Archive for 2002

Exene Cervenka was of course the frontwoman for L.A. punk legends, X. These days, she fronts the punkabilly Original Sinners, and has asked an old friend from the Old 97’s to serve as guitarist for a few dates. That’s why come December, Mr. Ken Bethea is going to California as the lead guitarist for the Original Sinners. As of now, Ken’s dates with the Sinners are as follows: 12/13 @ Doll Hut in Orange County (Anaheim?); 12/14 @ San Diego (venue TBA); 12/15 @ The Troubadour in Hollywood. Check ’em out!

Crowded House internet message boards are reporting that Rhett will be opening for former Crowded House frontman Neil Finn on the January and February legs of a US tour. Now that would be one outstanding bill of smart, melodic, pop! (As of now, those rumors are official! – f.e.) Also, if you get a chance, check out a nifty video interview with Rhett on the Canadian music website, Umbrella Music. In it, Rhett discusses what the interviewer calls the “Tiger Beat” cover for The Instigator, and which Rhett defends instead as “creepy.” You make the call!

Hello everybody –

Murry from the band here – wanted to let y’all know about something pretty neat:

Our favorite little roots music venue in the world, the Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas, is putting together a CD of local Dallas music to help pay for an elevator for the upstairs concert room. Those of you who have ever had to lug anything up their story-and-a-half fire-escape stairs will sympathize with this project, which is why the Old 97’s have donated a track. The song is called “Ivy’s Got A Boyfriend (Problem)” and is from the earliest live recording we’ve ever heard of ourselves, a live set at Chumley’s in Dallas in 1994. As soon as the Sons’ folks let me know how you can get the CD, I’ll get it posted on here, and you can also keep an eye on their website at www.sonsofhermann.com …

We’re good – itching to get back to it, but good. Hope y’all are good, too.

–Murry

Remember 120 Minutes on MTV? That cool Sunday night show, where for at least two hours a week, MTV and good music were on speaking terms again? It shouldn’t be any surprise that in its headlong rush to remake itself into as a 24/7 boy-band and hip-hop party palace, peopled by gabby, grabby, self-absorbed wannabes, MTV has stopped playing music altogether. Well maybe not entirely. See 120 Minutes is still kicking over on MTV’s sister network, MTV2, which in spite of – OK maybe even because of – its name (remember? MTV = music television?) – still plays music. And this Sunday night, November 17, Rhett Miller is hosting 120 Minutes. Check it out.

How do he do it? I dunno, but 97’s drummer Philip Peeples has himself committed to play in THREE shows this Friday evening, November 15. At 10pm or so, Mr. Ken Bethea’s band, The Scrap Hotel, (with one Philip Peeples on drums) plays a brief set at Dallas’ Club Dada as part of the 2002 North Texas New Music Festival. Then at 11:30, Philip retakes the same stage to handle skins for the Deathray Davies acoustic alter-ego, I Love Math. Finally, both Ken and Philip race north on Central Expressway to their post-midnight gig by Scrap Hotel at the Barley House. Man, I smell a late night coming on. Or speeding tickets. Or both.

Early this afternoon, Rhett discovered that he will be the musical guest this Friday night on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. So set those VCR’s! P.S. – So several hours after I made this post, I discovered that the news and tourdates pages were MIA. And when I attempted to upload them again, discovered that HBAT’s web-hosting firm (Icom.com, a division of Interland. If you ever sign up with this outfit, it proves you’re nothing but a trouble-grubbing masochist.) mistakenly believed that the site had suddenly exceeded its “disk quota,” or size limit. Until this problem is fixed, any page I attempt to upload here will fail. Sorry about that kids. Just take it from me, avoid Icom.com and Interland Web Hosting like a crazed, falafel-mongering shoe-bomber runs from a degreed woman. In a halter top. OK, so maybe that ain’t the greatest analogy, but you get the idea. They’re bad. Oh yeah, Rhett sounded *great* last night!

So it looks like the Old 97’s will be renewing their old tradition of New Years concerts, with two tentatively scheduled in the DFW area. Check out the “Tourdates” page and check back soon for confirmations. Also, you’ve no doubt noticed the recent proliferation of musical webcasts. For whatever reason (My guess? It’s the crappy facilities in underequipped IT departments, and the inherent bandwidth limitations on streaming audio and video.) the audio quality of these things often just blows. But back in August, Rhett cut an in-studio session for AOL’s music webcast Sessions@AOL, and man oh man, at least on my computer, the sound quality is awesome. Rhett plays, “Come Around,” “Our Love,” “This Is What I Do.” In addition, there’s an in-studio interview, links to Rhett’s “Come Around” video, and the ability to check out the session in either dial-up or broadband speeds. Check it out here.

My apologies for the long delay between updates, but the job has kept me in Puerto Rico for much of the past month. Yeah the beaches are nice, but man it’s good to be back in Texas, if only for a few days. So. News. There ain’t a ton of it, though reports from Elektra indicate they are quite pleased with the initial reaction to The Instigator. And who can blame them for being happy, with reviews like these?


“In his first solo album, The Instigator, Miller deals with relationships from unexpected angles, combining a strong literary touch with an infectious new-wave energy. Whether he’s worrying about the future of a relationship or reminiscing about a slightly preposterous one, he’s an original, affecting pop rock presence.” – Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times

“Miller is a great lyricist, and The Instigator should make the pop-savvy listener feel incredibly happy, which certainly makes it one of this year’s best. Most of the hype has gone to Ryan Adams thus far, but this is the real deal here.” – Launch.com

“The Instigator is full of knock-’em-dead songs, some happy, a few wistful. With this solo debut, Miller ups the melodic ante, staking his claim to becoming his generation’s answer to Nick Lowe or Marshall Crenshaw. Deploying wordless harmonies and cascading guitars, The Instigator, is so damn seductive.” – Blender Magazine

“The Instigator is a hard-pop gem constructed on the rudiments of Miller’s acoustic guitar, adorned with superbly arranged instrumentation and appointed with lush harmonies. While some Old 97’s partisans may miss the rootsy flavor, many of these songs rank among the finest of Miller’s career.” – No Depression Magazine

“And why should you buy his album? Because we think you might like it.” – Entertainment Weekly

“Rhett Miller has combined his passion for classic pop and modern literature into a wonderful solo record. The Instigator is a smart and sleek pop disc dotted with Brill Building choruses – Miller’s never had a problem with catchiness. It’s subject mater ranges from Franz Kafka to four-eye girls. And as usual, heartache, an emotional tone that invariably brings out the singer’s eloquence, floats through the music.” – VH1.com

“Rich in sad-eyed pop, jangly rockers and country fueled rave-ups, The Instigator has undeniable hooks on nearly every track.” – Los Angeles New Times

“The erstwhile leader of the Old 97s celebrated the release of his solo debut The Instigator with a meteoric thrill ride of a show. Miller is obviously having a grand old time on his own. With good timing, his tousled good looks and breezy charm, Miller just may gain the success critics have predicted for him.” – Daily Variety

“With the recent rise of Ryan Adams, and with Beck now back in singer-songwriter mode, Miller’s melodic smarts, filled with both whimsy and ironic wit, make him game for greater exposure.” – Hollywood Reporter

Rhett also turned in a great acoustic performance recently on the Acoustic Cafe, and you can hear it here.

Also, you may recall that a ten year lease on the World Wide Web domain name, rhettmiller.com was given to Rhett as a birthday gift a year or two ago. Now Rhett’s site is up and running. And no, not by me, though I like the green and black color scheme! Actually, I think the folks at the Warner Music Group are keeping keeping Rhett’s official site up to date. In any case, old97s.com hereby issues a warm welcome and best wishes to rhettmiller.com. Check it out!

Finally, make sure to keep current with several new live and in-store appearances on the “Tour Dates” page, a couple of new Rhett Miller features from RollingStone.com on the “Discussion” page. And though I can’t promise a date specific, my next big project here is a big update to the “Trading” page, followed by a revamped and reloaded “Sounds.” page. Stay tuned!

Instigator debuts at

October 5, 2002

The Instigator debuts at… #1 on Billboard’s “Heatseekers” chart, which denotes up and coming artists. Outstanding!

But now peoples, it’s time to get your Peeples on. Man I’m sorry, but that was too fun to pass up. Still, you’re about to have a lot more opportunities to catch 97’s drummeister Philip Peeples. Tomorrow, October 6, marks Philip’s debut with John Dufilho’s more-acoustic-than-Deathray-Davies side project, I Love Math. The show’s at the Barley House, and for those who can’t make it thatnks to this short notice, ILM will be making a return appearance at the Barley House on October 13. If you’ve never caught I Love Math, you’re in for a treat, as it’s akin to a Davies show, except for grownups. OK that’s not right. It’s like a Davies show for for folks who have to get up and go to work in the morning. Or something. Can’t make it to Dallas? Not to worry, I Love Math’s debut CD will be released by Summer Break Records, next month!

Of course Philip is still the skinsman for Ken Bethea’s awesome Scrap Hotel, and the Hoteliers themselves have two upcoming gis; the first tonight, 10/5 at Gilligans in Arlington, TX as part of an anti-cancer fund-raiser. Then you Texas types or Oklahoma people – I don’t mind Oklahoma people – can catch the Scarp Hotel in Dallas’ West End on October 12, in the culmination of Texas – OU Weekend. Of course, the rest of us north Texans will just be staying home, listening to our property values drop as the area becomes infested with Teasips and Oakies. Aye! (Flames cheerfully ignored 😉 Finally, Philip might also soon be adding yet another high profile drumming gig to his growing resume, as he and we await the 2003 return of the Old 97’s. More on that if and when it develops.

Finally, it’s time for Old 97’s, celebrity chef trivia. Question one: “Which 97 is helping out an old friend – one who’s new to the restaurant biz – by serving for as a few hours on one day a week as his celebrity chef?” Get hungry, and stay tuned for round two.

VH1 is giving the Rhettster some major coverage this week, including two interviews (here and here) and links to both the video for “Come Around” and a complete on-line stream of The Instigator. The upside? Now you don’t necessarily have to pre-order from Amazon to hear the album. (But shame if you don’t!) The downside? I couldn’t get the damn link to work.

And how about some good Old 97’s news? In an interview with LA New Times, Rhett fills out some of the details in his – and the Old 97’s – relationship with Elektra, and if the article is accurate, Elektra has the right of first refusal on Rhett’s next album of any sort. Rhett says he intends it to be a 2003 effort… with Old 97’s. Yeah!

OK, now Carson Daly. Several recent posts on Wrecked rightly refer to him as a tool, and who can argue with that? Nonetheless his schedulers made a rare display of excellent taste in booking Rhett to appear at a recent taping. That episode of Last Call With Carson Daly was scheduled to air on 9/24, but several folks in the audience that evening say that the show will now air on 10/1. So who knows? In any case, here’s a suggestion for a new Carson Daly tool: a Day Planner.

The first on-line reviews of The Instigator are also beginning to trickle in, beginning with on in the Dallas Observer. I’d like to post links to as many as possible, so if you happen across one, please forward the URL. (In fact I’d love to have the URL to any other good Old 97’s or Rhett Miller articles not currently listed here on the site!) Currently, I’m posting Instigator reviews on the Old 97’s Reviews page, along with reviews of older, Old 97’s related side-projects. I’m not sure if that’s the best place for them, and may soon open up a new page, strictly for reviews of non-Old 97’s stuff. If so, I’ll let you know.

Also, here are two (bad) answers to two frequent HBAT technical questions. The first asks why the links to most audio clips on the “Sounds” page aren’t working. The answer is a long, convoluted tale involving a recent move by HBAT from one web hosting firm to another. Basically, some dishes were broken in the move, which occurred just as I upgraded from a Win98 to a WinXP machine. Unfortunately, the XP machine won’t run the software I used to format and upload the files, and thus far, I’ve not found any comparable (and affordable) software that would make the chore of uploading anything less than an afternoon long affair. But as soon as I get an entire half day that I can devote to the project, the files will be up again.

And last, to answer our most frequently asked question: “Why can’t I order Old 97’s merchandise? I keep getting error messages!” Well, please note that the neither the Old 79’s nor this site actually handle the sale of their merchandise. So the answer is “I don’t know.” Instead, Old 97’s merchandise is sold by Summer Break Records. So perhaps you can direct your queries there instead? Try this: one@summerbreakrecords.com

<editorial> Last, though certainly not least, “World Inside The World,” off The Instigator, is one drop-dead knock-out bit of songcraft. Man, it’s certain to go down as Rhett’s most beautiful song since, “Salome,” maybe ever. Beyond Rhett’s usual melodic and lyrical gifts, “WITW” shows an simple and unforced, worldly – I don’t know – profundity. (Please, someone, shoot me a noun here, OK?) All I know is these aren’t the same songwriting chops that brought you “Victoria.” They’re miles beyond that. </editorial>