Developments in the SXSW wristband scam case, the resurgence of Emo's, and a preview of local fall releases.
Detective Andrew Perkel of the Austin Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit says five of the six cases related to the wristband-fraud ring at SXSW this year are already on their way to the grand jury and, in his eyes, are watertight. "I'm not worried about getting indictments," he says. The six, some of whom play in Austin shock-noise outfit Frunttbutt, face various combinations of trademark counterfeiting, forgery, and engaging in organized crime charges. The penalties range from class A misdemeanors to second-degree felonies. Though he estimates the six may have only made a few hundred dollars selling their $10-20 wristbands, the real issue in the eyes of the law, Perkel notes, is how much that prevented SXSW, who sold theirs for around $115, from taking in. The would-be black marketeers' scheme began to unravel when they ordered the same wristband stock from the same suppliers as SXSW. "It was a brand-new wristband with very few orders," Perkel says. "The destinations were either the SXSW reps or the suspects." Should the grand jury choose to indict, the six could face anywhere from a few months to 20 years in jail and fines of $1,000-10,000. "I really equate it to Napster," says Perkel, who admits there is some wristband fraud every year but that this year's ringleaders "got greedy." "This is the music industry standing up and saying, 'Hey, stop taking our money,'" he adds.
This Place No Longer Sucks
Stating the obvious, Emo's owner Frank Hendrix observes, "We're not that crusty punk rock club anymore." These days Emo's is more like an Austin answer to Dallas' Trees or New York's Bowery Ballroom, with a quality roadshow most nights of the week and, if not, an equally cover-worthy local bill. Even though summers are traditionally slow here in the land of the disappearing coeds, Hendrix says business has been strong enough that the club has almost recovered from its disastrous April and is already booked through December. The logic is simple, reckons Hendrix. "Yesterday's kids coming out to see the shows are today's adults who come in to drink," he says. "The bar sales for Atmosphere were two-thirds higher this time, and it's the same deal with the Donnas. They turned 21 and so did their following." After Rilo Kiley, Soviet, the Anniversary, and the New Pornographers stop by in August, September brings the club's 11th anniversary with Turbonegro, two nights of Mogwai with ...Trail of Dead, Trans Am, and the Dropkick Murphys, with visits from Electric Six, the Black Keys, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs even further off. "It's crazy how busy we are," affirms road booker Graham Williams.
Normally the only way to get two Canadians to Texas in August would be to kidnap them, but it turns out starting a band works, too. "They've lost their minds," says Double Trouble and Arc Angels drummer Chris Layton of new Grady mates Gordie Johnson and Big Ben Richardson. Johnson is better known north of the border as the leader of blues-rockers Big Sugar and has been friends with Layton since Big Sugar was a last-minute add to the Angels' first Canadian show. Layton says that, like so many, Johnson fell in love with Austin after visiting and now comes down whenever he feels like barbecue and Mexican food. "He's pretty much a food hound," swears the drummer. Grady, which came together after a three-hour jam session with Richardson at the Toronto club Grossman's, is, in his words, "Link Wray punk blues -- pretty aggressive-sounding, bottleneck high-electric." The newly minted trio already has a full month of dates: Catch them Mondays at Antone's, Tuesdays at the Continental Club, live on KLBJ from the Saxon Pub Aug. 9, and Momos Aug. 22. Maybe Ice Bats jerseys will help our visitors feel at home.
House of Blue Lights
Calling from a seaside vacation home in Charleston, S.C., albeit not his, fiddler Warren Hood and the rest of Blue Light Special are enjoying their summer jobs as touring musicians. "We've been fishing, crabbing, four-wheeling," he says. "It's fun." They've also opened for Lyle Lovett, inserting a few Uncle Walt's Band songs into their set for the occasion. Hood, son of legendary Uncle Walt's bowman Champ and a founding member of the South Austin Jug Band, formed BLS with a few classmates at Boston's Berklee College of Music, meeting mandolin player John Graney, guitarist Andrew Webster, and bassist Mike Miksis around five months ago at a student-sponsored bluegrass club. "We were the only ones who showed up every week," relays Hood, "but once we started jamming together, we stopped showing up." Earlier this summer, the band played a week of shows in Austin, where they sold out of CDs and, Hood says, wouldn't mind moving once their studies are completed. At any rate, he figures, "We have to get out of Boston," citing Beantown's abundance of traditional-minded players. Though only 20, Hood is already hip to the cross-genre pollination that makes Texas music unique. "It's all the same notes," he says. "You hear Charlie Parker solos all over Bob Wills' stuff."
This Just In
Forget online, there's an iPod's worth of local releases either on the racks now or out soon. The records Austin will be talking about come fall:
GRAND CHAMPEEN, The One That Brought You (Glurp) The best closing-time band in Austin's third and finest LP, all Southern spectacle and lyrical smarts. Goes down equally well with Jailbreak, Frankenchrist, and Texas Rock for Country Rollers. BURN: "That's Never Why"
OKKERVIL RIVER, Down the River of Golden Dreams (Jagjaguwar) Coldplay and Will Oldham spend a moonless evening at Big Pink, strumming their pain with their fingers and gazing at the empty chair across the table. Strange and beautiful. BURN: "Dead Faces"
KACY CROWLEY, Moodswing (Stable) Stirring, frank pop songs for grownups, rootsy enough to grab hold of. Meticulously produced by Jon Dee Graham. BURN: "Unrecovered"
CENTRO-MATIC, Love You Just the Same (Misra) Denton émigré Will Johnson & company lock themselves in a trailer with several Flaming Lips and Neil Young albums, setting the guitars on "stun" and tuning the piano to the key of melancholy. Grandaddy's second cousins. BURN: "Spiraling Sideways"
THE GOLDEN APPLES (Golden Apple Music) Giddy toe-tappers that quench the summer heat like a tall glass of lemonade. Loving Big Star means never having to say you're sorry. BURN: "Maybe After All"
THE HARD FEELINGS, Rebels Against the Future (Dropkick/ Beerland) Unruly garage-blues with a Spirit of '77 sneer and plenty of axle grease. "TCB" is presently in love with the tallboy-pounding BTO stomp of "Not Just Anybody." BURN: "Coalmine"
PINK SWORDS, One Night High (Mortville) Twelve songs in 20 minutes, and at least 10 times as long on attitude. More fun than a shit-faced grope in the alley behind Room 710. BURN: "Bathroom Stall"
VARIOUS ARTISTS, KVRX Local Live Vol. 7: Better Than Friends What's not to love about a comp that pairs Dead Whale Tide and the Octopus Project with Imperial Teen and the Polyphonic Spree? Plus Halley, the Applicators, and kooky electro from Nytelite. BURN: Radar Brothers' "Rock of the Lake"; the Acid Mothers Temple & Ultrasound's "In G Session"
The Texas Rollergirls are looking for a new master of ceremonies, play-by-play and color announcers, a DJ, and a keeper of the "Doors of Discipline." Auditions are Tuesday, Aug. 5, 7pm, at Beerland. Prior experience with and/or knowledge of roller derby is helpful but not required. "I remember when I went to my first bout when I joined," recounts Texas Rollergirl Melicious. "I loved it, but I had no idea what was going on!" No walk-ins, so e-mail thewench@txrollergirls. com or call 762-0336 to sign up... Echo Base, Madamimadam, and Ghandaia will play a benefit 8pm Sunday at the Flamingo Cantina. The money goes to help Ghandaia's Frederico Geib pay his immigration fees... The Austin Celtic Association is raising money for its annual Celtic Festival with an all-day "Ceili" (Gaelic for "visit") Saturday at Mother Egan's. Music by Cluan, Silver Thistle Pipes and Drums, and much more... "Don't Let's Start" fans take heart: They Might Be Giants documentary Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns bows at the Dobie on Friday... Roky Erickson's steady ascent back into the public eye continues Saturday at Threadgill's South with the Elevators Live, a tribute to Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators featuring Roky's brother Sumner on lead vocals... And don't forget, the "TCB"-hosted town meetings are ongoing every Wednesday at 6pm at Beerland. Come out and give me a piece of your mind, or else e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.