MY little black calendar book says I had
quite a week, before falling into the Big Sleep last Sunday, lulled into
lotus land by the tube. Last I remember, it was a toss-up between the
president's speech and ``Mr. Ed''.
A few observations: Rockefeller's had two
perfect billings in three nights, replete with great and sad moments.
Tuesday, David Bromberg again showed why he is the most riveting entertainer
in acoustic music. Despite a severe case of the flu (you'd have never
known), he took complete command of the overflow crowd with stories (New
Yorkers are at their best when taking aim at California) and tough-talkin'
Unfortunately, he had to open for Arlo
Guthrie, who was a shell of his former self, more a '60s nostalgia act than
a matured, contemporary songster. Guthrie is like the old hippie who
wouldn't die, a noble stance that does nothing for his music. Poor,
embittered Guthrie and his three-female backup vocalists looked totally
Thursday night, Rockefeller's was graced by
Jorma Kaukonen and John Hammond, two folk-blues pals who go back years.
Kaukonen, former Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna guitarist, is one of a
kind, a throwback to the days when musicians loved to jam. I was told he'd
been picking for hours backstage before his show, and his glistening,
open-tuned, syncopated and ragalike acoustic playing was gorgeous.
Exploratory yet concise.
Hammond was, well, Hammond. He's such a
purist, he's sounded the same for decades - great, for first-time listeners,
but with diminishing returns thereafter. Wish he'd go electric again.
Kaukonen and Hammond finished with a jam, joined by Brit Anderson, guitarist
for Coupe de Ville, quickly becoming Rockefeller's house blues band. Oh
well, at least the vibes were good.
Headed over to Fitzgerald's and caught ex-New
York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders, who was outrageous - despite a new
health addiction. Other than an insipid solo acoustic interlude, Thunders
got to the heart of sloppy, buzzsaw rock 'n' roll (thanks to a great rhythm
team keeping this locomotive on track) that had so little meaning you had to
consider its historical, sociopolitical blah-blah-blah. The Dolls, after
all, ``were'' one of the first punk bands.
Wednesday, Cardi's had the biggest crowd I'd
ever seen there, thanks to a 97-cent concert promoting the Del Fuegos and
Mason Ruffner. The sound was atrociously loud, but Ruffner, a Fort Worth
native touted as a new master of the Stratocaster, tore it up with a big
boogie attack. Keep an eye on him; Ruffner's going places.
I hope Boston's Del Fuegos, pushed heavily as
another roots-rocker by A&M, aren't in over their heads. They have good,
Tom Petty-like anthem-songs and an intense stage presence, but they're still
young pups, after all, and shouldn't be expected to carry the banner of
American rock. Give 'em two years. If they're still intact, we might be
talking about a classic rock 'n' roll band for the '80s.
Following Friday night's James Brown fiasco
at the Arena Theater - delayed sets, long intermissions, lackluster
performances - I shot to Midtown Live for Design for Living bopping hard to
the remnants of a big crowd. Then over to Rockers, where Phantom, Rocker
& Slick, two-thirds of which are former Stray Cats, were churning out
``Men Without Shame'', full-blown mainstream rock 'n' roll set afire by Earl
Slick's guitar pyrotechnics.
Had time to catch the last of John Mayall at
Fitzgerald's. Talk about smart, the main British blues harpist from the
'60s, looking trim in his middle age, let his band do the work, resulting in
the best Mayall-Fitzgerald's set I've witnessed in three or four tries.
Nashville's White Animals drew a fair crowd
to Misty's Saturday night, but a poor sound system and low energy level did
this fine young band an injustice. Look for their upcoming album; the
Animals are going to be hot. But as soon as we walked into the Ale House, we
were caught up in the spirit, provided not only by the Footnotes but by the
wild, excitable crowd that always seems to be stomping about this place.
The Ale House is becoming just about the most
fun club in town. Consistently. People there party without shame, and the
wood-and-stucco informal ambience is a lot warmer than the high-tech cool
chrome-and-blue of the newer joints.
St. Pat's Day I caught Mitch Ryder's late set
at Rockefeller's. Predictably, his voice was shot, his band ragged, and
everybody loved it.
THE CRITIC'S CHOICES: Ready for another
weekend? Here's the goods:
Tough Town/Garrett Factory & The Drive,
tonight at the Ale House: Two new promising bands, although you've got to be
into pop keyboards to enjoy the Garrett Factory.
The Zealots, Friday at the Ale House: A
little light and convoluted, but solid Houston dance-rock.
Flex, Saturday at the Ale House: Bold new
rockers from Austin making their second Houston appearance. Are they Austin-tatious
or ostentatious? We'll see.
Tex & The Horseheads, Saturday at Cafe
Mode: Tough rock/punk band from way out West.
Lightfoot & The Essential Blues Band,
Saturday at Chelsea's 804 Club: Bring this column or anything printed with
``Lightfoot'' on it and get in free. A birthday tribute to the late, great
Juke Boy Bonner. Look for mucho guest appearances, including Peppermint
Harris and perhaps Big Walter.
Uncle Walt's Band, Sunday at Chelsea's 804
Club: Texas swingsters are back for the first time since the old Corky's
Rollo Smith Band, tonight at Fitzgerald's:
Fort Worth bopsters include members from the old Juke Jumpers.
Buckwheat Zydeco, Friday at Fitzgerald's:
Former Clifton Chenier sideman is stepping out with a fine new album.
Design for Living, Saturday at Fitzgerald's:
Bop till you drop.
Bugs Henderson, Saturday at Gary & Ray's
Backstage Club: Veteran Dallas blues guitarist was recently in the area with
Ray Wylie Hubbard.
Footnotes/Mortals, Friday at Midtown Live:
The Mortals have been using a drum machine since the departure of Paul
Rutherford, but everybody's talking, nevertheless.
The Dishes, Saturday at Midtown Live: Egghead
rockers cook up a silly evening.
Kris Kristofferson, Friday at Rockefeller's:
A star was born, if you can afford it.
Dr. Rockit, Sunday afternoon at Sam's Place:
Good action if the weather cooperates.
POP NOTES: Some of our more prominent
songwriters will celebrate Mike & Tony's first annual Spring Music
Festival Sunday afternoon beginning at 12:30 at Mike & Tony's
icehouse/cafe, 1500 Bingle, adjacent to Spring Branch Bayou. Featured will
be Shake Russell, Dana Cooper, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Steve Fromholz, Don
Sanders, Lisa Morales and Ronnie Zann. Call 827-7520 for more information. .
.A Pretenders platinum album ``(Learning to Crawl''), John Bon Jovi's
high-top rhinestone stage shoes and Mick Jagger's ``She's the Boss'' tour
jacket were the top-selling items at KLOL's third annual Rock 'n' Roll
Auction held Saturday at Fizz nightclub to benefit the Ronnie
Lane Foundation, the new organization helping to fight multiple
sclerosis. The auction raised nearly $15,000. Lane, by the way, is moving to
Austin at the end of the month. Aren't there enough musicians there already?