Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Dancing About Architecture

By Ken Lieck

Fire & Ice

"Please don't slaughter us," begs Popular Talent's Mark Shaberg, "we did everything we could to keep our crowd happy!" He's speaking of last Wednesday's Vanilla Ice debacle. That evening, at the fratty Bob Popular's on Sixth Street, a riot nearly erupted since, inexplicably, the featured performer -- a has-been white rapper whose single claim to fame was a 1990 hit that shamelessly ripped off the bass line from Queen/David Bowie's "Under Pressure" -- turned out to have more of a fan base than anyone could've predicted. Shaberg was as surprised as anyone at the over-capacity mass of bipeds who wanted in, and wondered aloud the following afternoon, "Who would've thought a $2,500 party band would've drawn that kind of crowd?"

Unfortunately, one rather important person that the show didn't draw was the Ice-man himself. Ice, says Shaberg, was apparently in the emergency room that night with food poisoning. At 11pm came the first call from St. David's to the club -- one that offered some hope that Ice would be able to perform after medication kicked in -- so no attempt was made to reveal the problem to the antsy crowd. Shaberg adds that even if Ice wasn't able to play that night before the increasingly unruly throng, the plan was to get him to come down and personally apologize, thus softening the blow somewhat. At 12:10am, however, a call arrived that said "No Ice," and the club had to announce to its sweaty, dance-craze denizens that the Dallas rapper was a no-show.

That's when things got unpleasant. "Fuck this shit!" and "Free beer!" quickly became the mantras of the mob. As the Chron's man-on-the-scene Andy Langer describes the situation, "While they were announcing Ice wasn't coming and that refund vouchers were available at the back door, hundreds of people instinctively, and rightfully, rushed the front door, which the club had blocked off with bouncers. The door only opened because a woman near the front had passed out. If she hadn't, we might still be inside! That many people in that small of a space made it real scary, and real hard to move." Eventually, the fire department made an appearance and told the club that they were above their occupancy limit, to which manager Shaberg suggested that the best solution was to empty the whole place. No citation was issued.

"I think everybody thought it was a scam," recalls Fire Investigator Daylon McCreless, who was called to the scene by the APD. "There were a lot of hot people -- both physically and mentally," he says, referring to the air conditioning problem at the venue that, for many, was the final straw. "Every person who came out looked like they'd had a bucket of water dumped on their heads." (It hadn't helped moments earlier when the deejay joked that it was a good time for a wet T-shirt contest). Still, police and fire officials agree that the would-be audience was far more cooperative than they would have expected, leaving with no assaults and little shoving. (They would have had to be inside to see the brawls between the bouncers and some of the fellas who wanted out.)

Friday, Ice made a rescheduled appearance at the club, in which he blasted the American-Statesman for hinting that he might not have really been sick, and swore like a sailor while pointing in the direction of Wylie's, declaring, "Don't eat the chicken wings! Fuck that shit!" Wylie's management reports that a lot of people ate at the restaurant that night and they heard of no other complaints -- nor, directly, any complaints from Ice. Shaberg reports that Ice had eaten lunch at a notorious Dallas Mexican food eatery before coming down for the Austin show. If you ask me, that provides an all too simple explanation to a difficult question!

Look Before You Leap

News reports have been appearing on the Web regarding an incident that occurred during a performance by local band Soak -- remember they're an Austin band --at the Blockbuster Rockfest in Dallas last Saturday. According to the reports, Soak's lead singer Jason Demetri ignored a no stage-diving rule, and on his second leap into the crowd, collided with a security guard. The band's management calls the broken neck rumor "ridiculous." According to manager Paul Nugent, there was no such anti-moshing rule, and at the goading of the six-figure crowd, bassist John Moyer decided to take a flying leap resulting in a guard being knocked cold. Nugent says that for such a young band to appear at such a huge event was "a special moment and this incident sort of overshadowed it."

Mr. Fabulous aka Dino Lee and bassist Jeff Adams had their own smashing time last Friday at the Ritz at what turned out to be their last gig together. After the gig, an argument between the two exploded into physical violence, leading to intervention by police, but no arrests. Adams claims that Lee struck him with various objects; Lee asserts Adams had been loud, drunk, and embarrassing, threatening him all the while. Ritz manager Wendy Wanner sent out an open fax following the incident announcing that Lee and the members of his Casino Royale band, who left the club in a rush after the scuffle, need to return and collect the cash they earned that night. Wanner also says she hopes the band will continue to play at the venue. Lee, who has chosen Tomas Ramirez/Beto y Los Fairlanes sideman Bobby Bellemans as his new bassist, says he refused the money on principle and still has no intention of picking up the cash.

Meanwhile, Wade Driver and 50 Million have been touring out West and having some rather violent adventures themselves. According to Driver, "We got stranded in Arizona for three weeks and during this time, I was arrested for decking some clown who claims to be Prince. We went to jail, but the Mesa PD wouldn't charge us 'cuz the symbol that once stood for Prince didn't stand for shit when it came to charging someone with assault. Maybe it was him, [but he] looked more like a short Freddie Prinze, whom I would never hit."

Benefits & Memorials

The season for giving never ends, so here's a week's worth of worthy causes: This Friday and Saturday, there's a big fund raiser for the Austin Celtic Association featuring Hair of the Dog and Two O'Clock Courage at the Waterloo Ice House on Sixth. The last one was S.R.O., so get there before the Celtic frost begins. Saturday, 8pm at the Elks Lodge (700 Dawson), Curt Booth aka John Hug will be honored with a video memorial similar to the one recently mounted for his friend and bandmate Bill Hicks. Sunday, there's a benefit for the Poor Man's Cinema Fund (who?), featuring Tallboy, El Insecto, Unhung Heroes, Stuntdriver and Emo's adversaries King Cheese. Monday, Keith Ferguson's family will be the recipients of funds raised at Antone's Blues & Pop Fiesta (see "Recommendeds"). And finally, skipping a couple days to next Thursday, July 3, Delbert McClinton and Joe Ely are the featured artists at the "When the Music Stops: Benefiting Victims of Violent Crime" show. That's at the Austin Music Hall. Give 'til it hurts, Austin.

There Oughtta Be a Law

News reports in the Fort Worth Star Telegram and elsewhere recently raised questions about how the Texas Music Office would be affected by the newly passed bill forbidding the state from dealing with companies who traffic in music with violent, racist, or sexist lyrics. The TMO's job, of course, is to promote all Texas-based music, including gangsta acts like the Geto Boys, for instance. TMO director Casey Monahan's response to questions is that the bill will not affect him in the least: "Our job is to inform, not to make value judgments about anything," he told the Associated Press. "We're not a regulatory office." The latest State of the Texas Music Industry letter sent from the TMO would seem to bely this, however. In the list of "`Big names to come out of Texas in the last few years," the Butthole Surfers are conspicuously absent. "Huh! You're right!" says Monahan. "I completely forgot them!" He then proceeds to show his earnestness by pointing out that nasty gangsta Scarface is listed. (Not to mention Ty Herndon, the country singer who brought new meaning to the term "lap steel.")

Mixed Notes

Will the once-majestic days of the concert flyer soon return? Maybe, at least on some far off sunny day. Cathy Norman of the University Area Partners, a group similar to Sixth Street's ESSCA, confirms the group is indeed working with the city on massive improvements to the drag that involve the construction of kiosks at regular intervals, with the specific intent of allowing bands and others to use them to post flyers. "Artists have to have somewhere to advertise their work," says Norman, but adds a bit of bad news; construction on the "new" drag will not begin until at least January of next year, and the kiosks may not even be part of the first phase of renovations... Londonite Bobby Valentino has an in-store at Waterloo Records next Wednesday with Champ Hood & the Threadgill's Band along for good measure... Trish Murphy, the Sir Finks, and the magical phrase "free beer" appear on a fax from ABCD's, announcing an in-store also on Wednesday at 8pm... Do not -- repeat, do not --load up the truck and head for the Flaxfield Unheard Music Festival this weekend! Flooding in Lytton Springs has forced a postponement 'til July 26... If you missed Eric Johnson on the G3 tour, well, you missed him alright. That tour will go on again, but with one Kenny Wayne Shepard instead of Johnson. The guitarist's current plans call for a tour with Steve Miller, followed by a short trip to Japan in September. He's also recording tracks for an Epic Records Christmas Compilation, and Johnson's manager Joe Priesnitz hints that "if things go well" there could be a CD release of the Electromagnets album later this year, including live bonus tracks. Isn't that just like Eric, taking 23 years to get an album out...

-- Contributors: Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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