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Lori Lee heads back to the U.S.A. for a smorgasbord of music - November 2011
|Deep in the Heart of Texas
It was day two of Qantas returning to the skies, as we boarded the Q plane for a long haul from Brisbane to Austin Texas. Despite the negative press Qantas has been receiving, the staff were great and the planes were fine. 24 hours later, we landed in the live music capital of the USA, Austin, Texas. The sun had long set and we had three gigs to get to tonight. We squeezed into a late model Ford Mustang and somehow fit the luggage into this little red sportscar and headed for South Congress.
First stop was The Highball, a nightclub, restaurant, and bowling alley! The Highball fitout featured plush couches with gloss-black, deep-buttoned upholstery in the bowling alley, plus gold metalflake vinyl dining chairs and matching tables. The menu was Tex Mex and tasty. Dale Watson was on stage with his swing band and the dance floor was full of two steppers and swing dancers. Dale Watson sailed through swing tracks like Herb Albert's 'Taste of Honey' along with tracks of his new Sun Sessions album.
With little time to spare, we sped over to The Broken Spoke, the historic Texan dance hall that's been putting on shows since 1964. Jesse Dayton was fully into his first set of his Thursday night residency and the honky tonk floor was chock-a-block. As I walked through the packed venue, Austin pal Willie, yelled out "hey Lori" while simultaneously dipping his dance partner. I'd been in Austin all of three hours and I already felt like I was at home.
One of the great things about Austin is the dancing and the love of live music. The first rule in Austin is to not stand still on the dance floor, not even to take a photo, as once each song fires up there's a whirlpool of dancers flowing anti-clockwise all over the floor.
Everyone in this town just loves to dance - young folk, oldies, kids, everyone dances, at any time of the day. This arvo's shift drew a mature, enthusiastic crowd, who were quick to get their steps in.
The Hills of Tennessee
Special guest at GreazeFest in 2011, Jason Lee Wilson, picked us up in Chatanooga in his hunking 1980s Chev Silverado RV and we hit the highway for an enlightening tour in the hills of Tennessee. We were lucky to experience the autumn colours, as the leaves on the trees changed colour to bright red, yellow and orange in preparation for winter. Each day, the trees seemed to change colour.
JLW went out of his way to show us areas that related to his own song compositons, all the while giving us a books-worth of information and education on the history of the area. One topic up for discussion was the Confederate Army battle flag, or the 'Confederate Flag', often adopted by rockabillies as their emblem. Read more about the flag here. We visited the Confederate Cemetary in Beechgrove, housing the bodies of Confederate soldiers who fell in 1863.
As sunset approached one late afternoon, we were driving along the Tennessee River and Jason suddenly pulls off the highway. He pointed across the river to the huge Nickajack Cave that Johnny Cash crawled into in 1968, wishing to end his life of drug abuse. As the story goes, during those dark hours in the cave, Cash re-discovered his faith and put himself into the hands of God. I've read this story many times and it was fascinating to actually see the place of Cash's 1960s epiphany.
You should know the Smokehouse by Jason Lee Wilson – as well as being on his 'Big Gun' album, it's featured as track two on Volume 2 of The Best of GreazeFest Volume 2 (pick it up here). I've listened to this song a zillion times, but I didn't picture such a large and unique establishment as Jim Oliver's Smoke House. The 50 year old business contains a large hotel, restaurant, music venue and vintage wares and memorabilia store (including The Louvin Brothers museum), all set in a beatufiul location on the top of Mounteagle Mountain.
The best part of The Smoke House was the log cabin in which we stayed. Soaring timber ceilings, huge stone fireplace and bulky, rustic furniture. The lighting was subdued and once lights were out – it was pitch black with a hush that city folk either seek out, or are scared of. In the morning we spotted deer tracks up to our back door, and squirrels busily scooted about the grounds.
The Brooklyn Boogie
We gingerley walked along 5th Avenue for some late afternoon breakfast. The streets are so relaxed here, people are walking at a Sunday pace, walking their dogs, smoking, eating out, socialising, Brooklyn seemed like a laid back Melbourne.
The final night of the Norton show saw a packed venue and an excited audience ready the nights' entertainment. Bloodshot Bill was cool but kooky, a bit nuts, but good songs. He had a buzzing, mechanical voice, which made me wonder what his natural voice would sound like. Figures of Light had Mick Collins – they were ok – proto punk – Mick was cool – nothing too flash here, but they seemed important to the American audience.
Tandoori Knights were fun, with neat songs, weird kitschy rockabilly melodies with fuzz effects, but sometimes their vocals were irritating. They had a great look though - the guitarist / singer King Kahn sported his distinctive turban, second guitarist Bloodshot Bill had thankfully shed his pajamas and was in a traditional Indian kurta, and their bass player with the pencil thin moustache was the king of kool with a full length brown kurta, but with tell-tale rockabilly cuffs on his jeans!
Bonus act of the night was The Swingin' Neckbreakers – one of my all time favourite powerpop bands. They played in place of the Real Kids, who had to cancel due to illness. This was one band where I sung along to every song – 'Rip It Up Rip It Up', 'I Live For Buzz', 'Saturday's Best', 'The Girl Can't Help It', 'I Wanna Be Your Driver' - it was a showcase of my favourite car-tape tunes.
By now it's around 2am Monday morning, yet the crowd hasn't thinned at all. Everyone is here for The Sonics. Every visiting musician, special guest and audience member was ready and in position for when Kim Fowley introduced the band.
|| Watch the video!!
Austin Music medley
Dale Watson, Cornell Hurd,
Two Hoots & a Holler, Jesse Dayton
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Norton Records Music medley
The Swingin' Neckbreakers,
The Tandoori Knights,
Cyril Jordan & Roy Loney,
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Lucky Tubb & The Modern
Performing Leave Me Alone
(penned by Wayne Hancock)