Tuesday night, my husband and I went to the One World Theater here in Austin to see Little Feat again. We had seen them there several years ago (from a front row seat), and they had really rocked the small 300-seat joint. My husband had seen them often in their heyday, though I think I had somehow missed them until the show a few years ago.
When we arrived at the gorgeous Tuscan-villa style theater Tuesday night, pianist and singer James Speer was playing in the courtyard. He was very good. He made a lot of music for one guy! (I wonder if he would perform at an art opening?).
Our seats Tuesday night were in row five (out of about only 10-15 rows). I love the intimate little theater at One World! Even with all the huge people in front of us, we had a great view of the stage. I wish more bands I like would play here, but I guess it’s just too small.
One World Theater had a special treat for us Tuesday night…a Cuban-American painter created a large oil painting on the side of the stage during the Little Feat performance. I’m pretty sure his name was Roberto Diaz; however, I can find no evidence of his existence online, so either I have his name wrong or I haven’t searched far enough.
Anyway, I don’t know about everyone else, but I found this kind of disturbing at first. I couldn’t NOT watch him paint! I was fascinated by every brushstroke, the rhythm with which he worked, how he worked kind of fast at first, laying down a background that reminded me very much of a beautifully colored Tchelitchew, how he then slowed down to begin adding a surrealistic figure while the music speeded up with a latin style number.
I loved watching him work; I could watch painters paint all day. But, I couldn’t really pay attention to the music or the musicians for about the first half of the show, until I finally pulled myself out of the reverie of watching Diaz at work.
Seems kind of odd when I — like most painters I know — listen to music while I paint. But when I’m painting, the music I’m listening to kind of fades to background or becomes the soundtrack to my painting. Going to see musicians perform usually does demand my whole attention, though — watching them perform is part of the thrill of live music. I guess I’m not really as capable of multi-tasking as I thought.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage, Little Feat’s performance was good — though perhaps a little more like an excellent Little Feat tribute band (well, there is no better Little Feat tribute band, is there?). Their drummer, Richie Hayward, is pretty sick right now and has been temporarily replaced by Richie’s drum tech, Gabe Ford. He’s a strong and competent drummer, though not as buoyant a drummer as Richie. Still, their performance was good solid rock and roll, and the audience was justifiably thrilled.
They played mostly older favorites, including a whole marijuana medley sing-along which included “Willin’,” “Don’t Bogart That Joint,” and a reggae riff. According to my husband’s notes of the setlist, they also played “Time Loves a Hero,” “Day or Night,” “Representing the Mambo,” “Truck Stop Girl,” and “Tennessee, There’s No Place I’d Rather Be” (“Tennessee Jed”?) – not sure of this one. They also played a very long “Dixie Chicken” medley, during which various members of the band left stage and later returned, many solos took place, and a lovely duet of sorts was played by Billie Payne and Austin’s own string player par excellence Warren Hood (more on this below). I’m thinking they might also have done “Rag Mama Rag,” “Easy to Slip” and “Oh Atlanta,” but my husband didn’t make note of that, so I can’t be sure.
It was just before the marijuana medley, I think, when young Warren Hood came out on stage. Warren is an amazing young string player, who we first met at one of Nancy Fly’s house parties many years ago. I think this was when he was performing with the South Austin Jug Band, and just before he went off to the Berklee School of Music. He still looks like a teenager, though I believe he’s about 24 now. He was a delight to watch and listen to; I especially enjoyed the jazzy piece (mentioned above) in which he and keyboardist Billie Payne traded licks. It was lovely and quite uplifting.
Warren is the very talented son of Champ Hood. I used to see Champ perform with Uncle Walt’s Band at the Hole in the Wall shortly after I first moved to Austin decades ago, and later when he played with Toni Price at the Continental Club‘s Tuesday Night Hippie Hour. Champ, a member of the Texas Music Hall of Fame and five-time winner of the Best String Player in Austin award, shockingly died of cancer in 2001. I’ve been listening to his great guitar, fiddle and mandolin music live and on LP, tape, CD, MP3 and internet radio for over 35 years.
While I’m feeling weepy, at about this time during the show, the band also mentioned two other local musicians who have passed away this year: Tina Marsh (bandleader, vocalist, composer, dreamer, founder of the Creative Opportunity Orchestra), and Stephen Bruton, a wonderful guitar player and singer/songwriter. We had seen Stephen perform many times at the Saxon Pub (a club started many years ago by another friend of mine who was instrumental, so to speak, in the music scene in Austin during the 70’s and 80’s). I met Stephen Bruton years ago when he performed for the inaugural meeting of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Austin chapter. Tony Jones, then the president of SAIC, was a friend of Stephen’s and had come down to sort of christen our new group.
After the show, I met and talked to the artist Roberto Diaz for a few minutes. He says he had been a studio painter, and had somehow stumbled upon this performing the creation of paintings on stage, which has helped with his success. The sales of his works go to help out some disadvantaged group(s); his works are in the collections of people like Liza Minelli; there was something about him meeting or “performing for” President Obama. Sorry I can’t be more specific — wish they’d had a flyer, business card, or something, or that I could find his website or some info about him online – help me out here if you know anything. They were about to auction off the painting we saw him paint for a starting price of $5000 (signed by Diaz and all members of Little Feat); we didn’t stay long enough to see how that went.
Anyway, it was a delightful evening in a beautiful location with some great rock and roll and even art! I really enjoyed watching Little Feat perform again. However, I’m not quite sure how I feel about having painters painting on stage simultaneously. Great to watch, but too distracting for me to really enjoy the music that I came to hear.