Sound Check

On an eternal hiatus? Son Volt's Jim Boquist, Jay Farrar, Mike Heidorn, and Dave Boquist in 1998

Son Set?

LOCAL MULTI-INSTRUMENTALISTS Jim and Dave Boquist aren't taking out "Musicians Available" ads in the back of City Pages just yet. But the fraternal string-pluckers have plenty of time on their hands after the apparent dissolution of Son Volt, the alt-country outfit founded by ex-Uncle Tupelo guitarist Jay Farrar. Internet rumors of the band's demise were flying last fall when the band announced it would take a year off from touring and recording. But the breakup buzz got a bigger boost from recent word that Farrar has recorded a demo sans band, enlisting drummer-engineer Matt Pence of the Denton, Texas, indie-rock outfit Centro-Matic.

News of the December session leaked via an e-mail from that band's manager, Bob Andrews, to an inquisitive fan, who forwarded it (without Andrews's knowledge) to thousands of Son Volt lovers on two public discussion lists. Reached at his St. Louis office, Andrews sheepishly tells City Pages that he "can't talk about it," but that the "e-mail sums it up." According to the posting, Centro-Matic recorded three albums in a six-week session last summer at Farrar's studio in Milstadt, Illinois. Farrar must have liked what he heard: The e-mail says he asked Pence to collaborate on a new album next month.

Warner Bros. publicist Rick Gershon "can't confirm or deny" rumors of the band's status, but says he didn't know about Farrar's recent demo or the planned May session. "The last time I talked to Jay," Gershon says, "he said he was going to take time off to be a father." (Farrar's first child was born last year.)

Reached by phone in their Twin Cities apartments, the Boquists say only that Farrar's fatherhood was one of several reasons for the hiatus. Like Gershon, they haven't spoken to Farrar in several months, and didn't know about the solo recordings until contacted by City Pages. Dave says a "band meeting" is scheduled for "late spring." In the meantime, both brothers have found the downtime a jarring change of pace.

"Evening comes, and it's time to go to the office," Jim says. "But there's no office to go to."

It would hardly surprise either if Farrar ended Son Volt with little fanfare. The bandleader dropped his former steel guitarist, St. Paul resident Eric Heywood, by simply never phoning him again. Jeff Tweedy, who founded Uncle Tupelo with Farrar and was his close friend and roommate for several years, has said in numerous interviews that Farrar never spoke to him after quitting in 1994.

Fans can take heart that Tweedy's own band, Wilco, is still going strong. The group delivers a sequel to 1998's Mermaid Avenue in June, with more Woody Guthrie lyrics put to song, and plays Carleton College on May 6. (Anders Smith-Lindall)

South by South Beach

HELD IN THE BALMY pastel clubscape of Miami Beach, the Winter Music Conference is the South by Southwest of dance music, its yearly hordes of journalists, clubbers, and music-bizzers flying in from all over the mirror ball. Between March 25 and 29, the 15th-annual gala drew a slew of Twin Cities DJs, most there only as spectators. Still, Woody McBride's crisp, funky techno graced the Level the same night Jerry Bonham--a former Minneapolis gay-club DJ living in San Francisco--opened for Moby at Crobar. Drone, Jezus Juice, and Chris Sattinger had to content themselves paying eight dollars-plus for drinks and getting their music's worth on the floor.

Too bad that the two best pure-party DJs on hand proved disappointing live. New York hard-house king Armand Van Helden sounded overanxious and ultimately tedious at the Level. And what the hell happened to Fatboy Slim? At last year's Quest show, Norman Cook's decksmanship was as sharp, witty, and shamelessly crowd-pleasing as a good Jackie Chan flick. (Its flavor is best captured on London/Sire's forthcoming Essential Millennium). Yet at the Astralwerks party, Cook played entire records that deserved no more than two minutes' airing.

Maybe Slim just needed some inspiration. He might have found it in a pair of veteran DJs spinning elsewhere. At the Bar Room, NuYorican Soul man "Little Louie" Vega spent two hours overhauling simple house tracks into powerhouse displays of technique. The throng--older, blacker, and less industry-heavy than most Winter Music Conference crowds--roared and raised their hands, packing the floor until 5:30 a.m.

But Vega sounded dowdy compared Brooklyn's Danny Tenaglia, a jock who brings his legendary 12-hour DJ gig to Miami every year. This set marked his 25th anniversary as a DJ, and I understood why when I walked into Club Space at 6:00 a.m., where Tenaglia's party was still at rush-hour intensity. Working his flawless selection of hard house, he helpfully typed out track titles into a liquid-crystal-display board on his booth, slapping five over the side to fans. Sweaty, involving, utterly inspirational--the set was everything clubbing should be. (Michaelangelo Matos)

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