Hitting the Half-Pipe

South Austin skate park is hosting bands amid noise complaints

Versatile Skate Park at 3503 South Lamar: the future of U21 rock in Austin?
Versatile Skate Park at 3503 South Lamar: the future of U21 rock in Austin?

I’ve never been one for extreme sports so I’ve never had reason to go to a skate park. Yet while extreme sports have never been my style, rock & roll always has, so when Versatile Skate Park on South Lamar began booking shows, I paid them a visit.

While Versatile Skate Park (3503 S. Lamar, 902-5082) is not technically a full-fledged venue (you probably need to rent a PA if you intend on hosting live music), it definitely has its own indie-chic appeal to the under-21 crowd. There is no stage, which can be nice in that it eliminates the usual barrier between the band and the crowd, and the backdrop of high-flying BMX bikes gives the show a unique ambience. Also, the shows have to be over by 10pm due to the new noise ordinances, and while I think that these ordinances are ultimately detrimental to our live music capital, I have to admit it’s nice to see a show ending at 10pm as opposed to 2am.

For Hours and Ours kicked off the evening with an energetic set complete with trumpets, synths, and wild group vocals. While they aren’t on the forefront of Austin’s indie scene these guys have been building steady underground momentum. However, it was the second act that really caught my attention. Speak, a recent edition to local label Playing In Traffic Records, should be on your radar. Besides having a live performance so tight it’s intimidating, this group crafts an impressively clever and enjoyable brand of synth-pop. Troupe Gammage’s powerful vocals soar over the kind of synth-pop background that started the MGMT craze and a little more than a hint of Daft Punk in the percussion, all the while dotted tastefully with Nick Hurt’s melodic guitar work. Nearly every song the band unveiled sounded like a radio hit. Make your way out to a show soon (they play Nov. 14th at Threadgill’s with The Steps) because this group is on their way up. Zlam Dunk closed out the evening; definitely a contender for best party band in town. Unfortunately, the clock struck ten and, much to the dancing crowd’s dismay, Zlam Dunk’s set ended early for fear of a visit from the APD*.

While it may not be the place booking the hottest touring acts, Versatile is a unique venue, and marks what may be a growing trend in Austin. As the noise ordinances and development continue to constrict downtown venues, it is quite likely more of these D.I.Y. establishments will spring up around town and outside the entertainment district.

[Editor’s Note: Versatile Skate Park owner Mark Harrison reports ongoing problems in regards to noise complaints during live music performances. Harrison keeps a decibel meter handy to monitor the volume, striving to keep it below 65 decibels, and ends the music promptly at 10pm. Despite his efforts, he fears imminent closure of the skate park. Given the lack of venues for U21 and U18 bands, it seems sad to let this opportunity to support young bands and musicians go the way of the Armadillo.]

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