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By Austin Powell, Fri., April 16, 2010

Forsaking the Song, Part 8

The University of Texas Faculty Council Executive Committee became the fourth UT governing body to voice its opposition to the closing or "re-purposing" of the Cactus Cafe. The committee drafted a resolution demanding that "any decisions changing the administration and functions of the Cactus Cafe should have a full and open discussion among the various groups who have an interest in its mission."

"It's not really clear to me what the issue is or what the [Union's] goals are," relates Kevin Hegarty, UT's vice president and chief financial officer, a nonvoting member of the faculty council. "I was a bit surprised when the student access issue suddenly came up, because they have the new student activities center that will come online next summer.

"It seemed to me if it's an economic issue there would be models worth trying to cover the costs. I'd take the issue to patrons and see if there's a way we can solve the problem with the public instead of just making the problem go away. That's why I have to assume that the Union board would have discussed those kinds of things."

The Friends of the Cactus Cafe isn't quite as trusting. The local nonprofit had its own certified public accountant, Chris Yost, examine some of Cactus' financial records obtained through an open-records request. Consistent with previous Chronicle reports, Yost found that the closure of the Cactus and termination of the informal classes is being used for a 2% merit pool raise of $122,365 for staff over the next two fiscal years. In calculating the "avoidance of loss" in regard to the Cactus, Yost found that the estimated income was limited to $456,000, despite the fact that the actual gross income for 2008-2009 totaled $556,631. Likewise, in regard to "cost savings," the Union projected the advertising expenses for the Cactus at $30,000 when the actual cost was only $18,000 for each of the last two years. University Unions Executive Director Andy Smith could not be reached for comment.

FOTCC is also working on a business plan, to be presented in time for the April 30 Texas Union Board meeting, and notes that changing the Cactus' current liquor license to beer and wine only is a possibility, as there's an 8% tax difference between liquor and other alcohol. If sales were able to remain constant, that change would save an estimated $11,000 per year. Vice President for Student Affairs Juan González's open forum commences Wednesday, April 21, at 4:30pm. For more Cactusgate number-crunching, see "Weighing Cactus Cafe's Losses," News.

Piranha Records owner John Aleman
Piranha Records owner John Aleman
Photo by Austin Powell

Sittin' Sidewayz

How did a Phish-head from Lubbock become Round Rock's most prominent purveyor of Southern hip-hop? "I followed the money," answers John Aleman, owner of Piranha Records (1208 N. I-35), about 15 minutes outside of North Austin. "I started out with a whole jam band section, but it never took hold up here. I had to learn what Texas rap is all about, and quickly." Since opening in 2003, Piranha Records, much like Bernard Vasek's MusicMania closer to home, evolved out of necessity, with a section dedicated to DJ Screw and mixtapes from Chamillionaire and DJ Rapid Ric, plus in-stores from Trae, Slim Thug, and Devin the Dude. Along with Eastside DIY shop Trailer Space, eclectic purveyors End of an Ear, and blues beacon Antone's Records, Piranha is one of more than 700 music outlets nationwide taking part in the third annual Record Store Day on Saturday, celebrating independent retailers and the timeless warmth of vinyl with releases exclusive to the event. One such relic is Fucked Up's Daytrotter Sessions 7-inch, which is being pressed with 11 different covers paying tribute to the Canadian hardcore band's favorite shops, including Waterloo Records. For the occasion, Waterloo owner John Kunz is being interviewed live on the Fox Business Network, and Carrie Rodriguez works the cash register from 2 to 4pm. Keep an eye out for vinyl specialist Breakaway Records' new North Loop location, as well as the local shops participating in the record-store crawl, wherein April 17 receipts from one participating store will result in discounts at the others. See Music Listings for the complete list of in-store appearances.

OTR's Record Store Day Wish List

Arthur Russell, Calling Out of Context (Rough Trade) (double LP)

Bon Iver/Peter Gabriel split 7-inch, "Come Talk to Me" b/w "Flume" (Jagjaguwar)

Queens of the Stone Age, Feel Good Hit of the Summer (Interscope) (10-inch picture disc)

Moby Grape, "Rounder" b/w "Sitting by the Window" (Sundazed)

SP20 Casual Nostalgia Fest (Sub Pop)

John Fahey, The Yellow Princess (Vanguard)

Flaming Lips and Stardeath & White Dwarfs, Dark Side of the Moon (Warner Bros.) (seafoam green vinyl)

Let's Wrestle/Love Language split 7-inch "I'm So Lazy" b/w "Brittany's Back" (Merge)

R.E.M., Chronic Town EP (Interscope) (blue vinyl)

Rolling Stones, "Plundered My Soul" b/w "All Down the Line"

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Patty Griffin
Patty Griffin
Photo courtesy of Scott Newton/Austin City Limits

"Simple tunes played by complicated people." That's how banjoist Warren Hellman describes his old-time folk outfit the Wronglers. Co-founder of private equity firm Hellman & Friedman and a former president at Lehman Bros., Hellman's the Bay Area billionaire behind San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, a free outdoor event held annually the first weekend in October at Golden Gate Park, whose lineup this year features Austin's Carolyn Wonderland and Patty Griffin, plus Steve Earle, among others. Now the 75-year-old venture capitalist carries his own tune, having taken lessons from Jody Stecher of the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band and forming the Wronglers. The sextet recently released its debut, Jamming to Faint Praise, and camps out at this weekend's stacked Old Settler's Music Festival at Salt Lick Pavilion. "We're coming a day early, and we rented a camper," enthuses Hellman, who hopes to catch the Band of Heathens, Alejandro Escovedo, and Hardly Strictly regular Joe Ely. "We rehearse like crazy, at least two days a week. I think we've risen to levels of new mediocrity."

Beyond City Limits

Moving even further out of Travis County jurisdiction, Austin City Limits producer Terry Lickona attended a reception for the new exhibit "Great Music. No Limits." at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland on Wednesday. The display features the iconic images of ACL staff photographer Scott Newton along with a variety of ephemera. Let's hope Neil Young will be adding new artifacts to the collection – there's an open date after his Twisted Road stop at the Bass Concert Hall with Bert Jansch on June 5. More likely is a collaboration between Sarah Jarosz and Decemberists offshoot Black Prairie during her ACL taping later this month. Prior to a cameo during SXSW, Jarosz and the folk revivalists cut "Queen of the Silver Dollar" for Sugar Hill Records' Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein. Old Settler Patty Griffin, who raises sand alongside Buddy Miller in Robert Plant's new Band of Joy, chops down "The Giving Tree" on the comp and returns to ACL on Monday.

Get Thee Behind Me, Satan

Robert Duvall could play himself in a biopic about Billy Joe Shaver, and judging from the antics at the McLennan County Courthouse last week in Waco, there's a hell of a script waiting to be penned. Like an outlaw version of The Untouchables, both Duvall and Willie Nelson showed up to support the 70-year-old country singer, who faced charges of aggravated assault for shooting Billy Coker in the face at Papa Joe's Texas Saloon in Lorena in March 2007, and deflected the prosecution's claim that he acted out of jealousy after Coker talked with his wife, Wanda, boasting, "I get more women than a passenger train can haul." After less than two hours of deliberation, Shaver was found not guilty on Friday but still faces a charge of unlawful carrying of a handgun by a license holder. The honky-tonk hero didn't show for the Austin Outhouse reunion at Giddy Ups on Saturday, but Shaver did take the stage the previous night at the Firehouse Saloon in Houston, where – shortly before Dale Watson delivered his tribute to the incident, "Where Do You Want It" – he claimed, "I'm getting the damn bullet back." That's not country; that's gangsta.

Random Play

Where the Wild Things Are director Spike Jonze spoke at the UT Radio-Television-Film Master Class on Tuesday evening, but details remain scarce for his collaboration with the Arcade Fire, a short film that's scheduled to be shot locally. Jonze has also expressed interest in Austin's Finally Punk. "Not to book them," clarified casting director Vicky Boone via e-mail, "but to see if they can recommend any female teenage punk rock girls."

Spoon joined TBS' Conan O'Brien in Eugene, Ore., on Monday for the opening night of his The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour, which breaks a leg at a nearly sold-out Austin Music Hall May 14.

Signing off his Blue Monday set with Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Change It," revered local deejay Larry Monroe said it would be his last pledge drive with KUT.

Sir Elton John broke Luciano Pavarotti's record for the highest grossing concert ever at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday, raking in $1,308,000 in ticket sales. See "Live Shots."

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