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Lilith of the valley

The Lilith Fair is the winner so far in what music wonks like to paint as the Battle of the Summer Mega-tours. Lollapalooza, on August 2, was no different than any other concert this year; it might have been even less inspiring than your typical show. The atmosphere reeked of people hanging around killing time without connection, like people who go to high school ball games even though they graduated a couple of years ago. They watch the people watching the game from the parking lot, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.

On August 4, though, Lilith offered the best vibe of the year so far, invigorating in its sense of empowerment, with a real sense of the joyful and new from both sides of the stage. Irish songstress and star Mary Black made an entire amphitheater of new fans. Sarah McLachlan was great; Emmylou Harris, brilliant. Joan Osborne got on the case of Starplex security on behalf of dancing fans--just like at a real old-timey concert!

Local talent fared well. Opening act Kacy Crowley has recently signed with Atlantic from local label Carpe Diem and surely got the biggest chunk of the crowd in terms of percentage--90 percent of the scattered handful there at half-past three. Crowley really needs a band to put across her slightly-off-kilter go-girl folk-rock, but it was interesting to see her do four songs off of her debut album, anchorless, with only an acoustic guitar, including "Hand to Mouthville," which Atlantic will probably release soon as the first single.

Main-stage opener and Hockaday homegirl Lisa Loeb has recovered quite a bit from the sudden nature of her career's beginnings and came off better than expected, having lost most of her open-mike-night hesitancy. Apparently she was upset at how she was portrayed in a "How I Spent My Day" essay that appeared in The Met, written by local journalist Eric Celeste. And though it took her a while to get going, she soon had enough steam up to pause and impugn Celeste's veracity, dedicating "Taffy"--a song named after a chewy candy--to him.

Austin's Kelly Willis was absolutely fabulous, as usual. Her sharp twang and fine sense of song was complemented by the innumerable grace notes and textural touches of former Skunk and True Believer Jon Dee Graham on guitar and lap steel. The placement of the second stage that she performed on--on the lawn, inside the amphitheater walls instead of outside--was a great idea, allowing people to remain parked on their butts on their blankies while still catching the often more interesting second-level acts. I didn't see one person puke or get punched, and when I looked back over my shoulder and realized with a start that the lawn of Starplex was almost full, a wave of common-cause warm and fuzzies washed over me so intensely that Jewel herself was only mildly annoying.

Love! Valor! Silence!
Lately, Dallas Observer staffers--particularly the music and calendar sections--have received a number of agitated calls from readers who are also Howard Stern fans. They want to enlist our support in protesting KEGL 97.1's decision not to renew the contract for Stern's show, which often rates first in its crucial weekday morning slot. The weekly battle to put out yet another quality issue of the Observer had just begun to ebb--victory once more assured--when yet another salvo of Stern-ocentric concern crossed our bow, this time fired by an organization calling itself S.O.S., or Save Our Stern. Jimmy Fowler was the first one to snap.

"Is there some grand plot by the conservative powers of Dallas to muffle Stern, much like religious and legal agencies have conspired in cities around the country to keep Marilyn Manson from spreading his satanic gospel?" Fowler cried as he clambered atop his desk. "Is KEGL caving in to pressure with their decision to replace Howard's trash talk with yet more corporate-dictated music playlists?"

Our wounded fife player--a mere lad--pulled himself up from the bloody cot where he had been recuperating. Although grievously injured, he began playing "Yankee Doodle" on his instrument, hesitantly at first but then with rising vigor as Fowler gathered steam. "A meeting of concerned DO minds confirms it," Fowler cried. "Howard's Dallas ouster ranks below crime, poverty, and male pattern baldness on our worry list. Come to think of it, he's also below the fate of European currency and Frank and Kathie Lee's marriage.

"We don't disapprove of his show," Fowler allowed. "Any idiot who listens to Stern for more than five minutes knows he hasn't earned the sexist-racist-homophobic labels his clumsiest critics have attached to him. He's too unfocused, too cowardly to commit to a truly unpopular principle. The sniveling film version of his bestseller Private Parts is exhibit A in the prosecution's case--Howard Stern has atrophied into the kind of institution he purports to attack."

Fowler put his hand atop his cubicle divider to steady himself. "The self-professed 'King of All Media' has so saturated the American consciousness that he's become indistinguishable from his influence. This is what killed punk in the late '70s--the bureaucratization of shock. Build a big enough following, and soon you discover you're next in line to be overthrown. Stern's multi-million-dollar courtship of the spotlight has blinded him to his own repetitiveness.

"The truly subversive pop culture phenom moves its targets constantly and fearlessly," Fowler declared, his eyes blazing. "See The Simpsons or The Larry Sanders Show, two TV veteran shows that, in our minds, assail convention with a ruthlessness Stern can only imitate. Howard, Robin, Stuttering John, et al. don't equal a single brain cell inside the head of one staff writer from either show." Fowler raised a fist skyward as if addressing the very heavens. "Stern will doubtlessly be revived on another local radio station's morning slot," he cried. "We just don't care enough to get up that early."

Then he collapsed. It wasn't until we rushed to his aid that we realized our faces were wet with tears.

Jimmy Fowler made a full recovery and was last seen marching down the middle of Commerce Street, his other 94 theses under his arm.

Scene, heard
Area rockabilly pioneer Groovey Joe Poovey--Jumping Joe Poovey when he played the Big D Jamboree in the 1950s--was "feeling bad but didn't know it," in his words, so his wife took him to Parkland Memorial Hospital to have his blood pressure checked. "I hit the door and wham," Poovey says; he had a major heart attack there in the ER because of an almost total blockage of an important artery. After corrective angioplasty, he was up and about, according to Kim Lenz, who visited Poovey in the hospital with bass Jaguar Jake Erwin--just as Poovey was leaving, it turned out.

At odds with his doctors and their wish to keep him in bed for a week while they monitored his ticker, Poovey was packing up. "He looked good," Lenz relates. "He's still full of spunk. They were trying to talk him into staying, but he wanted to go home. He started giving me advice--like always--and had his arm around Jake, telling him how to play the bass. It was just like him--we go to visit him, and pretty soon it's like he's visiting us."

Poovey--a certifiable wild man who cut a classic with his first record, "Move Around," released on Dixie/Starday in 1957--has been a mainstay of the local scene, particularly in the rockabilly realm. Although steve records honcho David Dennard gave Poovey a thorough briefing on the benefits of death viz a viz an artist's sales, Groovy Joe--whose latest 45 was titled "The Final Vinyl" and released on Living Records--isn't quite ready to take things that far. "I'd just as soon not rush that one," he says from his home, where he's resting while doctors evaluate his condition. Wish him luck and buy his records.

Avant-ambient-lounge group the Enablers has a pretty solid groove going: An announcement of their Wednesday-night Dark Room gig has been painted on the front of the club, a good sign of a steady engagement. The band--a regular core of Bart Chaney, Davis Bickston, and Phil Bush, with steady guesting from Mark Ridlin--is taking advantage of the stability by raising funds for their next project, primarily through the sale of cassettes of the band's eponymous debut last year, an album that has been pretty much unavailable since only about two dozen CDs were pressed.

The album is much like the Enablers live, a background pastiche of low-key textures (one of the band's goals is to make music as unobtrusively as possible, creating sounds that allow you to do other things while you're listening) that fill a room like cigarette smoke in a moonbase lounge. "I feel strange about it," Enabler Bart Chaney confesses, "because it's last year's material."

He needn't worry; at $5 a pop, the cassette--complete with handmade cover--is the deal of the year.

When Jimmy Fowler went crazy from Stern-related stress disorder (SRSD), he didn't really jump on his desk and start yelling. He jumped on his desk and wrote a screed on the now-irrelevant pop culture irritant that was then turned into its currently rousing form by an editor wishing for more drama in his life. By so doing, are we hastening the end of Western civilization? Let us know what you think--and forward all tips, commentary, and innuendo--at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com. Ciao, baby.


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