Video: A little bit of Blaze and Townes, from Ethan Hawke and Ben Dickey

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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.

PHOTOS: Ethan Hawke and Ben Dickey perform at the Gibson Guitar Showroom during SXSW

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.

Ben Dickey, left, and Ethan Hawke play songs from the film “Blaze” at Gibson Guitar Showroom on March 14, 2018. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

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.)

READ MORE: Charlie Sexton discusses playing Townes Van Zandt in ‘Blaze’

“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).

Ethan Hawke tells a story while playing with Ben Dickey at Gibson Guitar Showroom on March 14, 2018. Dickey stars in “Blaze”, which Hawke directed. The film will show at SXSW on March 16. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Video premiere: Ian Moore’s new single arrives with his return to SXSW

He’s originally from Austin and his upcoming EP is titled “Toronto,” but the video for Ian Moore’s new single “You Gotta Know” features footage shot in the Seattle area, where Moore has lived for more than two decades now.

The song, an immediately catchy three-minute rocker, is an early glimpse at “Toronto,” due out May 25 on Last Chance Records. It’s the first release on the Arkansas indie label for Moore, who rose to prominence in the 1990s with three albums on Capricorn Records after touring as a guitarist with Joe Ely’s band.

Ian Moore will play eight shows during SXSW 2018. Contributed/Curtis W. Millard

Moore almost always comes back to Austin for South by Southwest. This week he’s playing two official SXSW showcases, the first at 11 p.m. Wednesday at Cooper’s BBQ, followed by a 10 p.m. Saturday slot at the Continental Club.

Day parties offer six more chances to catch him, without needing a badge:

  • 2 p.m. Wednesday at El Mercado Backstage
  • 1:45 p.m. Thursday at Yeti Flagship
  • 4 p.m. Thursday at Yard Dog
  • 6 p.m. Thursday at Lucy’s Fried Chicken (South Congress location)
  • 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Rio (601 Rio Grande St.)
  • 6 p.m. Saturday at Hole in the Wall

MORE DAY PARTIES: Check out our 2018 SXSW unofficial shows guide


World Premiere: Riders Against the Storm cover Talking Heads with ‘Same’

We are proud to premiere “Same” by Riders Against the Storm, a jubilant hip-hop take on the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime.” The song features Joseph Gardner from Flavor Raid singing David Byrne’s hook while Chaka and Qi Dada, the husband/wife duo from RAS, take turns dropping sly wit and wisdom. They co-produced the song with Austin heavyweight Adrian Quesada, and co-directed the hilarious video with Jacob Weber.

We caught up with Chaka and Qi Dada from RAS to talk about the song, the video and the official RAS Day showcase that they’re hosting during the South by Southwest Music Festival.

Austin360: What was it about the song “Once in a Lifetime” that spoke to you? 

Chaka: Since I was a child, I had a connection with this song and “Burning Down the House.”  I remember watching the videos on MTV and being mesmerized.  There was just something to the vibe.  When I got to college age, I found out he went to Rhode Island School of Design, right down the hill from where I studied (Brown University).  I just always felt connected to David Byrne’s work in a tangible/visceral way.  Later, after college, finding out his work has roots and influence grounded in African spiritual traditions just plain sealed the deal.  I feel this song is a hip hop homage to his initial offering.  We are building on his legacy here.

Qi Dada: The song is minimal, awkward and jarring. We totally see how he borrowed from indigenous ideas of trances because of the tonality, repetition and spaciness of it. Talking Heads did so without straight hi-jacking anyone’s culture. They found what that means through their own personal expression. They didn’t emulate something that didn’t belong to them.

Why did you want to do a remake right now and what made you choose to stay so true to the original with this video?

Qi Dada: We were asked to do a song for a local project that was being produced. We decided it might be best to hold on to it for a variety of reasons. Upon research we found a lot of synchronicity with David Byrne. One of which is his affinity to Haitian Vodou. I knew of the Talking Heads, but not intimately. So much of their content is instep with our personal philosophies. Their videos poke fun at our egos. They challenge our core beliefs without demanding that you take us, the messengers, that seriously either. Riders Against the Storm ask audiences to remember we are in this together, so why not make a party out of it.

RELATED: 8 things you should know about the RAS-hosted Body Rock party

Y’all are hilarious in this video. A lot of people don’t know that you used to be in a comedy troupe. Can we expect to see more of this side of RAS going forward? 

Chaka: The comedy side is always there.  We take ourselves seriously, but also, we don’t.   Life is a big mystical experience, and laughter is a must.  All of my heroes as a kid were comedians (Richard Pryor), musicians (A Tribe Called Quest), or athletes (Roberto Clemente).  Our comedy group in Rhode Island (before Austin), In House Freestyle, was influenced by In Living Color and Dave Chapelle.  We took a lot of serious topics and turned them inside out to find the humor inside of it all.  People don’t know, but we have a whole TV show just waiting for Netflix!  And film scripts too!

Tell us about the RAS Day showcase at SXSW. How did that come together? 

Chaka: Well, last year we played Auditorium Shores in front of thousands and I just couldn’t go back to some 200 capacity venue at 12:30 a.m. this year.  They love putting us in that ‘conscious hip hop’ box, but we are so much more.  There’s really no bigger SXSW stage than Auditorium Shores, but still – I couldn’t go backwards to the same old same. We work way too hard.  RAS isn’t a national act yet though, and most indies get the raw end of the deal at showcases, especially Austin-based acts.  So, I approached SXSW about putting together our own RAS DAY showcase.  I had a list of artists, and they loved the idea.  It all really happened over a conversation at Whole Foods.

What does the rest of 2018 look like for RAS?

Qi Dada: I know I fans have been quietly asking that very question. This is a breakout year for us. It  looks like tours and new music (finally) that is already in the bag. It looks like a level of recognition and influence the people want. In short: “THE CHAMPS IS HERE!”

Chaka: 2018 is most definitely our year.  I usually don’t say stuff like that, but people are really going to feel the vision we have been holding for nearly 10 years.  Trust and believe, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Doors are opening, and we no longer have to scale walls like Spiderman,  or go around the long way through a dark tunnel to get into the right situations that we deserve. This means great things for everyone around us.  I am so thankful, and excited!

Chaka has designed fresh and funky “Same” gear through his NefrFreshr clothing label to accompany the song.  You can order yours tee shirts, hoodies and hats here.

Good afternoon, here’s ‘Good Morning,’ a new video from Austin’s Max Frost

Austin musician Max Frost has released a new video for his song “Good Morning,” an instantly catchy pop number that will be on his long-awaited Atlantic Records debut album due out later this year.

The video was shot primarily in west Austin, with fleeting images of the 360 bridge visible on the horizon in a couple of shots.

Max Frost played KGSR Blues on the Green at Zilker Park on June 22, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The song also will be used in an ad campaign for Pepsi’s new flavored sparkling water product, with the ad scheduled to debut during the Oscars telecast on March 4.

The upcoming album will follow Frost’s two previous EPs on Atlantic, 2013’s “Low High Low” and 2015’s”Intoxication.”

READ MORE: Austin native Max Frost bursts onto national music scene

Exclusive preview: Shinyribs in the magic cape on ‘Austin City Limits’

Whether you’re watching at home or attending the Mohawk’s special viewing party, Saturday’s “Austin City Limits” episode featuring hometown heroes Shinyribs along with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach promises to be pretty special. For starters, there’s the magic cape!

Kevin Russell of Shinyribs with the Riblets dancers taping “Austin City Limits” at ACL Live on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017. Scott Newton/KLRU-TV/Austin City Limits

Ever the showman, Shinyribs leader Kevin Russell literally lit up the band’s taping of the show at ACL Live a few months ago when he donned a cape lined in flashing colored lights near the end of the set. We offer up this exclusive preview of the song “East Texas Rust” starring that fashion accessory. (The cape’s lights kept flashing throughout; no wardrobe malfunctions were detected.)

REVIEWS: Dan Auerbach ACL taping and Shinyribs ACL taping

The episode airs locally on KLRU from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., starting with Auerbach’s set and finishing with Shinyribs. At the Mohawk, stick around after the viewing party for a live performance by Shinyribs on the club’s outdoor stage (7 p.m. doors, $17-$20).

The program also has put up installments of its new “ACL Backstage” virtual-reality series for both artists, featuring performance snippets, interview footage, behind-the-scenes glimpses and more. Here’s the one for Shinyribs, and here’s the one for Auerbach.

Finally: Though most ACL tapings are edited down to half-hour segments, the artists generally perform for more than an hour at their tapings, which means there are outtakes that the program is now mining for occasional web-exclusive videos. Here’s one from the Shinyribs show, featuring the fan favorite “Poor People’s Store”:

READ MORE: Our interview with Dan Auerbach about his new solo album

Hi, how was it? Here’s what ‘Hi, How Are You?’ Day at the Mohawk was like.

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It all came together with just two or three weeks of planning, but Monday’s “Hi, How Are You?” Day show at the Mohawk turned out to be a grand success, as many Austin musicians and hundreds of Daniel Johnston fans turned out to help the legendary Texas songwriter celebrate his 57th birthday.

Daniel Johnston performs during “Hi, How Are You?” Day at the Mohawk on Monday, January 22, 2018. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Presented by the new Hi, How Are You? Foundation, the event also benefited the mental health oriented SIMS Foundation and received support from the City of Austin’s Music & Entertainment Division. Mayor Steve Adler kicked things off with a proclamation and a short speech, saying that he is “no more proud to be a part of this community than I am when we take something like mental health and mental illness and we say that it is real.”

WATCH: Mayor Adler’s speech at “Hi, How Are You?” Day

A half-dozen local acts followed with short sets, most playing one or two original tunes and then one of Johnston’s songs. Of the latter, the highlights in chronological order: Josh T. Pearson and Jonathan Terrell’s medley of “True Love Will Find You in the End” and “Don’t Play Cards With Satan”; Will  Courtney singing “I Live My Broken Dreams”; Jane Ellen Bryant performing “Peek A Boo”; Cowboy Diplomacy playing “Some Things Last a Long Time”; longtime Johnston champions Kathy McCarty and Brian Beattie doubling up with “Hey Joe” and “Living Life”; and Moving Panoramas’ romp through “Speeding Motorcycle” with guest Laurie Gallardo.

Mayor Steve Adler, left, issues a “Hi, How Are You?” Day city proclamation at the Mohawk with Daniel Johnston, right, and event organizers Courtney Blanton and Tom Gimbel at the Mohawk on Monday, January 22, 2918. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Johnston hadn’t been formally announced as a musical participant, but he was onstage at the start with event organizers Tom Gimbel and Courtney Blanton during Adler’s proclamation, and he returned at the end to close things out with “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and a couple other short fragments of songs. Many of the night’s performers joined him for a touching return to “True Love Will Find You in the End.”

RELATED: Hi, how are you? We’d like to tell you about “Hi, How Are You?” Day

“Thanks so much for the party tonight,” he said with a final wave to the crowd and a “God bless you.” Inside, a cake awaited, baked in the shape of Johnston’s trademark Jeremiah the Innocent frog. All in all, a pretty beautiful way to spend a Monday evening in Austin.

READ MORE: Music news and reviews on our Austin Music Source blog

Birthday cake for Daniel Johnston on “Hi, How Are You?” Day at the Mohawk, Monday, January 22, 2018. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Austin360 video premiere: Check out the Nightowls’ new song “Lift Me Up”

The Nightowls play a video release show on Nov. 17 at Barracuda. Contributed

“Lift Me Up” is the new single from Austin soul band the Nightowls, and its groove is as uplifting as its title suggests. Ryan Harkrider’s passionate lead vocal performance is at the center of a fully-fleshed-out yet remarkably clean arrangement that features horns, backing vocals, tight rhythms and punchy guitar and keyboard riffs.

The band captured the song with a live performance video that wisely steers clear of tech gimmickry in favor of gorgeously stylized cinematography. We’re premiering the video today on Austin360:

The video was filmed inside Studios at Fischer, where the band recently finished its upcoming third album with producer Chris Bell. Due out in spring 2018, it follows their 2013 debut “Good as Gold” and 2015’s “FAME Sessions,” recorded at a historic studio in Muscle Shoals, Ala. The prolific nine-piece out fit also released a couple of EPs between albums and played the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

READ MORE: Our 2014 interview with the Nightowls’ Ryan Harkrider

The band will celebrate the video’s release Nov. 17 at Barracuda on a bill with Sour Bridges and Cari Q.


Exclusive premiere: Watch Willie Nelson’s new video with sons Lukas and Micah

Willie Nelson with Lukas Nelson, center, and Micah Nelson, left, at Pedernales Studio in Spicewood. Contributed/Greg Giannukos

Most of “Willie and the Boys,” the new album teaming Willie Nelson with his sons Lukas and Micah, revisits classic tunes from country greats named Hank: Williams, Snow, Cochran, Locklin. But “Healing Hands of Time” is one of Willie’s own, dating back to his early days as a songwriter struggling to make a name for himself in the early 1960s.

The tune appeared on his 1965 album “Country Willie,” and in the 1990s he recorded a lushly orchestrated rendition on an album that bears the same title as the song. The version on “Willie and the Boys,” due out Oct. 20 on Legacy Recordings, was recorded in 2011 with producer Buddy Cannon at Willie’s Pedernales Studio in the hill country just outside of Austin.

READ MORE: Willie Nelson teams with sons Lukas and Micah on new album

For this down-home video, Willie and his sons bring “Healing Hands of Time” back to its simple roots. They strum acoustic guitars, trade lead verses and sing harmony, prefacing the performance with a minute or two of casual father-sons chatter about picking and golfing together. “It’s as good as it gets, being up here with you kids,” Willie says to Lukas and Micah. Here’s the full result, straight outta Spicewood:

Catch Lukas with his band Promise of the Real at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 6 and Oct. 13, and at Antone’s for an ACL Fest official late-night show on Oct. 11. And on Dec. 29-31, Lukas and his band will open all three nightsof Willie’s annual year-end stand at ACL Live. Tickets for those shows go on sale Friday, Sept. 29, at 10 a.m. via the ACL Live website.

Butch Hancock, Eliza Gilkyson and more play for the trees at Hill’s

The fate of a bill proposed by the Texas legislature to ban city ordinances relating to trees remains in the balance at present. But a chorus of voices rose up from Hill’s Cafe on Tuesday night in support of those against the bill.

Butch Hancock, Eliza Gilkyson, Walt Wilkins, Johnny Nicholas and Jaimee Harris were among the local musicians who performed at that free event, which wasn’t a fundraiser but rather was designed to draw attention to Senate Bill 14, which is part of the legislature’s special session. It passsed the Senate by a narrow 17-14 margin last week, but must still pass the House before Gov. Abbott can sign it into law.

READ MORE: Bill to ban tree ordinances passes Texas Senate

Hill’s Cafe presented “A Music Tribute for Texas Trees” on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

The spacious Hill’s courtyard proved an ideal setting for the event. Towering, centuries-old live oak trees soar above the space, providing a canopy of welcome shade for those who came to hear about the cause and listen to music by some of Austin’s finest singer-songwriters.

Gilkyson’s opening set included “Branching Out,” an old favorite by her friend and fellow songwriter John Gorka that begins, “When I grow up I want to be a tree.” The subsequent songwriters-circle session featuring Wilkins, Nicholas, Harris and Hancock included several songs that touched on natural themes. Harris played the late Jimmy LaFave’s “The Beauty of You,” which includes the lyric, “Tall pine trees were around me.”

Other guests joined in at various points through the evening, including Kelley Mickwee of the Trishas and Wilkinson’s Mystiqueros, the folk duo Tahoma and longtime local singer-songwriter Larry Seaman. And watching from the crowd was Manuel Cowboy Donley, the legendary Tejano pioneer and National Heritage Fellowship recipient, who was celebrating his 90th birthday with his family.

Tejano music legend Manuel Cowboy Donley celebrated his 90th birthday with his family at the Music Tribute for Texas Trees event at Hill’s Cafe on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

The environmental activist group Defend Texas Trees helped to present the event, which came together in just a few days after the bill passed the Senate.

Speaking at the end of the evening about the primary importance of trees to the lives of humans, Hancock concluded, “We should always surround trees with love, because they do the same for us.”

RELATED: Gov. Abbott’s bone to pick with Austin’s tree ordinance is personal



Watch: Slaid Cleaves at Waterloo Records, warming up for Sunday at the Stateside

Sunday evening finds Austin singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves marking the release of his new album “Ghost on the Car Radio” with a concert at Stateside of the Paramount. Earlier this week, he offered a sneak-preview at Waterloo Records, where a sizable crowd turned out on a Monday afternoon to hear him play a few songs with accompanist Scrappy Jud Newcomb, who produced the album.

We included “Ghost on the Car Radio” in our recent list of the best local releases midway through 2017. “A dozen records into a quarter-century career, the Maine-born singer-songwriter stays relevant because he’s gotten better all the time,” we wrote in our Austin360 On The Record review of the album. “He’s now a master, as these 12 songs attest.”

Slaid Cleaves, right, performs at Waterloo Records with Scrappy Jud Newcomb on Monday, July 10, 2017. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Last week we sat down with Cleaves at Donn’s Depot to take a deeper look at the music he has made across the past three decades. That story will be in Friday’s American-Statesman, and it’s online now:

READ MORE: Slaid Cleaves delves deep into the characters on his new album

Here’s an excerpt from the story that involves both 20th-century American music icon Woody Guthrie, whose birthday is tomorrow, and the late Austin troubadour Jimmy LaFave, who would have turned 62 yesterday.

It was at Chicago House, the space now occupied by Tellers on Trinity Street downtown, that LaFave first heard Cleaves. Impressed by the young transplant’s warm tenor voice and folksy charm, he recommended Cleaves for an early slot on a big Woody Guthrie tribute at La Zona Rosa featuring Butch Hancock, Ray Wylie Hubbard and many other luminaries of the early-’90s Austin country-folk scene.

“I thought, ‘Well, this is my chance to make an impression,’” Cleaves remembers. “So I needed to come up with the coolest, most obscure Woody Guthrie song, to get people’s attention.”

His good fortune was that his wife recently had bought a new book of previously unpublished Woody Guthrie writings for him. “So I flipped through it and looked for some verses I could put to music. I found ‘This Morning I Am Born Again,’ put it to music and played it at the show. I think I was the second act, and played for about 12 people. But obviously Jimmy heard it.”

LaFave urged Cleaves to send a tape of the song to the Woody Guthrie Archive in New York. He sent one, and then another a little later after not hearing back. LaFave went to bat for Cleaves as well, and when Woody’s daughter Nora Guthrie took over the archive from former Guthrie manager Harold Leventhal, the tide began to turn.

Finally, sometime in the mid-late ’90s Cleaves got the word from Nora. “She called me and said, ‘Congratulations, we’re going to publish this song as “Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Slaid Cleaves.”’ Man, what a thrill that was,” he says, still moved by the memory two decades later.