30 Odd Foot Of Grunts: In Print Page 2
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"To me it's like going to rock 'n' roll summer camp," says David O. Daniel of Dallas, who's working as production sound mixer for a documentary about Russell Crowe's 30 Odd Foot of Grunts band in Austin. "It's what the lads call 'Maximum Crowe.' It's crazy, but it's fun."
The project has everything, he says. "It's film. It's video. It's live shows. And in the middle they're trying to make a record. It's all disciplines going on at once and in the center is Mr. Crowe."
The New Zealand-born actor is deeply involved in every detail of the shows, shoot and recording, the sound veteran says. "This is his downtime, and he's probably working 20 hours a day. When it comes to music-making, he's very serious. It's not just a whim to him."
He's intense, David says, "but he's a nice guy. His trainer is here off and on getting him ready for his next movie. It was her birthday the other day, and to fulfill some fantasies of hers, he had them fill up a room in the studio with balloons, then he hires two Austin firetrucks to scream into the parking lot and pick her up and take her for a ride."
The Gladiator star runs the operation like a movie set complete with caterer, he says. "We all eat dinner out on the rooftop. We get to bond like that. The lads are great. It's a mishmash of accents, but the Aussie predominates. I'm getting my 'mate' down. The boys like their pints. They've taken to Shiner Bock in a large way." (thanks to Diane!)
Photo by Nicola Pittam
AUSTIN TEXAS, IS ALREADY A SIZZLING CITY IN August, but when you add one of the sexiest movie stars of 2000 wearing a sweaty jersey and wailing away on his Gibson guitar, you've got a situation thats thermally ridiculous. No doubt the 2,000 people at the outdoor venue behind Stubbs BBQ thought they were at the molten core of America August 4 when Russell Crowe took the stage to punch out two hours' worth of raucous, unadorned folk-rock with his long-standing group of Aussie bandmates, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts.
Crowe, 36, who helps write most of the group's material, greeted the crowd by saying "How the f--are you, Austin?," then launched into his opening number, "Other Ways of Speaking." Between songs he spoke affectionately of his former girlfriend of four years, Danielle Spencer, who he said served as an inspiration for some of his music. Significantly, he made no mention of Meg Ryan, his sometime companion during her breakup with her husband, Dennis Quaid, while she and Crowe were shooting Proof of Life in England. But in truth, the mostly female crowd at Stubbs (despite a lack of advertising, Crowe's August 4 show, as well as two more shows, on August 11 and 18, sold out in 90 minutes, forcing the organizers to move them to a larger venue) didn't seem to care about the other women in his life as the Gladiator star belted out songs of lost love and the perils of success; the audience just screamed for more.
The Austin dates mark a turning point of sorts for the Grunts, as their fans call them, who have been playing together - and hanging with Crowe at his 560-acre farm north of Sydney, Australia - for 12 years. Until fairly recently, they were working mostly in Australian pubs, playing to a small group of fans," says bassist Garth Adam. "We all have day jobs. We are simply a group of friends who love music and enjoy playing. Years ago we made a promise to each other that we will get together at least once a year to play. What has happened in the meantime is that Russell has become very famous."
The Grunts' first full-length album, Gaslight, released in 1998, is sold only through their Web site (gruntlandcom). But in January 1999, the Grunts played a gig at the Viper Room, the Los Angeles club owned by Johnny Depp, before an enthusiastic crowd that included Danny DeVito, Salma Hayek and Kim Basinger. That success inspired the band to get more serious about its music.
The Grunts came to Austin -- a center of roots music and a mecca for celebrities such as Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey, who have homes on the outskirts of town -- to record a new album. The shows were meant to be low-key dates that would allow the band to polish material before a live audience. But after Stubbs put tickets on sale May 26, phone lines were tied up for days with requests as far away as India, Brazil and Japan. Local ticket agencies reportedly sold singe admissions, originally $15 for as high as $2,000. (All proceeds from ticket sales and merchandise will benefit the People's community Clinic, a local charity that provides health care to low-income families.)
Crowe was also hoping to slide into Austin under the media radar (the band prohibited photographers and refused to offer press passes). The actor has always been notoriously press-shy (in his song "The Photograph Kills," he sings "And they'll feed while you lie bleeding on the ground/The photograph kills and your fame will destroy you") but he has become even more reclusive in the months since being linked with Ryan. In July, referring to his frequent appearances in the British tabloids, Crowe told the crowd at a London show that he was coming off "the worst eight weeks of my life."
At Stubbs, though, Crowe was playful in the role of frontman -- tossing around the f-word, swiveling his hips like an Elvis impersonator and teasing the adoring hordes with offers of his cigarette butts and empty beer cans, while laughingly exhorting them to "get a life." When fans begged for his refuse, he lobbed some cigarette butts into the crowd.
Crowe has said that music is his therapy. Describing the band, he told Revolver magazine in December 1998, "I think regardless of how rambunctious our sound gets at times, we are a folk band.... We are just telling stories." Bass player Adam says that Crowe is a natural musician who kind of fell into acting. What happened is that Russell realized he was quite good at acting. And as time went by, we all had to make a living. I turned to finance, while [drummer and vocalist] David [Kelly] did video editing and [guitarist] Dean [Cochran] dedicated himself to social work for the homeless." The inspiration for one of the Grunts' best-known songs, "The Legend of Barry Kable" (from Gaslight), was a homeless man Dean looked after for five years.
The Grunts all make a point of saying that fame hasn't changed Crowe, who still tides with them on motorcycle trips and is generally a stand-up guy, even in bar brawls. "For Russell," says Adam, "family and friends really do come first."
But if Crowe is still the same, his lot in life isn't, and that, says Adam, makes every one of the Grunt's performances an occasion for regret. "For us, mingling with people after performing, having close contact with fans, has been very important," he says. "David, Dean and I hope we will be able to maintain this rapport. But for Russell, it is lost forever. And that saddens us and him."
© Copyright US Weekly, 2000.
Fans lionize Gladiator's Russell Crowe as he and his band slay Îem in the great Texas outdoors.
Russell Crowe -- eyebrows furrowed, black guitar hanging at his side stands in the 90-degree heat of an Austin, Tex., outdoor stage, his face heavy with emotion. As he introduces "Memorial Day," a song he wrote about his late grandfather, Crowe pauses to look skyward (could he be near tears?) when suddenly a sharp voice pipes up from the front of the crowd: "Take off the shirt!" squeals a young woman. Unable to get his attention, she ups the volume: "TAKE... YOUR ... SHIRT .. OFF!"
It's got to be just a tad vexing to the Gladiator star slash-part-time rocker. But it's hard to fault the fans here for turning the Aug. 4 gig into a bit of a Circus Maximus. After all, Crowe and his six-piece bar band -- the obscurely titled 30 Odd Foot of Grunts -- were playing Stateside for the first time since the Aussie actor unleashed hell on screen. And tickets for the three Texas gigs which the Grunts are squeezing in during a break from recording at a local studio sparked an online frenzy, with auctions pushing ticket prices as high as $2,000.
And who was scooping up the tix? Put it this way: Not since the Kiss reunion has a rock show drawn a crowd wearing this much makeup. Gazing at the preponderance of gals in the audience, Australian warm-up comic Nick Penn noted: "We have 2,300 [people here]. That's 2,000 women and 300 gay guys."
Indeed, most of the eager female fans who lined up hours before the gates opened gushed more about Crowe's looks than his hooks. "I've never heard his music," admitted 32-year-old Austin furniture-store employee Janice Chavez. "I'm just here to see him," she said, adding hopefully, "and maybe Meg." Still, not everyone was there just to get within drooling distance of Crowe and his equally famous new girlfriend, Meg Ryan (who didn't show). "There's a story to every song that Russell writes," praised Phyllis, Johnson, 71, a Dallas administrative assistant. "Some of them are really jivey and some of them are really sweet."
Sweet -- and sweaty. By the time Crowe and his bandmates took the stage, the only relief from the heat was the pork-and-perfume-scented breeze that occasionally flapped the two Australian flags hanging above them. "G'day, Austin," Crowe, clad in a black button-down shirt and blue jeans, barked playfully. "How the f--- are ya?" With that, the Grunts charged into a two-hour-plus show, during the course of which Crowe, perhaps loosened up by the endless supply of onstage beer, eased into his role as frontman- shaking his hips, executing some Roger Daltrey-style aerobics, and handing over a slightly used cigarette to a fan (look for that on eBay next week).
And he talked. A lot. From the weather ("I got to go change me undies -- they're a bit wet and sticky") to politics (after damning democracy in general, he added, "And that includes you, G.W.! And that includes you, Al! And all you other f --- ers!") to teasing the mostly local crowd for their lack of line-dancing skills ("Here we are in Texas and all you people are bobbing your heads up and down!"), Crowe bantered away before almost every song -- and yes, he did eventually strip down to a black undershirt.
Still, Crowe's big mouth is well established. The real question: Can the guy actually sing? Said 21-year- old Corinne Carson, "I thought he sort of sounded like Jon Bon Jovi." Next stop, New Jersey?
© Copyright Entertainment Weekly, 2000
Actor Russell Crowe's band makes a pit stop in Austin
Russell Crowe isn't a rock star, but he plays one onstage. The Australian actor (The Insider, L.A. Confidential) is one of the biggest movie stars in the world today. But of all the roles he can play swinging the versatility rope between Roman slave (Gladiator) to virtual villain (Virtuosity) to violent Nazi (Romper Stomper) he has reached his most skeptical audience. This comes with his role as songwriter, singer and guitarist for the Aussie rock band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts.
The band has become almost legendary, keeping a minimal profile and making albums available primarily through their official Web site (www.gruntland.com), rather than record stores. The band has picked Austin as the place to record its next opus. And, as is standard practice in the music industry, they decided to schedule a few small shows to test out their new material. The band will play two more shows in Austin, both at Stubb's Bar-B-Q. There will be one Friday, Aug. 11, and then another on Friday, Aug. 18.
At Stubb's Friday night, crowds flocked in high numbers, coming in from all over the world (it was reported that an overwhelming majority of the tickets were purchased from outside Texas). Relocated from the indoor stage, Friday's outdoor show swelled with anticipation, excitement and an underlying curiosity: Was this band actually any good?
It's obvious that many in attendance were there simply for the novelty of seeing an A-list movie star. Crowe and his band must have expected this, which meant the music was forced to stand up on its own. Once that starstruck feeling wears off, you're gonna need to recapture the crowd's attention. And Crowe's rugged mug can only hold it for so long.
To solve this potential problem, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts tried to keep spectators enticed and, fortunately, succeeded. With a sound best described as an Australian Bruce Springsteen, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts managed to exceed expectations and give the loyal fans a show well-worth the price of admission (well, maybe not for those who paid nearly $100 a ticket on eBay).
The band's set was full of new material and old, spanning their four recordings (three EPs and one LP) and the album currently in the works. The six members of the band all appeared to have their act together, each taking away their own moment in the spotlight.
On tunes like "What You Want Me To Forget," "All The White Circles" and "Circus," drummer Dave Kelly, bassist Garth Adam and multi-instrumentalist Dave Wilkins all managed to anchor the Grunts in proper rhythms. Their country/blues/folk material was well-suited for the warm summer air and the very Texan atmosphere at Stubb's.
The group could run across the spectrum, from edgy alt-rock to polished folk-rock. There were moments of repetition and little variation between individual styles. Dismissing early criticism, Crowe can sing and there's a definite sense of range in his style. He seemed nervous at first, but after a glowing reception from the predominantly female audience as well as a wealth of Shiner Bock on hand he started to open up and cut loose. In between songs, Crowe offered stories about his songwriting and his inspiration. He only addressed one of his films, Romper Stomper, and that was due to its relevance to a song.
Guitarist "Reverend Billy" Dean Cochran ebbed and flowed with Crowe and the two shared a bond with their six-strings that helped the group remain driving through the night. But no part of the band was as welcomed as the inclusion of trumpeter Stewart Kirwan. Kirwan's use of the horn added textures and layers to some of the otherwise plain song structures. Without Kirwan's horn, a good deal of the night would have been lost and forgotten. Instead of becoming simple "bar rock" or "frat rock," the horn opened 30 Odd Foot of Grunts up to more dimensions and blew the audience away during solos or accompaniments.
After the first set, the band returned to the stage with Crowe donning one of the band's signature basketball jerseys. During the first encore, Crowe gave up a bit on guitar and stuck to filling out the stage with a mic and his rock 'n' roll vibes. This reached its zenith with a stirring and emotionally draining performance of "Oblique Is My Love," originally released on the What's Her Name? EP. "Oblique Is My Love" provided a study of the right moves this band can make. They hit the rock when it was needed, and the pop when it felt right.
A second encore followed, which seemed unnecessary and overwrought. The immediate feeling was that they should have left well enough alone. What followed was worth the stay as 30 Odd Foot of Grunts finished their first Austin show with a rousing cover of Johnny Cash's country-western classic "Folsom Prison Blues." The Land Down Under seems to be one of the few non-American regions where country music actually translates well, proven with a Cash retelling that was part-country swagger and part-Aussie fun.
The band and its leader will be Austin residents for the next month. Their gig at Stubb's verifies that they'll have no trouble fitting into their new surroundings. Dave Matthews needn't worry just yet, but if 30 Odd Foot of Grunts continue to improve, there may be good reason. His acting talents are growing, and so is his appeal, so it would be safe to assume that it's all uphill from here for Russell Crowe. He comes across as a charismatic performer and a wistful songwriter with pride in his work. He may not be a rock star yet, but he sure knows how to act like one.
Crowe kicks out jams at Texas BBQ joint
AUSTIN, Texas ÷ He had them at "Hello, Austin," but actor Russell Crowe and his Australia-based band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, seemed on a mission to prove they're not just another musical vanity project Friday night at Stubb's BBQ in the Texas capital.
The predominantly female crowd of 2,000 came to drool over a movie star in the role of musician and ended up catching a sweat-soaked, two-hour rock concert that found the star attraction ranging from sensitive to raucous, like some Aussie John Mellencamp. Chugging beer throughout the set, the muscular singer/songwriter stripped down to a sleeveless tank top by encore time.
Taking his private life public for a rare moment, the 36-year-old Gladiator star acknowledged onstage that much of his introspective material, such as the new Sail the Same Oceans, came out of a four-year relationship with Aussie singer/actress Danielle Spencer. "She's got an album coming out soon, but I'll bet there aren't any songs about me," he joked.
Current girlfriend Meg Ryan wasn't on hand for the Grunts' first U.S. show in 18 months, but Crowe's Flora Plum director, Jodie Foster, was there in spirit on the concert's opening number, Other Ways of Speaking. Crowe credits Foster with inspiring the ballad, which will be on the album the 5-year-old band is recording in Austin.
© Copyright USA TODAY 2000
(Thanks to Shelley!)
Crowe brings band, not acting, to Austin hotspot
They'll descend on Austin from all over the world to see a band few have even heard of. Ground zero: Stubb's BBQ, tonight, Aug. 11 and 18, where a hunky hero will take a little break from his day job.
Don't even think about ordering tickets to see 30 Odd Foot of Grunts; they sold out 90 minutes after they went on sale. At one point, brokers were asking as much as $2,000 for tonight's show. Press and public have been turned away in droves.
Gruntmania is running high in these parts, and it's all because of an Australian heartthrob named Russell Crowe. You know him from his recent sword-swinging turn in Gladiator or perhaps his Oscar-nominated whistle-blower role in last year's The Insider. Now, a few thousand frenzied fans will get to see Mr. Crowe wail away as lead singer/guitarist for the Grunts, in town to record their new album and test the waters of Texas' live music capital.
"I've never seen anything like this before," says Stubb's co-owner Charles Atall. "I knew it was going to be a hot show, but I didn't think we'd sell 4,500 tickets in an hour and a half."
Mr. Crowe and his gruntmates were to play the first concert at Stubb's' indoor venue, which holds only 300 people. But this week, the gig was moved to the club's larger outdoor stage, where the other two shows will be held. Additional tickets for the first show, which were put on sale Thursday afternoon, were expected to be snapped up immediately.
Prior to the stage change, a ticket for the first show could have been yours for $2,000, according to Kent Taylor of Showtime Tickets in Austin. The other two showsare going for the bargain price of $200.
"I don't get the concept of why people are freaking out over this group," Mr. Taylor says. "Everybody's like, 'Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe.' I'm like, 'Oh, he sings?' "
Perhaps Mr. Taylor is just the wrong gender. One woman sent Stubb's' managing partner/director of operations Mike Hall a dozen roses in hopes of landing a ticket. Mr. Atall scored some live lobsters. Phone calls and faxes have come in from Australia, England, Japan, Ireland, India, Taiwan, Italy, Germany, Brazil. Mr. Atall estimates that 80 percent of ticket buyers have been women and that 10 percent have been from Austin.
Mr. Crowe is hardly the first movie personality to dabble in rock; Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves and camp icon David Hasselhoff have all tried their hand. They just didn't seem to generate as much . . . devotion.
"These are just die-hard Russell Crowe fans," Mr. Hall says. "If you can imagine women who are just infatuated with this guy . . . they're concerned with how close they can get to the stage, if they can see him, if they can come to sound check."
All of this for a band that has released one full-length CD (1998's Gaslight) that isn't exactly a hot seller in these parts. "30 what?" asked an employee at a Dallas record store.
The band consists of Mr. Crowe on guitar and vocals, Garth Adams on bass, Dean Cochran on guitar and Dave Kelly on drums. They played the notorious Viper Room in Los Angeles last year, and according to the frighteningly thorough Web site, maximumcrowe.com, they performed for a packed house at the Borderline in London, on July 23. The Grunts' music is generally described as pubbish folk rock. The band's CDs and merchandise are available at www.gruntland.com.
Meanwhile, Stubb's' profile is going through the roof. Mr. Atall has been interviewed for Entertainment Weekly and People; the Crowe Web site features an eight-photo spread of the club, from all angles, in all of its glory. ("Stubb's is on a hillside, with two levels indoors and a river out back.") Suddenly, the venerable dinner spot/sauce manufacturer/music venue has an international rep.
"It's been great for the venue, because people from all over the world know our name now," Mr. Atall says. "It helps us sell the barbecue sauce, too."
© Copyright The Dallas Morning News, 2000
(Thanks to Krissy and Monica!)
Not ready for his close-up
The teeming hordes that came to see Russell Crowe on Friday night at Stubb's were a lot like the masses who turned "Gladiator" into box-office gold. They would have been happy to see the actor kick some serious tail or wind up lying in the dirt, so long as it was a spectacle.
Unfortunately, Crowe and his band Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts didn't tear it up or deserve to be torn apart; the show was as blase as Aussie cooking. Crowe and his five cronies played their folky rock for two-plus hours but were compelling for maybe 20 minutes. A cross between Crash Test Dummies and Eddie & the Cruisers, they weren't bad, just plain.
Titles such as "Circus," "Nowhere" and "Charlie's Song" were as undistinguished as the songs themselves. As for Crowe's voice, it kept trying to rise above the din but never could. Imagine Spacehog's frontman with an extra-large frog in his throat.
Many fans weren't afraid to admit, though, that singing was the last thing they wanted.
"Let's just use the term `eye candy,' " said Austinite Molly Hodges, who knew nothing about TOFOG's five-year history as a band. Tammy Porterfield of Houston, who wore a Roman toga to the show, had similar thoughts. "I'm here to see Russell," she said. "I know that won't be disappointing."
One of the biggest cheers from the female-dominated crowd came when Crowe took off his long-sleeve shirt during the pumped-up rocker "Somebody Else's Princess." Underneath was a tight muscle T and a clear view of that Maximus heinie in Levi's.
Opening comic Nicholas Penn -- an Aussie mate of Crowe's -- joked that the band's shows usually draw a couple of thousand women "and 300 gay guys."
One thing for certain about the makeup of the crowd: It was mostly Austinites. Star Tickets originally reported that almost 90 percent of the tickets for TOFOG's three gigs (he will play at Stubb's the next two Fridays) were sold to out-of-towners and even foreigners (the band's gigs are rare). That changed Thursday when some 1,500 more went on sale for the first show. They didn't sell out, either, scalping scalpers who had heard (true) stories about tickets going for $200-plus on the Internet.
Some Crowe fans did go to great lengths to be there, including Chris and Penny Rogers of London. "There are a lot of places to see stars, but they aren't all like Austin," said Penny, whose son lives here -- though she says Russell is why she flew in (sorry, Junior).
On stage, Crowe shed some light on why he decided to spend three weeks in Austin recording an album and playing these gigs. "I came here a few years ago," he said, referring to an appearance at the Austin Heart of Film Festival to plug "L.A. Confidential" in 1997, "and I thought, 'What a fantastic place!' "
Crowe was quite personable and looked as if he was having the time of his life. He talked about his love of Shiner Bock and local filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (both widely seen near the stage) and occasionally took as long to introduce a song as he did to play it.
"Anybody want my empty beer can?" he joked with fans at one point, knowing that they would. When they screamed yes, he told them to "get a life" -- though he included an adjective that would have drawn an R rating.
Most of Friday's show, though, wasn't nearly as fanatical as that. Had it been, things might have been more interesting.
You may contact Chris Riemenschneider at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shifting from "Gladiator" to Grunt
By Michael D. Clark
Women flock to Austin performances by actor Crowe and his band
AUSTIN, Texas Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts, no hit singles, no major label record deal and sells its albums primarily over the Internet. So how could this virtually unknown country rock band inspire more than 2,000 people ö mostly women- to stand in the sweltering Texas sun all day just to see a performance at a barbecue joint? "I passed up a trip to St. Tropez with my boyfriend to come to this show." Said Elizabeth Strapp of Long Beach, FL. "It will be worth it if he takes his shirt off." Don't know who "he" is? Been to the movies lately?
TOFOG's lead singer and guitarist is the crystal-eyed lead actor from "Gladiator." The exceedingly handsome guy with the brawny arms that protruded from his tunic to kill men twice his size in the movie's Roman Coliseum.
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 $400 million worldwide.
"I've downloaded some of the songs off the Internet," said Danette Radison, a Houston middle school teacher who drove to the show with her sister Linda. "The Insider" got me very curious to see him." Some in the crowd had come from as far away as London and Toronto.
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 non-profit community medical center, making it a huge crowd for a good cause.
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 rep). Many fans got so caught up in the spectacle that they missed the music.
Too bad, because it wasn't too bad.
"The Legend o 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 measured guitar-strummed beginnings to full bass-drum bashing, amp-smashing climax
Playing guitar, 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' bas 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 quested. And the falsetto backing vocals of new guitarist Dave Wilkins were marvelous.
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 out people as much for the music as for the between-song theatrics by the band's leading man. (Thanks to everyone who sent it in!)
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