It’s another year of blind rage, drunkenness and savagery – welcome to Austin, TX everyone!! While you’re here, be sure to take in the many attractions we have to offer in our town – Stop and see the statue of Richard Nixon by Town Lake! Watch the possums fly out from under the 1st Street Bridge at dusk! Download the free taco app! And of course, don’t miss the fine music all over town being played by the true, the smug and the desperate! I’ll be pickin’ and grinnin’ at The Continental Club on Tuesday night and the Hole in the Wall on Tuesday afternoon.
“Swollen Circus” Party @ Continental Club – Tuesday, March 14th – 10pm to 2am”Secret Handshake” Party @ Hole in the Wall – Saturday, March 18th – Noon to 7pm
Around 1995 to 1999, every Monday night was Unplug This night at Hole in the Wall, one of Austin’s truly venerable institutions of live music… on these nights, the country, punk, blues and indie-rock of the rest of the week turned into stripped-down acoustic performances by solo artists and members of local bands as well. I have fond memories of playing and hanging out on those Monday nights a the Hole.
In 1997 the instigator and booker of these shows, Jennifer Milbauer, put out a compilation CD of a gaggle of the Unplug This regulars, engineered and produced by John Croslin and Hunter Darby. Hunter did the fine cover art which you see on the poster.
This show marks the 20th anniversary of the CD’s release, and though several of the artists on it have moved away in the years since, Austin is currently home for many of us, including myself – so here we are 20 years later and we’re getting together to play some tunes on a Saturday night.
Give or take any changes that might occur, here is the lineup for the evening – thanks to everyone who is returning to the front-room stage at Hole in the Wall for a night of picking and hollering!!
9:30 NOT DANIEL JOHNSTON
9:45 MATT HAMMON
10:00 KEVIN CARNEY
10:15 BRIT JONES
10:30 PAM PELTZ
10:45 LARRY SEAMAN
11:05 BEAVER NELSON
11:25 MICHAEL FRACASSO
11:45 ANDREW DUPLANTIS
12:00 RICE MOOREHEAD
12:40 MIKE NICOLAI
Hey everybody. I’m playing just one show during SXSW this year, doin’ the duo thing – The Jimmy Smith System and myself, pictured here at a show we did a the Nomad last month (thanks Davis for the gig and the cool photo!!). Come down and hang with us on Tuesday night March 15th, on a fantastic bill at Hole in the Wall. We go on in the front room at 10:45pm. A bunch of great acts playing this show which is brought to you by my favorite rock ‘n’ roll band in the world, Grand Champeen. Happy SXSW!
Well, it’s been a while since my last post. It’s been raining a lot. I’ve been working a lot. I’ve been enjoying hanging out with fellow record freaks at Rio Rita on Monday nights, spinning some vinyl and hanging out. I played a show on south Congress Avenue with my guitar plugged into the arm of a couch. Innumerable great rock bands I have had the pleasure to see while doing sound. I’m working on new songs, as I am most of the time it seems. They’re either babbling or bubbling. I have a few new ones I’d like to record and add to my recently long-in-production record so, as often happens with this stuff, my original target to have it out this Fall has now turned into an early-next-year kind of situation. This is a good thing. I want the music to be as righteous as possible. The working title of it is still A Line Cook’s Guide to New Satanic Empires. April seems likely.
In the new year I’m also hoping to fire up The Bremen Riot for another rodeo of rock. And to get back to doing an occasional Gadfly Hour webcast too, in some form… thanks to everybody who tuned in to those in this past year. Taking a break, but I think I’ll do some more in 2016. Thank you Matt Caflisch, Brent Best, Bill Wise, Max Johnston & Dollar Bill Johnston, Ethan Azarian & Jeff Johnston, Sabrina Ellis and John Wesley Coleman. It was great to pick and sing on the internet with yuhs!
Tomorrow I’m hitting the road for my first tour in a while, including a couple dates with my Minnesotan friends The Bitter Spills. I’m travelling and playing these shows with my friend Jimmy Smith, for what we call The Jimmy Smith System with Mike Nicolai. I’m stoked for this run of shows. It’s a rock and roll duo. I play guitar and sing my tunes, Jimmy plays drums with his feet, and bass with his hands, and sings his tunes. I’ve known Jimmy for about 20 years now. We used to tour together a lot when he was in The Gourds. I was their opening act, merch guy and roadie for a few years back when. We’ve both written a lot of songs since then. It’s gonna be good to get out and play ’em. Cooking up a few choice covers to sprinkle into the show. Midwest America here we come…
We hope to see you and that those of you who can make it out will find it most enjoyable. I’m doing a few solo sets in Austin coming up as well, those are listed along with the tour dates, HERE. Thanks for supporting real live independent music! See y’all on the road!
Hey folks, just a little update on what’s going on around here. The current lineup of Blue Oyster Cult is booked into November of 2015, playing shows with April Wine and Vanilla Fudge among others. The federal minimum wage is a sad fart joke. We are still mostly human. Soon the giant ants will come. The NRA is still a thoughtless, ignorant bully of an organization.
Closer to home we forge ahead. Things are pretty good. With the help of certain sealants and adhesives, our travel trailer is holding up like a champ under the recent inclement weather. Today is me and my wife’s third anniversary. We had some buckwheat pancakes and coffee for lunch. It’s a beautiful day. It has rained so hard so many times lately that you can almost forget how bright a sunny day can get in Texas.
I have a new solo record in the works. I’m starting to assemble recordings, shards of jetsam and lyrical hooey and shooting for a vinyl release in the late Fall of this year, if all goes well with further recording and mixing. I am stoked to once again be back working on a new project.
After that happens, my plan is to turn my attention to making another record with The Bremen Riot. Possibly some more solo touring between now and then. It’s been cool doing the acoustic thing again lately after laying off it for a while. In particular I had a great time this past March playing a show with Past Prayers in Chapel Hill, and sitting in with Jimmy, Claude and Charlie of The Gourds as “Fancy Dux” (pictured above) last weekend.
Recently I went to some concerts here in Austin, put on by rock legend types of the 1960s. Here are my totally unsolicited thoughts on two of the shows I saw.
THE WHO Frank Erwin Center 4/27/15
The crowd was somewhat staid at this one I thought, enthusiastic but sort of reserved. The cheap seats pushed out more volume than the high dollar ones. The PA too was at far less than the ear-splitting volume one would have expected thirty years ago. But it sounded good. Pete Townshend seems kind of ageless. He hopped around and windmilled his ass off the whole show and his playing was real expressive. Daltrey was good also. He paces himself now somewhat – the corners he cut early on were in the service of bringing some blast at key moments in things like “Love Reign O’er Me” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. He’s a very gracious performer. There is still a slight thugginess about him. He seems genuinely pleased to still be the lead singer and microphone twirler in this band, even as he huffs and puffs. It was a career-spanning set so there were many high points for me. A Quick One. Eminence Front. Pictures of Lily. Starkey’s a great drummer for this thing. Pino Palladino quotes Entwistle liberally but he wisely doesn’t try for an outright copy. Most weirdly emotional moment I had, “See Me, Feel Me”. It was a great show. Any sense of danger in the Who has been replaced with a kind of easy-going generosity. I think it suits them. It was dignified and it had power. I do believe that this is actually, really the last time we’ll see these guys do this still frankly astounding material on tour in arenas. Joan Jett killed in her opening 40 minutes. I LIKED IT.
BOB DYLAN Bass Concert Hall 5/6/15
This was the 11th time I’ve seen Bob Dylan play. The first time was in 1987, the most recent before this one was in 2006. This show he’s doing these days is really something. It has this weirdly dim, eerie Hollywood deco lighting and set design, and a kind of self-conscious, swinging burlesque-band feel musically, even on the few old hits he plays. He does an extensively revised “Tangled Up in Blue” and a 6/8 country “Blowin’ in the Wind”, a couple other oldies but otherwise it’s all stuff from his last few albums. Lyrically ashen blues dirges and and 1930s style swing stuff. Generally dark and at times sinister things are yelled out. He says nothing to the crowd at all. He still cuts a clownish, almost mystical figure on stage and affects a kind of sullen, easy command. His voice is super gravelly now. Then he does a couple of tunes from his recent Sinatra record and it’s pretty much clear as a bell and full of depth and sadness and beauty. Dylan’s an amazing singer. Always has been. The band is great, the sound was great. I really respect that he doesn’t give a shit what nostalgia trip anybody’s on. He brought what he wanted to bring, inhabited it fully and went away. This felt like living breathing art instead of a dead old museum. Pretty cool. I LIKED IT.
That’s all I got for now, see you all soon
My (mostly) monthly webcast The Gadfly Hour returns on Wednesday July 15th with an episode featuring Sabrina Ellis – pictured here with her band A Giant Dog, a tight and ferocious hook machine I have admired for a long time for their wild live shows and the great tunes brought to the table by Sabrina and her songwriting partner Andrew Cashen. Their other, more densely populated band Sweet Spirit just got off a tour supporting Spoon and have released a very cool debut EP, which you can check out HERE.
Sabrina and I have been acquainted for years through the scene and mutual friends, and I’ve always been knocked out by her killer voice and stage presence. Once I saw her do a low-key acoustic gig and she was great so I thought I’d ask her if she wanted to sit down and pick and grin or scowl and howl or whatever seems appropriate when the time comes. As a huge fan of her work I was super stoked when she said yes. So here’s the deal – Wednesday July 15th at 7pm central standard time… Sabrina and I are gonna play some music live on the web for an hour and all you have to do to watch it is go to our Concert Window page and log in. The show costs $1 or you can pay what you want.
There’s a virtual tip jar and an interactive chat thing if you are so inclined, to make requests or say hi or tip us if you dig what we’re layin’ down. Thanks to Sabrina for being up for this. The Gadfly Hour, episode #6. Lookin’ forward to it!
As I sit at a table and look out the window I can see that trees have become the bare and tangly Ichabod Cranes of the late Fall in St. Paul. Orange and red has dropped and made potato chips. It’s been a while since I saw and smelled the Winter coming. I’ve been washing dishes, flipping eggs, writing songs. Not drinking. Raking up the leaves. I miss Austin. It’s been almost 8 months. Be there in February. That’s when I’m planning to start my next tour. Touring is good, even when it’s lonesome and mean sometimes. Get out and play the songs. Live in ’em. That is what it’s all about in the end. 2015 is shaping up to be a busy year kind of. I’m working on new songs for a kinda conceptual 7″ EP I’d like to put out, need to finish the full-length I started in Austin last Spring, then maybe another Bremen Riot record if we can convene for that at some point, and the road.
I have a few shows coming up – Aster Cafe in Minneapolis is the next one. Come out if you can make it, It’s a nice room and I haven’t played there in a lotta years. The other dates are on the shows page, which I’ll be updating as my tourdates get confirmed. I’m hoping to do some house shows this time out – if anyone wants to host one, or know somebody who might – holler at me here at email@example.com and we’ll go from there. At this point I’m looking at the southeast in early March, California after SXSW, and after that midwest and east coast if the stars align.
Working title for next release: Excercises For the Wasted and Down
Thank you Ronny Elliott for putting this vid up on youtube – tis the season once again! Until next time…
Hi folks. Well, I moved. It was time. I did 14 years in Austin TX, on and off between ’94 and this April. I landed in St. Paul MN for reals about a week and a half ago.
I’ve been driving around today, looking at shit. Hustling work. In neighborhoods both familiar and foreign to me. As I write this the sun’s going down and I am twisted into an odd, half-moon swirl of spidery dread, true excitement/new chance, bug-mind memory vomit, and essential confidence. Move…. forward forward and on to something with hooks and some heart.
I had a plate of migas w/cheese at Tamale House on my way out of Austin. It was the best one I ever had there. If that place ever closes, it’s over. I’m only half-joking with that typical, crusto opinion.
I want to thank “The Sensations”: Rob Gaines, Marty Hobratschk, Geoff Lasch and Ben Howard, for cutting a bunch of tunes with me a few days before I left town, and for being in my band to begin with. Tasty licks. Rocksolid fiddlybits. Thanks Michael Crow for engineering the session. Most likely some of what we recorded will come out on my next record, sometime this year or early next year. Thanks Rafael Rodriguez for this pic of us playing a gig a couple of Sundays back. That might have been the single best show we’ve ever done, note for note. Thanks everybody for playing and attending those Sunday Matinee gigs, they were a blast.
I am looking forward to kicking around in Austin a bit, a couple of months from now. The Bremen Riot are playing June 26th at Hole in the Wall. More upcoming shows TBA.
Hey fans of my old pals The Gourds – check out the new album by the latest off-shoot of that band: The Hard Pans. It’s a terrific, kickass record. And speaking of kickass records, look for the vinyl reissue of Grand Champeen‘s “The One That Brought You” coming soon.
Hello, St. Paul!! See y’again soon, Austin!!
Last Sunday was great. Thanks to everyone who played and came out for our rock music party.
Tomorrow, February 16th. At Hole in the Wall. Doors at 3. The second week of Sunday afternoon shows I’m doing there… the bill tomorrow is populated with some beautiful friends of mine old and new who play unique and amazing stripped-down no-bullshit stuff, funky/folky/freaky and this one strikes me as the kind of bill you would not be likely to see anywhere but in this town here.
First up at 4pm sharp I play with the able backing of my band The Sensations. There have been some lineup changes since this video but we still play these tunes in the set….
Then at 5pm, The Hard Pans. Two former members of The Gourds’ new band. They have a killer record coming out in a couple of months. I’ve heard it and seriously it’s great. Here is some vid of their first-ever gig.
6pm, Eat the Taco. I love trios. This trio is crazy. There’s a little Minutemen in there along with a bunch of other colors but they manage to be both aggressive and strangely cuddly at the same time. It’s fun! It’s erudite! It’s Eat the Taco and I love to see them play.
7pm, Ethan Azarian w/Jeff Johnston. Ethan’s work both musical and visual has been a huge inspiration to me over the years, and it’s great shit. He’s an old friend as is Jeff, and both of these guys are doing great work in their various projects. You won’t hear songs like this anywhere but from this guy. It’s totally unique and Jeff is a mofo on the saw.
3pm doors, 4pm show, 5 bucks cover. Beautiful day. Patio. Come on out yall
Hey everybody. I’m doing a Sunday afternoon residency at Hole in the Wall starting on the second Sunday of February (2/9) and going through the first Sunday of March (3/2). I’ll be playing in some form at 4pm for these shows, followed by a diverse and badass array of some of my very favorite bands in Austin. Five bucks, doors at 3pm, shows start at 4… week one looks like this —
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9th
4pm THE BREMEN RIOT
5pm BRIDGE FARMERS
6pm GOLD LEATHER
So hey yeah, come on out to the shows!! Sunday afternoons!! Hole in the Wall!!