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Playback: Endtroducing

Record Store Day: Don't forget the actual record store, America's 'musical town square'

By Kevin Curtin, Fri., April 20, 2012

Minor toughs: Spoon backstage at Red 7, with Chris Gray (second from right)
Minor toughs: Spoon backstage at Red 7, with Chris Gray (second from right)
Photo by John Anderson

Austin's a special place. I came here in a camper three years ago and couldn't leave. Michigan was my home before I went nomad, driving for years and eventually dropping anchor in Texas. This city changed my life. I live in a house now and play mandolin in a band called Cunto!, a folk-punk shit show, unbeknownst to the circle of traditional pickers in my family. The writer of this column's predecessor, Margaret Moser, found me working in a South Austin head shop and introduced me to the Chronicle. I live for music. I'm at shows, in the stores, on the streets following the sounds. I'm with you, waiting in line to see my favorite acts every night – sneaking in if the show sells out. I believe a concert can change your life. I believe DIY spirit is relevant at even the highest levels of music. I believe in the present. Jaded "back in the day" people be damned! Inspiring music is all around you, but you'll never hear it if you're caught up in talking about how cool Austin used to be. I believe barriers between bands and audiences deserve to be knocked over so we can all sing into the same microphone. And I believe this clusterfuck is a community.

Record Store Day

Hotbox: Uncrating the Willie Nelson statue
Hotbox: Uncrating the Willie Nelson statue
Photo by John Anderson

Don't think of Record Store Day as a chance to nab rare vinyl, like a limited-edition 7-inch from the Black Angels with two delicately performed tracks: "Watch Out Boy," which rides a respiring harmonium, and the beautiful oldies rewind "I'd Rather Be Lonely." Or rising bluesman Gary Clark Jr. pressed to wax with Presents HWUL Raw Cuts Vol. 1. Such primo pieces can promote a mentality of exclusivity in a necessarily democratic environment when in fact the day is about the record store, one of America's key institutions. "It's the musical town square, a meeting place where us music geeks go connect with others like us," says John T. Kunz, owner of Waterloo Records. Experience one on April 21, and come back often.

MusicMania Relocates Slightly

MusicMania has relocated – three doors over in the same lot that's been its home for 23 years. The move is a slight downsizing, one owner Bernard Vasek attributes to the ever-declining recorded music industry. Still, the savvy Vasek has found sustenance in niches, among them Latin dance, Southern soul, and Texas rap. Music Mania was the first store in Austin to sell DJ Screw mixes, and Vasek was hosting Trae, Lil' Flip, and Slim Thug before they even had a CD out.

Breakaway: New Label, Old Records

Playback: Endtroducing

Breakaway Records' new boutique label Drop Shadow is re-releasing two Sixties-era singles from defunct San Antonio label Wildcat. The double A-side 45 will be available on Record Store Day, only at the North Loop shop. One side features an unfortunately named Tejano R&B group called the Wetbacks, and the flip features San Antonio sax legend Spot Barnett doing a frenzied version of "Summertime," a recording owner Gabe Vaughn assures us is "stupid rare."

Waterloo = Garbage

Garbage will be signing autographs at Waterloo Records between 4 and 5pm on Saturday before its sold-out show at La Zona Rosa. Customers purchasing the band's "Blood for Poppies" vinyl single or preordering its full-length CD can get merch signed.

Antone's 'Teen A Go Go'

Playback: Endtroducing

Teen A Go Go: A Little Film About Rock & Roll History Director Melissa Kirkendall and singer Rodger Brownlee of the Elite will be at Antone's Records on Saturday, 4pm, to discuss Fort Worth's influential teen scene of the Sixties as Mike Buck spins regional classics.

Trailer Space's 12XU Compilation

Gerard Cosloy's 12XU Records is celebrating Record Store Day in a supremely local way with a comp featuring new music by the Golden Boys, Flesh Lights, Naw Dude, and more. Profits go to Spot Long's Trailer Space Records, the homey record store with constant free all-ages shows. Bring Beer uses Trailer Space's run-down open sign as cover art, and listening to it is almost like going to a show there, minus the excitement of someone lighting off fireworks indoors.

Sundance Records Closes

Playback: Endtroducing

Three weeks back, I burned down to San Marcos' Sundance Records on the eve of its shutdown. The scene wasn't the depressing death throes I expected but a busy blowout, with long lines at the counter and owner Bobby Bernard surrounded by well-wishers. "It feels like Christmas," Bernard said about the last days. "Old customers and old employees here expressing their love of this store and what it meant to everybody. I'm humbled." I was overwhelmed in the crowded used-vinyl section until an employee lent a hand. Fuck Pandora; Greg Ellis is the best music recommendation service available. The longtime Sundance manager helped me choose the right Kinky Friedman album (self-titled), explained how Graceland reignited interest in African music (Rhythm of Resistance soundtrack), and justified buying Lowell Fulsom's Tramp, which I'd selected on cover art alone. Service so good is rare. So is working your dream job for 35 years.

Half Notes

Austin City Limits won a rare institutional Peabody award earlier this month. Pea-bodys recognize excellence in electronic media and, in this case, commend ACL's overall body of work. That's 38 seasons, if you've lost count. Executive Producer Terry Lickona counts Stevie Ray Vaughan and Leonard Cohen as his all-time favorite tapings, calling the latter's first performance "almost supernatural."

• As much as I love an easy joke, I can't say that Willie Nelson got "permanently stoned" because they cast his statue out of bronze. It is, however, being unveiled on 4/20 at 4:20pm. "Although we take no formal position regarding Willie's public advocacy for the legalization of marijuana, we like the humor of unveiling the statue on 4/20," says Vincent Salas on behalf of Capital Area Statues, Inc. The literally larger-than-life Willie is depicted in a bandana and braids with his guitar Trigger resting under his arm.

Spoon rarely plays venues as small as Red 7, but it did on April 11 for Chronicle alum Chris Gray, who suffered a heart attack last October. In its first local set since November's Fun Fun Fun Fest, Britt Daniel's guitar was extra loud, and the band shared looks of amusement during the breakdowns. With no auxiliary brass section, Daniel invited the capacity crowd to re-create the horns on "The Underdog" vocally and then played an extended encore.

The Belmont, under new ownership, has reopened as a legit concert space. The multilevel, open-air courtyard that was once home to pricey steaks is now dedicated to music and includes a large stage with new sound and lights. The West Sixth Street venue's second night saw Austin rock veterans ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead turn it on late and lock in for a hair-raising finale. Upcoming bookings for the 950-capacity venue include Mother Falcon, Salt 'N' Pepa, and RJD2.

• Fantasy metal powerhouse the Sword has signed a multi-album deal with New York label Razor & Tie. The local quartet's fourth LP and first with drummer Santiago "Jimmy" Vela III is slated for a fall release. Playing at Emo's East on Saturday, the Sword also perform at Metallica's Orion Music + More festival this summer in Atlantic City, promoted by C3 Presents.

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