Shakey Graves – an Austin musician with a big future, mark my words.
Every now and then I make a music discovery that is so good and so unexpected it stops me right in my tracks. Last night I was playing the free downloads from the Eye in the Sky Collective and I suddenly heard a song I never heard before that sounded like it might have been around forever - a sure sign of talent and inspiration. “Built to Roam” by Shakey Graves. Just a perfect, perfect song.
And after a bit of digging I got more shocks: Shakey Graves, aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia, is from Austin and has been featured by the Austin Chronicle and on KUT – by other people who were affected the same way by his music. I could have seen him live at South By Southwest if I had known. I will definitely be on the lookout for new chances to see him play.
Furthermore, I listened to his album, Roll the Bones on Bandcamp all the way through, and loved every song. His style is a blend of classic blues, alt country and folk music. Mainly just great songwriting. The picking in some of his songs make me think of blues legends like Bukka White. The songs are available on a “pay what you want” basis. Give it a listen and see if you don’t think it’s worth paying for. We need to keep this man in business. He’s brilliant.
Here is his Tumblr page, which includes dates for upcoming performances. If you’re in the Austin area, you can see him at the Hole in the Wall on Thursday, March 29 and at the White Horse on Saturday, March 31.
Shakey Graves will be performing at the Kohoutek music festival in Claremont CA on April 28 and is looking for other venues in the West – New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, etc. (E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any ideas.)
Once again I’m finding that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to see good shows at South By Southwest. Just RSVP for a bunch of free parties (you don’t even have to be sure you can make it, just do as many as you can find), get there early, and have a good attitude.
Be prepared not to care if the line is long and you don’t get in. Just go hear some other bands in some other place. If you miss something good, you might find something else even better. I made some great discoveries over the weekend, artists I think everyone should see. We’re still in the early part of the festival and you can catch several of them. If you’re in Austin for SXSW, see if you can still catch them.
Here are my recommendations based on what I’ve seen so far:
I saw them Sunday night, March 11 at the Beauty Ballroom on East Riverside. I haven’t stopped smiling since. A friend told me to expect a hell of a show, but beyond that he couldn’t really get across just what they were like. And for good reason. They are well-nigh indescribable. I understand the band is from Japan, based in New York, but to hear them tell it, they are from another planet altogether. I could almost believe it. They wore funny costumes, a bit like overgrown Power Rangers.
They are at once hard-rocking and funny as hell. They mostly played a kind of punk rock – and it did indeed rock, but the music was only part of it. The main point was the performance, just loads and loads of silliness that completely swept up the crowd. Highlights included the premier of the video, “Star Bowling,” metal dog dishes and drum sticks passed into the crowd for extra racket, the bass player dressed in a big red alien suit jumping rope in the middle of the crowd, and human bowling. Songs were about such topics as “Get Glasses,” “Medium Rare” (How do you like your steak?) and “Mad Tiger.” At the end of the show they got members of Electric Eel Shock up on the stage jamming with them.
I would put these guys in the category of “Do not miss.” Catch their show if at all possible. They have several shows coming up, including Wednesday, March 14 at Elysium; Thursday, March 15 at Kebabalicious; Friday, March 16 at The Liberty; and Peelander-Fest on Saturday, March 17 at the Grackle. You can find a list of those here on Do512. Several free shows, several need RSVPs.
Just a very small taste:
Electric Eel Shock
This heavy metal band from Japan kicked a major amount of ass. They could really play their instruments and had a ton of charisma, especially the singer/guitar player. They were the second opening band for Peelander Z on Sunday March 11 at the Beauty Ballroom, but I would’ve been happy to see them as the headlining band. The singer is great at getting the crowd involved. The bass player displayed some great theatrics, playing atop the amp stack and at one point playing while hanging upside-down from the balcony. And last but not least, they had a hell of a drummer, who would’ve had my attention even if he had worn more clothes than the sock over his penis.
Beware if you can’t deal with seeing an almost-naked drummer…
Wonderful local singer I discovered at a showcase of folk and world music called The Amazing Obis Bros. Medicine Show the Butterfly Bar at the Vortex Theater Backyard (next door to Salvage Vanguard Theatre on Manor Road).
Hailey is a torch singer, a throwback to another, much classier era. She performed jazz songs and standards accompanied by a guy on electric piano and another on trumpet/trombone. She has a hell of a voice and is really cute. She could be one of the next big names to come out of Austin. If you like Adele or Amy Winehouse, you’ll love this girl. She will be performing at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 14 at Waterloo Ice House at 38th St. and Lamar Blvd. I think it’s free and I don’t think you have to RSVP.
This is a local band from Austin. I saw them at the Swan Dive on Red River. Kickass hillbilly music. More country than country, like something straight out of Appalachia. They got so into it, they went into the crowd and did an acoustic set as the next band set up.
Check out the “Shows” tab on their website, WhiskeyShivers.com. Their official SXSW show is March 16, 1 a.m. at Maggie Mae’s, but they have a lot of other shows and parties scheduled. You can see ‘em sans badge pretty easily.
An Austin band that plays what I would call folk-rock. Some traditional “folk” instruments like fiddle and ukelele, but with a trap set and electric keyboards. Some of the songs were quite catchy. I’m gonna keep an eye and ear out for these guys.
They will be playing Tuesday, March 13, 8 p.m. at Beale Street Tavern. That’s an official SXSW show, so you’ll need a badge or a wristband. Not sure of the time, but you can also catch them on Friday, March 16 at 5 p.m. at a Free Showcase which runs all day Friday, March 16 and all day Saturday, March 17 at Shiner’s Saloon.
That’s a free showcase, but you need to RSVP. And btw, it looks like there are a lot of other good bands in the. I’d like to see the TonTons, a band I’ve blogged about before – they’ll be playing Saturday at 4 p.m. You can get a schedule for that showcase here.
An Austin band featuring guitarist/lead singer Mike Wiebe of Riverboat Gamblers (also a member of the High Tension Wires and a standup comedian). It took me a while to warm up to them as they warmed up for Peelander Z at the Beauty Ballroom on Sunday night, but a few songs in I really started getting into them. They reminded me of some ’80s hardcore punk band I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe some of the Minutemen at their most radio-friendly, maybe a bit of early hardcore Devo? Anyway, they had a lot of charm and rocked hard. I’m not finding any more Ghost Knife shows scheduled in the next few days, but there is a nice list of shows Mike Wiebe will be involved in on this blog. (Including a free show with Riverboat Gamblers on March 16 and a free day show with High Tension Wires at The Grackle – again with Peelander Z).
My latest discovery is a country band by the name of Lee County Line, now based in Cedar Park, but originally from Lexington, Texas (a place with just over 1,000 people that’s famous for Snow’s BBQ). I heard them on Saturday at the Watermelon Festival in McDade (even smaller than Lexington, but they put on a pretty good shindig.)
A festival is different if you work for a small town newspaper. It’s not just leisure like it is for everyone else. It’s fun, but there’s a job to be done. Even when you’re not working, there’s that thought in the back of your mind, “I can’t keep sitting here forever BS’ing with these folks, eating barbecue, etc. I haven’t taken enough pics yet. Maybe I’ll get some good shots if I go over there?” But to get through the day you still have to have an attitude like, “I’m going to enjoy this day. Some of this is for my job and some of it is for me.”
One of those parts at any festival that’s always “for me” is the music, especially if it’s good music. Yesterday, as I covered the McDade Watermelon Festival, I was surprised once again by the musical talent to be found out in the rural towns of Texas. As I snapped pictures of cute little kids eating watermelon and competing in the seed spitting contest, it slowly sunk in: The band playing in the pavilion nearby was very very good. Especially surprising given how young all the members are.
They were singing good solid country music. Some of the songs were original. Some were covers. They did a good version of Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” and Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” but it was the originals that impressed me most. “Take My Hand” really stood out for me. They have that knack for the turn of a phrase that the best country songs have. The singer has a good strong voice and the guitarist has some mean licks. I think these guys are going places.
Ever mix foods that don’t sound like they should go together and find out they really really do? Like peanut butter ‘n’ banana sandwiches? Sounded weird at first, but trust me, it’s a combination that was meant to be.
I recently discovered a musical example: The Chubby Knuckle Choir, a band with a funny name and an even stranger combination of styles, with members from Bastrop, Cedar Creek, Elgin, Waco and Liberty Hill.
It’s almost impossible to pin down their sound. Americana doesn’t quite do it. Blues, bluegrass, country, rockabilly, Cajun, R&B, funk… They’re all part of the mix. It’s such a weird combination of styles, but it sounds rootsy and natural, like folk music from a country that never was, but should’ve been.
The band has five members: Rory Smith of Elgin on vocals and percussion; Perry Lowe of Bastrop on percussion; Tres Womack of Waco (formerly of Bastrop) on guitar and vocals; Slim Bawb Pearce of Cedar Creek (by way of Sacramento, California) on mandolin and other stringed instruments and vocals and Dave Gould of Liberty Hill on string bass.
The percussion is a bit unusual, with Rory pounding on congas, scratching on a frottoir (rub board) and at times a Jew’s harp given to him by his Swedish mother-in-law. Perry plays a Brazilian box drum known as a cajón (that doubles as his chair) and an African drum called a djembe.
Each member brings something into the mix — styles, instruments and songs. Tres adds a country music flavor. Slim Bawb adds Louisiana and bluegrass influences (although he’s from California). Rory and Perry contribute R&B, funk and soul. Dave Gould, who also plays in the Watts Brothers Band, brings his skill on the bass fiddle.
“People compare us to the Gourds, but I think we’re more unique,” said Tres, who helped kick start the band. He hosted an open mic night that featured Rory and a CD release party where both Rory and Perry turned up to sing harmony. They enjoyed working together so much a musical relationship was born. In time they picked up Slim Bawb Pearce and Curtis Farley (the previous bass player).
“Tres, Rory and Perry had been playing together for a while and they needed a picker,” said Slim Bawb. “I played some slide mandolin and we meshed really quickly. It’s fun to play in this band. We have a lot of harmonies and you never know what’s gonna happen. There’s a lot of improvising going on.”
Slim Bawb moved to Cedar Creek from Sacramento five years ago. Before he became a transplanted Texan, he spent 20 years with a group called the Beer Dawgs, which was inducted into the Sacramento Area Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
Curtis, who owns Twisted Twig Studio, is still involved with the band on the production end. He came up with the name Chubby Knuckle Choir while poking fun at the musicians’ middle age spare tires and chubby hands. The musicians were having a jam session and singing harmonies. “Curtis was picking on us and said ‘y’all look like a chubby knuckle choir’ and the name stuck,” Rory said.
Rory and Perry chose their percussion instruments for two reasons: 1) their cars weren’t big enough to hold trap sets and 2) they provide rhythm without overwhelming the vocals.
Tres also liked the idea of using those instruments to make the band’s sound more unique, and offset his strong country influence. The frottoir was a nod to Slim Bawb’s Cajun influence.
“What makes it work is we all like each other,” Rory said.
The Chubby Knuckle Choir has had its share of local success, performing at South By Southwest in 2008, 2009 and 2010. They have also opened for Austin musician Guy Forsyth, former member of the Asylum Street Spankers at Nutty Brown Café outside of Dripping Springs.
Most of the time they perform at the Lumberyard in downtown Bastrop or in Quoffer’s in Elgin, but they also play in other venues around the state and are slated to play in Elgin’s Hogeye Festival next October.
They are not trying to become a national act — although they are open to possibilities if they somehow strike it big. “We’re all at that age where we have responsibilities,” Rory said. “Perry has a couple of toddlers. If we get a following that’s great, but it’s not on the agenda. We just love what we do.”
The band is working on songs for the debut studio album, which should be finished by the end of the year. In the meantime, you can buy CDs of their 11-track album “Live at the Lumberyard” for $10. E-mail email@example.com.
The Chubby Knuckle Choir’s next show is at the Lumberyard is 8 p.m. Friday, June 10. The band will perform at Quoffer’s at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 23.
This one may be my favorite:
These are quite impressive as well:
It’s Always Something
The Live Experience
I caught the tail end of one of their shows at Quoffer’s bar in Elgin and went to see them again a few weeks ago in Bastrop in a really cool venue called the Lumberyard (it actually used to BE a lumberyard).
The audience was a mix of old and young who from time to time got up and danced. The band obviously a small but dedicated following (that recently grew by one).
Their set list featured some great original songs, along with some inspired covers. “Freakshow,” “It’s Always Something” “Farmer’s Tan” and “Ethylene” were among my favorite originals.
They did excellent covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” the gospel standard “Jesus on the Mainline” and Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya.” Venue owner Jeff Brister joined the band on trumpet during “Ya Ya.”
Another highlight was Storytelling, a band tradition. Band members take turns telling stories from one concert to the next. The stories are supposed to be true. Rory told one about raccoons taking up residence in his attic.
Every story ends with “and I heard a song on the radio,” followed by a cover song. The one that night was AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Never expected to hear a bluegrass version of that, but it really worked.
Very entertaining live show. I’ve been looking for a band to fill the empty place in my soul left by the breakup of the Asylum Street Spankers and I may have finally found it – right in my back yard.
Country music isn’t my main music, but it’s definitely in the mix. Amarillo native Kevin Fowler is one of the reasons. He writes songs with an awesome twist that all the best country songs have. Great wordplay, stories and humor. “Don’t Touch My Willie,” a song about not letting a girl play his Willie Nelson CD on the first date, is just classic. I have heard he also puts on a great, high energy show. I’m about to find out for myself on Saturday. I interviewed him for an article in the Dec. 8 Elgin Courier, and he comped me a couple of tickets. I can’t wait. Details on the blog afterward of course.
Courier article is posted below:
Country singer Kevin Fowler to rock Coupland Dance Hall, Dec. 11
Country singer Kevin Fowler has played his share of big venues, but it was the small dance hall that kickstarted his career. Fowler will perform at the Old Coupland Dancehall on Saturday, Dec. 11 as part of his Deck the Dance Halls holiday tour. Doors open at 8 p.m.
“That’s one of the bars we started out at,” he said in a Friday interview. “Coupland was one of the first places to give me a chance. For the holidays, we wanted to go to all the dance halls where we started.
“When I was a kid growing up in Amarillo, my dad listened to Buck Owens and we watched Hee Haw on Saturday nights on TV,” Fowler said. “I grew up in a country household.”
Fowler, who played with the Austin-based heavy metal band Dangerous Toys for a while in the ’90s, is known for his rockin’ attitude as well as his knack for a clever turn of a phrase, with such hits as “Don’t Touch My Willie,” “Ain’t Drinkin’ Anymore,” and “Cheaper to Keep Her.”
As he grew up, Kevin started playing in bands and began looking for his own music. He was drawn to rock bands like AC/DC and Van Halen.
He still loves rock ‘n’ roll and says he went to see Judas Priest perform twice in recent years. “When I go to a concert, I want to see a show,” he said. “Rock bands know how to put on a live show.”
For that reason, Fowler wanted his country band “to have a really rockin’ edge to it. Into that soup, throw a little country.”
At the same time, he can’t resist the urge to write songs with stories and wordplay — the kind of songs country is known for. “Country music is really about the lyrics,” he said. “Rock is more about the melody. A lot of times you can’t really understand the words.”
As he started out his career, Fowler became a guitar player for hire and performed both country and rock. “I became dedicated to becoming a songwriter,” he said. “It was a slow evolution to try and find my own thing.” Fowler said the high energy country that he became known for “just turned out to be the songs I wrote.” Fowler likes the diversity he finds in today’s country music scene.
“Nowadays, country is kind of a catch-all for different kinds of music. It’s changed. You don’t have to be Merle Haggard. Anything goes in country music nowadays. That’s kind of cool.”Fowler said he loves the Texas music scene. “It’s all about the fans in Texas. Going to a show, it’s a very one-on-one relationship with the fans and musicians. The fans get to hang around and get autographs,” he said. “You don’t really do that with a lot of the national country artists.”
Texas also lets him put out the kind of music he wants to make. “You can do your own thing down here,” he said. “Anything goes as long as it’s good.”
Fowler released a collection called Best of… So Far on Dec. 7. It features 18 tracks, including four previously unreleased songs. He also has a studio album in the can, which will be released sometime next spring.
I recently got to interview someone I’ve admired for quite some time, Kinky Friedman, known to most folks as a crazy character who made an unsuccessful run for Texas governor (campaign slogan: Why the hell not?). I have a bit of a connection to the man, who makes his home in the Texas Hill Country. His family used to have a summer camp for Jewish children. My grandpa Vernon Williams was the town barber in nearby Medina; he used to go out there and cut hair. Everytime the subject of Kinky Friedman comes up, Mom mentions that.
My impression of the man? Funny as expected. But also a hell of a nice guy. I think his rascal persona is mostly just that — a persona. Below is the news story as it will appear in the Nov. 10 Elgin Courier. I also posted a few videos, because people forget that he’s also a hell of a musician. His early career with the Texas Jewboys is the reason we even know about the man. And while most of his songs strike me as funny, some are also striking examples of country songwriting. “Sold America” is a masterpiece of a song. I’ll post again after I’ve heard him speak.
Kinky Friedman to speak in Elgin, Nov. 21
Elgin is about to get “Kinky” — Kinky Friedman, that is. Noted author, humorist, singer-songwriter and political candidate Richard S. “Kinky” Friedman will give a speech at the Elgin Public Library on Sunday, Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. Friedman was invited to the event by the Friends of the Elgin Library.
Friedman’s lecture will focus on his new book, Heroes of a Texas Childhood. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and Friedman will sign autographs. The lecture is free and open to the public. In a telephone interview last week, Friedman said Heroes of a Texas Childhood features 23 people he admires — some are familiar to most Texans, others aren’t quite as familiar.
“Many recent college graduates never heard of many of them,” he said, naming Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and WWII hero Audie Murphy as examples. “A lot of Texans don’t know upon whose shoulders they stand.”Other heroes include Sam Houston and Davy Crockett. Two of his heroes are still alive: singer Willie Nelson and attorney Richard “Racehorse” Haynes. “They aren’t my heroes because they were persistent or lucky,” Friedman said. “They’re my heroes because of the tragedies and failures of their lives and how they dealt with them.”
Friedman said he regards Nelson as a hero, not because he is a fellow musician, but because of the kind of person he is. “He became a folk hero the hard way. Adaptability and pugnaciousness are what got him through where other equally talented musicians did not.”
He will also speak on his short story collection, What Would Kinky Do? The book was illustrated by the late artist John Callahan, a quadriplegic who created very painstaking, brilliant drawings.Friedman said he will sign an autograph for anyone who requests one.
“I’ll sign anything but bad legislation,” he said. He will also pose for photographs. “That’s one thing I learned from Willie [Nelson],” he said. “Willie will stay and sign autographs as long as it takes. People like Bob Dylan won’t do that.”Friedman is still performing music and recently finished a tour at 15 venues around the country, all of which sold out. “It feels like I won the race for governor everywhere but Texas,” he joked.
Frieman said his visit to Elgin is not part of a book tour. “Life is a book tour, or a political campaign,” he said. “The political campaign is in hibernation. Texas wants a governor with hair. Is that too much to ask? Music is a much purer art form than politics. I think it’s far better to be a musician than a politician.”
Friedman decided to visit Elgin after meeting Elgin Friends of the Library President Laura Stough on a plane. Stout asked him to speak in Elgin and he liked the idea — especially after learning that she was a professor of Educational Psychology at Texas A&M. Kinky’s father, Dr. Thomas Friedman, taught the same subject at her alma mater, the University of Texas. In addition, Friedman and Stough both served in the Peace Corps.“
He had already agreed, but when he found out that connection to his father, he said, ‘this has to be,’” Stout said.Friedman has an animal rescue operation in the Hill Country called Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch (www.utopiarescue.com), where he has taken in dogs, cats, donkeys and pigs.
“It’s a very happy orphanage,” he said. “The animals leave wistful when they get adopted. Money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.”Friedman’s program will be part of a series of literary events that has featured lectures from authors Susan Wittig, Rupert Isaacson and Judy Barrett. The Nov. 21 lecture will be free, but priority seating will go to the Friends of Elgin Library. There’s still time to join that organization before the event.For more information, call (512) 281-5678.
Here's a shot of the bats. Best I could do with a cheap camera. Had to mess with the photo in GIMP. Otherwise it would be black on black.
Last Saturday I went to the 6th annual Batfest in Austin. They closed off the Congress Ave. Bridge (now the Ann Richards Bridge, though I’ll probably never learn to call it that) and filled it with folks in booths trying to sell things, bounce houses for the kids, plenty of food & drink, and at each end of the bridge there was a stage. The south end had Mexican and Tejano music; the north end was all about the rock ‘n’ roll. Free admission. Just pitched in a dollar donation for Bat Conservation International.
It gave me a chance to do something I hadn’t done in a long time: watch the bats fly out from their famous colony under the bridge. And something I’d been meaning to do for a long time: check out a really great local band called Deadman. I also got irresponsible and ate carnival food: turkey meatball curry (which I spilled on my shirt) and a funnel cake. At least I refrained from getting the chicken fried bacon. And I saw a good band called Los Autenticos de Tierra Caliente that I thought might be from Mexico that turned out to be from Cedar Park, my current stomping grounds.
Deadman rocks out at Batfest, Aug. 21, 2010
I’ve been a fan of Deadman for a long time, but in the years since I first discovered the group, it has evolved into something a bit different. It used to be the project of Steve and Sheryl Collins, who at one time lived in McGregor, near Waco, and had a little cafe. They divorced and Steve moved to Austin, where he now performs as Deadman with a group of excellent musicians. Sheryl, whose last name is now Segrest, is performing in Fort Worth.
The first version of Deadman, at least based on the two CDs I bought, Paramour and Our Eternal Ghosts, was what I would call alternative-country in the same vein as the Handsome Family. Very atmospheric. Made me think of Daniel Lanois and The Cowboy Junkies.
What I heard Saturday had a rootsy, bluesy, country rock aesthetic. Although there was an obvious Neil Young influence (one of the songs Steve said was an attempt to capture the style of Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Rust Never Sleeps), the main influence I heard was The Band. There was also a country gospel sound. Some songs in fact had definite Biblical themes: “Brother John” and “Oh Delilah.”
It was definitely enough to make me want more, and since Deadman is now based in Austin, playing frequently at the Saxon Pub, I don’t have a lot of excuses.
Here’s a video to give you idea of Deadman’s sound:
Los Autenticos de Tierra Caliente, based in Cedar Park, Texas.
And more on the first band I heard when I first showed up: Los Autenticos de Tierra Caliente: Very good. Mostly fast-paced stuff, merengue with a Mexican spin, plus conjunto and norteno type music. They substituted keyboards for the bass and accordion, which I kind of missed, but that’s fairly typical of north-of-the-border Tejano bands. They had a couple of really good trombonists.
Also look at all the people down by the Austin American-Statesman office waiting for the bats to come out. The crowd of people who turn out for the bats is probably more of a trip for me than the animals themselves. That was early too. Lots more were on the grassy knoll and on the bridge rail by the time the critters went out to feed.
Wow, this really makes me sad. I just went on Facebook and saw an announcement that my favorite Austin band is retiring. The Asylum Street Spankers are like nothing you’ve ever heard – retro style, rockin’ sensibility, superb musicianship and funny as hell. There will never be another band like them. I don’t know what brought this about. Could be the bad economy is getting to them. Also, Christina and Wammo both have small children. If it’s what they need to do, then I wish them well. Musicians aren’t actually obligated to wreck themselves for our entertainment. They’re giving a farewell tour and if you get the opportunity to catch one of their final shows I would advise you to take it. Their schedule can be found here.
If you need any more convincing, read my recent post about the band: Asylum Street Spankers’ vintage sound captures Austin’s spirit That post also includes some great Youtube links that will give you an idea what Spankers shows are like, and a link to their Bandcamp site where you can stream Spankers songs or order mp3s or CDs.
Also, check out their albums on Bandcamp.
P.S. I’ve been asked why Wammo is not being listed on the ASS Facebook page. I also noticed a lot of the people who surfed into this blog lately entered search terms like “Is Wammo on Farewell Tour.” I don’t know the answer to that and would like to. If anyone has seen a show on this tour I’d like to know if Wammo was there. I’d also like to know why the band is retiring. I imagine it has to do with Wammo and Christina each having new babies. Maybe they’re all tired of touring and want to devote more time to their families. I can respect that. I just wish the band would let us know what’s up. In any case, I would still recommend catching one of the farewell shows if possible. If Wammo’s not on the tour it would definitely be a disappointment, but I did see one Spankers show when Wammo was out with the flu and it was still awesome. Speaking of which… It has occurred to me that Wammo could be ill. I’d at least like to know that he’s all right. If anyone knows anything, please let me know.
PPS. Saw a comment on the ASS Facebook site stating that Wammo was leaving for family reasons. Probably about what I figured. His wife just had a new baby and probably asked him to stick around and stay off the road. Fair enough I reckon. I will miss him though.
Update: Wammo sent out an e-mail announcing his plans and telling his reasons for quitting the Spankers. I reposted it here: Word from Wammo aka ‘Road Dog’
Austin has drawn me like a magnet for almost as long as I can remember. The culture, with its mix of Texas cowboy brashness and hippy tolerance, is wonderful and totally unique. For a creative type like myself, the live music and open-minded nature of the place is irresistable. I love my state in general as most Texans do, but Austin is the best part for me. It’s like an oasis.
Few bands embody that Austin spirit like the Asylum Street Spankers. The band has become my favorite live act. I’ve seen show after show, each one different from the one before, but always enjoyable. The group takes its name from Guadalupe Street in Austin, once referred to as Asylum Street because it runs by the state mental facility. The term “spanker,” is a double entendre. It can mean a skilled musician, or just exactly what it sounds like. In fact, the band’s entire name is a double entendre. Think about those initials.
It’s hard to describe the band’s music. Styles include swing, jazz, country, blues, hip hop, ragtime, gospel — you name it. The music has a vintage sound, with all acoustic instruments, but the songs are immersed in rock ‘n’ roll lore and pop culture references. The band’s central figures are Wammo, a funny, mouthy dude who looks a bit like a biker, and Christina Marrs, a pretty woman with an even prettier set of pipes who has a demure girl-next-door appeal — but can belt out the raunchiest lyrics you’ve ever heard. The remaining lineup changes a bit from year to year, but always features top notch musicians. Sometimes former Spankers turn up and fill in. It’s almost like a collective.
The Spankers absolutely refuse to be pigeonholed. They’re funny, but they’re not a comedy act, and no way are they a novelty act. They’ve done X-rated albums, a drug album, a children’s album, an Off Broadway show and most recently, a gospel album. You never know what they might do next, but it will always be entertaining. You really have to hear them yourself.
Luckily for me, they’ve made it easy. Most of the Spankers albums are here on Bandcamp. You can stream the songs for free or purchase the albums as downloads, or as physical CDs. I like everything they do, but I especially recommend What? And Give Up Show Biz? because it captures the band’s live sound, which I love.
Some of my favorite songs are “Beer,” from Spanker Madness, “Hick Hop,” from Mercurial and “My Favorite Record” from the album of the same name.
Check out the band’s website: www.asylumstreetspankers.com. You can also order some albums that aren’t posted on Bandcamp, including their X-rated EPs, T-shirts and members’ solo albums. And check out their tour schedule. If the Spankers turn up in your town, go see them. You won’t regret it.
These videos will give you an idea what the band’s live act is like: