Well, Hurricane Rita continues to bear down upon the Gulf Coast, although new storm predictions say that it will probably land somewhere to the east of Houston, so hopefully the family homestead of Ma and Pa Steanso will be spared. Steanso especially hopes that this will be true since apparently Ma and Pa have decided to ride out the storm in Houston rather than evacuating. This may be ever so slightly Steanso's fault since when the parents called to see if Steanso could put them up this weekend, Steanso had to tell them that this wasn't really the best time for them to pop in (Steanso is already having one or two houseguests for ACL, plus Steanso is having a party on Saturday night). Steanso's cousin, Susie Q, also lives in Austin, I hasten to add, so the parentals could have stayed there, and Steanso did tell Ma and Pa that they could stay at the Hop-A-Long Lounge if they couldn't make other arrangements, but now they're staying in Houston, so with Steanso's luck, he'll probably be watching his mother being airlifted from the roof of her house by helicopter sometime this weekend.
In other news, Steanso went to the Willie Nelson Hurricane Katrina benefit last night. Steanso had never seen Willie before, so this was kind of a big deal. Willie sang lots of his most popular songs, and put in a good performance. The Neville Brothers played as well, and they were really rockin'.
The worst thing about the evening was that the performance took place in the Erwin Center, and the security people there were Nazis. Every time people started dancing and having a good time, security was all over them to make sure that they didn't move away from their seats or into the aisles or anything. A giant conga line started at one point, but security immediately freaked out and shut it down. The crowd was already kind of subdued, anyway, and this had an even bigger chilling effect on the whole event. It made me kind of mad. Here are the Neville Brothers up there on stage, rocking their butts off, and Austin's crowd can't seem to get into it, largley because of the tightasses in security who are afraid of a lawsuit than concerned about whether the crowd is having any fun.
Here's the thing, Austin wants to be the live music capital of the world, but at the same time, we want to pass smoking ordinances and noise ordinances and make rules about where people can dance? As these displaced musicians from New Orleans know, art (i.e., music) doesn't exactly flourish in a sterile, overly regulated enviroment. Art takes shape in the periphery of society's day to day structure, and if you cut out all of the stuff where people are coloring outside of the lines, you end up with a pretty boring place to be. We need to make sure people don't burn to death in fires (and enforcing the fire codes, I assume, is the reason why they were being Nazis about the dancing), but I'm pretty sure that a little wiggling in the aisles isn't going to actually hurt anyone (and if you're serious about protecting your patrons, you wouldn't sell them copious amounts of beer, right? but there's too much money in that to put a stop to it...). The good that comes out of having a happy, engaged listening audience outweighs whatever teensy, tiny bit of increased safety that we gather by stopping dancing or preventing people from having a smoke. I guess that all of this stuff falls under the category of keeping Austin wierd, but I'm trying to say that there's a deeper meaning behind that dogmatic phrase. Art doesn't grow in boring, sterile, overly-regulated enviroments, and it occurred to me as I watched all of these displaced New Orleans musicians that if we want to actually have even a fraction of what New Orleans has (or had) in terms of its music and art culture, we need to keep our minds open and recognize the importance of being a little funky.
Does any of this make any sense? I just don't want Austin to turn into a city of noise regulations, smoking regulations, fire code regulations, TABC regulations, and god knows what other kind of rules. If we keep going down that road, we're not going to be a true city of music- instead we're going to be more like some Disneyfied, sanitized version of a music city, like some musical version of a shopping mall, where everything is about the presentation, but there's no soul below the corporate facade.
OK, end of rant. Keep coloring outside the lines, you beautiful Austin groovers, and be sure to boo the dance Nazis when they try to rain on your parade.