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Despite originating as a college prank, the Wannabes emerged in the early 1990s as one of Austin’s most reliably potent pure pop bands. Drawing on a mix of the Kinks, Buzzcocks, Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, and whatever beer is on special, the local quartet’s songcraft and raffish wit simply hit the spot. The band’s roots stem back to a 1985 talent show as the Madonna Wannabes at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Hunter Darby and childhood chum Jennings Crawford (guitar/vocals) began gigging as the Wannabes shortly thereafter with vocalist Michael Comiskey and drummer Jeff Nichols. Encouraged by catching Austin acts Zeitgeist (the Reivers), Wild Seeds, and Doctors’ Mob, Crawford and Darby departed for Austin in 1987 and solidified a new Wannabes lineup with guitarist Kevin Carney and drummer Thad Swiderski. By 1989, the quartet had become the de facto house band at the Cannibal Club, often filling in for cancellations. Reivers’ guitarist/vocalist John Croslin shepherded the ‘Bes into the studio to record the 1990 cassette, Lucky Pierre, which received positive notice in Rolling Stone. The quartet signed with San Marcos-based Dejadisc to record 1994’s Mod Flower Cake and 1995’s Popsucker. The latter’s sonic strength garnered the band three Austin Music Awards in 1996 as well as the “Best Alternative Album” award from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors. The band left Dejadisc later that year. The Wannabes' next LP, 2000’s Decade of Moral Fumbles, included all of Lucky Pierre along with several newer tracks. Steve McCarthy replaced Swiderski shortly after the album’s release. In 2004, former Hey Zeus bassist-turned-TV producer Rob Thomas demonstrated his fealty for the band by using “Atomic Girl” on the pilot episode of Veronica Mars. The Wannabes celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2005. – Greg Beets

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12/19/15 @ Hole in the Wall
Debbie Does 60

Debbie Rombach’s heart beats in time with the Hole in the Wall, where she spent a quarter-century as a bartender, booker, and eventual owner – helping transform the once-folkie Drag dive into a rock & roll hotbed. Austin’s alternative rock heyday thus returns to toast Rombach’s health. Saturday’s nine-act party unites lovably obscene punk futurists Pocket Fishrmen, dork-rock boy band Peenbeets, sonic pop gang Wannabes, and Paul Minor’s HITW staple free-for-all Superego, but the biggest candle-blowing gust comes from Joe Doerr and Bill Anderson reuniting proto-grunge mentalists Hand of Glory.

05/29/15 @ Hole in the Wall

Cancer survivor in the making, longtime local punk MVP Chepo Peña enjoys another love-in/benefit wherein fellow music faithful gather to raise money for the energetic bassist currently undergoing chemo. A mouthwatering lineup of Nineties all-stars/oddballs reclaims the Drag-bound landmark as ground zero for the scene. The 10-band affair (8:30pm-2am) unearths the Peenbeets, Fivehead, Inhalants, Wannabes, and Powder Snatch, a partial reunion by fem punks Power Snatch. The main attraction will be a rare performance by erstwhile indie rock breakouts Sincola, for whom the guest of honor thumped.

01/24/15 @ The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.
Brentmas: Reivers, Wannabes

SXSW Creative Director Brent Grulke wore many hats. As Chronicle Music editor, sound man, road manager, and co-producer of authoritative 1985 compilation Bands on the Block, he was an astute-yet-affable architect of Austin’s latter-day musical prominence. Grulke died of cardiac arrest following oral surgery in 2012 at age 51, but friends still celebrate his Jan. 25 birthday, which the man himself coined “Brentmas.” This year’s edition features the soaring Southern pop strains of the Reivers, beery bar light salvation from the Wannabes, SuperEtte’s sneering indie triangulation, and Bruce Salmon’s old country folk/blues hybrid. Free, 7:45pm.

01/25/14 @ Carousel Lounge
A Brentmas Celebration

Brent Grulke was born Jan. 25, 1961, a date he jokingly dubbed “Brentmas.” SXSW’s creative director died of a heart attack in 2012, but his legacy as an unwaveringly enthusiastic music fan and connoisseur of Guinness-infused fellowship ensures Brentmas’ continuance. Reunited Lawrence, Kan., post-punk inciters the Pedaljets and veteran local lager-pop contrarians the Wannabes headline this year’s observance. Veronica Mars faves the Rite Flyers and Stickpony foal Austerity Measures bolster the hosanna chorus along with debuting Doctors’ Mob/Reivers/Dharma Bums amalgam My Luck.

08/09/13 @ Carousel Lounge

“If you’re not dead by August,” proclaimed the Wannabes on 1990’s Lucky Pierre, “you’re not dead.” A bumper sticker-worthy encapsulation of life in this slow furnace still resonates nearly three decades later as lake levels drop and Lost Pines burns. Recognized with a mayoral edict proclaiming “Wannabes Day” in 2011, the local quartet remains a genuine Austin institution. Even though their prescient “Don’t Move Here” T-shirts failed spectacularly, their well-crafted barroom pop anthems remain the perfect analgesic for wistful yearnings of all stripes.

02/22/13 @ The North Door
Cher U.K., Wannabes

Bar rock/tabs extraordinaire.

09/08/12 @ ACL Live at the Moody Theater
See that tattoo of the horse encircled by flames on the Grulkefest poster? I watched as my late ex-husband Rollo Banks applied it to the late Brent Grulke’s upper arm at the old China Sea Tattoo Company on Guadalupe sometime around 1985. I can still remember the tobacco-stanky walls, lined in brilliantly colored flash, and Brent wincing without complaint as Rollo sank the ink in his flesh.

Neither of those gentlemen are with us now, but come Saturday at the Moody Theater, they’ll be watching what we’re doing down here. That’s celebrating the life of Brent Grulke – father, husband, friend, family – with a perfect group of usual suspects: True Believers, Sixteen Deluxe, Fastball, Doctors’ Mob, Glass Eye, the Reivers, the Wannabes, Wild Seeds, and whoever else will be moved to get onstage and deal with the crushing pain of losing, not just a friend, but a beloved and integral part of the local music community.

Those are the right bands for the occasion, too, a loose gathering of post-punk and so-called “New Sincerity” survivors with a touch of early Nineties zeitgeist. At one end of the through line, Alejandro Escovedo and Jon Dee Graham anchor the True Believers with marching, charging guitars, while at the other Carrie Clark and Frenchie Smith summon Trance Syndicate Records’ neutron fuzz bomb. At all points in between regroup Cinderella stories (Fastball), Daniel Johnston-inspiring art rock (Glass Eye), cult indie legends (the Reivers, neé Zeitgeist), eternal ATX bar rock (the Wannabes, Doctors' Mob), and the anthemic cutting edge of Brent’s collaborative past (Wild Seeds).

While we at the Chronicle remember Brent Grulke as Music editor, it was his position as creative director of South by Southwest that honed his sharp vision and exquisitely good taste into never-to-be-forgotten showcases. And if it’s true that music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, it will be conjured over and over to ease this staggering loss. Proceeds benefit the Graham Grulke Education Fund.

09/07/12 @ ND Austin
ND First Birthday
Electric Lounge MC Hamell On Trial returns to fete its successor venue along with Blind Pets, Moonlight Towers, Wannabes, and boy + kite.
01/28/12 @ ND Austin
K-NACK @ 20: Night Two
Deja Phooey: K-NACK Homegroan Volume Two from 1994 remains a hell-and-gone Austin indie summit, scene stalwarts of the grunge era reaching back a decade in celebration of the former local radio frequency, 107.7FM. Fastball performing Tommy Tutone’s “Jenny (867-5309),” Dead Horse boiling “Rock Lobster” (B-52’s), the Cherubs’ syrupy “I Want Candy” versus Auschwitz 46’s industrial “Whip It.” Volume Three’s prescient sampling included Spoon and Sixteen Deluxe. The second night of star-studded local band reunions relives main deejay Ray Seggern and Electric Lounge magnet Mike Henry’s salad years with: Wannabes (12mid), bug/Splinter (10:45pm), Gomez (TX) (9:30pm). Remind the Wannabes of their Homegroan Haircut 100 cover!
06/16/04 @ Hole in the Wall
Wannabes, Britt Daniel
Reunion of Austin’s glorious pop past teamed with Spoon’s cassette-deck-loving frontman.
Last Updated: March 11, 2009

Origin: 1985
Genre: Pop/Rock
Austin Music Awards:
1995: Best Pop
1994: Best Pop
Full Discography:
Mod Flower Cake
Dejadisc (1994)
Dejadisc (1995)
A Decade of Moral Fumbles
Plethorazine (2000)
From the Archives:
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Page Two: In Memoriam (November 4, 2011)

Biff Parker (Steven Stelmach), 1962-2011
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TCB (Music Column December 31, 2004)

Closing out the year by considering the persistent question: Are there too many bands in Austin?
Public Notice (June 15, 2001)

Celebrate the emancipation of Texas slaves (albeit, two and a half years late) on Juneteenth!
Public Notice (June 8, 2001)

Austin's wheely hot this week and next with these fine skating fundraisers!
Dancing About Architecture (Music Column August 18, 2000)

Ritalin Kids sign a record deal; Steve Wertheimer gets wet all over.