jazz drumming seminar, "prepared to get my ass kicked."

Before the Tears, I saw the TRUE future of rock'n'roll: JOE LIFTO. He tends bar at Casino's and used to be in the Jim Rose Circus. Guy has more piercings than the average pierced human. Starts out his act by putting a coathanger through his nose, then hanging a coat on it. Then he lifts a 10-pound weight with his tongue, a cinderblock with his nipples, and the ten-pound weight again with his dick (which is wrapped in duct tape; not sure if that's a political statement or not). Actually, it's probably to avoid TEARING. The art director at the paper told me Lifto used to use his dick to lift a little replica of the Liberty Bell, and make it ring. Cute. For his finale, he lifted a full beer keg with his ears. As someone said, "Once you've seen a guy lift ten pounds with his dick, you kind of HAVE TO drink."

Back at Emo's that night. Ran into Chet Weise from the Immortal Lee County Killers. Cheetah looked so healthy I almost didn't recognize him, and the band is much improved with J.R. Tokin on drums, who gets up on top of his kit and declaims about every other song. Nice political rant from Chet, too. Then the Cherry Valence, who were, uh, OK. Then I walked out on Nebula (third
time!). Didn't even wait for one song like I usually do; hit the door when I saw their amps being rolled out.

By 11, it had become clear that Turbonegro weren't playing, and after a futile stab at getting into Stubbs', where I heard, uh, Spinal Tap were playing (also a fraudulent rumor), I decided I'd had enough of being entertained, even though Mudhoney were supposed to play at 1, and headed back to the car, where I found my editor sleeping.

A few observations:

1) I find I'm no longer turned on by chicks with that color black hair with no highlights that doesn't exist in nature and spiderweb tattoos on their backs.

2) I fucking hate Austin. I think they need to change their motto from "America's Live Music Capital®" to "Where Soap Is Optional."

3) There wasn't anything there I'd have gone out of my way to see except the Yardbirds, who played the night before we got there. Even with the paper supplying the credential, I spent $100 I couldn't really afford. Not good.

4) Since I started writing for the paper, I've become so fixated on local music, I have absolutely no idea what's happening in the "real" world. Although I DID get a decent unsolicited promo in the mail last week - ONE out of hundreds - by a band called Gallery of Mites, made up mainly of Monster Magnet guys. Ten piece band, five lead guitarists, sounds like Stooges via Union Carbide Productions. Good shit.

What I really want, though, is silence and space.

- Ken Shimamoto