Wednesday morning’s press event at the Gibson Guitar Showroom mostly involved interviews with principals of the film “Blaze,” the biopic about star-crossed Austin songwriter Blaze Foley that will screen Friday as part of South by Southwest. But there was a special surprise at the end.
Ethan Hawke, the film’s director, teamed up with Ben Dickey, the musician-turned-actor whose title role in the film earned an award at the Sundance Film Festival, to play a couple of songs. Somewhat surprisingly, Hawke handled the lead vocals.
After singing “Oval Room,” a tune Foley wrote in the early 1980s about Ronald Reagan, he marveled about how its lyrics (“He’s the president, but I don’t care”) have regained relevance. “I’m incredibly grateful for that song,” Hawke said, adding with a laugh, “When I read the paper, I can just sing it and get angrier and angrier.”
Townes Van Zandt’s “To Live Is to Fly” followed, with Hawke apologizing for stumbling over a line here and there. “I should have done one rehearsal, maybe two/Could’ve done better for me and you,” he vamped at the end. In the film, Charlie Sexton sings the song as part of his role portraying Van Zandt. (Sexton left today for a European tour with Bob Dylan.)
“Blaze,” which premiered a few weeks ago at Sundance, gets its second public showing on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre. After the screening, a musical tribute to Foley will feature Dickey and other musicians in the film including Austin’s Gurf Morlix and Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra, as well as Nikki Lane, the Texas Gentlemen and J.T. Van Zandt (Townes’ son).