- April 2011 -

Other Fein Messes
Tra La La La Suzy - Dean & Jean

Poker Party Store

Buy Art's Stuff !

1st Record/1st Concert

I can’t remember the first 45 I bought. That’s mostly because I didn’t have to buy them.

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, my dad worked at, then owned, a service station in the small western Nebraska town where I grew up. One of his regular customers was from, and I still remember the blue panel truck, Valley Vending Service. He serviced and stocked jukeboxes, candy machines, etc. around the area. He knew my dad had a couple sons and one day handed him a box of 45s he’d taken off jukeboxes. “Your boys will like these.” 

Every six weeks or so, the Valley Vending guy dropped off another box of records. They weren’t new -- they’d been out anywhere from two to six months -- but most hadn’t had a lot of play, so they were in great condition (not that I knew about such things at age 7). But I had more 45s than I knew what to do with. Some even had the picture sleeves. The vending guy must have kept them and put the records back inside before he gave them to dad.

Anyway, I remember getting all the Beatles and Rolling Stones 45s (I was particularly baffled by the Stones in drag on the pic sleeve of “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing in the Shadows”). The Kinks and Paul Revere and the Raiders were other favorites. 

I also still recall getting “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night,” “Dirty Water,” “Louie Louie” and “She’s About a Mover.”  And because it was western Nebraska, I got bunches of country singles and learned to love Haggard, Loretta, George and Tammy and especially Johnny Cash.

As for my first concert, dad was a Cash fan too and Johnny was playing a nearby county fair. So he loaded me up in his big late ‘50s Oldsmobile and we went to the show -- Johnny played on the back of a flatbed truck in the middle of a fairgrounds arena or high school football field, I can’t remember which. My dad passed away a couple years ago, so I don’t have a way to verify the year or exact place. But I was 8 or 9 -- so it would have been sometime in 1964 to 1966.

As for albums, I’d pool money with my brother to buy some, and chip in with my dad to get the latest from Cash. It wasn’t the first album I bought. But the purchase that illustrates how obsessed I was with rock ‘n’ roll took place on the day that “Exile on Main Street” was released in 1972. 

Curtis, my little town, didn’t have a record store. So when school got out, I got in my ’63 Ford Fairlane (I’d dropped in a 402 cubic inch engine and turned it into a rocket -- there were some advantages to dad having a garage) drove 50 miles to the nearest store in a mall in North Platte, bought the record, got back in the car, drove 50 miles home and began playing it, repeatedly.

That copy of “Exile” long ago wore out. It’s been replaced on vinyl, CD, etc. But many of the 45s are still around. Some are here, some in boxes in my mom’s basement. I never knew the name of the Valley Vending guy. But he had more impact on me by dropping off the records than most of my teachers, etc. and my music loving dad passed that love and the 45s on to me.

L. Kent Wolgamott writes about music, and other stuff, for the Lincoln Journal Star in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
April 2011

(Sorry I'm so late - I got all caught up in the SXSW thing.)

The Future’s Here

When I walked four miles a day in the 80s (The Skinny Years) while reading and ripping, I dreamed of three things: a typewriter with immediate correction capability 1 , a telephone to walk with, and a screen in my car that showed traffic density ahead.

They all came true, and I’m glad. But I’m out of dreams.

1 My first ‘computer’ typewriter had a small window in which the words showed, and you corrected that screen then pressed a button which sent the printer atype.

Boomer Battery

On the front page of the 1-24 NYTimes, Dan Barry wrote a smug article about the first wave of Baby-Boomers hitting 65. “The Self-Indulgent Generation” he calls us. Self-indulgence is entwined with the superiority he imagines.

I remember rejection of things that came before me, but only in the sense of taking the spotlight. I never saw elders raked for “you and your Harry James” or “your stupid cars with running boards.” It wasn’t anti-past, it was pro ”me.”

The very notion of indicting millions for a shared sensibility is so simplistic and wrong that I am stumped how to turn it around. Many others are like him, aiming at post-war people as enemies, and it isn’t pretty or logical.

I am friends with many people in the supposedly-succeeding generation and there are few difference among us because we have common interests. And this ‘karass’ includes people in the not-as-Great generation that succeeded the WWII vets.

People bond by choice, not birth.


TCM movie bio says “Adolph Zukor was raised as an impoverished orphan.” Some parents set low expectations ... I always screw up writing ‘sheriff.’ I try ‘sherrif’ and that looks wrong, then so does the right spelling. Knowing that he is the reeve of the shire doesn’t help ... Picky picky. “Pickup Your Order Here” is impossible. Pickup is a noun ... Can we kill pundit? I’m over kerfuffle. Snarky is finished. And out of the blue I told someone “That’s how I roll” recently, and was astonished it came out of my mouth. We were at a restaurant and moments later the waitress used it to explain why they didn’t do substitutions. That night I saw Betty White utter it (in a senior glider) for a ‘California’ promotion. It’s done.


On a lengthy Ella Fitzgerald tv bio, the narrator cites how she leapt into prominence on the Chick Webb Orchestra record “A Tisket A Tasket” while in the bg we heard a rerecording of the song with strings that lacked the charm of the 1939 original. Shameful ... I was talking to a guy at a restaurant when he said suddenly “What song is playing in your head right now?” I shot back “Yes It Is” by the Beatles. I know that songs run on a loop in my cranium, but I never knew it was constant! ... MCA/Universal/General Motors/Google Mars, the entertainment company, a dozen years ago renamed two of their own feeder streets that touch Lankershim (a real street) Buddy Holly Way and Jimi Hendrix Drive. Perhaps they do that in lieu of payments to their heirs ... I Can’t Get It Out Of My Head is a great song by ELO. In MY head I can’t hear Santana without thinking of the 1972 Ray Dariano comedy album ‘Are You On Something.’ On it, a deejay back-announces “You’ve got to change your evil sheets, baby” ... How can Scientology be a religion when it has no gospel songs? ...

At The Store

Sometimes Viva Towels ‘big’ roll dips to 59 sheets. I’m anxiously awaiting reaching 55, the former ‘small.’ Also, one configuration claims 100 sheets, til you find out it’s one sheet torn into 3 - pick a size - so it’s maybe 33-count. It’s the new thing, price-and-switch ... a 300-ct Kleenex box is NG bec when the ‘flap’ of tissue falls inward you gotta stick your whole hand in to retrieve it ... one striking thing about ‘Double Indemnity’ is that the two plotters in a grocery store talk clandestinely over shelves, back when they were made human-friendly, about 4 feet high. Now you cannot see across a store, though I think my local CVS just lowered theirs ... Grocery shelf items (and fruit!) were once marked by a black tube with a rubber stamp at the end which made a purple (two-digit!) price mark in a circle. Re-marking for price increases must have been rough, but pricing wasn’t as arbitrary mid-century as now. This inconvenient method was replaced mid-70s with the bar code, which struck a surprisingly widespread aesthetic nerve in people decrying the disfiguration of label designs. The biggest protest I remember was Albert Brooks’ placement of a bar-code at the end of his film “Real Life” ... One of those fast-food chains, Carls Jr/Hardees I think, introduced a corned beef sandwich I guess. I only ‘know’ this because I heard a followup ad saying “we’ve gotten rid of that strange-tasting bread and now it’s on a tasty bun.” We Americans don’t cotton to that foreign “rye” bread. Could be Muslim ... the 99 (and 9/10) Cent Store, the only bastion of RC Cola sales, has gone to Pepsi. Must the majors stomp every competitor? ...


In the 1945 film ‘Detour,’ the guy sets out to hitchhike west from NYC, but the first few rides he takes are in English cars - he enters on the left so the steering wheel must be on the right. And they drive on the left side of the road, which must’ve made for a truly ‘dodgy’ ride. Was it a runaway production? Must have been difficult to find all those cacti in Blighty or Sweden or Japan. Oh, I see, he’s headed west so the director felt those scenes should be flopped. This magnificent film 2 is available only in tattered form, with scenes jumping around lost frames, including the film’s non-verbal climax. Maybe they made one print, and now it’s 66 years old. Nothing that old is in good shape. (Say, wait a minute) ...

2 Forgive me for proclaiming an acknowledged jewel brilliant. It takes tsuris. I burn every time a newspaper dope says “The Godfather was very good.” Drives me cuckoo. (See “The Stink,” ahead.) The guy at the recent Egyptian Theater film noir series announced “This is what I call post-WWII noir.” O’Reilly? He also asked if anyone was 23 in the house. A few hollered. “Well you were 10 when this film series started.” It’s not a non sequitur, but it’s a head-scratcher.

Loose Ends

I think I know why the LATimes coverage of “Hollywood” reads like it’s pitched at Dubuque. It’s pitched at Dubuque.

When I told a friend originally from Philadelphia that LA Times readers suffered for nearly forty years the dithering opinions of one rock critic, he said “Oh, we read him in Philadelphia too.” The horror engulfed me as I realized the LATimes syndicate supplied its writers’ however-cracked world view to subscribers in the provinces.

The deal, and the damage done!

A Neverending Song Of Lov(in’ Spoonful)

Billy Altman recalls seeing the original poem, Summer In The City, by Mark Sebastian. One line is “Bend down, isn’t it a pity, never seems to be a shadow in the city.” One who bends to ensure there is no shadow is fantastically nearsighted. But John Sebastian wore glasses, the third of the four sight-impaired majors, Holly - Orbison - Sebastian - Costello.

50s TV

The early 50s kids show Rudy Kazootie emerged from my memory, so I looked it up on youtube. Nothing there but a contemporary tv show with a character by that name. Darn. Then I tried “Rootie” Kazootie and found ancient footage, very instructional for students of primitive tv. But that led to Winky Dink, which opened with host Jack Barry drawing backward on what looked like your tv screen. You were expected to send away for the official Winky Dink overlay so you could draw with him, but many many kids didn’t and simply drew on the tv screen with crayons. (Magic Markers weren’t around yet, lucky.) This leads to the Andy Kaufmann special on WTTW in Chicago in 1981, where he says “C’mon kids, connect the dots and draw these stairs on the screen and I’ll walk up them.” It was clear to me that Kaufmann watched Winky Dink without the magic screen, and it still burned.


To justify “Bay of Pigs ‘11,” why wasn’t the word “Lockerbie” used mantrally? To sell it, I mean. Avenging the 1988 plane-crash murders is more concrete than what they’re giving us ... The Dodgers are not offering a reward for the person who beat a Giants fan into a coma? They should put up half a million dollars. Their third game, the day after the beating was announced, was under- attended. Civilians and pols are gathering reward money? The owner should be the first to offer a reward, if just to lift his rotten profile 3 ... On KOCE-TV’s ‘Veterans Look Back on WWII,’ a 40-year old woman explains “I was of that generation that, we didn’t learn that much about World War II.” Was that The Dumbest Generation, or just her ... ... I still hear “We have reporters on the ground.” That’s a given, innit? ... Sunday 3-27, the CNN weather gal says there’s been a 6 pt earthquake in Japan, but there will be no tsunami, no ripples to Hawaii or California, just a little rise in area water. Cuts to the handsome young news man who says BREAKING NEWS, “A 6.5 earthquake has hit Japan and a tsunami warning has been issued!”

3 Instead of expressing deep and tearful sorrow, his comments stressed perspective: yes, this man’s near death because of an incident on our grounds, but it’s not typical - nobody else got beaten that day!

Dem Bums

I accidentally tuned in on a John Stossel Fox-TV feature “Freeloaders,” figuring it would be about non-taxpaying corporations like GE but saw instead a white woman in a rage over the fortunes that panhandlers make. “Why should they get a job when they can just stand and beg?” A healthy articulate black guy in his 30s said he used to make $150 a day, but has turned to working with homeless to get them jobs. This feeds back to the angry white woman who says “They make a fortune while we have to work!” No notice is made to the fact that the city full of bum-wealth is NY, where people, more than elsewhere, have money to give.

But it made me feel better about my own ‘charity’ work, saving bottles and cans in a big bag then giving it to a street salvager. The last time, on Cahuenga in Hollywood on a crowded Saturday night, a guy was poking in a trash can (where all the $50 bills are) and I gave him a bag. He lifted it and his face lit up and he yelled “Yippee! Oh, bless you, bless you.” My heart sank at how this cheered him. I felt guilty not handing him a $5 bill.

Now thanks to Stossell I’ll take the rag away from my face. The guy may sleep on a sidewalk but he probably has a condo in Santa Monica. His reaction to my pitiful handout must be part of his acting class at Lee Strasburg’s.

Quite Contrary

On my tv show in 1999 we spoke in amazement about LA Times columnist Mary McNamara writing that people in LA have never, liked she has, been in some New England town in June. The nonlinear thrust of this non-information was that people in LA don’t go to the beach like east-coasters. The reason we don’t go? It’s too noisy, too many teenagers, and too far. Also it’s too crowded, which would seem to negate the premise that nobody goes there. Puzzled at this attitude, one wag came up with it: MM thinks everyone is like her friends - old.

March 19, 2011 (she’s still here!!) she blasts Pee Wee Herman’s Broadway stage show’s HBO broadcast for having dirty bits, and drizzles sneering insults (it got “brief and nostalgia-soaked reviews” - ouch!) including “his face has undeniably aged.”

This is unbecoming for a woman with her lineage, and I don’t mean her puss necessarily. It’s the kind of remark a 21-year-old makes, not an old hag - hand - like MM. If as ‘some’ suspect she shares Paul Reubens’ loss of youth’s bloom, well, she oughtn’t make cracks.

Glod The Impaler

When I saw a front-page L.A. Times Calendar feature on Celine Dion 4-3-11, I thought hopefully “My generation of rock-writers has passed, maybe it’ll be a straight Celine Dion feature without rock-crit sneering.” Maybe next generation.

Scott Gold, of whom few know much, owes his loyalty to rock crits. Incapable of highlighting Celine Dion’s value to millions without sneering, he quickly insults her fans - “Whales” (big spenders) and a plain Quebec couple who, to his elevated eyes, exemplify the simpleminded hoi polloi who adore her.

She is “a divisive figure.” For her stand on abortion? Obama? Vivisection? No, “To detractors 5 who think she serves up a plasticine stew of schmaltz and pathos,” i.e. rock crit worms. It’s the playbook, Gold edition. Intermingled are quotes from Dion associates whom Gold betrays, with some apparently unavoidable compliments. It closes with (hers is) “ music to Vegas’s ears,” i.e., ‘not mine.’ Who asked him?

In a companion piece about her handling of the melancholy french song ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, written by ”the late Belgian” Jacques Brel, he cites Madonna’s and Brenda Lee’s versions of the dark, intense song 6 , overlooking many other excellent ones he probably never heard. He salutes her bravery in taking on this difficult song after many years foregoing it. Doing so, he says, she finally overcomes “all the criticism she’s received over the years that her songs are technically sound but devoid of any real emotional connection.”

What a relief for Dion - finally, Pope Gold’s benediction.

5 It’s not HIS opinion, but of a quorum of unbiased detractors. Yet what Bono’s or Prince’s or Riot Grrrls’s detractors think no one knows.

6 OK, it's grim, but he calls it a "dirge." 'Song of the Volga Boatmen' it ain't. (The English version is “If You Go Away,” lyrics by Rod McKuen.)

Bring Back The Moron

When I was a kid, the butt of every joke was the moron. In the 60’s Polack replaced him, and that was rude. 70’s 80’s - dunno. 90s ‘blonde’ came in but that was reductive: dumb blonde was its root.

Today ... whoozit? Men maybe.

No Morality Clause

Andrew Blankenstein’s upbeat 1-18 LATimes story about a jewel thief celebrates the ‘career’ she ‘honed.’ She started stealing in her 20’s “to raise money to help her mother leave an abusive husband.” I believe that, don’t you? Her life is to be the subject of a movie starring hit-and-run scamp Halle Barry and she is being filmed for a documentary. Blankenstein fairly shimmers at her cleverness in wearing clothes with deep pockets “to store the merchandise she steals.”

It’s a topsy-turvy world, journalism. Morally chameleonic Blankenstein is comfortable in it.

The Stink

I’m getting bugged driving up and down this same old trip, seeing the thousandth or millionth blessing of a commonly accepted idol. The speaker proclaims it so he can feel great-adjacent. Pee on it like a dog, make it yours.

I see the old-movie reviewer in the LATimes fawn over old accepted films and disdain accepted losers. Any review of an old movie or album is a boost to the writer’s self-regard because it allows them to say proprietarily “Casablanca? I gave it a good review.” Vicarious, tangential glory is a reviewer’s reward. It’s their version of a conversation-topper. Attachment to success is a Mae West if you’re drowning in insignificance.

Long time ago I saw “Renaldo & Clara,” the Dylan movie, before anyone else. I considered it a scoop, and called a music publication offering to review or at least describe it. They said they’d think about it, then turned me down. Then I got it: anything “Dylan” was handled by the editor. He had to get his stink on it.

I thought of that when Tim Rutten, a columnist, devoted a giant 11-3 LATimes column to his love for Frank Sinatra. He ejaculated praise for Sinatra’s virtues and asserted that anyone who doesn’t like him “probably has a psyche devoid of the pleasure principle.”

“Possibly” and “probably” riddle Rutty’s rubric, surprising when apprising an idol as bulletproof as Sinatra. But like people rushing to review the Keith Richards book, he’ll mount this connection on the trophy wall of his mind.


On the Channel 11 morning news, after a report of Anderson Cooper being roughed up in Egypt, Steve Edwards quipped “now the other stations have to get someone beat up.” It sent a chill through the room, but I liked it.

He could have been saying it’s a publicity burst for CNN, but I was thinking what I’ve thought all along - How does any person in the middle of civil strife think they’re immune?

We all dig freedom of the press, but if three people are beating someone on the ground, what is a cameraman doing? Harm is being wrought - are they above compassion?

This stems back to the 1980s when I heard that a reporter was killed during a rebel raid on a house in South America.
I reeled. I picture some sonofabitch standing alongside masked bandits as they break into a house and kill someone. “Why are you standing there with these fiends?” the victim would say. “Oh, I’m not abetting them, I’m here to watch. If I wasn’t here they’d kill you anyway.”

If you stand alongside villains you’re a villain, and Anderson Cooper is crazy to think his halo helps.

No None Yes No Yes NO No No No 7

“Cliff,” formerly of New Jersey, inquired about my saying last ish that I spoke to David Nelson in line at the Unemployment Office. “Ozzie died in 1976. Wasn’t David doing tv or movie production or something back then? Or was he down on his luck.”

No no no. In California your eligibility for unemployment relief is based on a particular week. So in David’s case, I remember foggily (I was working at the window by the time he got to the front of the line), it said “Amount earned last week: zero: previous week $50,000.” The UI check was for, I don’t know - $160? Many people who don’t exactly need it still proclaim “I paid for it, I’m entitled to get it.”

At the risk of sounding like one of those overpaid public employees 8 who are threatening bank profits, nobody pays for their own ‘award.’ The money pool is not based on every person collecting their full share every year: At $160 a week (for 6 months per year, then), nobody paid $4160 in your name. You probably paid a sliver of your paycheck (1% ?), your employer more, but the system is not set up for 100% collection. In no given year do you contribute what you’re qualified to claim. It’s everybody’s, and if you were lucky enough to work ($160 was not your salary, but a portion of it) you were way ahead.

7 A song by the 1970s a group Giant had this ‘chant’ which I recognized as the correct answers on the UI form.

8 As the rich grow richer and more powerful, little pishers are held up for hatred. The squabbling is not similar but identical to prisoners stabbing each other over a cigarette.

Not One Of Us

The NY Times sports guy remembered that Giants pitcher Brian Wilson longed to have his name used as a clue in a crossword puzzle.

The Times guy, late March, discovered that name in a crossword puzzle. Finding it remarkable that the Brian Wilson in the puzzle was a musician, he ballyhooed it.

That’s strange enough, but there’s more.

The crossword puzzle writer used as a clue “Singer of the Beach Boys hit ‘Help Me Rhonda’ - the only Beach Boy hit sung by member Al Jardine.

And in conclusion

The musician’s book of the road, ‘Travels With My Amp.’

- 57 -

Mark On The Move

During a visit to Tucson, I went to Kartchner Caverns, one of the largest underground cave systems in the world. It’s still “live” with moisture and minerals creating new formations, with two main sections open for tours. With a group of fifteen I spent an hour and a half in The Big Room, which is open only from November 15 to April 15. The rest of the year it is the seasonal bat colony‘s “maternity room.”

The caverns were discovered by University of Arizona roommates in the mid-seventies, but they, and the Kartchner family that owned the property, kept it secret for over a decade until the Arizona State Parks system agreed to purchase, preserve and develop a visitors center. We were instructed to stay on the path and touch nothing but the guide rail because any contamination had to be tagged and meticulously cleaned to avoid compromising the environment. It was like touring the surface of another planet, huge multicolored mineral spikes, curtains and hollow “straws” everywhere. Before we entered the cavern we passed through an “airlock” system, and each leg of the tour was temporarily illuminated and then shut off as we moved on (the little kids in the group were given the job of running the on/off controls contained in boxes on the path). It was about 75 degrees and 99 percent humidity inside, but not unpleasant, and not smelly despite the presence of large black mounds of guano (which is not very aromatic it seems). I highly recommend a visit if you’re not claustrophobic.

In Tucson, at Solar Culture, a warehouse-cum-art space with an elevated stage, I caught a performance by Sharon Van Etten from Brooklyn, a friend of my son Michael, whose never-ending tour had just resumed after performing at South By Southwest. Her music is folk tilted like P.J. Harvey or Cat Power, emotional, melodically inventive and experimental. She was great, and I spoke to her before and after the show . The opening act Little Scream, from Montreal, also had played SXSW and were excellent in the same vein as Sharon. I bought their new album but passed on the “Sharon Van Etten” t-shirt with the Van Halen style logo. (Will twenty-somethings get the joke?)

Back in Sacramento, I went to see Dan Bern at Harlow’s on J Street,. a fancy cocktail bar nightclub which screams “expensive date night for college students.” He played in the upstairs lounge which is decorated with plush white couches around a shiny black dance floor, a chichi long bar and a tiny stage at the end drenched in red light with an illuminated red-striped floor. Opening band and frequent Bern collaborators Common Rotation played one tune on the stage, felt the audience was too far away and set up unplugged on the dance floor about two feet from me. Without amplification they sounded great and after a few excellent tunes Bern joined them and played for nearly two hours, leading singalongs, telling stories and pulling out several songs I’ve never heard (and I’ve seen him a dozen times). The tune about his shock at hearing that Lou Gehrig might not have died from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, was sad and hilarious, like much of his stuff. He did several other baseball-themed songs, including one with a list of Barry Bonds’ home run totals from each year he intro’d the poignant “The Golden Voice of Vin Scully” by suggesting that if you think of Interstate 5 as just a long street, Sacramento was a suburb of Los Angeles.

Bern also paid homage to his favorite country singers, doing four songs I’d never heard him do, Dwight Yoakam’s “It Won’t Hurt,” Merle Haggard’s “The Fugitive,” George Jones’ “Color of the Blues” and Johnny Cash’s “One Piece at a Time.” What a guy.

-- Mark Leviton

(Mark’s sixties-themed radio show Pet Sounds can be heard alternate Wednesdays 10pm-Midnight PST on KVMR-FM 89.5 in the Sacramento area and streaming at www.kvmr.org )

SXSW 2011

Southwest flight from Burbank took two stopovers, one in Vegas, another in Lubbock. In that little 8-bay airport I saw a picture of a drive-in restaurant where the Crickets once played on the roof. However, the Crickets were caterpillars at the time of the photo, judging by the 1951 cars.

Got into Austin at 6:30. My friend Kent picked me up at 6:45 for my 22nd stay at his house. (Three houses over time, each bigger and better.) He was going to a movie on his SXSW film pass at 9 but we had time to go to Rudy’s Barbecue, north on 183, and frankly feast, me on the ground mystery meat, ribs and sausage. Then I dropped him at the Arbor Theater (to see “Hesher”) and killed time around this unfamiliar territory, stopping at Sprouts health food to pick up some fridge stock, and goofing til retrieving him at 10:40 . My car-rental contract wasn’t starting til Tues. Got “home” at 11:15, unloaded my traveling gear and felt that I couldn’t sleep but did immediately.


Breakfast at Maudie’s, had a couple of Pete’s Tacos, the best food on earth. But no early registration because the Convention Center had not yet recovered from the swarms at the Interactive convention, which far outnumbered Film and Music combined, spliced between, and on top of, Film/Music. Didn’t get a car because there was a spanner in the works, so I drove Kent to movies again for car privileges. This night though I hied over to Buybacks where they sold used DVDs and bought a couple of things. Saw no music, just a pleasant day of lollygagging.


Picked up a car at noon, $60 cheaper on 35th Street than at the airport. Made it over to the nearby Waterloo Icehouse and for my first Austin music, Songwriters In The Round run by LA promoter Julie Richmond featuring Noel McKay, Ben Reddell, Brian Whelan and Tommy Womack. Afterward, Womack looked puzzled when I recalled our email exchange in 2010. (It wouldn’t be the first time at this fest that someone stared blankly at the mention of my name: See Saturday noon.) I bought a CD and had him autograph it. His “There, I Said It” album is brilliant.

PHOTO Pay As You Go 078

Paid $15 to park not near the Convention Center. It was crush day and parking spaces sold at any price. Went to the CC. It was noon so few first-day flights were yet in and I sailed through the registration line and got my bag of goods. It was a shock. For, oh, 20 years it’s contained “the book” of all events, the pocket guide, hundreds of slips of paper advertising gigs and aspirins, earplugs, combs, buttons, beer-openers, rubbers, a flashlight, a pen - like we’re GI’s in Viet Nam. But after removing the two books and another - zip. “It’s all digital now” someone explained. That makes sense for the absence of promotional CDs, but what about the tacky stuff? I felt it was redundant to bring earplugs and was caught bare-eared. (As for the condoms, these bags went to rock-writers, so their absence was barely felt.) Ran into Michael Des Barres, as I do every year my first day on site. He invited me to a party on Old Lockhart Road on Sunday, after SXSW closed, and I vowed to go. His friend, the party’s host, handed me a card with his name and address. Moved into the interior and ran into Billy Altman with whom I’ve been bonding here the past few years. I had no plans so I drafted along with him to the nearby Canada Rocks tent where he‘d RSVP’d for the VIP (w/food) section, which I’d ignored online, and he said “You can be my guest.” As I don’t recall guests in RSVP lines I waited with trepidation, and while I was assured by someone at the table that I could come as his ‘date’ an Austin publicist waved me in on my own. There we found Charlie McCardle from DC/Virginia and Kent Wolgamott from the Lincoln, Nebraska Journal-Star and formed the ‘team’ that has held well the past couple of years. After listening to a fine set from Imaginary Cities, a great pop/rock band from Winnipeg, me and Billy went to west Sixth to see Syd Straw at the Conqueroo show at the Dogwood, decadently taking a rickshaw, or pedal - pedi? - cab. (There would be plenty of walking to come.) That show was running an hour late and we caught a bit of Ian Moore, the Austin singer-songwriter. Also we ventured across 6th to Annie’s West and saw young pop bands Miniature Tigers, Olin & The Moon, and Brite Futures, all great. Back at Dogwood Syd played at 5, backed by Gurf Morlix and some others, rapping as good as she sang about the paucity of moneymaking opportunities in Vermont, where she now lives. At 6 we walked down Congress nearly to the Radisson Hotel, where Billy stayed (and disliked), running en route into Alligator Records publicist Marc Lipkin (the first of many times for me, we went to the same shows) and David Fricke of Rolling Stone.

At 8:00 I was heading late to meet my comrades on Sixth Street at Maggie May’s to see one of their’s idea of a good act, Withered Hand from Scotland, but was drawn into Nuvola on 5th Street by irresistible rock & roll that I couldn’t identify but loved. The band, 5 guys lined up like the New Christy Minstrels but gyrating like their shoes were made of Flubber was Davila 666, billed as a “punk” band from Puerto Rico. The place was half full, but Chris Morris from L.A., already there, was enjoying it as much as I was. The jumping happy music they propelled was derived from the Ramones, their short songs punctuated with “Hey Hey Heys” and fists pumped in the air. They made me realize how dearly I missed the Ramones and restored my faith in the future of music. Late for my appointment, I enjoyed another song, marked “GREAT!” in my book, and dashed over to Maggie May’s where the solemn, unfunny Mr. Hand was finishing up. I was sorry I missed him, but REAL happy I saw Davila 666. We went next to the Driskill Hotel to see Jimmy Dale Gilmore’s revue in the Victorian Room. The line was long but we finally got in to see a blocked-view show that featured, oddly, financier Warren Hellman, the founder and one-man sponsor of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco, at stage front alongside Gilmore, picking banjo. Hellman was the odd man in that he was a hobbyist among professionals, and the music foundered a bit when he took a solo. But as a friend of Jimmie Dale he has as much a right as anyone on that stage. The crowd loved it.

After that I joined the gang and went to Creekside At The Hilton for the 10 p.m. show by Gudrid Hansdottir, a folk singer from the Faroe Islands who did half her set in English, half in Faroese. It was a charming thing. The next act at this British space (“The Bedford”) was Kill It Kid, from Bath, England. With other things on our agenda we declubbed, but near the exit I spotted Seymour Stein, who was looking for the Creekside. We pointed to it, and then decided to see Kill It Kid since he was. It was young kids doing hard pop rock and we left shortly after it started, but Seymour liked them. He asked what I thought and I said “Beats me.” He gave them thumbs up. The next day I emailed him saying “Nobody ever got rich listening to me.” The much-later 1:00 show at this venue was bannered “Platinum Artist” and I was told it was Charlotte Church, but by 1 a.m. we were far away.

At midnight, nearing Nuvola to see The Baseball Project, the specialized-supergroup of baseball aficionados Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck and Steve Wynn, I walked past Peter Buck, then doubled back to say hello. He said “We were talking about you two days ago, about that tv show we did with Kevyn Kinney.” Ha!

Also recognized Scott, also an acquaintance, after mistaking him for Al Kooper; his hair and demeanor in the AK mold. Scott and Steve swapped vocals in the band, with Mike Mills joining for a couple of songs. Inside the club during the show I talked with Ira Padros, who runs the Ponderosa Stomp, and supplied him with the phone # he needed for Big Jay McNeely.

At 1 am we went, with Holly George-Warren, to the Speakeasy to see the Hobart Brothers Featuring Li’l Sis, a group with John Dee Graham, Susan Cowsill and Freedy Johnston. Each sang, with Susan displaying a strong, soulful voice that I hadn’t appreciated (I don’t think it just sprung up!) the other times I’ve seen her at SXSW. She was a funny, too, saying she’s available to join any extant brother band, and that in her Cowsills days “Marsha Brady taught me to shoplift.” She’s a gem. At the show were many people from the Baseball Project, as well as Vicki Peterson from the Bangles.


Never got to the CC, where all the great panels meet. Drove around a lot. Went up Congress to see Bill Kirchen at the Proper Records party at the Continental Club. Talked to Mojo Nixon, who now helms two Sirius programs, one as deejay the other as political talk-show host. Kirchen played a great lengthy set. He now lives in Austin, having moved with his wife from the Washington DC area..

Visited the adjacent well-stocked and exotic St. Vincent De Paul store right in the center of the real city center, South Congress. Walking to the car I stopped in the alley behind the Yard Dog store corridor and heard (and saw, barely) Alejandro Escovedo performing. Whenever I try and see an act at that non-South-by venue, all I can hear in my head is the refrain from ‘Expressway (To Your Heart)’ by the Soul Survivors, “It’s crowded, much too crowded ..”

Drove down to Threadgills South to have dinner and hear Amy Levere, the rockabillyish gal I’ve loved the past couple of years. I met Charlie McCardle and we shared a table. Mid-dinner I heard music in the back room, not the outdoor stage where I’d expected it, (the Threadgills non-SXSW music schedule is as good as the official one, and Roky Ericksons’s “Ice Cream Social” had just ended) and paid no mind til I realized it was a woman’s voice and I walked over. There was Amy, performing for a room full of people. I missed her show but saw enough to note that she has (le)veered from the stripped-down rootsy stuff I like - and I’m no fan of progress. Charlie gave me $15 for his half of the meal and went on his way, and I went out to my car. There I couldn’t find my camera, and went back to the restaurant. My waitress came up and said “You didn’t pay your bill.” I stood stunned, and then realized what’d happened. I’d planned to pay with a credit card and put five of Charlie’s dollars in the bill-folder for a tip - and left. I apologized and explained that I am very old and senile and paid her. She was very grateful. I was mortified. I drove to the Dog & Duck, the off-book pub on Guadalupe that hosts bands every hour noon to 2 am during the festival. There I encountered my host, Kent, who virtually lives there, and saw - the Baseball Project again. (M. Stipe may have been there. I heard so, but didn’t see him.) I’d hoped to see the Jim Jones Review, having heard they were wild British rockers in the Screamin’ Lord Sutch vein, but they canceled their 11 pm show. I went down to Sixth Street to join Billy at the Bangles show at Cedar Street Courtyard, but saw only Schmillion, an Austin high school ‘girl group’ who won a contest. They were cute and exuberant. Next came Smoosh, a gal group from Seattle, who took a long time to set up and was monotonal and mechanical, as much as I heard. Their delay caused the Bangles to go on late and do a reduced set (3 songs), but I wasn’t there as I went to see another female ensemble, Those Darlins, the randy Murfreesboro Tennessee trio who push the boundaries of taste and decorum. That vemue, the Swan Dive, was a steam bath and the stage front looked like a redwood forest with 6-foot-6 guys blocking the view so thoroughly that the untall girls were effectively, or ineffectively, playing to ten people. Also, or maybe because of this, they seemed restrained and strained as their set started (maybe a backstage fight?) and that irregularity together with the humid heat and the viewless visibility propelled me for the first time (I’d seen every one of their LA shows in 2009) out the door.

As I was far east on Sixth I decided to go to the Creekside again and caught part of the set by Ron Sexsmith. After that I crossed the creek and took the elevator to the 18th floor of the Hilton to see the Rovin’ Gamblers, a country cowboy band who responded to the small turnout by giving everyone in the room the CDs they’d hoped to sell. The bar there is still a loud gathering place that makes the hotel money (Paris needs acting lessons!) and generates loud talk and laughter that interferes with the acoustic acts that play there.

Walking west, music from the Bat Bar beckoned and I went in to see Austin band The Strange Boys’ 1:00 set. They were very good with stage presence that thrilled the hometown crowd. And somewhere at some club that night I saw the frantic Frantics from Chicago, whose jet-propelled lead singer, who sounded not unlike Noddy Holder, literally burst from the club with energy.


Had a fine breakfast with Kent at Kerby Lane somewhere south but not on Lamar. Downtown at 12 I got a good space near CC at a city garage, cheap and handy. Saw Paul and Nancy Body at the Center. Got a phone call from 50s guy Jimmy Angel in Tokyo. His usual request, “Get me some work in the states” carried more urgency because, he said, “I’m sleeping in a tent in center field at Tokyo Stadium.” He has been a rock & roll presence there for 20 years, but was evacuated from his apartment which was damaged in the earthquake. I said I’d do what I could. Went to the press room after running into Billy and Charlie and Kent W and signed with the massage lady. We walked around the CC for 45 minutes til my massage time, 2:15. Kerry worked on my neck. “Am I tight?” I asked her, and she said “Here everyone is tight.” It was supposed to be relaxing of course, but I made it a chatty visit, asked her what she’d seen so far (priority badges are the masseuses’ reward for a day of kneading tight press people) and she said that Dry The River was the first thing she saw “and I didn’t need to see anyone else.” Well that was a tip so I looked them up and learned they were playing Klub Krucial on 6th Street at 2:00 on Saturday. I ran into old/current (he lived many years in L.A. and now lives in his native Detroit) friend Bill Holdship who had just paneled and we walked up Red River to 8th as I wanted to try Stubbs for barbecue but the live music there shook the restaurant so we walked down to Cesar Chavez, aimlessly seeking sustenance. Finally we got in my car and went to Jovita’s, the rustic Mexican restaurant and off-book music spot on First. (I first wrote “south First,” but since east-west First, to the north, is now Cesar Chavez, south 1st is the only First.) The Irish band Rarely Seen Above Ground, from Killarney, was playing, but the volume, again, conflicted with our need for conversation space so we left, though not before noticing on the typed schedule that Bob Geldorf would be playing at this shanty shack at 6. Too much music, we went to Maudie’s on Lamar where I bought a Pete’s Taco for Bill and forced one on myself, even though we would be eating properly in another hour. He seconded my assessment that it is one of the tastiest things ever invented. Heard from Ed Ward, and we promised to get together, but never did, then heard from Billy Altman and met the crew at the Radisson Hotel. Failing to gain entry to TGIFridays in the hotel (loud live music, we want to talk) we went to Laredo Junction, where we were joined by SXSW rep Luann Williams.

Good chow. We all went to the new ACL (Austin City Limits) venue at the Moody Theater and saw Black Joe Lewis’s big R&B revue in a super-modern setting not unlike an indoor scaled-down crisscrossed spotlight version of the Roman Coliseum, with tiered seating stacked to the sky.

Black Joe Lewis

Following Lewis was the less dynamic but hugely popular Americana artist Hays Carll, but we had to move on. We all went to the Driskill to see The Civil Wars, who proved to be very popular so the entry line extended clear across the lobby. Unable to understand that our press passes got us special treatment we waited in line til the act was over and finally got in to hear, not see, their last song. The others left in disgust for places unknown to me but I stuck around the crowded and charming Driskill, enjoying the freestanding act The Carper Family playing in the lobby til the next act, Hotels & Highways from Burlington Vermont, came on in the Victorian room and played a terrific set. I come to SXSW for ‘finds,’ and they were one.

Carper Family

Hotels and Highways


I was so satisfied by this shot in the dark that I stayed on to see Infantree, four young boys from Agoura, California (!!) and enjoyed them immensely. At 11:25 I was at Stephen F’s bar, upstairs at 8th & Congress, to see the always satisfying Dan Bern. The place was packed with charmed people either mouthing the words to his songs or gasping in amazement. He is a unique and brilliant traveling troubadour.

Dan Bern

From there I skedaddled down 6th to Emo’s Jr. to see the Jim Jones revue, their 1 am set already in progress. It was riveting. The lead singer has a pirate stance, screeching, swaggering and hollering the songs, and the band adopts threatening poses to suit the music, which varies between fast and really fast. They reminded me of the Teddy Boy bands I saw in England in 1979: I’m sure they saw them, too.

Jim Jones Revue


At 10:30 got the same good pkg access at a city lot (mid-week SXSW attendance was thinning out) and walked a straight line to the 4 Seasons where the annual BMI breakfast, with musical accompaniment, fed hundreds of people, many qualified to be there, standing in long lines and filling tables. The mass feeding was posh with fine silver and actual 4 Seasons accouterments, not plastic forks and macaroni. Found Billy Altman, we went to the pool area where spacious seating was.

When egress time came I realized I had entirely missed the Yoko Ono interview at the CC (I thought it was noon to 1:00 but it was 11 to noon). Shoot, darn it, I had hoped with little actual hope to catch her for a minute and get reacquainted after the 10 workdays I spent with her and John when I worked for Capitol in 1973. Flummoxed, I trod resignedly to the front door to walk to the nearby CC when at that front door, standing alone with a bodyguard like Princess Leah beamed from R2D2, stood Yoko. I stopped abruptly, swung right, gestured OK? to the bodyguard and reached down with my hand and said “I’m Art Fein. In 1973 I spent two weeks with you and John at the Beverly Hills Hotel and set up phone interviews for you with college radio stations while John and I talked about old records. Do you recall that?” She smiled shyly and said, “I am sorry, no, but it is nice to see you.” So much for that. (It’s almost like our time together 38 years ago meant more to me than her!) Got to the Press room at the CC and asked about the massage ladies. “Not today. People are disappointed.” Well, they did their time. Ran into Paul Body, he summarized his sked thus far and we realized we’d gone to nothing together. Found Bill Holdship again and we walked in the heat to Klub Krucial on 6th to follow up on the masseuse's recommendation of Dry The River. The place was packed with young girls who must have been 21 but looked 16. We watched the lively young British band without getting what the girls did and returned to the CC.

Dry The River

Bill Kirchen w/Cornell Hurd Band

Bill called his friend Robb Patterson and we drove to the Broken Spoke to see Cornell Hurd’s annual off-book hoe-down. It was a wonderful show in that old-time venue. En route back to town we stopped at Half Price Books, Antone’s Records, Dog & Duck, and I parked again at a city lot and went to meet Billy, Charlie, and Kent. From there Bill and I tried to see Eliza Doolittle, who’d been featured the previous week in the NY Times, but the basement club was packed so we looked in the window and heard the music spilling into the street, then wandered over to Antone’s where we caught part of a set by the well-grounded Sons of Bill from Alexandria, Virginia. From there we went to Cedar Street Courtyard to wait for the Nicole Atkins show - I had seen her in L.A. at the Echo, and she had played Wensday night at Antone’s in Austin. This night’s show was very well-received by the SRO audience.

Nicole Atkins

Eli Paperboy Reed

Next we went to the Phoenix to see the surprisingly-white Eli “Paper Boy” Reed front an R&B revue. (Surprising because the mostly-black band playing 60’s R&B before his arrival suggested, at least, a black artist.) I pondered the next move, and Bill expressed interest in seeing Roky Erickson performing with Bubble Puppy at the Austin Music Awards so we hoofed over there. I missed Roky, having seen him several years in a row, but Bill, Detroit-bound, reveled in the opportunity, though he was disappointed that he did only one song. There I reunited with my troupe, increased by one in the person of Dave DiMartino, and we walked back to Sixth Street, me stopping to listen to Paul Eliot singing and playing guitar seated crosslegged on the ground. I bought a CD from him for $3, but the homemade demo was not as good as when he sang a song ‘at my request.’ (“What kind of song do you want me to sing? Country?” I said yes.) He was a talented guy, but his choice of venue, set back in a dark inlet, was not so good. While the guys hung around Spill, a 6th Street club, to see Meta Gruau, a Quebec act that took forever to set up (mike problems) I went to the Driskill to see Eliza Gilkyson charm the packed house, and then to BD Rileys to see the lively and extremely entertaining Pop Up Animal Kids from the Hague, Netherlands.

Eliza Gilkyson

Pop Up Animal Kids

I rejoined my phalanx at Maggie May’s to see Intimate Stranger, a Chilean duo who didn’t interest me, and then went aimlessly to the Creekside, which seemed closed, and watched the Cuban band Groupo Fantismo play far off on the deep-set Habana Calle outdoor stage. Soon we went to the Creekside again, where I ran into Paul Body again, to see, again, Syd Straw, who did plenty of talking and some singing, some of that with her Vermont love interest Boone. Susan Cowsill joined them to round out the cornucopia of characters. To say it was improvised would credit it with too much aforethought. Then some of us stayed for the ultra-eccentric Peter Stampfel (of the Holy Modal Rounders) who rocked and ranted through political and offbeat songs (“Shombolar” by Sheriff & The Ravels was announced as being from 1955 but released in 1958. I recall it on Vee Jay in 1962) accompanied by a circle of banjo pickers. He is an R. Crumb character come to life. It was a salutary way to cap the festival.

Syd Straw and Boone

Syd w/guest Susan Cowsill

Peter Stampfel


Walking miles and crawling into bed every night at 3 didn’t deter me. It was SXSW and I was rockin’. I lolled a bit at Kent’s going through ten years of promo CDs he’s rejected and snagged a few for his approval (for me to take!) and then headed to the barbecue, where I chowed on free food (for press-badge wearers) engulfed by cliques of yakkers. Oldies blared from speakers as two SXSW baseball teams clashed. When I suggested to a couple of South-by heavies that we should be hearing Bob Wills, Doug Sahm, Joe Tex AND “Deep In The Heart Of Texas,” it just got me a frown. The weather was overcast and balmy, the company divine.

Years and years ago I suffered on an unknown-allergy reaction by stuffing my maw with prawns at the taping of the BB King/ Bobby Bland “Live” album at a recording studio in Hollywood. The next morning welts ran down my entire body left right and center (!!!) as my system reacted either to too much shellfish or exceeding my cumulative tolerance.
Whenever I tell people this story I emphasize that I was a music journalist then, so ate as much free food as I could.

I thought of it again in the chow line Sunday. As I reached the final trough I saw a big white bearded Santa Claus guy across me in the parallel line reach in to choose some ribs. I reached in to the bunch on my side, but his tong-hand - “All these are MINE” - swept in my path and turned over several til he chose ... several. I waited for his rampage to cease and looked at his two rejects. “You forgot a couple” I said with a smile. Then to my right - MY SIDE - a lady poured in a new batch, but as they settled the oaf’s same prohibitive hand shot across to “mark” his territory not unlike - but not exactly like, thank goodness - a dog. I tried to grab an attractive rib but he got it. Then, sated, he left. I was a little burned at this astonishing display of terror-toriality, but not a hothead, and no longer a rock writer, I was not about to get in a fracas, verbal or otherwise, at this otherwise cordial gathering.

Later I learned he was Geoff something from Baltimore. “Oh, rock writer” I said, understanding the instinctive corralling of free grub. Though he hardly looked underfed, old habits die hard.

Later that day the week’s pace finally caught up with me and my weary old bones sought comfort at “home” after a trip to another Half Price Books, Antone’s Records to watch a set by Bianca DeLeon’s impressive all-star band, and to Cheapo’s to say hello to Jason. I still had the ‘party’ card from Michael Des Barre’s friend, but thought, well, it’s a long way and what if it’s just me and them? I can’t sing around a campfire. So I relaxed with my shoes off at Kent’s.

photo Bianca DeLeon 208

Early that evening Syd Straw returned an email I’d sent sent congratulating and consoling her on her crazy midnight show. She concurred that it was wacky, but now she was heading to the big party out on Old Lockhart Road - “but I’m sure you’re there already.Everybody’s going.”

Insert here the eternal SXSW mantra:
“Darn it, another cool thing I missed.”

Notes to You

One SXSW band was Dry The River, another was Drag The River, one from Blighty the other from Colorado. What’s going on here? A movie or social network reference?

* Someone said he spoke for 5 minutes to Maria Elena Holly. Instinctively I said “Wasn’t she the Yoko of the Crickets?”

* Austin musician John Maus was on a bill, but at first I thought he might be John Maus of the old Walker Brothers.

* More than one night when leaving downtown at 2 a.m. I saw desperate taxi-seekers waving in vein. I considered giving them rides.

* I recognize the Texas bumper sticker “Keep Texas Wild” as a variation of ten years ago’s “Keep Austin Weird.” Or was the latter based on the former? The “Wild” one is a push for maintaining open spaces.

* Sideways traffic lights make me nervous. When one is red and has a separate green light to its left - where you expect the left turn arrow to be - it means only that you can turn left when it’s safe. I was anxious about this when driving, despite a tersely worded sign explaining it. A green light next to a red light BY COLOR says to my unconscious that I can make a protected left. It’s like driving in England. You know you’re supposed to be on the left side of the road but it seems wrong. (Someone said the sideways/green combo is “common” in America. I think it’s southern regional.)

* I thought that the sign marking the state capital was misspelled as Capitol, but learned that Texas, once and still an independent nation, has claimed this for its domed state house. (“And it’s a couple of feet taller than the one in Washington DC” a Texan said proudly.)

* I didn’t know this, but when you see ‘Aussie’ you should go. My friend went to an Aussie barbecue at SXSW and said one salient feature was bikini girls playing volleyball.

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