Playback: Off With Their Fez!
Lovejoys gets priced off of Sixth Street, Swan Dive pulls back from live music, and the Blind Pets plot their own fundraising scheme.
Amidst rumors of demise, Lovejoys' owner Eric Wolf posted a statement on the Sixth Street bar's Facebook page on Sunday: "After struggling for the last few years with rising costs and decreasing revenues, we can no longer afford to keep the doors open at 604 Neches." Faced with ever-increasing rent, it was simply priced out of the expensive Downtown market. The popular dive, with varied imports and inexpensive craft beers on tap, was regarded by regulars as a Downtown counterpoint to the shot-bar shit show that surrounds it.
"I will miss Lovejoys," reflected singer and label impresario Jeff Smith. "It was a deep pool of soul in a sea of heartless asshattery."
Smith's corn-fed punk band of the last couple of decades, the Hickoids – descending on the Hole in the Wall next Thursday, July 26 – exudes an intelligence and sleaze on par with the brewpub's ambience. Six days a week, Lovejoys wasn't a live music venue, but on Thursday nights, it was one of the best in town, with $2 pints and free bands colliding for a perfect storm of dirty rock & roll revelry. Mostly local acts kicked it in front of the cloud mural, but occasionally the bar showcased larger-than-life acts including Roky Erickson and Gogol Bordello. Credit longtime employee Marcello Murphy for the unlikely venue's musical yield. He began booking bands six years ago as a temporary measure to drum up business and couldn't stop because they kept calling.
"This place defied all laws," laments Murphy. "It's the only bar I've ever been to where there's a traveling kid talking to a guy who makes six figures a year. That doesn't happen in nature, but it happens here."
While Wolf says he hopes to maintain normalcy until the bar's August 5 closing, they did book an abnormally heavyweight bill for the last Thursday (August 2), with Party Wizard, Honky, Amplified Heat, and Scorpion Child. Also, say goodbye on the last night at neighboring tattoo parlor Sailor's Grave, which will ink $20 Lovejoys fez tattoos for diehards.
Blind Pets and Bikinis
"Sometimes you have to step it up and wear a mankini," says guitarist/singer Josh Logan. "I just feel like if I'm going to be degrading women, I might as well be degrading myself." Logan will don a custom-made man bikini at Saturday's car wash benefit for the Blind Pets – not a charity for sightless animals, but a local rock trio raising money to press vinyl for its fourth album and first with former White Rhino frontman Michael Anthony Gibson on drums. "This band's been around for almost six years and I'll wash the dead bugs off your grill because I want to put out vinyl so much," promises Logan, who, along with representatives from East Side Bikinis, will be scrubbing cars. $5 buys a car wash (bring extra for merch), a raffle ticket for sweet local prizes, and free food and beer as well as live entertainment from the hosts, plus Black Pistol Fire, Shakey Graves, and Black Tabs. Says White Horse owner Denis O'Donnell, who's donating his parking lot and venue for the event, beginning at 3pm: "The Blind Pets are one of the hardest working bands in Austin. I'd pay to see them in bikinis washing my car." O'Donnell will help judge the freaky bikini/mankini contest, with a cash prize of $100. "It's in memory of Leslie and the guy who rides a bike wearing a flesh-colored thong," explains Logan. "These motherfuckers we look at and get a spurt of energy from because they crack us up." Take that, Kickstarter.
Megafauna: No Fear
The story of Surreal Estate, the new album by the prog-grunge locals Megafauna, begins with singer/guitarist Dani Neff finishing law school at UT. "The two things are so diametrically opposed: The law is rule-based and music is free and judged by emotion. I was living someone else's dream," she admits. That sense of being off-course inspired the new disc's lyrical themes, but more than that, Surreal Estate is a sea change album for the ocean-heavy trio. It favors seismic grooves over previous math rock angles and leaves more space for Neff's halcyon vocals, which are supersized by multi-tracked harmonies on this sophomore release. The hallmark of Megafauna's sound, Neff's raging guitar work, remains – though that may be all you recognize of the original trio. Standout bassist Will Krause left the band in early 2012 and longtime drummer Cameron Page laid down his sticks not long after. Megafauna's new-blood lineup features bassist Greg Yancey and drummer Zack Humphrey, both of whom helped slay a packed house at Mohawk's inside room two weeks back for the CD release show, slamming out old and new songs with precision while Neff shredded and sang about energizing your spirit and losing your fear.
Less Swan, More Dive
Swan Dive, the heavenly achromatic Red River club, is changing direction – moving away from nightly live bands, because people don't want to pay to get in. "We would see people look in and want to experience the lovely décor, but then keep on walking once they found out about the cover," says owner Harvey Graham. Now, he says, they're going to focus less on the "Swan" and more on the "Dive." "We're lowering our prices, getting rid of cover charges for the most part, and focusing on dancing, with Swan Dive being connected to Barbarella so that one can go back and forth between the two clubs with drinks." In other words, Swan Dive merges with the neighboring nightclub, both spaces sharing ownership. While DJs will monopolize the venue's entertainment schedule, old-timey acts will still grace Swan Dive's picturesque stage on Fridays and Saturdays.
› Shearwater has been chosen by Dinosaur Jr. to open on a nationwide tour this fall that includes an Oct. 4 date at Mohawk. Jonathan Meiburg, soul-slumbering frontman, is ecstatic: "Those guys have been heroes of mine for so long. I remember listening obsessively to Bug and to Sebadoh's Bubble and Scrape back in college, so I can't wait to see them every night for a month. I'm definitely packing my earplugs."
› The City of Austin Music Division is accepting nominations for the 2012 Austin Music Memorial, which honors dead musicians by adding them to a monument outside the Long Center. In the past four years they've honored Stevie Ray Vaughan, Janis Joplin, Doug Sahm, Randy "Biscuit" Turner, Clifford Antone, and Champ Hood. You have until Aug. 15 to nominate someone at: www.austintexas.gov/austinmusicmemorial. In other municipal news, the Music Division is recommending that City Council pass a Music Venue Assistance Program, which would provide low-interest loans to venues for sound mitigation gear that will improve acoustics and reduce noise complaints.
› An announcement was made Tuesday that the Austin Music Hall, owned by OmniBank, which reclaimed the music venue at a foreclosure auction in May, is now under new management. Jason Hicks, owner of event production team the Electric Company, will provide in-house concert support via his team as general manager. $250,000 worth of capital improvements are promised, including much-needed acoustic upgrades by Nomad Sound, along with better AC and cosmetic improvements.