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Playback: Forty Nights

Forty nights of live music? Piece of cake.

By Kevin Curtin, Fri., July 11, 2014

Yours truly at the Hole in the Wall, July 8, during French roadshow Les Skroks
Yours truly at the Hole in the Wall, July 8, during French roadshow Les Skroks
Courtesy of Josh Logan

I'll always look back on summer 2014 for accidentally attending shows 40 nights in a row.

Such a streak was never my intention. I only realized, in the last week of June, that I'd seen at least one band play every night since May 30. After that, continuing felt like a foregone conclusion.

This could happen to anyone. With thousands of bands playing in hundreds of clubs every month, Austin's live music scenario remains such that the more you know, the more you want to see. I felt less like a man on a mission than a moth drawn to the lamp of live music – a beacon that never goes out.

Of course, such a relentless lifestyle is no good for one's health (revisit "31 Nights," Sept. 10, 2004). My ears are ringing, memory's jumbled, back's sore, and I barely recognize those heavy-lidded eyeballs in the mirror. My car's fared no better. Someone smashed into the driver's side during a show and fled.

Many of these nights, I'd hit three or four venues. Last Saturday, I watched Miss Lavelle White, 85, sing at the Carousel Lounge, then caught an apprentice-level punk band, Marla Strange, at Trailer Space before heading to Mohawk for some metallurgy from Eagle Claw and American Sharks. My night of locals concluded down the street at Bull McCabe's for Mr. Lewis & the Funeral 5 – and all before playing a show myself!

During the run, I hit unfamiliar territories like dimly lit Airport Boulevard hideaway Skylark Lounge (see "Cold Sweat," June 13), where a predominantly black audience grooved to the soulful blues of Sly & the House Rockers. South, I hung out one night at the instantly popular Radio Coffee & Beer on Manchaca, which opened last month. Acts unknown to me also revealed themselves, including punk trio Xetas, co-fronted by ex-Foreign Mothers leader Kana Harris, and Wrenfro, which features Fastball's Tony Scalzo and Soulhat's Kevin McKinney.

For me, summer's ripping past in a blink. Late May feels like last week, and weren't the X Games just yesterday? In the back of my mind, I know I've preoccupied myself on purpose. By the time the next Chronicle comes out I'll have turned 30. There's no time to grow up when there's rock & rollin' to be done. Adulthood will have to wait another year.

15 Favorite Performances From 40 Nights

Xetas @Holy Mountain (May 30)

Breakout @Cheer Up Charlie's (June 1)

Gary Clark Jr. @X Games (June 8)

Blind Pets @Red 7 (June 13)

Christeene @Cheer Up Charlie's (June 14)

Happen-Ins @Sahara Lounge (June 18)

Headcrusher @Beerland (June 20)

Ramsay Midwood @Hole in the Wall (June 22)

Sage Francis & B. Dolan @Waterloo Records (June 25)

Chris Catalena & the Native Americans @North Door (June 27)

Sly & the House Rockers @Skylark Lounge (June 28)

Rosie Flores @White Horse (July 2)

Tameca Jones @Continental Club Gallery (July 3)

Johnny Walker & the E. Sixth Street Band @Hotel Vegas (July 4)

American Sharks @Mohawk (July 5)


Big Foot Chester Turns 20

Big Foot Chester circa 1995: (l-r) Angele Stavron, Bill Anderson, Walter Daniels, Stephanie Friedman, Davy Jones
Big Foot Chester circa 1995: (l-r) Angele Stavron, Bill Anderson, Walter Daniels, Stephanie Friedman, Davy Jones
Courtesy of Walter Daniels

Like the mutant offspring of Howlin' Wolf and the Gun Club, scuzz blues hysteria has blasted forth from Big Foot Chester into Austin clubs for two decades. Exactly two decades, in fact. The quintet, founded by harmonica wailer Walter Daniels, six-string master Bill Anderson, and punk guitarist extraordinaire Davy Jones, toasts 20 years in action on Friday at the Hole in the Wall.

While the anniversary celebration was planned as just that, the occasion's taken a new tone with Jones' recent diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer. The guitarist, who's mug should be chiseled on ATX's punk rock Mount Rushmore for his contributions to the Hickoids and recent Dicks reunions, has completed radiation and starts chemo next week.

"I feel better than I did in May when I was really on death's door," reports Jones, whose illness caused him to miss the Hickoids' European tour. "But I still can't go out, and it's killing me to miss this show with all my friends showing up and playing."

"Every member in Big Foot Chester is really sonic, but especially Jones," explains Daniels. "His tone is ferocious, and he's not about playing tidy. He's about going to the throat. It's strange to play these songs without him."

To fill the void, BFC's rallied the troops. Besides Daniels, Anderson, bassist Rice Moorehead, and drummer Trey Robles, an alternating cast of past members includes Rich Malley, Robbie Becklund, Stephanie Friedman, Angele Stavron, as well as guest musicians including Joe Doerr, Texacala Jones, Jo Walston, Jesse Sublett, Billy Steve Korpi, and Ted Roddy.

Money raised at Friday's show helps Jones in this tough time. A previous benefit at ABGB brought a flood of aid.

"The benefits and donations have been humbling and mind-blowing," chuckles Jones. "I've been such an asshole to these people, and somehow they still care for my well-being!"


Half Notes

› No surprise last week when notorious no-shows Death Grips disbanded, thus canceling their Fun Fun Fun Fest appearance. Again. The abrasive noise rap experimenters' vacant Black Stage slot will be filled by FFF alums Murder City Devils. The death knell also rings for Orange Stage headliners Death Cab for Cutie, replaced by fellow Northwesterners Modest Mouse.

Jason Shields, whose Cheapo Records shuttered in 2012, has been opening up his warehouse and liquidating an enormous backstock of CDs, DVDs, and vinyl. In late June, I crammed shoulder to shoulder with record collectors sweating over bins of Henry Mancini LPs and Robert Plant solo albums to score a stack of flat, black gems at $1 a pop. I also took home a pile of 25-cent 45s and a Silvertone acoustic guitar. Shields is raising money to open a new store called Tombstone Records and Relics. "Tombstone Warehouse," located at 4211 Todd Ln., will be open for a one-day sale Saturday, July 12, 10am-6pm.

› Are you bummed out by your child's straight-laced bassoon playing? Mother Falcon's Music Lab will open his or her mind by stressing creativity over technicality. The local indie orchestra's annual day camp workshops the necessary elements of starting a band: songwriting, arrangement, technique, picking a name, and performing. Two sessions run this month, July 14-19 and July 28-Aug. 2.

› Finally, an amplifier cabinet suitable for the Satan-summoning, eardrum-pummeling sounds of metal. Dillon Gerhardt's Worshipper Cabinets, a line made of Baltic birch tone wood and customizable with any desired speaker setup, showcases this weekend as a backline to the Well, Bearded Ox, and Sex Chamber at the Lost Well on Friday, and for Crypt Trip, Fogg, Oryx, Cross Builder, and Old and IIl at Spider House on Saturday. Hail volume!

› Experimental psych duo Zorch were caught on video collaborating in studio with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon and Gayngs founder Ryan Olson this week. Also, indie folk ensemble Wild Child continued their run of national TV appearances, performing the brassy "Stitches" on CBS This Morning.

› Bakers bring their baddest pie recipes to the table in an epic showdown of crust and filling for the 2nd Annual Red-Hot Hootenanny & Best-by-Golly Pie Contest at Spider House on Sunday. The bake-off and subsequent pie-eating contest raise funds for local radio cooperative KOOP 91.7FM. Providing a soundtrack for the chowdown are British rockers Nic Armstrong & the Thieves, the surf-rockin' spy-jazz sounds of the Boss Jaguars, and the drawling country twang of Dave Insley's Careless Smokers. $10, 7pm.

Antemasque, the new project featuring Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López of At the Drive-In/Mars Volta fame, hit Mohawk on Aug. 3 for the group's second live show. Tickets on sale now. Former Mars Volta member Marcel Rodríguez-López, brother of Omar, plays Holy Mountain next Thursday as Eureka the Butcher.

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