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Booker T. and Xiu Xiu play Mission Creek shows tonight

BY CAROLINE BERG | MARCH 31, 2010 7:30 AM

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Booker T. Jones knows how to take the church marm out of the organ and put in the funk. Nearly half a century after his first hit, “Green Onions” with his band Booker T. and the MGs, Jones creates and collaborates on albums that continue to garner awards for the 65-year-old.

“From an early age, I have had musical ideas in my mind,” the winner of a lifetime achievement Grammy Award wrote in an e-mail to The Daily Iowan. “At some point, I realized some of [these ideas] were unique.”

Jones is now on tour, fresh off a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album for his 2009 Potato Hole. The Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., will host Jones at 8 p.m. today as part of the Mission Creek Music Festival. Admission is $29.

He spent his childhood not only serving as organist at his church but also tuning up his multi-instrumental aptitude playing the oboe, trombone, saxophone, and piano. Since he first entered into professional music at age 16, Jones has enjoyed mixing rhythms and sounds with such notable artists as Otis Redding, Albert King, Elton John, and Willie Nelson.

The ’80s were troublesome for Jones, when he began selling real estate to balance himself financially in a faltering music industry. However, no matter the hurdles and curve balls, he proved his mettle for a long-running career in music.

“The only one thing you can control is your own abilities, so I try to practice piano, guitar, and voice on a regular basis to either get better or maintain my level of proficiency,” he said. “I would hate to have to give up music.”

Another star in the Mission Creek lineup, Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart also discerns a fundamental need to live a life with music. Despite the societal and personal pressures he observed in his eight years with Xiu Xiu to “move on” from his punk-rock lifestyle, Stewart persists.

“Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot of self-doubt,” he said. “But when I consider quitting [music], I feel even worse.”

The band will perform at Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington St., at 8 p.m. today. Admission is $8.

“The personal aspects [of making music] include the opportunity for me to try to clarify the incredibly intense and confusing emotions I feel,” the 38-year-old singer/guitarist/techno programmer said. “Writing songs about these feelings [of self-loathing and self-doubt] is an attempt to be unashamed about feeling that way.”

Stewart, who studied social work in school, said the band seeks to incorporate a new benefit for each road tour. Now, Xiu Xiu’s goodwill efforts are channeled toward At the Crossroads, an outreach organization for homeless youth and young adults in San Francisco.

The two main issues on Stewart’s mind are human trafficking, which he wrote a song about on Xiu Xiu’s latest album Dear God, I Hate Myself, and global warming. Still, Xiu Xiu concerts are not a picket or activists’ rally.

“I really hope that people in the audience find some sort of personal feeling in the music,” Stewart said. “But it’s never us as a band trying to force a manifesto on anyone.”


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