I went to Austin twice in the last 30 days. I would have tried for 3 if I’d had the time and the money…
I had to be back in Dallas on Tuesday evening, for a final session, but had all that free time, so… I headed down to Austin. I couldn’t resist.I spent some time drinking coffee and sending emails, just getting the feel of the place. I ate at a few cool restaurants, met an awesome new friend, and heard some more phenomenal live music. As I was standing in the Saxon Pub for the second time in 3 weeks, watching Matt the Electrician, I had the distinct feeling that I was home. It was so damn cool. And as an extra bonus, I shook Scrappy Jud Newcomb’s hand.
I miss you Austin – I will be back. Soon.
I used to like punk. A lot. My favorite band was The Damned, I had a mohawk, and David Dove and I spent way too much time at Fender’s Grand Ballroom in Long Beach, CA watching bands like X, TSOL and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Yep, I was the weirdest looking kid in my AP honors classes. Social Distortion, Agent Orange, and fIREHOSE played free lunch-time concerts at the Cal State campuses. Those were the days.
So, in these “later years” when I come across a band that has that same kind of energy, and that I can still tolerate, I get pretty happy about it. That’s what happened when I stumbled across “Spend The Night” by The Donnas a few years ago. It’s not really a punk record, but it’s pretty rough. It’s just right.
According to Wikipedia, The Donnas have been around since about 1993 and started out in Palo Alto, CA. They’re an all-girl band that are heavily influenced by bands like the Ramones, The Runaways, and AC/DC. “Spend the Night” was their fifth release under the name The Donnas, in 2002.
I like music with a lot of layers, subtexts, multiple meanings and a whole range of emotion – but there’s something to be said for music that’s so simple and straightforward you know exactly what you’re dealing with right from the start. That’s what this album is – it’s simple, has a clear message, and as a bonus, packs one heck of a punch.
Here are some of my favorite tracks – you can figure out the meaning of each and every one of them from the title alone, but I’ve added my own short interpretation:
It’s On the Rocks – I am awesome, and you are so totally not cool enough for me.
Take It Off – I’ve been drankin’ and yer lookin’ pretty good. Gimme.
Who Invited You – You are a total loser, please leave my bitchin’ party.
All Messed Up – (my favorite) – Aw damnit. I like you.
Too Bad About Your Girl – You’re girlfriend’s about to be really sorry because you’re going home with me. (Favorite line: “I gotta make you mine but we’re runnin out of time / she’s got you guarded like the Guggenheim / it’s all that I can take / let’s make a jailbreak / and we’ll be doin time in Anaheim”)
Not the One – You? Yeah, not so much.
Please Don’t Tease – Gimme.
Take Me to the Backseat – Just Gimme.
I play songs from this record a lot when I run, and also when I’m in a bad mood. Yes sure, I try to stay centered, always coming back around to the present moment and putting out good intentions… but every so often you’ve got to get a little uppity, blow off some steam and just say F**KIT. This is the perfect soundtrack for it. Girl Power! And everyone else sucks. These chicks can shred, and they’ll get right up in your face.
Good role models, don’t you think?
So last Friday, I drove down to Austin, TX to check it out. I’d only been there once before, maybe around 1996, and didn’t see much of it, except for some bookstores and a magazine vendor. It took me a while to make it back, and I’m sorry I waited so long to do it.
I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, so after driving down there, I was dead dog tired. But after an excellent dinner and some jet-fuel coffee, we headed down to Gruene (a little further south from Austin) to see Bob Schneider play at historic Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas. I think I was the only one not wearing cowboy boots – ooops. I had a great seat though, and saw some great music – Bob and his band can, as they put it, rock the house. He’s an Austin native, a prolific songwriter, and was a helluva lot of fun to see. That was followed by some late-nite breakfast at 24 Diner in Austin and then – o thank goodness – bed.
Saturday I checked out Renegade Austin – a big craft show with some of the best hand-made artists around. I bought a few prints, a t-shirt (can’t wait to wear it grocery shopping in Tulsa on a Sunday), and a few other little bits o’ stuff. My friends Christine and Thom from Tulsa had a booth there, so it was nice to have some hometown peeps around. That night a bunch of us went out to eat on South Congress – a hip little part of town with interesting restaurants and shops.
On Sunday, I did a little “internal sightseeing” – I got some real clarity on a writing project I’m working on, so I sat and wrote and had coffee. Yes, maybe I should have gone and looked at more tourist-y stuff, but I don’t think that’s what this particular trip was about. Sometimes you’ve got to go with the inspiration whenever and however it shows up.
Sunday night was probably the best part of the entire trip. It was definitely some of the very best live music I’ve ever seen. I went to the Saxon Pub and saw The Resentments – a curious group of songwriters who never rehearse, but get together and play every Sunday. 3 guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer – the caliber of musicians sitting on that stage was unbelievable. They’re all veterans of the Austin music scene and between them, probably know every musician worth anything in the U.S. They had several guests sit in with them, and played a few songs that not everyone knew, but apparently that’s the norm when seeing the Resentments.
Each of them has a different musical style, but it all comes together so very, very smoothly. They take turns playing each other’s songs – guitarist Jeff Plankenhorn plays a kick-ass slide, guitarist Miles Zuniga has a wicked sense of humor, guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcomb is quite the sultry, lanky guy and turns crooning into high art, and bassist Bruce Hughes brings it all. He has a very fluid style, is interesting to watch, and is a clever and adept songwriter. If I had to name his style, I’d call it Buddhist Funk. The music is centered, but you can’t sit still while listening to it.
As I was soaking it all in, I knew that I was watching something really, really special. What an amazing group of people. What beautiful sounds they made. Those few hours of musical greatness were totally worth the 15 hours spent in the car.
So thanks, Austin, for the Red Zinger tea, your hospitality, your bitchin’ self, your openness and willingness to take a chance on me. It was nice; I feel like I’ve met your mom. Hope we can do it again sometime.