Sunday, May 28, 2006

My first gay club in Austin!!

It finally happened! After two years of UT schooling, I made it to a gay club to dance to actual-not-theoretical dance music. No swaying to indie rock. No, um, swaying to Finally! Fuckin' finally! (Did I mention "finally!"?)

With so many RTF dance parties behind us, why did we never take it to the streets? I dunno. Maybe a very early (c. 10/04) trip to a wretched 80s night at Elysium where the DJ played the 10-hour mix of "The Safety Dance" (the very defintion of "hasn't aged well" and in the running for worst "new wave" song ever unless something by Wang/Huang Chung counts), two Depeche Mode songs in a row neither of which I can recall (not a good sign) and horrible clashes (from "Beat it" to "Tesla Girls," say) that had scads of dancers running for (or off) the floor every four minutes. The hyperkinetic "Rock Lobster" was more exhausting than exhilarating in this company. And did I hear an instrumental version mistakenly played? Turn the record over, dumb ass! So the overall experience may have killed any prospect of house music all night long (say what?!?).

Then there was the report from Oilcan Harry's that an evening of dance was sabotaged by a strip show. And maybe (just maybe) the gay factor was off-putting to others although to my ears (and ass) "dance music" and not "gay" was always the operative term.

Who knows? Anyway, it happened. And just to prove I love more than disco/house (as if that needed more proof), the preshow was choked with all sorts of music.

In fact, I got to Dave Gurney's vacated house with a burnt CD of songs from the Oilcan Harry's DJ charts (couldn't find any for Rain, the club we attended, but I figured the tracks would be similar). But instead of psyching myself up to dance, I wound up skipping through Gurney's iTunes selection and hosting a mini 80s night of my own. First, "Non-Stop," a Dare!-era Human League track I'd never heard (!). Then side one of The Jesus and Mary Chain's glorious Psychocandy, still the greatest slice of programming ever. Alternating between shorts blasts of corrosion and longer midtempo sludge (with one bit of acoustica for sweetening), the pacing is flawless like a great(er) movie (than Lost in Translation). Hell, even the silence is golden - you can count off six beats perfectly between "In a Hole" and "Taste of Cindy" just like you were Jim Reid in concert. Scared the shit out of me as a 16 year old ("You have to be in a particular mood to listen to it and I'm almost never in that mood," said I in my first bit of criticism) but I warmed up to it enough to teach myself "Taste The Floor" on guitar.

Ok sorry for the gush there. Next up was Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation which I hadn't heard in years. Confirmed my belief that it's the sixth greatest album of all-time. Must write more on it later. Then some stray Burt Bacharach productions to confirm my belief that he sucks rocks when he's not designing a stair for Dionne Warwick to climb. Of Rhino's Burt box, I chose to bear down on "Knowing When To Leave" sung by Jill O'Hara. It reminded me of that perky gal in the early American Idol tryouts who enunciated every word of "Joy to the World" as if she were at a forensics meet. Makes sense as the song comes from Broadway where enunciation rules. But blech - keep it on Broadway (or at the forsensics meet). Made Stuart laugh out loud the next afternoon, though.

Then the biggest musical surprise of the evening came courtesy of Elliot Panek who bought me Kidz Bop 9 for my birthday. Elliot, Anna Staab, Errin (not Zimmerman), John Lennon's mother and I listened to it mostly with jaws dropped. I recognized maybe two titles on the back of the CD but practically every one as it played (including The Click Five's "Just The Girl" which, duh!, I reviewed for the Voice). Adults took the verses and then kidz screeched along with the choruses (odd - thought the kidz sang the entire songs). Victims included Kelly Clarkson, Weezer, Green Day, Rhianna, Nickelback, Gorillaz (!) and that damn frog version of "Axel F" (thought that was already kid friendly). At first, I wondered what parent would listen to "Feel Good Inc." and yearn for a Kidz Bop version. But I quickly surmised that the Kidz Bop imprimatur was the selling point not the songs. In this respect, then, perhaps we can get five year olds into the New York Dolls (first up: "Puss 'N' Boots").

Then finally the club (with some Arctic Monkeys during the ride). I was stunned to learn that I've walked past Rain countless times and never knew the building housed a gay club. And I'm miffed that I fretted over what to wear. Flip flops and shorts were aplenty and one dude sported a battered green t-shirt that read "Keep It Rural" with a iron-on of a wagon (I think). So I'm busting out my black Simpsons next time. Besides, it was either too dark/disorienting to see or everyone was too drunk/high to care.

The teensy dancefloor looked disconcerting at first. But somehow tons of people managed to boogie on it with a bare minimum of unsolicited bumps and broken toes.

And the music. Oh gawd, I'm home! Soooo very gay. So very very (same thing). Housey remixes of Taxi Doll's "Waiting," Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie," and (gayest of all) Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten." I think there was some Madonna in there too although it's a relief to report that she was accorded no more worship than any other diva. In fact, just like Kidz Bop, there were no stars here which of course only heightens the music's functionality. "I love how anonymous this music is," I shouted in David Uskovitch's ear. As each track breaks down and builds back up again, so do we. Disco in the mix suggests we can shed old selves and adopt new ones (did Foucault ever disco?) and we can't have (too many) Madonnas poking in on the process. (Yes, this is an annoying habit of mine on the dancefloor, always footnoting and analyzing. Hard to tell if it's annoying. Hard to care too.)

Then the BPMs dropped for some hip-hop which apparently made THE hottest boy leave the club for the night. I'm embarrassed to confess I didn't recognize a single song. But I'm stunned that the DJ kept his floor (with some inevitable substitutions). If I spun any hip-hop (techno too), my floor back in Milwaukee would've cleared. Someone please study why this happens (in these particular instances).

Now here's a quiz. What would you spin to bring the hip-hop back up to house music speeds without too extreme a clash? Why, electro hop, of course. So the stroke of the evening was Missy Elliott's "Lose Control" with its Cybotron sample and hip-hop pedigree. A perfect bridge. And from there, the DJ skidded into "Looking for the Perfect Beat" which you know is one of the ten greatest singles of the 1980s by checking this list. The huge volume flattened out its sidewalk sale of sonics. But it was as expansive and disorienting as Daydream Nation, entirely appropriate for an experience that trains our bodies for the urban public sphere. And then it was back to house music capped off with a rose from Carolyn Cunningham's unspeakably sweet beau John.

Special mention must be made of David Uskovitch. This motherfucker didn't leave the floor to even pee (at least that I saw...oh and speaking of peeing, I was kind enough to wipe the piss off one of the toilet seats in the ladies men are pigs just like any other kind). And he opted to stay at the club when we all left. I'm definitely going with him next time! The man is music.

So no real disco moments. But as fine as any evening I've spent in Austin. And such a relief.

One slight drawback: there's no real time (or space) to have a conversation. So I didn't get to know Kristen Grant's Seattle friend, for instance. Even outside, the music washed over most chit-chat. Therefore, you gotta go to dance. Then again, Elliot brought up a good point about long dinner tables (like the one at Kyoto the night before) - they necessarily break up conversation into little groups. So large groups at dinner can generate silence (or inequal amounts of talking). And Kyoto with its shit ass seating on the floor is much worse for your ass than Rain dancing. But fun comes in different sizes, no?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

UT Grad Slapped With Pancake

UT Grad Slapped With Pancake

By Hildegaard Johnson

Austin, May 21 - Recent University of Texas - Austin graduate David Gurney, 28, was slapped in the face with a pancake early Sunday morning. Mr. Gurney had been celebrating his completion of an MA in the Radio Television Film and Mockumentary Department with a reportedly fire ant-ridden party at his spare, two-bedroom home near the I Love Video on Airport. At 2am, the only cognizant person left at the party was Gurney's RTFM colleague Kevin John Bozelka, 35.9. The two decided to have coffee at the Kerbey Lane Café on Kerbey Lane (frequently referred to as "the Kerbey Lane Kerbey Lane").

The pair were greeted at the eating establishment with the announcement that peanut butter pancakes were the evening's special. Mr. Bozelka, a known gourmand, could not resist. However, upon seeing 360 degrees of thick, Skippy-filled decadence in front of him, Mr. Bozelka randomly asked the waitress "Have you ever seen anyone slap someone across the face with one of these?" At which point, the waitress grew excited and responded "No. But I would LOVE to see you do it now. In fact, I'll pay you if you do it right now." After several moments of deliberation, it was decided that Mr. Gurney's face would be the recipient of one well-swung peanut butter pancake for the price of $2 American.

The slapping did not take place immediately, however. "Hold on. I have to get the entire staff to see this," implored the waitress. As the two waited, Mr. Bozelka expressed concerns about the amount of potential pain involved. But Mr. Gurney reminded him that the pancake he would soon brandish in hand, while hefty, was little more than flour and assured him that no pain would be involved.

After a few awkward moments during which two Kerbey Lane employees stared eagerly at the pancake duo ("I've always wanted to see someone do this," admitted one waiter), an audience of six gathered around the table and awaited the slapping. "And I wanna hear it smack or you don't get the two dollars," warned the waitress who initiated the activity.

Mr. Bozelka grasped one pancake (from a stack of two), lined it up with Mr. Gurney's left cheek and slapped him right across the face. The first hit was rather dull and failed to meet the face with much impact. So Mr. Bozelka tried again, this time achieving a smack worthy of Joan Crawford in Female on the Beach. In fact, the panckae hit with such force that about one third of the cake managed to tear off. Mr. Gurney appeard to be in no pain. The look on his face could only be described as "dumb" - eyes squinting, mildly disoriented, as if he had just opened a compact and been lightly dusted with powder.

Unfortunately, the pancake did not make the requisite smacking sound and all who witnessed the event seemed to feel as if it were anti-climactic. After all, no one present had ever seen someone get slapped with a pancake and thus expectations were high. Still, the waitress came forth with the two dollars no doubt due to some deep-seated desire to perform this act on various customers.

It is unknown if any other patrons noticed the slapping. Mr. Gurney ate the pancake that touched his face, all the while maintaining that no pain was involved.

On the laugh-out-loud ride home, Mr. Bozelka asked "When will we ever grow up?"

Additional reporting by Walter Burns

Grossly overdue SXSW updates

Been wonderin' what happened at SXSW this year lately? I hope so cuz here's my coverage for the Village Voice.

First, the blog which starts with SXSW 2006: The Pre-Game Picture. I ADORE the fake swag pic. If you can identify everything, you win! You just do.

Next is SXSW 2006: Day 1, or 'Are You Going to SXSW?'.

Then, SXSW 2006: Day 1, Wrap-up Part 2.

Puis, SXSW 2006: Day 1, Final.

Et ensuite, SXSW 2006: Day 2—Shit or Shinola?.

Et alors, SXSW 2006: Day 3, The Music Genome Project.

Prochain, SXSW 2006: Day 3, 'This Is Art, Right?'.

Huitieme, SXSW 2006: Day 3 Wrap-Up, Sensory Underload.

Et apres, SXSW 2006: Day 4, or I Got to Hug Leah Archibald and Ariel Pink!.

Et enfin, SXSW 2006: Final, 'We Do Need to Eat.'

And then here's the essay trying to sum it all up: A Level Field - 1,500 up-and-coming acts take the music-biz mat in Austin