Tag Archives: jazz

Hailey Tuck and East Side Showroom – throwbacks to an older, classier era

Hailey Tuck, framed between two hipsters at East Side Showroom.

The first time I heard Austin’s Hailey Tuck, I left wondering if she really was as impressive as she seemed. I turned up late for her set at the Butterfly Bar during SXSW and only got to hear a few songs. A couple of weeks ago I finally got to hear more of her and yes, she is that good. I also got to check out the East Side Showroom, a place I’ve been curious about for a while.

Hailey is a torch singer of sorts. She’s young, beautiful, and has a gorgeous voice (If you liked Amy Winehouse, you should definitely check her out). She also genuinely loves jazz music. She performed jazz standards, as well as some songs I hadn’t heard before – and spent a little time sharing her knowledge with the audience.

Hailey was accompanied by a keyboard player and a drummer – who on this night was her father. I guess that shows where she gets her love for jazz.

The venue added quite a lot to the experience. Like Hailey, East Side Showroom was like a throwback to an older, classier era. The antique decor and lighting makes it resemble a speakeasy from the Prohibition days. The menu is unique – both the food and the cocktails have made the place popular with local hipsters. It’s also rather pricey. (It apparently costs a lot more to be a hipster than it does to be a bohemian.)

I had a tequila-based cocktail called a Devil’s Left Hand. Very tasty. I think I’ll try a Moscow Mule next time though. I hear good things about that one.

I couldn’t help but notice the silent movie playing overhead as Hailey sang. Buster Keaton was a genius. I definitely enjoyed the vibe of the place.

I went with my girlfriend and one of her friends and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Yes, the experience could be described as pretentious (the waitress tried to seat us someplace we didn’t really want to be, but it pretty much went over my head – girlfriend ensured that we got the table we wanted, with a good view of Hailey).

Speaking of my girlfriend, she blogged about her impressions of Hailey and East Side Showroom. Check it out here.

Hailey will perform at the East Side Showroom again on Aug. 14 and 28 and Sept. 11 and 25. I would highly recommend you check her out. Let me me know what you thought of Hailey and what cocktails you tried.

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Sarah Sharp tells harrowing tale of Slim Richey’s hit-and-run accident


The other day saw a news story about a hit-and-run on 6th Street that really grabbed my attention. On Feb. 24, Jazz-swing guitarist Slim Richey was struck by an SUV while carrying his wife Francie’s bass to the car after a show with the Jitterbug Vipers. Slim was knocked out and got some serious cuts and contusions, but it looks like he’s going to be all right, thank God. His wife’s bass was smashed.

I interviewed Slim years ago when I was covering SXSW for the Dripping Springs Century-News (He lives in Driftwood which is just down the road from Dripping Springs). He’s a great musician and a hell of a nice guy. I am glad he wasn’t hurt any worse and I am super pissed off at whoever hit him and drove off. If anyone saw anything and can help identify the driver to the police that would be awesome. There are also a number of fundraisers planned to pay for a new bass and help with Slim’s recovery.

Sarah Sharp, a member of the Jitterbug Vipers (and a damn good solo musician in her own right) wrote a detailed story of what went down on 6th Street that night. It’s a good read, if rather harrowing.

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Music genres – handles or pigeonholes? (probably both)

It’s a common complaint from musicians: “I don’t do goth/post-rock/folk/trip hop/indie/prog (or whatever). You can’t pigeonhole me!”

Same thing with fans. I’ve read a ton of forum threads complaining about genre names. “What the hell does post-rock mean? Aren’t bands still playing rock? Why isn’t it called post-rap? Post-rock isn’t a real genre.” And various other quibbles from people who hate seeing their favorite musicians get pigeonholed, or resent seeing musicians they don’t like surf their way into undeserved recognition atop some made up fad.

I totally get it. I’m the king of “you can’t pigeonhole me.” I’m 100 percent eclectic in musical taste. Politically, neither fish nor fowl.

I do think there’s a nasty tendency in some circles (*cough* Pitchfork) to use labels in order to dismiss a band or collection of bands. Like, “Oh yeah, we figured out what these guys are. Just another example of X. If anyone still cares about X, this is part of that whole X knockoff crowd. That scene is so quaint isn’t it? Moving right along…”

Just look at this list of genres: http://rateyourmusic.com/rgenre/

Drumfunk, Sqweee, Glitch-hop, Witch House and Turbo-folk are just a few of many genre names that make me scratch my head. Are these really real? Is somebody pulling our legs?

Who comes up with this stuff anyway? It used to be DJs and music journalists, but now I guess it’s mostly bloggers with a lot more hits than I get. Somehow the names catch on, silly or not. Shoegaze is one I use a lot that sounds pretty ridiculous (whatever you want to call it, I like it). It was originally a put-down for bands playing noise-drenched stuff who tended to stand on the stage and look down at their shoes, but now it’s so common that bands will claim the term.

Classifying music into groups will always be a messy business. There are some musicians (usually my favorites) who defy classification. There are musicians who get lumped into a group who sound nothing like their supposed peers.

Television’s Marquee Moon (1977) came from one of the original CBGBs bands, often touted as one of the first punk bands or even “proto-punk.” Yet to me its style has a lot in common with Magazine’s Real Life (1978), which came out just a year later and is considered one of the first postpunk albums. Can you really go from proto- to post- in just one year?

World music is a really messy genre. It can sound like anything, and isn’t everything part of the world? And speaking of the world, now everything has gone global. You have millions of musicians, talented and otherwise, making tunes on laptops and releasing them on the Internet. Anyone can be influenced by anyone. It was hard enough to classify things in the blues-R&B-rock continuum, especially when jazz and classical kept rearing their ugly heads. Now throw in influences from every country in the world and classifying anything becomes virtually impossible.

Yet we have to try. Why? Because if we don’t, we can’t find music we like, and we can’t talk about it.

I understand the principle of “it’s all music.” But don’t you think the average Chuck Berry fan would be a bit put off if you played a Godspeed You Black Emperor album said, “Here’s some of that music stuff you claim to like”? And suppose he had an open mind and even kind of liked it, but just never heard GYBE before and asked, “what is this?” Sorry, but I’m going to have to say post-rock, because he might then find and enjoy Sigur Ros. Post-rock is a clear case of “you gotta call it something.” Would you consider a Chuck Berry song rock? Definitely. Would you consider a Godspeed You Black Emperor song rock? Not too sure… Thus, post-rock.

I agree that genre names often suck, but they can be useful, even some “hairline distinctions.” For example, dark ambient. It bleeds into regular ambient (another term people argue over), as well as industrial (ditto). But there are certain groups that people who say they like dark ambient tend to like.  I like to give and get recommendations. How am I supposed to do that if I can’t pick a genre name? If I just ask for “music” recommendations, I could get anything from Beethoven to the Ramones. I like both of those, but they’re not going to help me find Coil, Lustmord or Voice of Eye.

A genre name might be a stupid word, but once it catches on and people start hanging ideas on it, what can you do? You’re pretty much stuck with it.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what will happen if people are still listening to this stuff hundreds of years from now? Are we going to get names like tenth wave Electro-acoustic-neo-post-psych-prog? Hell, that name probably exists already.

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Filed under commentary, dark ambient, indie, industrial, postpunk, postrock, progressive rock, psych, punk, shoegaze, trip hop, Uncategorized, world music

Asylum Street Spankers’ vintage sound captures Austin’s spirit

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:

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The ’20s were called ‘Roaring’ for a reason

It was just last week that I mentioned Archive.org, one of my favorite sources for free music, but I felt like I had to mention some of the stuff I’ve been listening to as the site has dominated my musical landscape over the past week. More than anything, the site has been turning me into a huge fan of 1920s music. What a wonderful time for pop music! People were having a lot of fun during the “Roaring Twenties” and you can really tell.

A number of hobbyists have ripped and uploaded tons of old music from 78 rpm records and wax cylinders and mercifully, many of them used software to remove the scratchy noises. Most of what I’ve heard this week was clear as a bell. Most if not all of the music on Archive.org is available for download, but when I’m busy — and I was very busy this week — I prefer to stream it. I’ve found several artist collections that allowed me to hear several songs in a row without having to mess with the site. There are also some great mixes of songs by various artists from the ’20s.

Here are a couple of good collections you can stream and/or download: 1920s Pop, 1920s Pop Vol. 2.

And below are a few of the artists from that era that I’ve become fond of. I’ll include a few songs you can stream from this blog — I’m still not hosting them though. WordPress lets me stream from anywhere I find a link to an mp3. You should still go to Archive.org and play the songs over there.

Sophie Tucker

She was a very pleasant discovery for me. Playful, fun-loving, kind of like a precursor to Mae West. Some of her songs are slightly bawdy (maybe a lot bawdy by the standard of her day). I mentioned her to Mom and she said, “Oh yeah, she was famous.” But she wasn’t famous to me. Just a bit before my time. There are several collections of her songs on the site, but here’s a good one for starters.

“50 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong”

Cliff Edwards

It turns out I really knew of him and didn’t realize it. He was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney’s Pinochio. He was also a cool cat and a really good singer. He went by the nickname “Ukulele Ike” and apparently had a lot to do with popularizing that particular instrument. Here’s a good collection of his hits. And one of my favorites from that collection:

“Ain’t She Sweet”

Jane Green

Never heard of her before this, but I’m glad I finally did. She’s got a great voice and sings some really fun songs. She was kind of a looker as well…

Here’s a collection of her hits.

And here’s one of her songs I really like:

“Hard to Get Gertie”

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