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Off the Record

Music News

By Austin Powell, Fri., Aug. 19, 2011

For the Sake of the Song

The end of August marks the one-year anniversary of KUT's reign at the Cactus Cafe, an ideal benchmark at which to measure the station's progress thus far. As projected, the campus venue lost roughly $50,000 in operating expenses, not counting an additional $100,000 in upgrades to the sound and lighting systems that were installed in April. Both expenditures were pulled from KUT's general revenue – its business underwriting, in particular – a move that some would argue falls outside the nonprofit station's core mission.

"The justification would come from our belief in public service," counters KUT business manager Robert Cross, "and the Cactus is an iconic institution and an extension of that."

Those improvements will allow KUT to capitalize on occasions like the premiere of Robert Earl Keen's new album on Aug. 28, a benefit of sorts for the station that will be broadcast in its entirety the following evening. Moreover, KUT has demoed a new program, tentatively titled Sessions at the Cactus Cafe and hosted by Jody Denberg with producer David Brown of Texas Music Matters. The one-hour pilot episode features recent exclusive sessions with Alejandro Escovedo and the Civil Wars, the latter recorded in the Union Ballroom.

The venue's capabilities will be further bolstered by KUT's new $11 million facility in the College of Communications' Belo Center for New Media, scheduled for completion next July. "We'll be able to go live with the flick of a button in that new control room," says venue manager Matt Munoz. The station's also been approached by ESPN about sharing content for the new Longhorn Network.

While the venue's bookings have paled in comparison to the venue's long, rich history, the Cactus has created a formal internship program with the Butler School of Music and is looking to bring back the weekly open mic night this fall. However, the Cactus will close in December for up to four months as the Texas Union undergoes renovations to its sprinkler system.

"The plan has just been to get us through the closing," says Cross. "Those will be the months where we really start to look forward."

Chemistry of Life

Off the Record

"I already have a full-time job; I'm not trying to create another," replied Gerard Cosloy about the relaunch of his indie label 12XU (see "Slanted & Enchanted," Jan. 22, 2010). "Trying to put out more records on top of that is neither advisable nor necessary; it's just something I feel like doing." Following the release of Casual Victim Pile II in late February, the Matador Records co-founder has a slew of new releases in the works, beginning in October with Negative World, the full-length debut from local punks Cruddy, followed by a Naw Dude/Flesh Lights 7-inch split and singles from Fucked Up guitarist Young Governor and Carolee. New LPs from the Golden Boys and James Arthur's Manhunt are slated for early 2012. 12XU has an ideal visual counterpart in Rubberneck, a zine by local photographers Renate Winter and Jon Chamberlain that captures the Beerland standouts with, as Cosloy notes in the foreword, a Screaming Life aesthetic akin to Charles Peterson's iconic grunge snapshots. The first issue, a 24-page outing limited to 300 copies, features frameworthy black-and-white stills of A Giant Dog, Riverboat Gamblers, and the new Harlem spin-off, Grape Street. Order at www.rubberneckzine.com.

The Young Machines

Marc Bianchi aka Her Space Holiday
Marc Bianchi aka Her Space Holiday

Marc Bianchi returned to Austin, in essence, to bury his past. With the release of Her Space Holiday's self-titled album this week, the Bay Area transplant retires his longstanding electro-pop project. "I really started losing my footing, not even creatively but just in life," says Bianchi of the decision (see "Rise of the Machines," Nov. 7, 2003), which traces back to his last Japanese tour. "It just wasn't there anymore. I couldn't do it. It felt so foreign all of a sudden. For the past 15 years, I always knew what I wanted to do, and suddenly it was completely and utterly gone." Partially recorded at a Bastrop studio with a strong supporting cast that included David Wingo, Butcher Bear & Charlie, and former members of Attack Formation, Her Space Holiday offers a grand finale, a work of symphonic splendor that, even in moments of melancholy, radiates triumphantly. As for what comes next, Bianchi envisions a few select tour dates with a focus on film scores. "I just want to reset," he says. For the rest of the interview, visit austinchronicle.com/earache.

Bright Lights

Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr.

A decade in the making, Gary Clark Jr. has finally become an overnight sensation. The local guitarist received a glowing four-star lead review of his new EP, Bright Lights (see "Texas Platters," for review), in the latest Rolling Stone, which championed the 27-year-old local as "a genuine 21st-century bluesman, raised on the form in all its roughneck roadhouse glory but marked by the present day." Clark celebrated last Tuesday, Aug. 9, with his network television debut on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, sitting in with the Roots. "This mofo got this industry studded crowd in his hand," shouted Questlove on Twitter. "It was freezing in there," laughs Clark on the phone from Canada. "Everything's been a little surreal but a great honor." Following his current six-week tour, which concludes with an appearance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Clark's scheduled to complete his debut full-length for Warner Bros. with Arc Angels guitarist Doyle Bramhall II in the producer's chair. "If I can get away with it, I'm going in all of the directions at once," says Clark of the half-completed LP. "Blues is the foundation, but I'm doing some heavy soul and R&B." In the meantime, look for Clark strutting through the juke-joint blues of "Don't Owe You a Thang" in one of the opening scenes of Redemption Road, Mario Van Peebles' new film about an unlikely bluesman traveling through the deep South (see Film Listings next week for a review and showtimes).

Random Play

Disturbed bassist John Moyer is the latest to take exception to OTR's mentioning Cold drummer Sam McCandless' connection to Natural Ear Music School. "I've put in 15 years there, and I'm not sure he put even in 10 days," surveyed Moyer, a former member of Union Underground who got his start with Austin's industrial Soak (see "Knocking at Your Back Door," Aug. 22, 1997) and has been active with Natural Ear ever since. With Disturbed facing a long hiatus, Moyer plans on becoming director of the school and is seeking investors for a new location in the Bee Cave area. "Teaching is the way I've always stayed in touch with the local community."

Spoon and Chaos in Tejas Syrian spellbinder Omar Souleyman have been confirmed to rock the casbah that is the sixth annual Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores, Nov. 4-6. Transmission Enter-tainment has also added the Black Lips, Cannibal Corpse, and a bolstered Yellow stage bill that includes another Air Sex competition and the New Movement comedy crew.

Grassroots groover Charlie Mars has returned to Jack Rock's Hill Country studio for the follow-up to his KGSR breakout, Like a Bird, Like a Plane, coinciding with a Thursday residency at the Saxon Pub that runs through early September. "I am trying out new songs at the shows," writes Mars, a Mississippi native, "all of them."

Dallas' the Relatives have canceled this Friday's service at the Continental Club after frontman the Rev. Tommy West underwent emergency surgery on Wednesday to remove an undetermined growth. Following an Australian tour and an opening date with Mavis Staples at the Lincoln Center, the dapper gospel-soul congregation was also scheduled to begin recording a new album with Spoon's Jim Eno this weekend. "We hope and pray that people will enjoy it and that it will bless the people," his brother, the Rev. Gean West told OTR last week. "All the praise and the glory go to God."

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