By Kayleigh Hughes, special to the American-Statesman
Early on in her set at the Mohawk on Thursday night, Liz Phair took a moment to grin at the audience and observe, “I think I see the first Liz Phair mosh pit out there.”
It was a perfect way of summing up the energy that the lovestruck audience sent Phair and her band from the moments the lights dimmed until the last raucous cymbal clash of their encore. The sold-out Sept. 27 show was packed with Phair die-hards, young and old, who knew all the lyrics to every song and vibrated with energy.
Phair and her band more than gave that energy back. After an intimate, limited-date tour earlier in the year in which Phair and sole guitar accompanist Connor Sullivan played groundbreaking songs from the early demo tapes she recorded as Girly Sound, the rock ’n’ roll queen is now midway through a string of dates with a full band that brings her sharp songwriting to life in a totally different way.
In a savvy move to differentiate the rock-show tone of the current tour from the more stripped-down summer anniversary shows, Phair kicked off her set with the propulsive track “Supernova” from “Whip-Smart,” the follow-up to her iconic debut, “Exile in Guyville.” In fact, Phair and her band blasted thrillingly through five songs from various eras of her career (and three guitars) before giving the crowd a track from “Guyville,” a driving, heavy version of “Never Said.” The run of tracks was a welcome reminder in the midst of the “Guyville” anniversary conversations that Phair has been pushing her sound forward and mixing rock and pop subgenres for the past 25 years, while always retaining her wit, intellect and curiosity as a songwriter.
Throughout the night, she hit on all the favorites, from swooning pop hit “Why Can’t I” to ferocious anthems such as “6’1”” and “Polyester Bride” to the beloved encore necessity “Divorce Song.” She gave them all rich, full arrangements, resulting in a set that felt cohesive and served as a reminder that Phair is a veteran, an expert and a true one-of-a-kind artist. (At a certain point, I gave up counting the number of perfectly timed guitar changes. Phair has a collection that makes my heart flutter.)
During the show, Phair also made a point of acknowledging the killer set by opening act Speedy Ortiz, shining a well-deserved light on the feminist indie-grunge-rock band, who delivered an incredibly tight, vibrant, righteously furious performance earlier in the evening. Between the shredding and the hooks, lead singer Sadie Dupuis urged the audience to vote multiple times and allowed sexual assault victims like herself and anyone feeling particularly enraged with the news cycle a chance to take a giant, cathartic scream with her.
Phair brought her own sense of catharsis to the rest of the night, but in a different way: through joy and buoyancy. So much of her music serves as searing indictments of patriarchy and raw explorations of womanhood, and she and her band managed to channel that into an almost blissful musical energy, allowing the pleasure of performing together and connecting with an adoring audience to be its own hard-won and enjoyed victory.
Jerry David DeCicca, “Burning Daylight” (Super Secret). The second full-length release this year from DeCicca, a Hill Country transplant from Ohio, is more in the vein of rootsy Americana than February’s comparatively minimalist “Time the Teacher.” Recorded at renowned West Texas studio Sonic Ranch with co-producer Joe Trevino, the record benefits from the tasteful and vibrant guitar work of Don Cento and Tyler Evans, plus tight rhythms from drummer Gary Mallaber and bassist Canaan Faulkner. Perhaps most significant among his backing crew is keyboardist Eve Searls, who contributes backing vocals and steps out for a sublime duet on the title track. It’s the most immediately infectious tune on the record and also the most Central-Texas-centric, with references to the Hill Country towns of Johnson City and Blanco and Highway 281. Release show Sept. 29 at Beerland. Here’s the track “Cutting Down the Country”:
Autumn Fakes, “A Sequence of Cheers for Cause and Effect.” Guitarist Jennings Crawford has a long history on the Austin indie scene, most notably as frontman for punk-pop band the Wannabes, but it’s his wife, Mikki Gibson, who’s out front here. Gibson favors concise songwriting; only the dreamy “Echo” exceeds four minutes, and nine of the 12 tracks are under three minutes. The musical structures almost always reach beyond simple chord patterns, and if that means they don’t often sink in immediately, they reward repeated listens. Release show Sept. 29 at Knomad Bar. Here’s the opening track, “Beam”:
Bright Light Social Hour, “Missing Something” EP (Modern Outsider). Part of what the accomplished psych-rock quartet was missing as they made this record was bassist-vocalist Jackie O’Brien’s brother Alex, the group’s longtime manager, who took his own life in 2015. The pathos is ingrained in the short but deeply affecting title track, which swirls with a darkness that makes the loss plain. The other four tunes are generally more upbeat, with grooves that sometimes veer toward dance-floor material. Playing Sept. 30 at Cheer Up Charlie’s. Here’s the video for the track “Trip With Lola”:
Nobody’s Girl, “Waterline” EP (Lucky Hound). The debut from the trio of singer-songwriters Betty Soo, Grace Pettis and Rebecca Loebe supplements original tunes with fellow Austin singer-songwriter Raina Rose’s “Bluebonnets” and a cover of Blondie’s “Call Me.” Recording with renowned producer/keyboardist Michael Ramos, they worked with a major-league backing crew: guitarist David Grissom, bassist Glenn Fukunaga, drummer J.J. Johnson and pedal steel player Ricky Ray Jackson. “Waterline” probably fits under the broad Americana umbrella, but this feels like pop music at its core, with electric instrumentation prominent in the arrangements. Release show Sept. 29 at Saxon Pub. Here’s the video for the title track:
The addition comes in the wake of headliner Childish Gambino’s cancellation of his Sunday shows on both weekends of the festival, in the wake of an injury suffered at a show in Dallas earlier this week.
Phoenix already was booked for two sold-out shows next week at Stubb’s on Oct. 3-4. They’ll return for the Oct. 7 fest appearance after Oct. 5-6 dates in Dallas and Memphis.
The band last played ACL Fest in 2013. They also did a surprise show at Anderson High School that year. They haven’t played in Austin since those shows. The band released a new album, “Ti Amo,” last year.
It’s not like Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his 10-piece Orleans Avenue backing crew needed any help in their second “Austin City Limits” taping. The New Orleans funk shooting stars had lit up ACL Live for more than an hour with blasts of horns, guitars, vocals and percussion when they brought out a special guest on two songs. But Cyril Neville definitely took them to another level.
Building the bridge between this modern-day juggernaut and the historical legacy of the Neville Brothers was a natural move, but it underscores how smart Andrews is, and how aware he is of the roots of his music. Cyril will turn 70 in a few weeks, but that was hard to imagine watching him perform “No More Okedoke” and “Fiyo on the Bayou” with Andrews and his crew, singing loud and moving proud like he hadn’t yet turned 30.
The surprise cameo put a cap on a blockbuster night. Among the tapings I’ve attended over the past five years, very few have bottled up this much raw energy. Foo Fighters, probably. The Tedeschi Trucks band, likely. Add Shorty to that short list.
A lot of the credit goes to his bandmates. Saxophonists Dane Oestreicher and BK Jackson share the front line with Andrews, blasting out brass bursts and often dancing in step with bassist Mike Bass-Bailey. Add guitarists Joshua Connelly and Pete Murano, drummers Alvin Ford Jr. and Joey Peebles, percussionist Weedie Braimah, and backing vocalists Tracci Lee and Chrishira Perrier, and the stage was constantly alive with a maelstrom of activity.
The 12-song set drew from a range of the Trombone Shorty catalog, including “Where It At?” and “Here Come the Girls” from last year’s “Parking Lot Symphony,” “Long Weekend” from 2013’s “Say That to Say This,” the instrumental show-opener “Buckjump” from 2011’s “For True,” and “Something Beautiful” from 2010’s “Backatown.” As a whole, though, the show felt more like it coalesced into one giant suite of glorious noise.
During the encore tune “Do to Me,” Andrews finally took that energy right into the crowd, which had responded to his band’s spirit with their own boisterous support all night. Weaving his way into the middle of a pogo-ing throng on the floor, he briefly brought everything down — both musically and physically, coaching the crowd members to crouch along with him as the band laid back for about a minute. Then, right on cue with his “one-two-three-four” countoff, the band and the crowd exploded, leaping into action again for a glorious finale that, fittingly, included an excerpt of “The Saints Go Marching In.” By end of the night, everyone wanted to be in that number, indeed.
Rapper, comedian and internet sensation, Lil Dicky has postponed his “Life Lessons” tour which included a stop at the Erwin Center on Oct. 25.
In a message to fans posted to his Twitter account on Wednesday morning, the artist also known as Dave Burd explained that between the pressure to complete a new album and working on a television show based on his life for the FX network he’s “bitten off more than I can chew.”
No rescheduled dates have been announced, but in his message to fans Burd said his new plan was to finish the new album and hit the road with new music.
From the Frank Erwin Center: Customers who purchased tickets using a credit card either online or by phone through Texas Box Office will be automatically refunded. For all other ticket refunds, fans should return to their original point of purchase. If you have questions regarding your previously purchased tickets, call 512-477-6060 or 1-800-982-BEVO (2386).
On Tuesday afternoon, Joel Laviolette announced on Facebook that he and his wife Rakefet Laviolette will be closing the Rattletree School of Marimba, a small complex in South Austin dedicated to teaching mbira, marimba and African music. The school has been open since 2013.
“Thank you for being a part of this beautiful community and supporting us over the years as we built this dream together. It’s been an honor to share the music with so many of you,” Laviolette said in the Facebook post.
Laviolette said his elite student band, Kupira Marimba, will continue to perform and study with him. The group is booked to play the Austin Kiddie Limits stage on Oct. 6 at Austin City Limits Festival.
The Laviolettes have been open about financial struggles the family has endured since Rakefet Laviolette, who worked as program director at the school, was diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Earlier this month, fellow world music musicians rallied to create a benefit show, Rakefetfest. There’s also a GoFundMe account started by the family to help cover the expenses of Laviolette’s care.
“Unfortunately the cost of maintaining the school is just too great, and our family isn’t able to make ends meet,” Joel Laviolette said in the Facebook post.
Austin City Limits Festival kicks off in less than two weeks and if you were holding out for a last-minute cheap wristband, we’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news. Three-day passes to both weekends of the festival are now sold out.
Texas country-rock singer-songwriter Charlie Robison announced to fans on his official Facebook page Thursday night that he’s “officially retiring from the stage and studio” after complications from a surgery procedure earlier this year left him permanently unable to sing.
Brothers Charlie and Bruce Robison rose from the Hill Country town of Bandera in the early 1990s to become two of Central Texas’ most successful Americana artists. Charlie, 54, released nine albums between 1996 and 2013. He was married to Emily Strayer (nee Erwin) of the Dixie Chicks from 1999 to 2008; they have three children.
In 2009, former American-Statesman staffer Michael Corcoran wrote the following profile of Charlie:
Charlie Robison hates doing interviews and they sometimes hate him right back, like the time in the ’90s he got wasted and ending up trashing just about every country music act besides his beloved George Strait – which is what you want to do when you’re an outsider from Texas on a Nashville label.That late-night jawing session set to print probably didn’t hurt Robison’s musical career as much as when he wed the sexiest member of country music’s biggest act in 1999. You can’t be a country music “outlaw” when you’re holding your wife’s purse on the red carpet while she’s being interviewed by a guy from ‘N Sync. Robison had become Stedman in a Stetson, a professional “plus one.”
But even as Mr. Dixie Chick, Robison maintained a pretty good career, with four albums each selling in the 100,000-300,000 range. He was a judge on the first season of “Nashville Star” and has had a couple songs in movies and TV shows. But when your wife’s won 18 Grammys and you’re still playing Gruene Hall, it’s hard to not become the Kris Kristofferson character in “A Star Is Born.”
Then, when the Dixie Chicks luxury liner hit an iceberg after anti-Bush comments Natalie Maines made in 2003, Robison became first mate on the Titanic of twang. What happened to the guy who just wanted to write a song as good as Willie Nelson’s “The Party’s Over”?
The old Robison was back in peak rascal form on a recent Thursday at the historic Liberty Bar in downtown San Antonio. The 6-foot-4-inch, 245-pound Troy Aikman look-alike drove up in a gold Yukon with black rims, wearing a straw cowboy hat and big, gaudy $4 sunglasses. Robison ordered a Jack Daniels with a beer back before his rear hit the seat. “Welcome to media day!” he toasted. The shots of Jack Daniels stacked up like planes over DFW as Robison talked about a new album that can’t get here soon enough.
Robison started writing the ironically titled “Beautiful Day” the day after he filed for divorce from Emily Robison in January 2008 on grounds of “discord or conflict of personalities.” The couple has three children.
“When our parents got divorced, they didn’t tell me and Bruce (his songwriter brother) why it happened,” says Charlie Robison, who was 8 at the time. “But we had ‘Phases and Stages’ (the Willie Nelson divorce album where the husband told his side, then the wife told hers) to help make some sense of it. My record is like side one of ‘Phases and Stages.’ “
The woman’s point of view in this split could be told by the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in the Streets,” which ends the album. It’s a song about pursuing a calling at all costs, even if it means someone is always waiting at home. (Emily Robison currently is not doing interviews and could not be reached for comment.)
“I knew that when I was marrying Emily, I was also, in a sense, marrying (Dixie Chicks) Martie (Maguire) and Natalie (Maines),” Robison says. “Those three girls were already tighter than any three people I’ve ever met. But when the Bush thing happened, they really stuck together.”
As the trio fought hard to hold on to what they had built up, Charlie Robison said he felt left out. He also lost sponsors, he said, because of his affiliation with the Chicks.
“It was intense and it was every day,” Robison says of the media glare. The couple had seen a marriage counselor who noted that in the Dixie Chicks’ documentary “Shut Up and Sing,” Charlie Robison was off to the side while Maines and Maguire were bedside when Emily Robison was about to give birth to twins in 2005. “He was wondering what that meant and I said, ‘They were filming a documentary!’ They were making a movie that I didn’t feel a part of.”
Although they didn’t officially divorce until Aug. 6, 2008, Charlie Robison says he saw it coming in March 2005 when Emily moved to Los Angeles to write songs with her bandmates and make an album with Rick Rubin. Charlie stayed in Texas to run the ranch the couple owns near Kerrville.
“It’s funny,” he says. “I can’t stand L.A., but some of my most successful songs, like ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and ‘El Cerrito Place’ are set there.”
The new album opens with another good song that takes place in his least favorite city. Over a hard strum, Robison sings, “Well she’s hangin’ out in Venice with her Siamese cat/ She’s tellin’ everybody she’s a Democrat/ She sold her Palomino when the tire went flat/ On the 405.” Earlier in the interview, Robison says he wasn’t going to talk about specifics of the new songs, except to say they have thinly veiled references to his ex. But when asked what “her Palomino” was about, Robison pointed his thumb toward his chest.
“I gave Emily a CD a few days ago and she said she really liked it,” says Charlie, whose two-story house with the circular drive in the upscale, yet funky Olmos Park neighborhood is just a 10-minute drive to his ex-wife’s house. “There are probably a few things on there she’s not wild about, but she’s always been very supportive of my music.”
With the wound still fresh, Robison delves deep into what went wrong on songs such as the title track, “Yellow Blues” and a cover of “Nothin’ Better To Do” by Bobby Bare Jr.
Robison says what made “Beautiful Day” especially therapeutic was that he was surrounded by old friends. Warren Hood, who toured with Robison one summer while still a student at Austin High, plays fiddle on the record. Rich Brotherton and Charlie Sexton, whom Robison has known since moving to Austin in the late ’80s, lend rich guitar textures, while another old runnin’ buddy, Bukka Allen, handles keyboards. “Making this record felt like a homecoming,” says Robison, who produced “Beautiful Day” at his brother’s Premium Sound Studios.
There’s a sense of bitterness to the album, but there’s an air of starting over in better shape than going in. “There ain’t no blues where I point my shoes/ Well buddy have you heard the news/ I’m fine, I’m fine” he sings on “She’s So Fine.”
“Emily is the mother of my children and I love her, but over time we just discovered that we didn’t have as much in common as we thought we did,” Robison says, showing that this celebrity divorce is no different than most others.
Robison says the divorce was so amicable that the couple used the same attorney to draw up the papers. “We had always set it up as us having separate accounts,” he says. “She got her money and I got mine.” The couple owns the ranch jointly, he says, with the intent of passing it on to the children. (Robison has the names of his three children tattooed on one arm and the logo of the U.S. Army division he entertained in Iraq in 2007 on his other arm.)
Although Robison is reluctant to leave San Antonio, “the only city I’ll ever live in,” the new record means a new tour. And a reintroduction to a public that has mainly known him this past decade as a husband.
“About a year ago, someone introduced me as a ‘Texas songwriting legend’ and it kinda took me wrong,” says Robison. “I wanted to say, ‘No! I’m the bad boy of country music!” Then he bugs out his eyes and roars. “Look, I’m still crazy!”
The legend part especially confused him. “First, it’s not even close to being true,” he says. “And second, ‘legend’ means you’re done and I feel, at the age of 44, that I’ve finally figured out how to make a record.”
It’s beginning to look a lot like… well, the autumn equinox? The arrival of fall brings an early announcement of the music lineup for the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, which will present its 43rd annual holiday shopping extravaganza from Dec. 13-24 at Palmer Events Center.
Lots of familiar locals fill out the 12-days-of-pre-Christmas schedule, but there’s also a rare and intriguing out-of-town addition. Cajun/zydeco accordionist C.J. Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band, regular visitors to Antone’s in recent years, will play the 7 p.m. slot on Dec. 23. Two other non-locals also will appear: Oklahoma’s John Fullbright (3 p.m. Dec. 15) and Mississippi’s Charlie Mars (3 p.m. Sept. 21).
Highlights among hometown acts include Shinyribs (7 p.m. Dec. 14), Ray Wylie Hubbard (7 p.m. Dec. 18), Tomar & the FCs (noon Dec. 16), Suzanna Choffel (noon Dec. 19) and Mobley (3 p.m. Dec. 20). The final Saturday, Dec. 23, features a triple-threat of Austin blues women with Shelley King (noon), Carolyn Wonderland (3 p.m.) and Marcia Ball (7 p.m.).