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Playback: Lights Out for Jovita's

Run-ins at Jovita's, thieves in the night at Mohawk, and Lickona's feeds off of 'Austin City Limits'

By Kevin Curtin, Fri., June 29, 2012

Playback's beloved A-style mandolin, beaten to death onstage at Jovita's, March 11, 2011
Playback's beloved A-style mandolin, beaten to death onstage at Jovita's, March 11, 2011
Photo courtesy of Teven Hudgins

Who knew a fourth-rate Tex-Mex restaurant in South Austin was allegedly one of the area's major heroin distribution points? Last Thursday, Jovita's and several nearby properties were raided by local and national law enforcement agencies. Guns, money, and black tar heroin were seized and 18 people, including owner Amado "Mayo" Pardo, were arrested – effectively shutting down the live music venue.

I only performed there once, with my miscreant band Cunto! (which headlines this Friday at Hole in Wall). Perhaps I should have waited until later in the set to smash my mandolin into wood chips because I recall the angry sound woman saying, "Okay, that's your last song," and it was only our first. We squeezed out three more before she cut the sound. Despite the conflict, it was a solid performance, so we celebrated by smashing glass bottles over the creek that runs behind the venue. "Don't do that," a Jovita's staff member told us. "The owner lives right there!" If they had added that he was a twice-convicted murderer with Texas Syndicate ties, I would have cleaned up the mess.

Despite being 86'd from performing at Jovita's, I continued attending shows there. One night I went to see Kansas punkgrass trio Split Lip Rayfield, but the show was sold out, so I walked the perimeter looking for an alternate point of entry and found an old man guarding the side door. I offered to pay him the ticket price plus tip to let me into the show. "You can't bribe me. I'm the owner," he told me. I doubted that. He was kind of stooped over and talked like he was milked-out on Valium. I begged him to let me in. He eyed me up and down and went into a long story about how white people had fucked over his Indian ancestors. I agreed they probably had. He explained further that white people don't even have souls. I agreed that some probably don't.

Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman
Photo courtesy of Aaron Rimbey

Thinking we were finally on the same page, I asked, "So can you help me get into the show?" "No," he replied. "You should have bought a ticket before tonight." With no other option, I painstakingly copied the hand-stamp with a black marker and slipped through the front. Inside I saw Pardo. "Look, I got in!" I said. He didn't care. He had bigger things to deal with.

Smiles of a Summer's Night

Jonathan Richman doesn't compete. After playing only one song on Mohawk's outdoor stage Friday, the onetime Modern Lover stopped the show because sound from a rock band playing next door on the Club de Ville patio was bleeding in. Richman stated: "I don't do loud," and set off to rectify the situation. He returned with an update ("I'm not turning up. I don't play like that. That's not music."), and said if he wasn't able to continue, a refund would be in order. Mohawk personnel clarified: Club de Ville would move its bands inside. Thirty minutes after he began, Richman resumed his set, musing, "You have to play with a summer night, not against it. You see, a summer night sounds like this." He tickled the nylon strings of his classical guitar. "We can't fight with other musical aggregations. Not only is it unbecoming, it's not practical to the music and tonalities themselves."

During rapper El-P's headlining set at the same venue Saturday night, an audience member climbed onstage and snatched a ragged puppet named Mr. Killums off a mic stand. With a drive reminiscent of John Wilkes Booth after he shot Lincoln, the fan made his getaway, jumping off the side stage, running up the stairway, and almost climbing over the club's high wall, only to be nabbed at the last second by a Transformer-masked DJ who'd performed earlier in the night with Despot and Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire. The puppet thief got his ass handed to him by the DJ and nearby fans, and within seconds was tossed out the back exit. Mr. Killums, a hard partying squirrel featured in El-P's recent video for "The Full Retard," was returned to the stage, prompting the rapper to ask, "Do you really want to adopt someone like Mr. Killums? First of all, he's got a cocaine problem." The puppet's abductor was last seen running down Red River, bleeding from his face.

Cleveland Rocks; Austin Chows Down

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Austin City Limits came together last Thursday to announce that the PBS mainstay's archives are headed to Cleveland for public viewing at the Rock Hall's library. The collection features video, audio, photographs, and contracts from more than 800 performances. Rock Hall President and CEO Terry Stewart, who called ACL "one of the most significant archives that documents American culture," explained to Playback what an experience at the library will be like: "You sit at a kiosk and tell the attendant what you want to see and they queue it up. What's really cool is you can watch the complete performance and see songs and talking that the television audience didn't get to see."

Lyle Lovett (l) and Terry Lickona
Lyle Lovett (l) and Terry Lickona
Photo courtesy of KLRU-TV/Austin City Limits; Photo by Scott Newton

In related news, ACL honcho Terry Lickona is branching into the culinary realm with a new restaurant. As executive producer of the program that's helped brand our city a musical mecca, Lickona can talk about the "Austin vibe" with real authority. "It's casual and adventurous, where anything goes," he says. "Whether it's music or food. Everything is worth a try." Occupying a corner of City Hall that's currently Austin Java, the forthcoming Lickona's will be in the heart of Downtown – an area that could use a little Austin vibing. The eatery will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a menu focused on regional Texas and Gulf Coast fare. Lickona says the restaurant will transform into a music venue after dinner and feature live music nightly. "People ask me if whoever is playing ACL Live will come over and perform," Lickona says. "Anything's possible, but I see it as more of a showcase for new and emerging talent." There's little doubt the restaurant, which he hopes to have up and running by the end of summer, will be a destination spot for people attending ACL tapings, which don't offer food.

Half Notes

Bob Mould will be performing Sugar's 1992 debut, Copper Blue, in full at Fun Fun Fun Fest in November. Mould formed Sugar after making a name for himself fronting the pivotal punk band Hüsker Dü in the Eighties. Other recently leaked FFF7 artists include Rakim, who canceled last year due to injury, pop-punkers Lagwagon, and Seattle folk-pop saviors the Head and the Heart.

Tim O'Conner, owner of the Backyard at Bee Cave, was in the hospital last week. Seton Hospital confirmed he was under their care, but when I walked up to his room with a "get well soon" card on Monday, he was gone. A nurse told me he checked himself out over the weekend. No confirmation on what ails O'Connor, but we wish him a speedy recovery.

• The first annual Fire Fest goes down this Saturday in Southeast Austin near McKinney Falls. The 24-hour campout, beginning at 3pm on Saturday, features 20 bands including Wild Child, Gobi, Leopold and His Fiction, and the Black and White Years, and will be hosted by Irish music consultant BP Fallon. Two features that set Fire Fest apart from the field of summer festivals are its firework detonation zone and massive on-site water balloon fight.

• Austin based alt-country outfit Deadman, led by singer Steven Collins, demonstrates its appreciation for Levon Helm and the Band with a tribute set at the Peace and Love Festival in Sweden on June 30. Joining them is beloved keyboardist Garth Hudson, who's choosing the set list. "Deadman is proud to represent Austin at this tribute to one of the most influential and important bands in the world," says Collins.

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