V5N2: March 1999

Austin Downtown
Arts Magazine

March 1999
Volume 5 Number 2

Table of Contents

All that Jazz by Paul Klemperer. 1

Indie label Leaning House has backed some impressive recordings in recent years, reminding jazz fans that Dallas has its own history of producing heavyweight players.

Almost Forgotten by Sandra Beckmeier. 3

At Los Camales Restaurant, covered in pottery, the smell of rotisserie, surrounded in a pith of sound, Austin activist Marcelo Tafoya talked at length about the days when he broadcasted live from the small cafe on E. 7th Street.

The Art and World of Thor by Maria Rios. 5

Armed with only the impression of his name and a composition book, I awaited the arrival of Thor, local artist and session drummer, to join me in conversation at Ruta Maya, a site always so opulently atmospheric and a perfect place to discuss the challenges of being a working artist in a town dichotomized, according to some, by the effects of its artistic productivity.

Austin Girl by Karyna McGlynn.. 8

The Bull-Jean Stories by Sandra Beckmeier. 8

The first time I ever heard the character "bull-jean" was in the startling performance play, no mo blues in 1995. I remember her strutting across the stage -- startling because the character expressed a simple kind of sadness. Bridgforth's talent as a storyteller is purposeful and loving.

Notes from the Woodshed by Paul Klemperer. 9

It is helpful to remember that in today's musical ocean the big fish need the little fish, and to some extent the little fish need the big.

A Poem a Day by Stazja McFadyen.. 11

Once you have witnessed Clebo Rainey strut bare-chested through an audience demanding "amens" with a convincing revivalist preacher impersonation in his signature performance piece, "Rarefied in Arkansas," you will find Dallas' most famous slam poet has little in common with vegetation.

Sound and Vision Festival by Rachel Staggs. 12

Jason Phelps has created an event that will fill your every desire for improvisational performance art. The Sound & Vision Festival supports multi-disciplinary stage work and presents some of Austin's finest performers.

Texas Film Art by Allyson Lipkin.. 16

I threw out some ideas, and had just joined the Austin Film Society, and wanted to tap into the film groups here. I started thinking, "Why don't I do something for the artists that I have been working with?"
-- Neal Coleman

The Wired Side: South by Southwest Interactive Festival Gets Interactive by Shilanda Woolridge   18

Unlike the music and film festivals, the interactive festival may not have much to offer the casual visitor. If one lacks knowledge of the Internet, the WWW, or interactive new media they may find themselves lost and frustrated.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Wristbands: Non-South by Southwest Events for the Middle of March by Kelli Ford.. 20

This year the trend continues of Austinites taking matters into their own hands and creating alternative venues during the festival.

Verities by Grace McEvoy.. 21

I lived in a small wooden shotgun house with no electricity or furniture and saw at least one movie a day, sometimes three. This was not an escape, it was research, passion and adoration.

Up All Night by Harold McMillan.. 23

In this one building, like no other address in Austin, is a vibrant, self-contained, growing, potentially important, multidisciplinary arts community in the making.




All that Jazz by Paul Klemperer

Indie label Leaning House has backed some impressive recordings in recent years, reminding jazz fans that Dallas has its own history of producing heavyweight players. The Leaning House roster includes soxophonist Wessell Anderson, described by the The New Yorker magazine as "Coltrane meets New Orleans"; drummer Donald Edwards; pianist Fred Sanders, who favored Austin with his presence for several years before making the move to New Orleans; drummer Earl Harvin; and saxmen Shelley Carrol and Marchel Ivery. Carrol will be appearing in Austin with the Roy Hargrove Quintet.

For SXSW, Leaning House will be presenting its showcase at the Elephant Room (310 Congress) on Friday, March 19. Fred Sanders kicks off the evening at 9:00pm, and it will be interesting to hear where he has gone musically since he left us last spring. Earl Harvin's trio follows at 10:30; drummers in particular should bring their notebooks and have their ears open. Marchel Ivery culminates the evening with a midnight set which should be a blockbuster. His big tone and deep bag of licks will remind listeners of such jazz landmarks as Dexter Gordon, Don Byas and Sonny Rollins.

The music will be great, of course, and the Leaning House showcase pushes forward the possibility that jazz artists recording on indie labels can have a national impact, maybe even toy with the idea of earning a livable wage (what a shocker!) in the course of pursuing creative music. But along with this the showcase implicitly promotes Texas as a focal point for jazz. The state has a long history of producing innovators in the jazz tradition and Leaning House is doing a good job of reminding us that the creative juices are still flowing strong here.

Also among the musical riches descending on Austin during this SXSW season, trumpeter Roy Hargrove will be holding a 5-day residency at the Mercury Lounge (503 E. 6th). Each night the walls will be bathed in great sound, as a variety of talented local acts warm up for the maestro. This extended appearance by Mr. Hargrove is the result of a joint production by the Blue Jazz Workshop and Mercury Productions. Although not part of the official SXSW showcases, the event promises to be a highlight of the SXSW week.

The first two nights, Monday and Tuesday, March 15 & 16, are being billed as the "Jazz Revolution II" and will include a variety of great local groups:

Monday's lineup:

7pm J.J. Johnson Trio

8:10pm Doug Hall Trio

9:20pm Juliana Sheffield/Kevin Lovejoy

10:50pm Ta Mere

12:20am Roy Hargrove

Tuesday's lineup:

7pm Glover Gill Trio

8:10pm T'chya Ahmet

9:20pm Blue Construct with DJ Phyfteen

10:50pm Big Game Hunter

12:20am Roy Hargrove

Joining Hargrove's group is Dallas saxophonist Shelley Carroll. For those familiar with his CD Shelley Carroll with Members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the pairing of Carroll with Hargrove should result in some very exciting music. Shows will continue at the Mercury through March 19.


Almost Forgotten by Sandra Beckmeier

At Los Camales Restaurant, covered in pottery, the smell of rotisserie, surrounded in a pith of sound, Austin activist Marcelo Tafoya talked at length about the days when he broadcasted live from the small cafe on E. 7th Street. A cultural critic, missionary, and well-known promoter of Tejano music, Tafoya has owned, collaborated or produced a number of popular radio shows. After 38 years of working primarily in electronic and print media, he's now in the driver's seat as interim-manager at community radio KOOP, with a program called Austin Presenta giving an outlet to all kinds of music otherwise not covered in the area.

According to the founder of the new Tejano Music Museum, the project will include an exhibit space, a research center, and an 18-wheeler hauling a touring exhibit including a facet of audial and visual references to the legends of Tejano music. The research center opened in February at 2211 Hidalgo and displays a massive collection of biographies, 350,000 albums and over 175,000 singles, video and print photography. The University of Texas approached Tafoya and asked him to donate his collection. He refused.

"This vision I have is so important because we're losing our culture," Tafoya said. "We're losing our heritage. There are a lot of musicians who did a lot for our culture and they're being forgotten, as if they don't exist. My whole idea is I don't want to forget where all this came from and right now our industry is very young, comparatively. A lot of our artists are still alive, a lot of information is still out there, and I don't want to lose it. Our kids are slowly moving away from their culture. I want to create something permanent to bring them back in. Tejano music is very vital, and now we're to the point where we're going to be the largest minority. We have to wake up and see the prominence we can offer."

Tafoya started the first Spanish radio program in central Texas. He also started the first Spanish-speaking television program. During his TV show he had to literally draw a picture of the radio with a switch that read AM/FM so people could hear. Having owned five radio stations at one time, Tafoya describes the choices he made while choosing what is played on the radio as, "You play what you get. You were starving to get whatever you could. A lot of people will say, 'I work on ratings, Billboard magazine,' but to me that isn't an influence. I would rather go to a local record shop and find out what is selling and play that. Back then we were the hit-makers, the ones creating artists, and we were sincere."

Tafoya started in radio after traveling to Mexico twice, once as a director of an orphanage, later as a papal volunteer. When he returned the radio station in Georgetown was just opening, still wiring in fact, so Tafoya went in to apply for a program. "I was going to buy a show, so I signed a five-year contract for a 30-minute slot on Monday, Wednesday and Friday," he explained. "The church and the group I was working with were going to help me pay for it. The first week they came up with ten dollars, then the second the same, and after that I said, 'Look, I can't be paying for this out of my pocket.' So I went back to my station manager and said I need to get out of my contract and he refused. I said, 'Under those conditions I want one hour a day, Monday through Friday for the same price,' so he said okay.

"I started playing music from Mexico with guys like Little Joe, Roy Montelongo, Shorty Ortiz and the Corvettes, Rudy T. Gonzales and the Reno Bops. Tex-Mex sang the way we felt. I ended up doing a radio show at KAJZ, a radio program at KUT, and KUGN, and then a television show on KTBC, Channel 7, which I did for ten years. Later on I got an opportunity to buy a station in Lubbock, so I went. I also bought the two stations in Lampasas, Texas, and later in the year I had to sell them because I wasn't making any money. I was losing it. I found out the gentleman was selling the station where I started in Georgetown. I operated it for about six months and then he decided not to relinquish ownership.

"So then, you know, you try to improve yourself. I had already paid for everything so I borrowed some money to move and that's when the S&Ls crashed and I went down with them. All these other banks that I had paid a lot of money to couldn't lend me any money because they were next on the chopping blocks. I finally ended up filing for bankruptcy as a corporation and I got out of it. So that's radio and me. I've never worked for somebody else; this is the first time, well kind of the first time since I first started in radio."

Developing a research center from the ground up is no small undertaking, either. Cataloging his collection of over 350,000 albums and over 175,000 singles may take volunteers some time. Preservation comes first, and volunteers are helping him clean and re-record all the records onto CD so they can be used.

Certainly Marcelo Tafoya could write a book about the history of Tejano as a popular music. Historically, Tafoya says, what began with an accordion, guitar, and several people playing a treble guitar, the music was influenced a great deal by the Germans when they brought over the accordion, especially through Mexico up the valley. The Spaniards brought the guitar, and after a while musicians would play together at the diaz y sies (sweet sixteen) parties, weddings, and beer joints.

At one time orchestras were playing traditional music from Mexico, so the younger players were listening to people like Glen Miller, Guy Lombardo, and learning how to play saxophone. "They would start singing their own songs interpreting the songs of Mexico," Tafoya explained. "When this started to grow bigger is how the Laonda Tejana (new wave) got started. But the accordion was always big time and associated with the beer joints. Out of one orchestra, 21 orchestras came out. It really showed it didn't just sit there idle.

"Most of us know the rise of so-called Tejano music started with Selena. She opened doors for women," Tafoya said. "When Selena came on the scene, and so quickly died, her death kind of like pushed forward Tejano music to the brink, including the Japanese, Europe, and Anglo markets who all wanted to know what is this thing called 'Tejano' and why are people so engrossed and wanting to do something for this young lady who died. That's when they really realized we have a world culture within ourselves.

"Anything the world has created we have within ourselves. Classical music, Baroque, Spanish, Rock, Jazz, Conjunto, Blues, International Contemporary, Latin Hip-Hop, you name it we have it. When she died and everybody started asking questions the industry just cut the cord because it couldn't keep up with the demand. We were lacking as a community because we didn't follow up. We were lacking in the tremendous catapult she gave us. We lost out on that economically, but in reality we gained.

"Also there are a lot of women who never got credit for opening the door for Selena like Patsy Torres, Shelly Lares, and Elsa Garcia, who has paid her dues, and she's been at it for a long time. The music world is a world of itself, a man's world," he said. "But men are going to have to slowly accept that women have a lot to offer. The irony is that the people who buy the most music are women.

"I had no idea of the power of radio. I had no idea even the listenership would be there. My mother used to listen to radio early in the morning and that's the way we used to wake up. We were Tex-Mex and we didn't speak Spanish correctly, yet it was an important part of our lives, but at that time there wasn't such a thing as a full time radio station. You constantly had to go down the dial to catch Spanish radio, two hours in the morning, two hours somewhere else, then two hours again here in the evening."

In 1993 Tafoya started Musica, a newspaper that would serve the Chicano community, providing a regular platform for artists and local happenings. He also jumpstarted a radical magazine called Echo which deals with community problems, and comes out specifically whenever there is an issue to address.

"I publish 10,000 copies and they go like mad. I send it out of town and distribute in Detroit, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Denver, everywhere. I have friends in radio who I send it to in big bundles, and they put it out for me."

Presently Tafoya is the interim manager for KOOP radio. "I'm there until the new board decides who they want to stay as the new manager. The final decision hasn't been made. We do a lot of good for the community and there is a lot of diverse programming so I'm interested in doing service, which I've done all my life," he explained.


The Art and World of Thor by Maria Rios

Armed with only the impression of his name and a composition book, I awaited the arrival of Thor, local artist and session drummer, to join me in conversation at Ruta Maya, a site always so opulently atmospheric and a perfect place to discuss the challenges of being a working artist in a town dichotomized, according to some, by the effects of its artistic productivity.

Fortunately he was running a bit late, giving me time to contemplate the name he chose for himself and how it could possibly tie in to the execution of his paintings. The concept of Thor, a thunderbolt wielding, Norse warrior God, patron of peasants and laborers, hammering away with the working class of Austin visual artists tweaked my interest in the samplings of his work that are scattered among the nails on the walls of Ruta Maya. Two of them are imitations, studies of 19th century book illustrator Gustave Dore's engravings of Dante's "Inferno," while the others are indicative of his personal style that he describes as "watery and liquidy" melting figures. These biomorphic figures, shocking in a way more subtle than he would agree with, call to mind a cross between Kenny Scharf's conscience and Peter Saul's sense of humor, only Thor's rebellious vision is executed on a smaller, more personal scale, resulting from the modest dimensions of the works he creates.

Yet before I could muster another comparison or scribble any more notes in my notebook, he appeared, tousled by his hasty bike ride and apologetic. We found a table toward the back of the coffeehouse, closest to his works, and after he had a chance to catch his breath, the conversation began.

We glossed over the paintings, and I asked him about the paintings' size. Given the personal and sometimes angry subject matter and his taste for the extreme, as in the case of "The Most Powerful Hand" that conjoins religious and sexual innuendo, I felt that producing either minutia or murals could more effectively highlight his skills. He responded practically by saying that he would like to work larger, yet time, given all that he does, would not allow it. His professional responsibilities extend from teaching a high school art class to sculpting wood and stone and being actively involved in the Austin music scene. His response was a welcome reality check familiar to all who choose to live by their expression.

So we moved on to the challenges of what it means to be a multidisciplinary artist. I was surprised to discover that painting is therapeutic to him, an escape from the lag time between gigs and in case "you become sour with the music industry and the whole hype that comes along with promoting a band or an ensemble. It can really be a lifesaver to be able to retreat into the solitude of something like oil painting where you're not immediately criticized or rejected by some audience," he said.

At that moment bitterness waved its tiny red flag, which he explained later by relating the reason for his disillusionment with the music industry. "In 1991 members of a band I played in got consumed by the industry. Before then we were four guys making the music we wanted to make, then the industry steered it in a direction that led to its demise. I became depressed and moved to San Francisco for a while and became infinitely more mentally ill and decided I wanted nothing to do with the music business anymore. I began oil painting all the time. I was so depressed I couldn't relate or deal with people at all, so I didn't play music for about a year. During that hibernation, I developed that style of watery, liquidy sort of figures."

"So," he continued, "I have to recommend to any musicians out there to cultivate your interest in other art forms. Music is such a flighty business; it's good to do things completely unrelated."

The conversation spiraled on between the realms of music and painting. Having had a classical background, Thor's drumming has transformed over the years to suit the needs of the bands he chose to play for and has settled stylistically on the power and strength of drummers such as Bonham and Groll. Of his playing style he says, "I play music a lot like my paintings; I strive for technical proficiency. I try to beat my audience over the head a little bit. Rather that using subtlety, I tend to go through extremes." At that point "Fucking Betrayal," with its depiction of a bloated, fat, fairy-like figure being impaled by the pitchfork of a menacingly playful demon, jumped to the forefront of my inquiries.

"The big fat angel?" he asked after my embarrassing and multiple attempts to identify the work to him from where I was sitting. "That is more about color and the whole motion of it. It's more expressive to me and less technical. It's about a guy that fired me from his band and hired all new players, and I'm just the stupid fat angel on the pitchfork. As it turned out the deal went sour and it was a blessing that I got fired, but at the time he had been a real dear friend of mine for a long time."

Of his paintings, however, he admits that he is most influenced by Bosch, Dali and Dr. Seuss. "The obvious thing to say about my work is that it's fairly impossible to ignore. Whether it's likeable or unlikable, it's not at all unremarkable." I vehemently agreed with him. At least twice during our conversation, one of his studies of Dore received constant and careful attention from otherwise distracted coffee drinkers.

http://www.diversearts.org/ADAM/archive/v5n2/thor.jpgI asked, "In terms of art, what is your bone to pick, if you have one?"

"If I had a bone to pick, it would be with whoever is phasing art and the arts out of the education system in the United States. We grow up thinking that the arts are not an important thing to us. I don't think that's true. I think the arts are important to America. Art is in places where we don't expect to look. America is full of Art: South Park, the Simpsons, Howard Stern, Andy Kauffman is high art in a different disguise than in classical oil paintings. If I had a bone to pick, I'd like for the educational system to help keep people aware of what art is and where it comes from and where it's been. America treats art like a red-headed stepchild in the educational system, but I think that each individual has a lot of power over how much America acknowledges the importance of art in our culture."

With that and my silence we both agreed to being manipulated somehow by the larger world defined by the other's ideology. To compensate, I asked what advice he gives his students if they show any desire to be artists.

"I try to tell my students what I learned in my early twenties. It's really pretty easy to earn a living. Be responsible and make a living somehow, but don't be so terrified that you're going to end up on the streets. I try to have them get over that fear. All it takes to not end up on the streets is common sense, which is what most of them have anyway. I spend some time trying to convince them that if they want to be an artist then that's okay and that they don't need something to fall back on. It's a piss-poor approach to go into something already thinking that you're going to fall back."

After a while the conversation became relaxed and more indulgent in that we spent some time comparing notes on our philosophies of art. I discovered that he is a disciplined artist and his work ethic produces works that are frank and personal, yet they leave out the propagandistic quality of complaint. Despite his disjunctive display of humor, metaphor and profane imagery, his work reveals a certain elusive vulnerability that seeps through the shock value he emphasizes. But I'll leave that for the spectator to decide.

I never did ask him why he calls himself Thor and how this plays into his work. By the end of the conversation it seemed moot to do so. I think the answers reside in his artistic efforts and, interestingly enough, in the confident yet humble way he describes his motivations, inspiration and their results. But again, I'll leave that to the spectator to decide.

His work will be featured this March at both the Electric Lounge and DiverseArts Little Gallery. Call DiverseArts at 477-9438 for more details.


Austin Girl by Karyna McGlynn

You want tofu, come talk to me, I'm an Austin girl, I cook for you, say, how do you like the Monterrey way, a la Mexicana, rolled in cornmeal, white flesh, flash in the pan, flash in the pan,
I cook like a man, taste it, taste me, you like? Essential oils from Planet K, it's an Austin thing. It's a Southwestern Nouveau thing, I learned it at Thai Soon, the chef's a good friend of mine, I'll introduce you, he's from Argentina, or Versailles, or no, wait, Cambodia, yeah,
the chefs from Cambodia cook a killer serrano pepper pesto creme brullee.
By the way, I got connections, see
I got connections.
I eat at Z Tejas every night, you know.
We'd better get a move on, I'll go put some shoes on, no, I'll go barefoot, I can't find my Birkenstocks, 'cause I'm an Austin girl. Let's go take pictures of the "Hi, How Are You?" frog on the side of Sound Exchange, we'll be the first to do it, it'll be a short film. We can have Vallejo on the soundtrack.
Hollywood will love it, but we won't sell out, we won't sell out, it's against our religion. I'm an Austin girl, here, get a tattoo, an Atomic tattoo, what's the matter with you? Wrong scene? You an Area 52 queen? May I present my gay and lesbian Zine, it covers: The sins of religion, perks of paganism, breatharianism, the fall of McCarthyism, cartoons, gay-toons, angry post-feminist Japanese Animae toons. You'll like it, will you buy it?
Only five bucks. Say, I've got the munchies. You got the munchies? Let's mosey down the drag and eat low-fat falafels, or let's eat Jerk Chicken Wrapidos while you rant to me in Rastafarian.
So I'm a meat-eating vegetarian,
So What? I can do that, I'm an Austin girl. Let's go climb Mt. Bonnell, throw big rocks at houses, I won't get a ticket, this town takes care of me, I got my diapers changed up here when I was two, got high with my mom when I was ten,
free the hemp, fuck the helmet law, 'cause it's my head, my streets, my city. I single-handedly started South-by-Southwest, saved Barton Springs, wrote the script for Slacker, and was Whole Foods' sole customer before it was cool. Come here, I've been here in Hyde Park so long, I don't even have to pay rent anymore. You want tofu, come talk to me, I cook for you, I teach you things, I'm an Austin girl.

© 1998 Karyna McGlynn
Karyna McGlynn was on the 1998 Austin Slam Team. She will perform at Ruta Maya Coffee House during SXSW.


The Bull-Jean Stories by Sandra Beckmeier

In the vein of contemporary literature and non-linear form, described as the flow and rhythm of words, Sharon Bridgforth crystallized the character known as "bull-jean" in her new book, the bull-jean stories. Published in October 1998 by Red Bone Press, the book brings to life the sights and sounds of the rural south in the 1920s with stories that leap to you from the well of love and life, untangling open heart wounds with words and uncovering the strength of the author in pure character.

Her style of writing in vignettes is a testament to oral language, something rare in literature and even more rare in theater where bridgforth has also accomplished a great deal. Sharon Bridgforth is the founder/writer/artistic director of the root wy'mn theater company. Her work can be found in various anthologies including does your momma know?, a collection of black lesbian coming out stories also published by Red Bone Press.

The first time I ever heard the character "bull-jean" was in the startling performance play, no mo blues in 1995. I remember her strutting http://www.diversearts.org/ADAM/archive/v5n2/bulljean.jpgacross the stage -- startling because the character expressed a simple kind of sadness, a drowning in light which is rarely uncovered and reborn. Bridgforth's talent as a storyteller is purposeful and loving.

Consistent in the bull-jean stories is the cultural shadow that bull-jean, an "all-my-heart" revolutionary, secretly and outwardly conquers with nobility and ease, but not without pain. While reading the book I couldn't help but remember the character unified in the depths of the lovely Sonja Parks in the play directed by bridgforth for the stage. The book carries you with it, not the other way around.

na/i's a wo'mn
what's Lovved many wy'mns.
me/they call bull-dog-jean
i say that's cause i works like somekinda ole dog
trying to get a bone or two
they say it's cause i be sniffing after wy'mns down-low/begging and thangs

She waited a long time to find publisher Lisa Moore whose ground-breaking Red Bone Press fit with her vision, which is a blessing, truly honoring bull-jean-a lady of soul, of despair, a student of life who captures a well of wisdom conruent with expressing pain that is universal, yet reaching further into the ways sisters, mothers, daughters, lovers, and friendships are tossed and torn in the war outside creativity. She is paving the way for a caravan of writers defaced and devalued for expressing themselves from the heart, mind and soul.

Simply put, when we come back again and again to do what we feel we have to do, the spirit changes and gravitates, connecting to the sun, the sky, and the moon, giving us a little balance. the bull-jean stories mark that triumph.


Notes from the Woodshed by Paul Klemperer

The Dialectic of Large & Small

In the music business, as in other businesses, it is no surprise that the big fish tend to eat the little fish. This is a familiar topic from boardrooms to classrooms to post-gig rants in the back booth at Denny's. But beyond railing against the system, it is helpful to remember that in today's musical ocean the big fish need the little fish, and to some extent the little fish need the big.

The detrimental aspects of monolithic record companies are pretty clear to most of us. They favor sure-fire musical products, so they penalize creativity and eliminate individuality. They seduce rising talent with big bucks, creating a recycled army of musical whores. I say this without rancor; it's just the way it is. Obviously America and the world like this arrangement or they wouldn't spend so much money to perpetuate it.

But there is more to the equation. While the mega-corporations will throw millions of dollars to hype a musical fad, more often they respond to a new group or sound which already has a grassroots or at least a regional following. This has been the rock-n-roll fairytale since Elvis (and arguably even earlier): a group of idealistic young players get discovered and leapfrog from the local market to national and international stardom. Then, of course, come the requisite substance abuse, petty bickering, failed relationships, and high speed drunken car chases with local cops. Ah, the glamour, the romance!

At the same time, the music industry has closed ranks in the last two decades. They take fewer chances and tend to bankroll a handful of mega-stars whose sound appeals on a lowest common denominator basis. Thus, we must slog through airwaves filled with Michael Bolton, Kenny G, and so on. How do these two contradictory tendencies co-exist? It is a dialectical relationship, a sociological dance between large and small musical organizations. The big organizations don't want to take risks, while the small groups (local bands, indie labels, college radio stations, etc.) thrive on risk-taking.

For these small musical structures, be they bands, labels or production companies, financial reward is pretty low on the list of expectations. The goal is to realize a musical dream, to take a distinctive musical creation out to a real or imagined community which will appreciate and utilize it. There is a lot of power in this process. Music is ideas, energy, emotion, experience. It affects people's lives, and people are drawn to it in a primordial sort of way.

Because of its power, music is like a feral animal in the hands of large corporations. They don't know which way it will turn, whether it will bite them in the ass or lead them to a horde of truffles. But for small organizations, hormone-driven local bands, wild-eyed experimental theater owners, and the like, this feral animal is our friend. Our totem. Our source of power in the dialectic between large and small musical structures. It is important to remember this power as we confront on a daily basis all the ways our efforts are limited, diverted, and siphoned off.

As we stand poised on an arbitrary calendrical turnover (being on the verge of the millenium seems so exciting, even if it's just another drip from the leaky cosmic faucet), we can wonder what new musical developments are in the offing. Two that immediately strike me are the major shifts in demographics and in computer technology. As North and Latin American cultures move inexorably toward a greater Pan-American culture, we see a corresponding growth of Latin musical influences in even the most whitebread musical fare. The creation and dissemination of musical products becomes easier and faster with each new technological breakthrough. The record company buzz is all about downloading music on home computers. How will this be regulated? Who will get the money?

These kinds of issues will be prevalent at this year's SXSW conference. There are a lot of topics and it may be difficult to see how they interconnect, especially for those who shelled out the bucks to participate and are trying to decide where your time is best spent. That's why I offer this dialectical view. What are the power relations between large and small structures in any given situation? To answer this question can help you sift through the hype and perhaps more clearly grasp your own power.


A Poem a Day by Stazja McFadyen

What's in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
-- William Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet

Take a whiff of these monikers: Clebo Rainey. Buddy Ray McNiece. Timothy "Speed" Levitch. Names you will not find in spring catalogs of garden-variety tea roses. And once you have witnessed Clebo strut bare-chested through an audience demanding "amens" with a convincing revivalist preacher impersonation in his signature performance piece, "Rarefied in Arkansas," you will find Dallas' most famous slam poet has little in common with vegetation. Rainey, McNiece and Levitch are but a few of the spoken word artists scheduled to perform at SXSW.

And the Bard himself should take note that after three years at Mojo's Daily Grind on the Drag, far from the madding crowd, SXSW spoken word programming is moving downtown to Ruta Maya Coffee House, where the action is. Affordable action. Expanded this year from two to three nights, the spoken word performances won't cost a $95 wristband or a leg, only $5 per night.

Mike Henry, who coordinates the SXSW spoken word showcases, believes this move will help bridge the gap between audiences and some of the top national and local spoken word artists. Henry co-produced the 1998 National Poetry Slam in Austin last August. Among the sell-out crowd at the 1200-seat Paramount Theatre were such journalistic luminaries as Dan Rather and Molly Ivins, not to mention Patricia Smith, formerly of the Boston Globe and a past National Slam champion, who emcee'd during the NPS finals that drew national media from CNN, PBS, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

In his business office at the Electric Lounge, Mike Henry told me recently, "The Nationals showed spoken word is a viable, marketable medium." Mike is co-owner of the Electric Lounge, home of Austin's weekly poetry slams. Although the National Poetry Slam talent pool is the backbone of SXSW programming, Henry's showcase line-up will offer diversity not limited to slam. This might or might not be an asset. During last year's SXSW spoken word, a faltering manuscript reading by a yawner whose name conveniently eludes me was a thorn in the programming, certainly not in the same performance league as top talent available right here at home; talent such as Genevieve Van Cleeve, who emceed at Mojo's, or Susan B. Anthony Somers-Willett (yes, her real name), both national slam veterans.

But fresh voices are on the bill this March. And a three minute slam time limit could not contain the inspired musings of Timothy "Speed" Levitch. A hybrid between "Weird" Al Yankovich and a cabalistic mystic, Levitch has garnered critical acclaim for his role in The Cruise, the black and white independent docu-flick that chronicles the New York City tour bus guide cum poet/philosopher.

Mike Henry's interest in SXSW goes beyond spoken word. As with so many of the downtown venues which stand to bank six weeks of receipts in the five days of SXSW, the Electric Lounge needs the cash. In January, it was announced that creditor pressures threatened to close the doors at the Electric Lounge, one of the most popular music stages in the live music capital of the world, a title earned directly from the mid-March music industry milieu. They gained enough steam through such "Lounge Aid" class acts as Guy Forsyth and a rare reunion of the Blue Plate Poets to pay the bills at least through SXSW.

An accomplished slam poet himself, Henry smells success in the future of poetry performances, and he is ambitious. On a succession of Tuesday nights, you can find him leaving the Electric Lounge bar untended for three-minute intervals while taking the stage to compete for $50 and a qualifying spot in the annual city slam-off, which will determine the four-member team representing Austin at the 1999 National Poetry Slam in Chicago.

In February, Mike earned a near-perfect score of a possible 30.0 from the 5-judge panel for his piece about having a "Good Penis Day." He won the first place $50 cash prize and qualified for the city slam-off. Henry will need more good days. His intent is to put the performing hopefuls in front of the "industry" to mine the market potential of spoken word during SXSW. And keep the Electric Lounge alive beyond March. And come out smelling like a rose.


Sound and Vision Festival by Rachel Staggs

The Festival

Jason Phelps has created an event that will fill your every desire for improvisational performance art. The Sound & Vision Festival supports multi-disciplinary stage work and presents some of Austin's finest performers.

Sound & Vision '99 spotlights El Nino Mon Amour (or "Sex and Weather in Texas") written and choreographed by Margery Segal. Segal and Phelps perform in this multi-faceted dance/movement piece, directed by Ruth Margraff.

El Nino Mon Amour begins with Margery Segal and Jason Phelps curled up on a table together, feet to feet. As their whispers become louder the movement begins. Almost surreal, the movements that take Segal off of the table are entrancing. Segal is an incredible performer with a wide range of movement and expression. Throughout the piece there is a steady rise and fall of energy. There is laughter, there is singing, beautiful movement, eerie looks, vegetables hanging from the ceiling. I can almost feel the dust storms of West Texas with Phelps swaying like a tree in a strong wind and the sun colored lights casting a warm glow across the stage. Segal's hair and make-up artistically create a mood. At times the performers appear otherworldly, with Segal crawling across the floor like a serpent and Phelps creating intense facial expressions. During the entire piece the shadows cast upon the wall by the performers are visually delicious. Near the end, the shadows cast by the hanging vegetables appear ethereal. The beautiful blue lights casting that shadow bring the audience out into space.

Aesthetically, the lighting design, music composition, and costume design are pleasing. Creatively, they are an important part of the whole. Music composed by Jim (Phylr) Coleman keeps the piece flowing and brings out the emotions underlying each scene. Coleman, who was a major force behind the New York band Cop Shoot Cop, often scores music for film, theater and dance. Stephen Pruitt's lighting plays a key role in this work of art. Pruitt shines fantastic colors and striking imagery onto the white walls that surround the stage.

This festival also spotlights Walter Thompson's Sound Painting. Imagine tenor sax, baritone sax, clarinet, piano, guitar, percussion, vocalists, actors, dancers, and samples from Jim Coleman, all conducted by a series of gestures. Add visual/scenic video from Lisa Miller and you have a piece of work that will stimulate your senses. It's chaotic one moment and hypnotic the next. When the end is drawing near, Thompson greets the audience and pleasantly explains a few of the Sound Painting gestures. He wants the audience members to become part of the performance. Some people are too cool to participate and just sit there looking the part. Others are completely into it. I invited a friend of mine to attend the performance with me, not quite sure of how he would respond. I believe participation in the Sound Painting was exciting for him, a release of sorts. The entire evening created a desire in me to seek out more.

After speaking with festival director Jason Phelps on the phone, we decided to meet for coffee at Little City on Guadalupe Street for our interview. When he arrived, Phelps apologized and said he could not stay. He had strained his neck with rehearsals and stress. We agreed to discuss Sound & Vision '99 via e-mail. Walter Thompson came into town the next day and I was able to e-mail him, as well. Two days later, I was fortunate enough to be part of the audience on opening night.

Interview with Jason Phelps

RS: Jason, when we met on Friday, I asked if this was the first Sound & Vision Festival. You mentioned that you invited Walter to Austin for four nights last year. What about that experience brought you to create the festival?

JP: I have always wanted to do a festival that focused solely on new music and dance theater in a setting that was intimate and theatrical.

RS: When was the first time you saw The Walter Thompson Orchestra perform?

JP: I actually never saw them perform. I just met Walter in New York and we talked about music and theater and combining those elements; so he invited me to join in.

RS: What were your thoughts and feelings afterwards?

JP: I thought it was an amazing blend of all the elements that I am interested in -- theater, dance, music, video/film.

RS: How is Sound Painting different today when compared to your first experience?

JP: Now that I know the gestures more concretely, I can improvise with a freely focused kind of energy and listening.

RS: Is every Sound Painting performance and/or rehearsal different? Are there any set structures to the piece?

JP: The only set structures are the gestures that Walter throws out to improvise with and then anything goes from there.

RS: There are over 600 gestures in Sound Painting; does it ever become confusing?

JP: Not really, it just depends on how quickly you can pick up the gestures.

RS: Tell me about the Sound Painting workshop you and Margery Segal attended. How was the experience and what did you do?

JP: We developed the Sound Painting language every day for a month with artists from all over the country coming and going.

RS: I'm so fascinated with how all of the parts -- the director, musicians, dancers, singers, actors, and visual artists -- come together to create the performance. What is a rehearsal like?

JP: It's actually very focused and if you can imagine a symphony rehearsing, made of different elements -- that is pretty much what it is li

RS: I read that the performances during Sound & Vision '99 will be based around the theme "transformation." How will you use this theme in your performances?

JP: The piece with Margery is primarily a dance theater piece that explores themes of loss and love in the face of disaster. The transformation theme is still pretty unknown and we are not quite sure how to make it work with the short amount of time to build it.

RS: Tell me about Margery Segal and Ruth Margraff -- how did El Nino Mon Amour find its place in Sound & Vision '99?

JP: I had planned to have this piece in the festival all along. Ruth, Margery, and I worked very hard over Christmas creating the skeleton of the piece and then we brought Jim Coleman in to score the whole piece.

RS: What or who are your personal influences?

JP: Lots of music -- Pina Bausch, Meredith Monk, Michael Clark; and sculpture and painting.

RS: What were your passions growing up?

JP: Music, theater, dance, and art.

RS: What are your passions today?

JP: Pretty much the same.

Interview with Walter Thompson

RS: Walter, is Sound Painting something you create on a weekly basis in New York City?

WT: Yes. I have a busy schedule with my orchestra in New York City and residencies in Universities and public schools. I am always working on Sound Painting, developing new gestures for concepts that aren't in the system yet.

RS: Do you often travel to showcase this vision?

WT: There seems to be a steady growth in my taking Sound Painting out on the road. The past few years I have been fortunate to travel and work with other orchestras around the country. This is the third year I've come to conduct/compose in Austin and I'm very excited to work with such a fine group of performers.

RS: Tell me about your workshop in Woodstock, NY. How long have you been offering it, how was it developed, who comes to learn?

WT: Last Spring I was the recipient of a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation grant that supported a three month residence at the Brydcliffe Arts Colony in Woodstock, New York. The first two months I spent teaching Sound Painting to all the fourth and fifth graders in four different public schools in the Woodstock area. This culminated in a wonderful performance that included several members from my orchestra and students from the schools. The third month of the residence members of my orchestra and invited performers and educators from around the country joined me in a think tank to further develop the system. We worked six hours a day, six days a week. Over two hundred new gestures were created!

RS: At what age did you first realize you were beginning to create Sound Painting?

WT: The creative orchestra has always been the medium I've been attracted to. My orchestra in NYC has been together for over 16 years. Before that, I had an orchestra in Woodstock when I was 22, it was together for eight years. So it has been over 24 years that I've worked with large groups. I first started developing Sound Painting with the Woodstock group, but most of the work has been done with the NYC group over the past 16 years.

RS: Being a musician and visual artist, I am very interested in the term "Sound Painting" and where it came from; or how you came to use this term to describe what you do.

WT: I have a very simple answer for this question. I didn't have a clue of what to call my work until my brother, Charles (a very fine musician) coined my work Sound Painting. I was raised around visual artists, my father is a painter and my mother makes jewelry, so a name that brings the visual into it hit home.

RS: What are your musical influences?

WT: I love all kinds of music. When my father was in his studio, which was all the time, he would play everything from Charles Ives to Patsy Cline. I was surrounded by music and visual arts. The composers that influenced my the most were Charles Ives, Anthony Braxton, Omette Coleman, Kurt Weill and Earle Brown.

RS: What were your passions growing up?

WT: Music, painting, theater, and the outdoors!

RS: What are your passions today?

WT: Combining music, theater, dance and the visual arts in Sound Painting; and the outdoors.

RS: What is different about the Sound Painting performances here at Sound & Vision '99, compared to other performances?

WT: The difference is the individual. Since Sound Painting is composition from improvisation, the individual performers bring her or his art to the system.

RS: Have musicians, dancers, singers, actors, and visual artists always been a part of the Sound Painting process?

WT: A few years ago I received a commission from Lincoln Center, in New York City. They asked me to compose a work that would include the audience. I have always worked in theater and dance separately from my orchestra but had never combined them. The work at Lincoln Center I title "A Town Meeting" and at the last minute I decided to add two actors. This just opened up Sound Painting in a way that I had not thought of yet! I kept actors as part of the orchestra and then started to bring in the other disciplines.

RS: How will you use the theme "transformation" in your direction?

WT: Sound Painting is all about transformation. We jump concepts in a way that I would relate to changing channels on a five hundred channel television. When I come to a performance I don't have any preconceived notions of what the piece is going to be. Having a preconceived idea is death in Sound Painting. Transforming what comes from the improvisation into composition is the soul of Sound Painting.

RS: Walter, please add any comments you may have.

WT: A million thanks to Jason Phelps and Margery Segal and all the wonderful performers and audiences that participated in Sound Painting. I look forward to coming to Austin again!

Sound & Vision '99, February 16th through February 20th at Hyde Park Theatre, featuring the Margery Segal/NERVE Dance Co. in El Nino Mon Amour (or "Sex and Weather in Texas"); also featuring the Walter Thompson Orchestra in Sound Painting


Texas Film Art by Allyson Lipkin

Pro-Jex Gallery, located in the Artplex at 1705 Guadalupe, has a special show to offer in and out of towners during the SXSW film festival and conference. From March 5-20, Neal Coleman, curator of Texas Film Art, presents a show of photography, storyboards, sketches, posters, miniatures, replicas, and sculptures in the Artists Coalition of Austin Gallery located inside the Artplex. Neal Coleman has been involved with Texas filmaking since 1985 and is a member of the Austin Film Society. As owner of Pro-Jex, Coleman has a mission for his gallery: presentation, preservation, and promotion.


To show people how to display and matt photography.


To preserve in archives old photos and fine art.


Eight to nine shows a year and 90+ exhibits in 11 years that range from documentary, portraiture, and experimental exhibits.

"Back in September I was talking with Rachel Koper from the Artist Coalition of Austin about doing a bigger scale exhibit than I do in my gallery," Coleman said. "I threw out some ideas, and had just joined the Austin Film Society, and wanted to tap into the film groups here. I started thinking, 'Why don't I do something for the artists that I have been working with?' They do such an amazing job and are very gifted people, artists in their own right making the props and sets. I also knew quite a few photographers: Alan Pappe was a big inspiration. Alan moved here years ago when filming Kafka. He heard Salderburg was filming in Austin and he jumped on the bandwagon. He's a special units photographer, or a still photographer. The special unit photographer is a person who comes in and gives the director a tone for what direction their movie is going to. Alan shoots probably twelve rolls a day. He's got well over a quarter million images taken since the '60s -- everyone from Jimmy Hendrix to Buffalo Springfield. He's got an image of Liza Minelli from Cabaret that's in the Smithsonian. He got an award for it! Alan's worked on four Texas films and other smaller budget films, among which are The Underneath and Lonestar, a John Sayles film shot a few years ago in Del Rio and in Eagle Pass.

"We're using the image of Kris Kristofferson from that movie [for the Texas Film Art Poster]. Through Alan's work I have gotten to know Richard Linklater; he's a big poster collector. He's contributing the original artwork for the Newton Boys poster which Twentieth Century Fox didn't go with. The poster is wonderful. It's '30s-style. They ended up going with something that looks like Young Guns. There is an original painting for [the poster]. I'm also working with Michael Peal. He does storyboard. Storyboards are done in most feature films. The director hires an artist to draw or paint out the scenes that are in the picture. There are some from Lonesome Dove. Also there is a miniature from Suburbia of a street scene they made. Weve got work coming in from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, both I and II. Furniture that is made out of bones.

"As far as the whole concept, there is a whole wealth of films right here in the neighborhood of Texas to pick from. So I narrowed it down to just displaying work made here in Texas. They don't have to be Texas directors or anything. For example, Lonestar is a John Sayles film. But Alan, who lives here in Austin, worked on that film. So we have Alan Pappe and Cary White (an art director for several films), Rick Linklater and John Frick. We will have some signed posters for sale. Also I got a call from Van Reddon who worked on Rushmore so we'll have some photos from Rushmore and maybe Bottle Rocket. You'll see first hand the genesis of a film. Mike Solovan has shown me a lot of his sketches. He might work on a western, for example. It might call for a wagon. They will make a whole covered wagon. They will do this research, and make it from scratch. Or make a log cabin. It is interesting. In Lonesome Dove they had to build a log cabin in New Mexico where they were filming. The wood was cut here in Bastrop, rough sewn logs and numbered. They just put them together in one day, like a lincoln log.

"Most filmmaking is a facade. They are all props. I was looking at some photos that Mike Sullivan brought in for a western. They recreated the rocks out of styrofoam -- that you swear were boulders -- that they had to blow up with dynamite to get through the passage. So they had to do it all in styrofoam. It's kind of like a necessity is the mother of invention type of thing. So it happens a lot in movies where a scene calls for a certain thing. Here's a chance for people to really spread their wings and do things that they have never done before, so they are writing the book while they are doing it.

"A lot of things are invented while moviemaking. So there is educational stuff to show the process that's involved and how they get their project together by sketching, drafting, and getting materials. Getting it made, photographing it and getting it dressed up for the set. There is a lot more involved than a lot of people realize when making a feature length film. I wanted to show the community and the artists that we have in our town the good work they do on films that is overlooked."

Again, the show opens March 5 and runs until March 20. As with all grand productions, there is even more. Short films will be showing Friday the 12th, Saturday the 13th, and Sunday the 14th. Local filmmakers from the Cinemakers Coop, Cinematexas, Austin Filmworks, and digital filmmaker Ken Adams will be showing.

Thanks to Neal and Pro-Jex fo promoting photography in Austin for the past 11 years and curating this event. Stop by and visit Pro-Jex in the ArtPlex at 1705 Guadalupe suite 122, or call 472-7707 for more information.


The Wired Side: South by Southwest Interactive Festival Gets Interactive by Shilanda Woolridge

The SXSW Music and Film Festival is an institution that was born in the primordial soup of Austin culture. For many years Austin has been considered the "Live Music Capital of the World" and a hotbed of independent filmmaking activity. So it seems only natural that one of the biggest festivals in the honor of music and film would find its roots within our city limits.

In addition to the film and music activity, Austin has a lion's share of high-tech and multimedia firms. We have the old corporate mainstays like IBM, Apple, Dell, Motorola, and AMD. We also have the flashy interactive and gaming firms like HumanCode, FrogDesign, Origin, Digital Anvil, and FG Squared. Last year Austin was christened one of the worlds hottest high tech cities by Newsweek magazine.

Similar to the music and film festivals, the interactive festival is so deeply embedded in Austin culture that the opening event will be a self-guided open house through some of Austin's best multimedia production facilities and internet studios. Another important part of Austin culture is partying, and the interactive festival will give attendees plenty of opportunities. After the open house, GSDM will host the opening party where the winners of the Second Annual SXSW Web Site Competition and Texas Interactive Media Awards will be announced. The following three days will consist of a variety of activities like trade shows, keynote speakers, panels with over 30 cutting edge topics to choose from, and of courseplenty of parties and happy hours.

As the interactive festival is a part of the SXSW family, it's more a conference than a festival. The panels make up the bulk of the activities and orbit around four main categories: web business, web publishing, web entertainment, and the technological frontier. Unlike the music and film festivals, the interactive festival may not have much to offer the casual visitor. This may sound like a slam, but it's not. Anyone can walk up and experience a band or film they know nothing about. However, if one lacks knowledge of the Internet, the WWW, or interactive new media they may find themselves lost and frustrated. The panels topics are geared to people who are already up to their ears in development. So if one is completely new to interactive new media, it would be a good idea to go to the SXSW web site to scan the panel topics and let your intuition (not to mention your checking account) decide. On the other hand, the festival could serve as an excellent place to jump into the fray of cutting edge technology.

When most people think of interactive media, they think of web sites or 3D games like Quake or Myst. This is only scratching the surface of all there is to offer. The interactive festival isn't brand new, it's been around for a few years. However, this year's festival will be different because it will be the melting pot that brings all three SXSW events together. To understand how this will happen we'll have to examine the difference between"traditional" media and interactive new media. The traditional forms have always been very passive. We sit and listen to radio stations that are broadcast to us. We sit and watch television programs that are broadcast to us. We sit in mega-movie theater houses and watch films that are screened to us. Our level of interactivity is reduced to changing the channel or station, and deciding what movie we want to sit in front of.

Interactive media changes viewer into participant, giving them more control than ever before. The biggest example of this is perhaps in the recording industry. MPEG3 technology allows one to produce quasi-CD-quality audio files which have received very little attention until recently. Scores of web sites allow people with MP3 players to download and listen to MP3 files of their favorite songs. Better yet, with access to a CD burner they can make CDs of the songs. A quality high-speed CD burner costs about $200-300 bucks, well within reach of your average American consumer. So the recording industry and their lawyers are quickly trying to find a way to keep consumers paying $15 for a CD that cost $2 to produce. Two festival panels will cover digital music. Tuesday, March 16th, from 11-12:30pm, "The Digital Record Label" will explore the way interactivity has and will change music distribution. Later that day from 3:30-5pm, "MP3 & the Future of Intellectual Property" will separate fact from fiction about MP3s.

The juxtaposition of interactivity with music, film, and other media is what the SXSW Interactive festival is all about. The change in choices that viewers have are phenomenal. However, there are choices that interactive media gives to artists as well. Consider any of the independent musicians who will come to play this year. Now this artist has the ability to record her music and distribute it herself via her web site. She can sell her entire CD directly, or she can make MP3 files available for her fans to download and burn onto CDs themselves.

Like it or not, completely legal or not, the MP3 is here to stay and net savvy surfers will continue to download music. Those who are smart won't waste time in court trying to stop something they can't control; they'll adapt and make a profit. Musician Steve Mack will be giving away his tips and tricks for audio production when he presents "Producing High Quality Audio for the Internet" on Tuesday, March 16th, from 11-12:30.

What about the independent filmmakers -- how can they benefit from interactive media? Let's say a filmmaker has a 20 minute feature that he would like to shop around to distribution houses. He could digitize his film and put choice QuickTime video clips from the movie on his web site for people to view. QuickTime is the web standard for video, so most surfers will already have the QuickTime plug-ins installed on their web browser. If not, all it takes is a 15 minute time-out to download, install, and re-start the machine to properly equip their browser. Even better yet, if the filmmaker's ISP (Internet Service Provider) is equipped to serve streaming media via Real Audio/Video he could digitize the entire film and webcast it. Using Real Audio technology allows surfers to watch the film as it downloads instead of forcing them to wait for it download completely before it starts. Sunday, March 14th, from 3:30-5:30, the panel will discuss the latest that streaming video technology has to offer. On the other side of the filmmaking world, more and more big budget films are utilizing graphics for their special effects and stunts. This will be discussed Sunday, March 14th from 11-12:30pm during "Hollywood Gets Graphic."

The importance of Real Audio/Video technology grows exponentially because people don't like to wait. The World Wide Web didn't receive its nickname "the World Wide Wait" for nothing, so the ability to broadcast events via the web has generated a fair amount of interest. Many people at work listened to President Clinton's impeachment hearings using streaming Real Audio webcasts. Webcasts have become popular for hot news items and radio entertainment. The webcasting panel on Tuesday, March 14th, from 1:30-3 will cover broadcasting events over the Internet. Next from 3:30-5 will be a panel on "The Realities of Web Radio."

The few panels that were mentioned are just a fraction of what will be offered during the SXSW Interactive festival. It's exciting to see how the interactive new media can serve consumers and artists. Only in a place like Austin can art, media, and interactivity converge into one unit -- and only at a festival like SXSW Interactive.


We Don't Need No Stinkin' Wristbands: Non-South by Southwest Events for the Middle of March by Kelli Ford

Excited out-of-towners and seasoned and cynical Austin veterans alike sometimes wonder if there is mid-March musical life beyond South by Southwest. The pricey music showcases, expensive if existent parking, and enormous lines can begin to wreck havoc on one's wallet and supply of patience. If you find yourself in the category of the light-walleted ones, nearing zero tolerance for all the people and hoopla, or you just know that the best is not always the most talked about, there is still hope for some good music during South by Southwest.

This year the trend continues of Austinites taking matters into their own hands and creating alternative venues during the festival. 33 Degrees, a record store at 4017 Guadalupe Street, continues bringing us an eclectic selection of live music during -- but not as a part of -- South by Southwest. On Friday the 19th, Calexico, an alternative country act out of Louisville, Kentucky, will play a free show. On Saturday, ...Man or Astroman...? will bring Austin their sci-fi surf rock at 2:00 pm -- also for free. Saturday night after the store closes (around 11:00), five bands from the Northwest will play short sets. There will be a cover for this one -- which is good, because musicians have to eat too! The night includes Dub Narcotic from Olympia; EQ, a drum and bass electronica sort of thing; KG, formerly Kicking Giants; Miranda July; and Sarah Dougher, who used to live in our lovely city and also plays with the Lookers. They said all shows and times are subject to change, so stop in if you want more information.

If you cannot make it out at all -- or are driving around downtown looking for parking -- be sure to catch 3x5 on 91.7 KVRX. The student-run radio station will broadcast and record a mix of three local and touring acts a night for five nights (get it -- 3x5?), starting on Monday the 15th. Oh, and all the music will be broadcast live from their new building at 26th and University.

It seems that this year, Austin will be blessed by two South by So Whats (read: SXSW -- cute, huh?). Miss Laura, proprietor of the late punk haven the Blue Flamingo located at 617 Red River, started South by So What years ago. This year, she is taking the party -- which is a benefit -- to the Off Center, between 6th and 7th Streets just past Chicon (on the East Side -- yeah!). It's right by Popeye's Chicken, according to Miss Laura. They are planning to have two stages and all kinds of local music from punk to hip-hop. The music goings-ons will be from the 18th to the 20th and will last from about 8pm until 2am. Miss Laura says they will try to be affordable, and if you go all three nights you will get a deal. Keep in mind, however, you are supporting a good cause, as proceeds will go to KVRX to pay for the move to their new building. Miss Laura likes them. She also likes the bands she picks to play her shows. She told me over the phone, "A lot of really good bands have been left out (of South by Southwest), and they deserve to be heard." Things such as the final lineup and prices are still tentative (at press time), so if you want to find out more, you can call KVRX; and they can relay information to Miss Laura. Or, in her own words, "If they really need to reach me, my number is in most of the bathrooms in Austin!"

That's one South by So What. The other one will be at the Purgatory Lounge, located on 617 Red River. Yup, that's where Miss Laura's Blue Flamingo used to be, but the folks over at Purgatory are having their own South by So What this year. Their version will run from March 16th until the 21st and will feature eight bands a night -- nine the first night. Some of the bands featured are Drawn Black out of Houston; Grazp; Tadpole Canabalism; Shovel Nose; Stingrays; Hatchbacks; Punkaroos; Miss Xana Don't; Tall, Dark, and Lonesome; Me and The Devil; Diecast Rabbit; The Lambs; The Chumps; Sangra de Toro; Belligerent 86; Malatov Cocktail; Fuckemos; Bulemics; Jesus Christ Superfly; Skrew; Ponyboy; Zed; and Mayhem Brew. They're going to have thirty-seven bands -- lots of local talent too -- so there is going to be a whole lotta' shakin' going on! Doors open at 8pm, and Thursday through Saturday, there will be after-hours shows until 3am. This one is definitely affordable with week-long wristbands costing adults (those over twenty-one that is) only $13, and the younger folks only have to pay $15 for the whole week. The cover is $7 and eight dollars a night for adults and minors respectively.


Verities by Grace McEvoy

Many years ago I became interested in film as an intellectual pursuit. It grew to be a passion that my friends came to associate with me. I was a resource of knowledge and even studied film in college, although my degree is one well-rounded in media arts and humanities. My passion began in the late 1970s. Cable television was just beginning to catch on and many people got a free trial period of HBO. For many of us the trial period just went on and on and we never paid for cable. Those were good years to get free HBO. They had a good mix of films and showed many wonderful foreign films I would not otherwise have had an opportunity to see. So I got to spend my mid-high school years watching films by Lina Wertmuller, Federico Fellini, and Ingmar Bergman, as well as a number of odd and wonderful short films and good domestic films.

My understanding and appreciation of film was expanded by a short-lived show on public television called The Cinematic Eye with host Benjamin Dunlap. He would introduce the film, show it, and then dissect, critique and adore it. It was a lot of information in a short time and I ate it up. "Bernie" Dunlap later became my film history professor and told us that The Cinematic Eye had been described as being like watching a train fly by. Bernie was a fast-paced guy, but that was also my pace at the time. He once did a cartwheel and a hand-spring in class to demonstrate some point, but mostly to show off. I shared his enthusiasm for the cinema. For a period of time I was very interested in French film and was thrilled to see Jean Vigo's L'Atalante, one of the most beautiful films I had seen.

A victim of Ronald Reagan's education funding cuts, I found myself in Athens, Georgia, in 1981 or so with a useless student ID that ended up being my ticket to free films in the university library collection and at the union. That is when I saw Fellini's I Clowns and the film that made me want to make movies, Werner Hertzog's Stroszek.

I lived in a small wooden shotgun house with no electricity or furniture and saw at least one movie a day, sometimes three. This was not an escape, it was research, passion and adoration. Goons from Georgia Power with dark glasses in a big white car kept coming by to tell me that all I had to do was go to the power company and give them my $60 deposit and they would turn on my electricity. Some people have no understanding of poverty at all. By some happy accident/mistake on their part, I had gotten a month of free power and they were there to collect. Having no record of me as a customer there was little they could do except to continue "visiting" me every week or so. My part-time jobs didn't pay enough, it was cold, I became very ill, the goons were beginning to scare me, I ended up in my car, I had to get out of there but I am grateful for the period of intense film study courtesy of the University of Georgia, which I never attended.

Time passed and I managed to finish college and stay involved in film the whole time. I studied film, I made films, I brought filmmakers to speak at my university and eventually ended up in Austin hoping to continue pursuing my interest in film. There were enough ways to do that, but something happened during the first half of the last decade that I didn't expect. It was sly and I couldn't identify it for a long time, but my passion had turned into an obsession. Films were something I went to because I felt as if I had to. Missing an important (to me) movie could be a minor crisis. Making certain that I saw all the films I wanted to see became a burden. I was no longer enjoying them. Instead of having a cerebral or a pleasant experience -- or even any fun -- most of the time movie going made me anxious. Frankly, I had become passive and impatient. Like an addict I kept going back hoping for that good experience I used to have but instead it was making me depressed. What was going on? Was I just getting older? Had I seen too much film? Maybe I should have paced myself. Was it sensory overload like when you go to an enormous museum and after a couple of hours you can walk past a masterpiece you have admired in books all of your life and not really give a damn because you are just worn out? One theory of mine is that I had a premature mid-life crisis.

Eventually I had to simply stop going to see films and stop reading about them. I had already stopped making photographs because of burn out. For a while I made ceramics and the tactile, immediate experience was just what I wanted. I also made extravagant, fabulous food, but I kept my distance from film for a long time.

So here comes SXSW again and with it the opportunity to see many fine films, I am sure. I have been avoiding that for some time, but recently I rented a film that made me think again. A friend recommended that I see Wim Wenders' The End of Violence, and something wonderful happened while I was watching it. I began to remember why I like film, Wim Wenders in particular. Watching the film was a happy, engaging experience. At times I found myself thinking yes, yes: that was good. Even the leaf blowers have significance (they really do). The next day I was feeling very pleased by my rediscovery of Wim Wenders and all of his clever choices. Trying some more films is the next logical step. Maybe my film aversion period has passed. Possibly attending some of the SXSW screenings has even occurred to me. I may do that. I may not, but I am feeling ever so much better about movies. I am also an upstanding citizen these days with an income and electricity. I pay for my movies, and if I had cable, I would pay for that as well.


Up All Night by Harold McMillan

Speaking of Scenes

I'm not really particularly attached to the word "scene" itself. A lot of the time the word conjures up visions other than those I have in mind. To some extent I must admit that part of what I'm talking about here is really about commerce, about trying to find ways for the arts community to get paid for the work we do. And to do that, we have to do business. We have to find ways to use the "scene" as a marketing concept, a tool. More than that particular notion, I'm really talking more about community-building. To borrow a cliche, "If we build it, they will come."

As some of you know, in mid-November DiverseArts moved into the building here on Guadalupe Street called the ArtPlex. This wasn't something we had been planning to do for a long time, but the timing just worked out that way. Now we are here, have set up shop, and have come to really appreciate our new digs. There are a lot of good folks here -- artists, businesses, arts organizations, a budding community ready to bloom. I'm going to come just short of calling it a "scene." I don't want to do that. What I do see happening here is that other thing I'm talking about.

In this one building, like no other address in Austin, is a vibrant, self-contained, growing, potentially important, multidisciplinary arts community in the making.

Were it the brain-child of some urban - planning - smart - growth - compact - city devotee, it would probably be innovatively labeled "Austin's arts business incubator." The surrounding commercial properties would then be dubbed the Uptown Arts District. Before long the Downtown Alliance and the Convention and Visitors' Bureau would be pushing it to tourists, and the local media would then have to identify our part of downtown as a "scene" -- restaurants, art galleries, studios of working artists, performance spaces, night clubs, and some very edgy high tech media houses and avante-film professionals.

I can see it now, an alternative to the pretension of the upscale Warehouse District. A complete 180 degrees away from the pandemonium of the adolescent nightlife of Slick Street. What a concept, huh?

I talk about all of this in terms of its potential for the future, based on the attributes of this area today. I'm trying not to get ahead of myself. I have not pronounced or announced the birth or rebirth of yet another downtown arts district. I really believe there has to be more going on in an area, more intentional connected-ness than presently exists in the MLK-Lavaca-Guadalupe-15th Street 'hood.

The ties that bind, at this point, seem to mostly be proximity. But just take note of what already sits on these few blocks just north of the Capitol: Women and Their Work Gallery, Lyon Matrix, Gallery Sin Fronteras, The Clay Pit (a new Indian restaurant), Dog and Duck Pub, Mars Restaurant, El Mercado, Dobie Theater, Scottish Rite Performance Hall, and the ACA Gallery@ArtPlex... oh yeah, there's also the Capitol Complex and the University of Texas' museums, galleries, and performance halls all within walking distance.

But, believe it or not, that is not the final point I'm trying to make here. It should be obvious to most marketing-types (especially those of us who don't have any money) that there is a sale-able hook here. Merely as marketing concept/tool, there already exists a district here. The residents just haven't done anything to pull together for mutual benefit. They may never do so. I just might have crooked vision on this one, I might be just stupid wrong. After all, I ain't no marketing specialist.

The part of this conversation that I do feel pretty comfortable with, feel like I know something about, relates directly to the ArtPlex building and tenants. I feel that there is something good brewing here. Right now it's understated and simmering. But there is an interesting bunch of smart folks here doing good work. Collaboration and cooperation is happening, people are talking and things are getting moved around in some good ways.

This ain't a scene yet, maybe it won't have to go that far. It is beginning to feel very much like a connected community of artists and professionals. The thing is, some of us here in the building really want and need ArtPlex to take-off more as an arts destination, a place of culture and commerce.

Sitting right here in the middle of this downtown commercial corridor, it would seem that we might actually get a clue on how to take advantage of our situation. But I'll have to revisit this issue later. I'm sure a few months down the line I'll be able to give an upbeat update on our scene building enterprise. In the meanwhile, come by and check this joint. ArtPlex at 1705 Guadalupe.

Scene and Not Heard

I've been in a lot of conversations lately about Austin's music, arts, and culture scene(s). Smart folks sitting around pontificating on Austin's arts scene -- or lack thereof. Where is it, who does it include, how can I find it, how much money is there to be made, how much money is there to be spent?

"Goddamn! How hard do I have to work to get 'dat money?" they all seem to ask.

"Okay, okay, can I go ahead and get my money now? See, 'cause I need it more than the other guys. You know? I do work real hard for art, it ain't no hobby of mine. In fact, I am constantly suffering for art. Where 'da money? I'm suffering for the cultural quality of life for all of the rest of you Austinites. I needs my money now, so's I can stop suffering for yo' tired, culture-less ass," completes the statement for some of them/us. Jaded, bitter, cynicism sets in after a few years of this stuff.

These are the concerns. For some of us, these are the real-life questions.

Everyone in these conversations seems to have the same questions. All of us are wondering, sometimes to the point of appearing clueless, desperate, tired. Hoping. Maybe we do this work, join those forums, panels, do those interviews, get in on those telephone/email conversations, lobby the Arts Commission and City Council because we think the next guy has the answers to solve our problems. Unfortunately, a lot of folks continue to have the same questions. Few of us have the same answers. "Us," in this case, is/are the folk who are in the arts, really, for primary reasons other than commercial ones. But we gotta eat, too.

That said, why do we do this stuff, in this town, in this society where we don't really have much influence on the way things go?

Although, I must admit, I am phrasing these comments in a manner that my country-ass-self might state them ('dis and 'dat and all), the reality is, all of us nonprofit arts folks to some degree or another have the same concerns. From the symphony to the lowly avante-dance group that moves too slowly for some folks to really call it "dance." We all have to deal with some kind of uneasy marriage between culture and commerce.

We need to get paid. We HAVE TO pay. We don't really want a straight job. That ain't us. Know what I'm sayin'?

The real questions are: who are we, who are our audiences/potential audiences, how do we find each other in this city, in an economy that really is not about culture as much as it is about commerce? And, if we find them (patrons, audience), why should these folks pay us to do what we do? These are the questions.

I have had these conversations with any number of "arts professionals" over and over for the last ten years of my so-called professional life in this so-called arts scene. The most recent round of gabfest sessions happened to be with and among other Austin black arts professionals. The issues are still pertinent, still are real, still unresolved. And, regardless of the general commonality that lies beneath the surface of the issues, this stuff continues to be extremely real, extremely urgent for many of us who deal with the art and culture of African America.

Have you looked lately at the demographics of Austin?

In a city with less than a 15% population of black folks, how does one find the audience, energy, and resources to consistently put black art and culture out there and still have hopes of finding the support necessary to keep up the effort? Is there a critical mass of black folks, with interest and money, who will actually rise to that level of support necessary to "keep hope alive" for African American arts and culture in Austin? And, are we less "Black" if we do (or have to do) it with a lot of support from white folks? Are we selling out if our theater and dance performances, blues, jazz, and gospel music shows have audiences composed of 80% white folks? Or is that scenario simply Austintatious (read: American?) reality?

Do we stop doing what we do, stop putting these traditionally black cultural forms -- for instance, touring jazz -- out there because there really isn't the support within Austin's African American community to pay for this art?

To you, Mr. and Ms. Average Austinite, these kinds of issues might seem more silly than anything else. To many of you, any comment on the importance of diversity or representative American culture equals comment on race equals comment that is inherently racist or paranoid or both equals legitimate reason to turn a deaf ear to the conversation. To those folks this might all seem as benign as the murder in Jasper. And if these statements cause you discomfort for those same reasons, rest assured that my rhetoric swings, broad and fast, back and forth, across racial lines and interstate highways. Race is very important, in a lot of conversations, but this is about Culture (most definitely with a capital "C"). Austin, cool-hip-groovy mecca that it is, shouldn't even have to think about this kinda thing. We cool, right? Or, do I underestimate this market yet again?

Let me tell you. There are folks here in Austin who think of this kinda stuff each and every day that they go to work. And if they do cultural work in Austin -- with a-feelin' -- they have to go to work everyday, 24/7. And they (we) HAVE TO think on these issues EVERYDAY.

Okay, so there really are not enough black folks alone in Austin to (financially) support a full season's program of multidisciplinary African American arts events. Do we just assume that those folks who do recognize the cultural importance of this stuff are worth the effort and continue our work? Do we continue to produce events for other artists, presenters, producers, and the faithful very familiar few, and just consider that as our lot in this Capital City? Do we keep asking those other folks, who generally don't show us support, to finally join us in celebrating this rich cultural stuff that is ours -- all of ours -- or do we go after new potential audiences, these new high-tech, government and education Austinites?

verwhelmingly, the answer to all of the previous questions is YES. Yes. We, from the Lyric Opera to Cosmic Intuition to the Elephant Club to Frontera to the Creeps to ProArts to Mexic-Arte to Salvage Vangarde, have to keep plugging at it. And, perhaps, we may find that the brightest prospect for the future of this "scene" just might be those New Austinites.

After all, this is the '90s. And, I don't know about you, but to me this 1999 Austin looks and feels a whole lot different than it did twenty years ago when I was a New Austinite.

By the way, if any of you New Austinities want or need a cultural arts organization with which to become involved, DiverseArts extends open arms and warm hearts to you. We want and need -- and will work for -- your support.