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By Austin Powell, Fri., April 17, 2009

Fred Nelson takes the last stand at Freddie's Place.
Fred Nelson takes the last stand at Freddie's Place.
Photo by John Anderson

The Day the Music Died

Since opening in December 2004, Freddie's Place has adhered to Freddie's Golden Rules for Live Music, as listed on a plaque near its front door, stating that performances on its outside stage end by 9pm and that sound levels monitored at its property line do not exceed 85 decibels. Last Saturday, at approximately 7:15pm, the South First Street restaurant was issued a noise violation warning by the Austin Police Department, after an officer measured the sound from the property line at between 74 and 80 decibels. The ambient sound level, when the band was not performing, registered 67 decibels. A second violation would result in a citation and fine of $500, while a third would result in an arrest.

In spite of the Live Music Task Force's conclusion in November that more time and research was necessary to address any issues involving decibel limits, City Council, as part of Austin Ordinance No. 20080226-028 from Feb. 26, clarified via Austin City Code Section 9-2-12 (Permit for an Outdoor Music Venue) that restaurants with live music should adhere to the previously established Austin City Code Section 25-2-808, which states in regards to restaurants: "Live entertainment is permitted if the amplified sound does not exceed 70 decibels, measured at the property line of the licensed premises." In other words, while the sound limit for restaurants was already on the books, now, its differentiation from outdoor music venues allows for easier enforcement. The amendment doesn't apply to restaurants within the Sixth Street and Warehouse entertainment districts and was effective immediately since the council found the circumstances to "constitute an emergency."

As a result, Fred Nelson, the owner of Freddie's Place, pulled the plug on the band that night and has since canceled 83 bookings for the remainder of 2009, a move that will affect more than 200 Austin-area musicians. "I'm very conscious of the fact we have neighbors, and I don't want to do anything to irritate them," states Nelson, who's hosted live music in Austin for 25 years, beginning at the Hickory Street Bar & Grill, "but there's no way of doing music and staying below 70 [decibels]."

The ordinance as it now stands could prove costly to any number of local restaurants outside of the exempted districts, including Threadgill's, Jovita's, Patsy's Cowgirl Cafe, the Parlor, Güero's, and Shady Grove, whose annual Unplugged at the Grove series could take on new meaning when it kicks off tonight, April 16, with James McMurtry and continues on successive Thursdays through May 21.

Robert Garza, executive assistant to Council Member Mike Martinez, says that affected restaurants could apply to have their zoning changed, though that would involve approval from the Austin Planning Commission. "The goal was to create more clarity and make for better enforcement," says Garza, a member of the Live Music Task Force. "The problem is that we're still trying to sort through the restaurants impacted, what their zoning is, what some potential fixes could be."


Two Turntables and a Microphone

"There's a lot to be said for the serendipity of record digging, finding that unexpected item that speaks to you and might lead you to discover new music that you never would have found otherwise," offers Eric Wallenstein, co-owner of local Backspin Records. The nation's second annual Record Store Day celebrates vinyl's timeless appeal this Saturday through the release of exclusive titles and free swag. Seeing as Bat City is uniquely blessed with some 14 vinyl outlets, it's no wonder the March 8 headline in The New York Times proclaimed, "In Austin, Vinyl Is Still Vital." Austin's finest, from Encore and Snake Eyes Vinyl to MusicMania and Breakaway Records, are commemorating the occasion with another record-store crawl, wherein receipts from one participating store dated April 18 will result in discounts at the remaining outlets. That should be a boon to local crate burrowers given that End of an Ear registered an 84% spike in vinyl sales during South by Southwest and is up nearly 50% for 2009, while Waterloo Records has posted double-digit increases over the past few years. Cheapo Discs, Antone's Records, and Backspin Records all cited similar findings for both their new and used vinyl, thanks in part to the popularity of USB turntables and the increased inclusion of free MP3 downloads with album purchases. "No one's holding their breath for a return to 1968, but the consensus is that vinyl is going to be a player," offers Doug Hanners, founder of the biannual Austin Record Convention.


Sent by Angels

The second coming of the Arc Angels is now. The Austin-bred supergroup – guitarists Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton with Double Trouble's Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton – officially disbanded in 1994 (see "Living in a Dream," May 14, 1999) but has regularly performed locally over the years, most notably a two-night stand at Stubb's in 2005 that's being released this summer as a DVD/CD package with three unreleased studio recordings. After a successful showing at SXSW last month, the Angels – minus Shannon – are gearing up for a full-blown reunion and new album, beginning on Wednesday with a three-night run at the Continental Club in preparation for a European tour with Bramhall's biggest fan and boss Eric Clapton (see "Welcome Wagon," May 25, 2001). "All of us are a lot more comfortable in our skin than we used to be," Layton stresses. "Every time we've come together to play, it seems like doors start opening, and we're ready to walk through them."


This Euphoria

Last Wednesday, April 8, David Garza helped break in ACL Stage Left, KLRU's new Web-based live music series, filmed in HD at the Austin City Limits studio. Against a black backdrop with stringed lights, the local crooner unraveled a 45-minute set of chameleon pop, lilted by "Just the Bass" and "2 Sinners in the Garden" from his latest, Dream Delay. According to Stage Left executive producer Bill Stotesbery, the series will focus primarily on lesser known acts and is scheduled to launch this summer on the new online channel, klru.tv. "There are a lot of kinks still to be worked out," he says, "but it's a really exciting prospect, because the show will be viewable at any time and from anywhere."


Singled Out: OTR's Top 10 Record Store Day Exclusives

The Jesus Lizard, Inch (Touch and Go singles)

Off the Record

Tom Waits Live From the Glitter & Doom Tour, "Lucinda," "Ain't Goin' Down to the Well" b/w "Bottom of the World"

Leonard Cohen, Live in London, "The Future" b/w "Suzanne"

The Flaming Lips & the Black Keys covers split, "Borderline" b/w "Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles"

Bruce Springsteen, "What Love Can Do" b/w "A Night With the Jersey Devil"

Jenny Lewis & Elvis Costello split, "Carpet Baggers" b/w "Go Away"

Pavement, Live in Germany LP

Sonic Youth & Beck covers split, "Pay No Mind" b/w "Green Light"

Arthur Russell, Love Is Overtaking Me (double LP)

Numero Group, This LP Crashes Hard Drives compilation


Random Play

• Just in time for Record Store Day, Eastside shop Trailer Space Records (1401-A Rosewood) reopens in style on Friday, April 17, with an all-locals bash featuring Tia Carrera, the Golden Boys, Manikin, Air Traffic Controllers, and the Stuffies, followed by Philadelphia's Kingdom and Austin punks Branch Davidians and Hate Cops on Saturday. "I want to make it a place to hang out and create a good energy for the local scene," says owner Spot, who's cleared up undisclosed probation issues that forced him to close last October.

• The Austin chapter of the NAACP canceled its plans to protest outside of Flamingo Cantina and Emo's in response to the venues' various changes in operation during the week of the Texas Relays, discussed in these pages last week. "We're going to work with them to address this issue in a positive way," says President Nelson Linder.

• The all-American boys of Reckless Kelly (scope "Red, White, and Reckless," July 4, 2008) are hosting a Celebrity Softball Jam at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock on Sunday, April 19, featuring performances by Ray Benson, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Paula Nelson, and Jason Boland, among others. Proceeds benefit Little League Baseball and the Miracle League. For more info, check out the Chronicle's sports blog, the Score, at austinchronicle.com/thescore.

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