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Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, “off SXSW” CARMEN GARCIA BOOKS & THE CULTURE Caprock Congregation BY LOUIS DUBOSE ASOUTH TEXAS entrepreneur I once interviewed told me of the very night he realized his profes sion had gone bad. It was not that his brother-in-law brought him a small machine gun, but that he knew he needed it. In the late ’60s in South Texas, marijuana deals were done among friends and acquaintances and sealed with “a smoke and a handshake.” When strangers in business suits began to show up, often in the company of armed escorts, my drug-dealing acquaintance put off the inevitable as long as he coulduntil the warm Gulf Coast night when his brother-inlaw walked in with the machine gun. “I can almost remember the exact moment when it became big business and Corpus Christi got hooked up with New York,” said this gentle man, who never discharged his weapon, never served a day of jail time, and lost all he had earned to the IRS. The moment has arrived for the organizers of the South by Southwest music conferenceLouis Black and Nick Barbaro, of the Austin Chronicle, and music promoters Louis Meyers and Roland Swensonto buy the machine gun. This year, the conference, which began in 1986 as an attempt to bring together people in the music business who did not live in Nashville or Los Angeles, drew 500 bands from 3,200 applicants, attracted from 4,200 to 4,400 registrants, disposed of a $750,800 budget and brought an estimated $5 million into the Austin economy. All in all, probably more than any single enterprise created by Cathy Bonner while she was doing economic development at the Texas Department of Commerceand not bad for a project launched by four white boys sitting around talking. Not everyone in Austin is completely satisfied with SXSW’s explosive growth. “Why don’t you write about how we buy these wristbands so that we can stand in line for hours and then not get in,” said a video producer at Tish Hinojosa and Craig Barker’s Always Open South Austin House, on the night of the Austin Music Awards. The complaint, I discovered on the following night a few blocks north, where the True Believers and the Oyster Band were playing at the Terrace, was a valid one. “Turn around, go park on Congress and walk in,” said the big guy with the flashlight, whom my son informed me is the “nicest bouncer at Liberty Lunch.” This is a town where even a four-block walk and a wait in line can turn some of us away from a music venue; unfortunately, a sense of entitlement about live music becomes common in a place where for $4 you can squeeze into the Zona Rosa dining room and listen to Jimmy LaFave backed by one of the tightest back-to-the-basics, rock-and-roll bands in a town crawling with good bands, then a week later for an embarrassing $2 sit in the same place and listen to the dark, introspective lyrics of James McMurtry. It’s also a place where preferences in music can become downright parochial. The best of the two acts I saw at a four-band “Oh, Canada!” show was something of a NAFTA jam, in which Austin-based guitarist David Grissom and Austin-based bassist Glen Fukunaga connected with Sue Medley, a Toronto roots/rock singer with a voice in the range of Lucinda Williams, for a too-short set. Grissom, a fine guitarist who has moved from Joe Ely’s to John Mellencamp’s band and back again, has long since convinced Austin audiences of his electric guitar virtuosity. Yet on this occasion, he unselfishly spent most of the evening in the background \(despite protesto Sue Medley and only on occasion trading licks with Medley’s regular \(and very between the two guitarists, at this Doc Marten-Tony Lama event that was so impromptu that Grissom was reading number charts from a page taped to the floor, Fukunaga, an exceptional bass player \(and book The easy accessibility to a singer as good as Sue Medley should not suggest that this conference actually works. Hinojosa, who herself fills La Zona Rosa’s Marcia Ballroom every time she plays, got stiffed at the door of a Sixth Street venue when she set out to see a Mexico City band and couldn’t even find out what they time the band would be on stage. And on the night before the Sue Medley show, I set out driving about the city, looking for a venue where there was not a mob scene at the door. I landed at an international night at Scholz 20 APRIL 8, 1994