So how in the heck have you guys been, eh? I’ve been running Hit By A Train since 1997, and this has been by far the longest break between news updates. Of course with the band on quasi-hiatus, there just ain’t been a lot of news to report. The boys did make some great appearances in Big D hereabouts back in April. Ken and Philip even popped in to turn the Ranchero Brothers show at the Barley House into a full fledged double bill, with the 97’s in effect opening for the Rancheros! The only thing missing? Hearing songs the Rancheros or 97’s might be road testing for upcoming albums. As of yet, there’s no word on when. Well, OK there was actually one new song. I believe it was the Ranchero’s “Won’t Be Home No More,” played by the 97’s and promised to be included on the next 97’s album. A must.

What else? Well, by all accounts Rhett is big in Japan, and mobbed by hoards of screaming Japanese females whenever he pops into the Land of the Rising Sun. And speaking of suns, or daughters, that reminds me, since he’s announced it at recent gigs, I guess it’s OK to mention here: Rhett’s gonna be a daddy. Personally, I think a girl would be ironic, as 16 years from now, one can imagine an older and wiser Rhett growing increasingly paranoid about the attention his daughter gets from young men like… well… the ones in Rhett Miller songs. That big Karma Wheel just keeps on turnin’, don’t it?

<fuzzy memory> I spent six of the four best years of my life at college, where for a time I DJ’d at a low power campus radio station. We used to get records from every fly-by-night company on the planet, and one day back in 1981 this two-bit company called HibTone sent us a single by some group with a ridiculous name. Then my friend and I put that 7″ on the changer, and got knocked out by “Radio Free Europe.” By R.E.M..

By 1994 I was back in north Texas, when one week, a then-guitarist for Slobberbone invited me to a ‘Bone show at a little club just a few blocks away. Opening for Slobberbone was this group, “Old 97’s”, about whom I’d vaguely heard. Midway through the first song, my jaw was on the floor. They were amazing.

In thirteen years, I’d nearly forgotten that music could be so loud, so fast, so smart, or so much fun, and I certainly hadn’t said “wow” about much new music since 1981, when that shiny happy 45 from REM hit the changer.</fuzzy memory>

So why all the misty, water-colored memories? Well dang, haven’t you heard? The Old 97’s will be joining R.E.M., among others, at the second annual Austin City Limits Music Fest, from September 19 – 21, at Zilker Park in lovely Austin, Texas. Advice? Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go. Well, you get the idea. I’ll be there again this year, and this time to see my two favorite bands of the past 25 years. Rock freakin’ on, baby.

Can’t make it to Austin? Well, howzabout Dallas on August 9? That night we celebrate the 9th Anniversary of the very first radio program to play the Old 97s. It’s the “Adventure Club” 9th Anniversary Party, and host con most, Josh Venable has lined up a great bill at Trees. It’s the Old 97’s, with Eisley, Peter Schmidt (of Legendary Crystal Chandelier and Funland), and Cordelane. Come on kids, think about it:

Great music. Old 97’s. Dallas. August. Good friends. Hot weather. Cold beer. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Because it doesn’t get any better.

BTW, I have Eisley’s “Laughing City” in the changer right now. Excellent! See the whole lineup, damnit. Get your money’s worth. I will. And I’ll try to post again soon. Of course Ken and Murry, and the band have the keys to this joint too. Come on fellas, what are you doin’ on your summer vacation?

Ooh, ooh, almost forgot. Better late than never, Elektra has released “Our Love” as the second single off The Instigator, and it’s started to rack some airplay. Call your favorite station and ask for it by name!