Brave Combo at Oktoberfest

Even though it’s only September, Addison hosted the 13th annual Addison Oktoberfest this week. I guess Addison Septemberfest just wouldn’t sound as interesting. The food was lousy but we got to hear Brave Combo playing a lot of cool stuff. Fortunately the Texas State Fair is coming up soon and has much better food.

By the way, congratulations to Rusty and the rest of the Kuro5hin team – I’m glad to see Kuro5hin back up finally!

Grapefest 2000

Another busy week with no time to post news updates… most of the week was spent working but we took time out to attend Grapefest, an annual event in Grapevine, TX. Each year they block off main street and have a big pile of interesting stuff going on. They had two stages with live music as well as assorted small musical groups that set up where ever they could find room to play. There were a lot of small booths full of arts & crafts. And some sort of contest for collectors of old cars. The main events, of course, are related to grapes and wine-tasting. We skipped the main wine-tasting event as it is rather expensive (though we did try out a few samples from North Star Vineyards which is located right on Main Street). There was a grape-stomping contest in which the contests stomped grapes barefoot and were judged on volume of grape juice output. And, each year we go to Grapefest, I stop by a little ice cream shop on Main Street called “A Dip in Time” and order a chocolate milkshake. I always have to explain to them how to make it as their idea of a chocolate milkshake is vanilla ice cream, milk, and chocolate flavored syrup. After I explain that the correct way to make a chocolate milkshake is with chocolate ice cream and milk, they are always happy to make it for me.

Now, I know I said in my last entry that I wasn’t going to go to review any more live music events for a while so I’ll just mention in passing that we attended a performance of the Helios Ensemble this week and enjoyed a couple of hours of interesting choral music of the German Romatics including Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Rheinberger, Brahms, and Schubert. The artistic director of the group, Kevin Sutton, works at our local Tower Records store in the classic department and we frequently chat about some of the unusual stuff we buy down there (like last week’s Morton Subotnick CD).

Surf Music at the Hole in the Wall

Saturday night, we experienced some more local music. This time it was Robin Sylar, a local guitarist. The drummer was Kenny Stern, a system administrator at that company I’ve been consulting for recently (yes, the same one where April, the drummer of Frognot works – there are a lot of musically inclined people there). Kenny plays drums on a sort of freelance basis and plays with a variety of local musicians. In addition to Robin and Kenny, Jim Milan played bass. They played in a place called ‘The Hole in the Wall‘ on Harry Hines in Dallas.

Now Harry Hines is not the most upscale area of Dallas, so we were a bit wary of wandering into one of those biker bars like you see on TV where people are always getting into fights and whacking each other over the head with pool cues or beer bottles. Kenny assured us it was a fun little dive so we decided to take our chances. Mind you, we did have second thoughts when we arrived about 9pm and saw a dozen Harleys parked outside. But once we went in, it turned out to be a friendly sort of place. It looked a lot like the older bars and restaurants you see down along the Texas coast. The walls were covered with diving and fishing debris and there were assorted dead, sea-going fish mounted here and there.

The music was a weirdly varied selection of R & B, Surf Music, and Rock and Roll. Some of it was original material by Robin and there were a lot of interesting interpretations of music by The Ventures, Dick Dale, Jimmy Reed, Jimmy Hendrix, and a lot of stuff I’d never heard before. Robin is a great guitar player and all three of them played well together – especially considering that they did this gig without really practicing any of the material together. They were having fun and making things up as they went along. They played 3 sets of about an hour each. We stayed through the first two but had to leave before the last one. On the way out, I picked up Robin’s latest CD, called “Bust Out” and released on the popular Cryptic Goof-Ass label.

I’d forgotten how cool the old surf music sounded. I remember when I was a kid, my older brother had a Ventures album that I used to listen to sometimes. I need to go pick up a few Dick Dale and Ventures CDs. Oh well, I promise to post a news item about something besides music next time – my news page is begining to look like a weekly music review.

Silver Apples of the Moon

A few evenings ago, Susan and I were wandering around in the local Tower Records store. We picked up a few new CDs. Among them is one that both of us had on vinyl in the past, Silver Apples of the Moon, by Morton Subotnick. It was really cool getting to hear it again for the first time in over 20 years. The original recording was made in 1967 but I think I heard it first in the early 70’s.

If you have any interest in synthesizer/electronic music, you’re probably familiar with Subotnic already. For those who don’t know, he was one of the early pioneers in the field and produced several ground-breaking pieces of music using hardware designed by Donald Buchla and himself. The hardware in question would be called a modular synthesizer today but at the time they just called it an “electronic music box”. Subotnic composed using a special notational system of his own design. One thing I remember from the vinyl record sleeve that isn’t present in the modern jewel-case artwork is a sample of the notation. I’b be curious to see it again. I remember thinking how futuristic and alien it looked back then. The front cover artwork is the same as I remember. The CD is a German import on the Wergo label though my vinyl album was on the Nonesuch label.

The work was composed for the LP format and is divided into two movements, one for each side of the record. The first is very random and brings to mind the music of the ancient Krell in the movie Forbidden Planet. The second movement was done almost entirely by a sequencer and is probably one of the more amazing things anyone has ever done using a sequencer on an analog synthesizer. The CD also includes another Subotnick piece entitle The Wild Bull. It’s definitely an unusual piece of music and worth the rather steep price that imports go for these days.


Last night Susan and I stopped by the Liquid Lounge in Deep Ellum to hear a local band called Frognot. It’s not the sort of music we usually listen to but the band’s drummer, April, is a web designer at a company NCC has been doing some consulting for lately. Frognot plays original music in a style they describe as “alternative groove-funk rock”. Liquid Lounge is a very small place. It’s a single small room with a bar in the back, some randomly placed, red vinyl benches scattered along two sides of the room, a tiny, triangular stange in one corner, and a small open area in the center for those who want to dance. The walls and ceiling in the corner behind the stage were covered with a red and white surplus parachute. The parachute and red benches added some color to the otherwise flat black room. The stage was so small, that April had to climb over and through the drum set to get into position to play. The bass and guitar players had to limit their movement to a couple of square feet so they wouldn’t bump into each other or fall off the stage.

Susan and I obtained some samples of the liquid refreshments from which the club derives its name and, after being introduced to the other band members, we found an unoccupied red bench and waited for the show. There was another band playing after Frognot so they played a fairly short set – maybe 45 minutes. They stopped midway through to introduce themselves to the audience and toss out a few Frognot condoms and glow-in-the-dark toy frogs. A suprising number of people seemed to be needing glow-in-the-dark frogs at just that time, so it turned out to be a happy coincidence that they had wandered into the one Deep Ellum club where they were available that night.

The lead singer is also a web designer so, needless to say, they have a website. They have MP3s of a few songs online. They also have Real Audio files along with a Real Video file of a video they’ve done, for those who have the non-free Real stuff installed. Anyway, if you like alternative groove-funk and Frognot comes to a venue near you, check ’em out. Frognot’s name, by the way, is geographical rather than amphibious in origin.

Meanwhile, our GTE DSL installation has taken a turn for the worse already. First I got an email from GTE confirming the installation date. Then I got a phone call in which I was told it would be a do-it-yourself install (which is good since the stories I’ve heard from others indicate that installers get freaked out by people who have multiple computers or boxes running Unix). Yesterday, however, I got a postcard from GTE saying that they were sorry but DSL was not available in my area. So, the question is, does a positive phone call and email outweigh a single postcard? Do I get DSL or not? Based on previous experience I suspect not but only time will tell.

Broadband at Home

Woohoo! We may finally be able to get a real Internet connection at home. GTE claims they are finally offering DSL in our area. I’ve been assigned an install date but, with GTE involved, I’ll have to see it installed and working before I fully believe. We’ve called the phone company and cable company periodically for a couple of years asking for ISDN, DSL or cable modem access but, up until now nothing has been available. We’ve been stuck with a 56k modem on an analog line. I’m planning on picking up one of those Linksys DSL routers unless someone has a better suggestion.