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Spring is here and there are more music festivals than bluebonnets

By Christopher Gray, Fri., April 16, 2004

TCB
Illustration By Nathan Jensen

Festival Fever

Besides baseball, allergies, and income taxes, the surest sign of a Central Texas spring is the glut of post-SXSW music festivals, which blanket the area like roadside bluebonnets this time of year. First up are the Old Settler's Fest (see "Pick-Me-Up Hoedown," p.66) and the 11th annual Austin Marley Fest, which takes over Auditorium Shores noon-10pm Saturday and Sunday. Getting right with Jah will be San Marcos' Carlton Pride and Joe "King" Carrasco, Dallas' Spoonfed Tribe, Houston's D.R.U.M., Minneapolis' Dred I Dread, and locals Azul, Fire & Isis, Echo Squad, Stop the Truck, and Tribal Nation. Admission is $7 plus two nonperishable items for the Capital Area Food Bank; two-day passes are available for $10. A free shuttle pickup is at the Austin Music Hall.

Next Saturday brings the return of UT's 40 Acres Fest, now in its 12th year of hooking top talent to entertain thousands of happy Horns at no charge. This year's roster is easily on par with past bookings like Ludacris and Medeski Martin & Wood: red-hot Philly duo Young Gunz; reformed Goodie Mob soulman Cee-Lo; round 'n' profound hick-hopper Bubba Sparxxx; and Canadian New Wavers Metric. And who should turn out to be co-chair of the music committee? None other than former Ark Entertainment promoter Noah Balch, now pursuing both an M.B.A. and law degree. "It's a lot of work, but I'm enjoying it," says Balch, also president of the UT Sports, Entertainment & Media Organization. Balch charged each member of the eight-person committee to find a local band they'd like to book, and they came back with Wideawake, KJV, DJ Mel, Canoe, Two Guy Trio, iSOLA, the Good Looks, and Buddy Revelle. Balch is impressed with the entirely student-produced event, saying, "This whole day is really well-organized." The locals begin at noon on the East Mall stage, with Metric cranking up the South Mall main stage at 6pm.

Brand-new this year is the Austin Music Foundation's Spotlight Series, which happens Saturday, May 8, up and down Red River. "The idea was to start a little smaller, but other clubs wanted to participate," says AMF co-founder Nikki Rowling. The final tally comes to 34 local acts on seven stages at five clubs: Emo's, Stubb's, Headhunters, the Caucus, and Red Eyed Fly. Scheduled to appear are A-listers like I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness, Young Heart Attack, Broken Teeth, Dynamite Boy, DJ Cassanova, Mirage, and Tia Carrera, who unfortunately had $200 of cash and merchandise stolen while playing an Ecology Action benefit at Headhunters last Saturday. Anyone who saw/heard anything should e-mail tiacarrera1970@yahoo.com. Rowling is confident both newbies and die-hard Red River rats will find something to their liking, and she's quick to point out it's not a fundraiser. "I doubt we'll make a dime off this," she says. "We haven't asked any of these bands to play for free." Wristbands good for entry at all five clubs are on sale now for $20 through Front Gate Tickets, and all five venues will be wristband-only that night. (See www.austinmusicfoundation.org for more.) Basically, it's shaping up as a de facto dry run for the Louis Meyers-produced Red River Festival, currently slotted for the weekend of June 18. More on that one soon.

TCB
Photo By Gary Miller

Go Ask Alice

Alice Cooper, right, joins buddy Billy Bob Thornton at last Saturday's rain-soaked Gridiron Heroes benefit at Auditorium Shores. Thornton and Cooper duetted on "I'm Eighteen," before the Mascaraed One took center stage for "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Under My Wheels." Although Jack Ingram and Cory Morrow were cut due to the heavy lightning, Thornton resurfaced to assist headliners Tim McGraw and Faith Hill for a finale of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

Catscratch (l-r): Danielle Starry,  Lia Powers,  Tracey Crossett
Catscratch (l-r): Danielle Starry, Lia Powers, Tracey Crossett
Photo By John Anderson

Tracey Crossett 1987-2004

Tracey Crossett, bassist for popular teen punk band the Quicks, formerly Catscratch, died Easter Sunday following a drug overdose. She was 17. A National Merit Commended Scholar, Crossett graduated last month from Lake Travis High School, finishing in two years and seven months. Crossett was also a longtime participant in the local Natural Ear Music Camp, first enrolling at age 7 and eventually becoming director Michele Murphy's assistant last summer. "She pretty much took over the beginning groups," Murphy said Monday. "She'd get right down on the floor with them." Murphy remembered Crossett as much more than a star pupil. "When she was 9, I felt she was a friend of mine, not just a student – one of those old souls." Crossett, who interned at Tequila Mockingbird last year, planned on starting classes at ACC this summer and wanted to start her own music production company. The Quicks had just played Ego's punk rock barbecue Saturday afternoon, and "her dad said it was the best show they ever had," said Murphy. "Her life was too short and our hearts are crushed," Crossett's mother Faye wrote via e-mail Monday. "However, we would like everyone to remember the positive attributes about Tracey – she had so many." Crossett is survived by her parents and older brother. Funeral services are 3pm today (Thursday) at Lakeway Church, 2203 Lakeway Blvd.

TCB
Photo By John Anderson

Scene Stealers: What Made Milwaukee Famous

What Made Milwaukee Famous owes its existence to this very publication. When singer/guitarist Michael Kingcaid took out a few lines in the Chronicle Classifieds' "Musician's Referral" section in summer 2002, he beat keyboardist Drew Patrizi to the punch.

"When I saw his ad, I was about to run an ad with a couple of the same references," says Patrizi. "I was like, 'I'm going to look one more time,' and then I saw his."

"Serious, dedicated, like-minded individuals ..." recounts Kingcaid.

"It didn't say 'responsible,' did it?" asks Patrizi.

"Actually it did," nods Kingcaid, "but we threw that one out when we first started."

Taking no chances, Kingcaid took the extra step (and expense) of running a separate ad for each instrument. Patrizi perked up when he saw the Shins, Jeff Buckley, and Wilco, whereas drummer Josh Vernier heeded a heavier call.

"Matt Cameron [Soundgarden/Pearl Jam] hit me," the jazz-trained Vernier recalls. "Ginger Baker [Cream] hit me, too."

"No one knew what each other was going to do, but something came out instantly that sounded good," says bassist John Farmer, who's partial to Mike Watt and NoMeansNo. "It just came completely natural."

By design, WMMF's multilayered pop-rock is hard to pin down. Kingcaid and Patrizi's melodies can recall Grandaddy or the Flaming Lips, while Vernier and Farmer create a bottom better suited to an early-Nineties Dischord album. The whole thing might then stop on a dime and head somewhere else entirely.

"It might not even be on purpose," says Farmer, "but you hear something, and it's like, 'Wait, what did you just do?'"

What Made Milwaukee Famous, who are angling a June release for their debut, play Friday at the Parish with Shane Bartell and Matt the Electrician.

Bullet the Blue Sky

The artist formerly known as Earthpig, Adam Bork, has a short film, Dead People Cannot Talk to You or Do Anything, in this weekend's Salvage Vanguard Cinema festival at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. Bork will also provide the live soundtrack to Lance Myer's Subsidized Fate; other soundtrackers include Graham Reynolds, Peter Stopschinski, Adam Sultan, and the Transgressors.

Ladyfest Texas has lined up the Butchies, Ms. Led, Bonfire Madigan, and Anna Oxygen as headliners for its May 27-30 run. Last year's edition raised $5,000 for GENAustin and Juarez rape-crisis center Casa Amiga; 2004 beneficiaries are GENAustin and the Lilith Fund. See www.ladyfesttx.org for more.

Rock in style at the Parish Saturday for the return of Fabrication: Fashion for the Masses. With clothes by Elfgirl Designs, Jen Rea, Ruby Pearl, and Cucci Coup; tunes by Canoe, This Microwave World, and Svengali; and ambience by DJs Jason McNeely and Ben Craven, you know where all the beautiful people will be. 8:30pm.

"TCB" is tweaking the format of his Wednesday Beerland happy hours, which are in fact still going on. Starting this week (April 21), Western Wednesdays commence with a 7pm screening of Howard Hawks' classic oater Red River. (What else?) Happy San Jacinto Day!

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