Flock descends to hear Crowe sing
By MICHAEL D. CLARK
Copyright 2000 Houston Chronicle
"AUSTIN -- One hundred sixty-five miles is a long way to go to catch a virtually
unknown country-rock band playing a barbecue joint. Compared to some of the others queued
at Stubb's Bar-B-Q on Friday night, however, the drive from Houston was a relatively light
"In a line that began in front of Stubb's on Red River Street and stretched around
the corner for nearly two blocks to Interstate 35 was a 2,000-plus throng of mostly women.
It looked like the biggest bachelorette brisket party ever thrown.
"Some had been waiting more than 12 hours to grab a spot close to the outdoor stage.
Others paid $100 to $300 and more per ticket on eBay. Many were University of Texas
students and a few flew in from Toronto or London. All came dressed for hot weather
clubbing and a chance to grunt. Or at the very least a chance to get cozy with the band
called Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts.
"TOFOG -- the acronym the group is known by -- has no hit singles, no major label
record deal and sells its albums primarily over the Internet. How can an indie
country-rock band inspire such a crowd?
""I passed up a trip to St. Tropez with my boyfriend to come to this show,"
said Elizabeth Strapp of Long Beach, Fla., who waited in line with her sisters, Laura
Strapp and Jennifer Grace. "It will be worth it if he takes his shirt off."
"Don't know who the "he" doffing his shirt is? Been to the movies this
"TOFOG's lead singer and guitarist is the crystal-eyed lead actor from Gladiator. The
exceedingly handsome guy with brawny arms that protruded from his tunic to kill men twice
his size in the movie's Roman Colosseum.
"The new beau of Meg Ryan.
"The Oscar-nominated star of The Insider who's among Hollywood's most-coveted
commodities now that Gladiator has earned more than $180 million domestically and $409
"Russell Crowe, actor and New Zealand native, could have sat on stage making noise
with his armpits and still drawn a cluster at this show.
"The plan was to come to Austin for a couple of months, record a new TOFOG album and
play a few local gigs on Friday nights just to stay loose.
"Nice and quiet. No big deal.
"Not a chance.
""Move out of the way," a female voice shouted at the one male standing
near the front of the line as the gates opened. "There are women who want to get
"She wasn't kidding. Crowe's quiet summer vacation was no longer on the QT.
"Melanie Carmichael, a 37-year-old mother of three from Des Monies, Iowa, readied
herself to go in after holding the line since 5:45 a.m. with a friend.
""I've never done anything like this, but my 8-year-old daughter thinks its
pretty cool," says Carmichael, who ordered her tickets for the second of three Friday
shows off eBay for $100.
"Standing next to her wearing matching handmade "Grunt Girls" kerchiefs
were Jill Jaffe of Los Angeles and Sara Baird of Carthage, Mo. The two women, both 26, met
online while buying their tickets and decided to meet in Austin and see TOFOG together.
""I've downloaded some of the songs off the Internet," said Danette
Radisson, a Houston middle school teacher who drove to the show with her sister Linda.
"The Insider got me very curious to see him."
"It all had to be very validating, if not a little frustrating, for Crowe and his
band of Grunts. Yes, all the money raised was going to benefit the People's Community
Clinic, an Austin nonprofit community medical center, making it a huge crowd for a good
"But the two-hour-plus set of 20 songs seemed lost amid talk of Crowe's earlier ride
around town on a motorcycle (true) and rumors that Ryan and Jodie Foster would be in
attendance (untrue, according to the band's public relations reps). Many fans got so
caught up in the spectacle that they missed the music.
"Too bad, because it wasn't too bad.
"On the amphitheater's half-shell stage adorned with the flags of Australia, New
Zealand and Texas, Crowe demonstrated that he's a spectacular storyteller with not a
half-bad Shiner Bock-enhanced growl.
"In Texas that's
"The Legend of Barry Kable was a meandering Bruce Springsteen-style yarn that
substituted the outback for the back roads of New Jersey. What's Her Name was a great
example of the measured spare guitar-strummed beginnings to full bass drum bashing,
amp-smashing climax that TOFOG does best.
"Alternating between guitar playing and hip-wiggling dances, Crowe came off as the
clear leader in the ever-growing "actors with side careers as rock stars" genre.
His ability to negotiate chord changes certainly could rival Keanu Reeves' bass licks with
Dogstar and his harmony leaves Bruce "Bruno" Willis dying hard.
"All of this says as much about Crowe as it does the rest of TOFOG. The rhythmic
dexterity of guitarists Dean Cochran and drummer Dave Kelly should not be questioned. And
the falsetto backing vocals of new guitarist Dave Wilkins were marvelous. All would be
quality additions to a Texas rock band booked by the Continental Club.
"If Crowe, with his bed-head tangle of wavy hair and devilish smile, ever did lose
his way in a song these guys righted him so quick no one noticed.
"And it didn't matter if he was stripping to a tank top, mimicking a Texas accent or
offering a beer bottle cap up for auction on eBay, he pleased. It will be interesting to
see if, with time, TOFOG can bring people out as much for the music as they do for the
between-song theatrics by the band's leading man."
--Thanks to Jellybean for posting