Monday, September 27, 2004

Note to self (and others): Tom Waits on Letterman tomorrow (Tues.)

I may have accidentally heard a few tracks from the new album via some bizarre Internet malfunction. I may have found them intriguing.

Monday, September 20, 2004

I survived the Austin City Limits Music Festival. It did not quite match the rollicking time I had last year, I must admit. First of all, it was too damn hot. It’s been a relatively mild Austin summer, but the sun was a-blazin’ all weekend long, and by Sunday it had really sucked the life out of me.

Another problem: the sound ranged from adequate to atrocious. One stage in particular was a sludgy mudhole of sound all weekend. The first act we saw Friday was the Blind Boys of Alabama, and it seemed as if they’d brought the Deaf Sound Engineer with them. (Please credit that joke to my fellow ACL-er, Andrew Osborne). That’s no knock on their performance, which was rock-solid (although they never quite “popped the clutch,” as the fella standing near us put it).

The Rebirth Brass Band definitely popped the clutch. There’s just not enough tuba in the music of today, I must say. Friday night wrapped up with Sheryl Crow, which was a big shrug for us. We checked out four or five highly processed radio hits, which she didn’t actually seem to be singing, then got away while the getting was good.

Saturday began with the Gourds and plenty of direct sunlight. The kind of heat that dries out your contact lenses. A long lull followed. This is what separates last year from this year. When there’s one can’t-miss act after another, you don’t have time to notice the sweat running into your eyes and the crick in your back. Or maybe it’s just that I’m a year older. Anyway, at a certain point we realized we had an hour to kill before meeting our friend Gen for the Pixies, so we decided to take an off-site break at Baby Acapulco’s and drink some frosty margaritas and pina coladas. Oh, this was a very, very good idea. Almost the highlight of the weekend, really.

But musically, the Pixies were my highlight. For the first couple of songs, we were way back by the beer tent, and the volume was way too low. I decided to take my life into my hands and plow ahead to the front. It became easier as folks began passing out drunk and I could simply step over their limp forms before they were carried out by security. I got almost, but not quite as close as I’d gotten to REM last year – just about close enough to see the sweat fly off Frank Black’s big bald head. The whole set was good, but bliss set in for the final four or five songs showcasing Kim Deal. Their performance of “In Heaven,” the love theme from Eraserhead, made the whole weekend for me.

By Sunday, I was ready to be done with ACL Fest. Two short and sweet sets were enough – Elvis Costello and Spoon. Part of me wanted to stay for Wilco, but not enough of me.

Also this weekend, The Sopranos won some Emmys. Gandolfini and Falco got shafted, but the show did finally win Best Drama, Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo won well-deserved acting honors, and Terence Winter’s script for “Long-Term Parking” also took an award. But really, the Emmys stink. A terrible production all around, particularly at the end, bum-rushing David Chase and co. in their moment of triumph. Feh.

And then there was the other big event this weekend, the Red Sox/Yankees series in New York, but the less said about that, the better. I taped the Friday night game, but a long rain delay meant that my tape cut off before the end, which was by all accounts a stunner (in a good way). I voluntarily missed the endings of the other two games, which were miserable in every conceivable way. Ah well, that’s why the good lord invented the Wild Card.

Silver City

Monday, September 13, 2004

This weekend, the third annual Austin City Limits Festival invades Zilker Park. The schedule grids are here. I don’t think there are quite as many must-see acts as last year but hey - The Pixies! That’s good enough for me. Plus Elvis Costello, Wilco, Blind Boys of Alabama and the usual assortment of local faves.

I’ve written before about how the big outdoor festivals are one part of what makes Austin a place worth living in. Your Spamarama, your Eeyore’s Birthday, your SXSW. But everyone has to draw the line somewhere, and I found out a couple weekends ago that I draw the line at the Hot Sauce Festival.

Someone explain this to me. On a sweltering day in the middle of August, you go out and stand in a series of lines – in direct sunlight – in order to sample various hot sauces. When you make it through the line, you arrive at a steamy tent where a table is loaded with chips and gloppy bowls of salsa that all manner of weirdos with mouth sores in front of you have probably been double-dipping into all day. Why would one do this?

I would have guessed this is all a scam perpetrated by beer companies to drive up their sales, but in the whole of Waterloo Park there was but one beer tent! With long lines out the wazoo! This is madness, I say!

So, the Hot Sauce Fest is one festival too many for me. But I am looking forward to ACL, you betcha.

Friday, September 10, 2004


September Tapes

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Is it ironic that Labor Day weekend is the most slothful time of the year? Or was it planned that way? I dunno, but it's Sunday afternoon, I'm drinkin' beer, the Red Sox have won again and I'm goin' fishin' in the morning. (Note: I could have said "mornin'" just then, but I think that would be overkill. You're welcome.) Might as well try for some meager accomplishment today by updating this here blog.

1) My landlady's dogs. I don't like them. I never have. Oh, I don't hate the old blind one. I feel sorry for her, as she is frequently attacked by the two dogs I don't like, the dumb, slobbery, destructive ones. Despite my distaste for these beasties, they are often left in my care. My landlady goes out of town and I feed them while she's gone, in exchange for beer or household repairs or cleaning. No big deal. But lately they've found a secret passage out of the back yard. A couple weekends ago I had to round them up four or five times, and couldn't figure out how they were making their escape. I reported this to her, and she said, oh well, it's a game for them, no big deal. Okay, but a few days later she's away again, and this dude comes to my door. Hostile little prick, real Napoleon complex, but he says "my" dogs have been getting out and they've attacked his dog while they're taking a walk.

Well, I'm sympathetic here, because they've tried to attack Maury a time or two. I tell him they're actually not my dogs, they're my landlady's, and I've already informed her that they've been getting out and she hasn't done anything about it. But this guy's worked up a full head of steam and he's gotta take it out on someone, and it's me. He just won't go away. He says he's gonna call animal control next time it happens. I'm fine with this, but he still won't go. He wants her phone number. Well, I don't have it. She lives next door. Why do I need her phone number? I know she's listed, so if for some reason I had lost the use of my legs and needed to call her, I could drag myself to the phone book and find it. So I give this guy her name and tell him I don't have the number.

"You don't have it - or you don't want to give it to me?" he sneers.

Well, at this point, fuck him. My sympathy is gone. "Why are you giving me a hard time? Go look up the fucking number yourself." Door slam.

Well, I found the escape hatch - there's a little gap between the fence and one wall in the back yard, but it's up pretty high - these dogs must really be working for it. Anyway, I found this patio door that's been sitting in the yard for who knows how long, and used it to patch the hole. Everything seems fine.

And what was my reward for sparing these stupid-ass dogs' lives? My landlady has informed me my rent is going up next month. Hey thanks, karma!

2) But speaking of 'bout them Sox? I'm not much of a sports guy, and I hadn't followed baseball much in recent years. In college, my dorm room overlooked the Citgo sign and the lights of Fenway Park, and I'll certainly never forget being in Kenmore Square in 1986 when the Red Sox clinched the pennant and I watched some...uh...overzealous fans completely destroy some poor schmuck's car. And I have a vivid memory of being in Charlie's, our late night deli hangout, when the ball rolled through Buckner's legs (though I don't remember if I actually saw it happen on TV or just heard about it on the radio after the fact). Other than that, I hadn't paid attention to the Sox until the playoffs last year. But I did get sucked into the ALCS series against the Yankees, and watched it to the bitter end.

Still, in those few games, I bonded with this team, and so I was on board when the season started this year. I watched their first game against the Yankees, which they handily won when everything was going their way. Then three months worth of .500 ball followed. They fell 10 1/2 games behind the Yankees. No one was too enthusiastic about their chances, but I still liked these guys. They were like the M*A*S*H of Major League Baseball. The Yankees are all clean-cut and businesslike, but the Red Sox are a buch of scruffy oddballs. Plus their theme song when they win at home is "Dirty Water," so how cool is that? Of course, the national sports media, by and large, hates 'em. Get a haircut! Stop having fun and play the damn game!

Well, that's all changing now, and the catalyst was a game that happened while I was home up in Maine, deep in Red Sox territory. Living in Austin, I don't get to watch a lot of the games, but my dad watches 'em all. He was pretty disgusted by the time the Red Sox faced the Yanks that day in late July, and it didn't help when they fell behind 3-0. Then Bronson Arroyo plunks A-Rod with a ball, Rodriguez cusses him out, Jason Varitek gets in his face, and a classic Red Sox-Yankees bench-clearing brawl breaks out.

We went out to dinner for my birthday, and they were watching the game in the restaurant. My niece kept running into the next room to check out the score. The Yankees took a five-run lead in the sixth inning. Then the Red Sox kept cutting it down. The sixth inning went on for over an hour and the game was still on when we got home. In the bottom of the ninth, Bill Mueller hits a walk-off homerun and we all go nuts.

Since then, it's been nothing but good times. That 10 1/2 lead has been cut to 2 1/2 behind the rapidly imploding Yankees. The Red Sox have a 3 1/2 game lead in the wild card race, and they've won 18 of their last 20. For the first time in almost 20 years, I'm into MLB baseball. At least until the next Survivor season starts, or they figure out a way to blow it again.

Here's that fall preview stuff I've been swamped under for the past week:

The Best Indies

Oscar watch

Biggest Gambles

The Lineup

Critic's Picks

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Oh yes, I've been neglectful of Moonshine Mountain lately. I've been buried under fall preview stuff for the Star-Telegram (my corporate overlords who forbid me from declaring The Brown Bunny the movie I'm most looking forward to), but sooner than later I will be updating this space with musings on a number of topics, possibly including (but not limited to): my landlady's stupid dogs, the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, the upcoming Austin City Limits Music Festival, Open Water, Garden State, the Boston Red Sox, Tom Waits, and the Bush daughters. But for now I leave you with this news item, not for the squeamish.