2003-04 Austin Music Awards
Austin Music Hall, Wednesday, March 17
It's probably no coincidence the year the Austin Music Awards were on St. Patrick's Day was the year punk rock, assisted handily by Texas insanity and Celtic soul, stole the show. Or damn close. Time constraints kept the Chronicle from staying through AMA runaways Los Lonely Boys, but the fact that the brothers Garza took home Band of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year for "Heaven," Rock Band, and Bassist for Jojo Garza and that said best album just passed 200,000 in sales the previous day made whatever bluesy baptism they had in store mere icing on a very scrumptious cake. It's a safe bet they jolted anyone back to Earth whose mind was still reeling from Tia Carrera. The bastard spawn of Emo's and Room 710 mindfucked the Music Awards for 25 minutes of throbbing instrumental brutality, revealing a side of Austin not often seen by listeners of KGSR (Best Radio Station) or fans of Sam and Bob in the Morning (Best Radio Program), but one that's thriving in the nightly frisson known as Red River. Shit gets crazy down there, and Tia's primordial psych-rock, dipped in gutter blues and given a perverted metallic sheen, was so enormous it was confrontational the literal elephant in the room. Some present couldn't wait to be as far away from it as possible. Plenty of others were nodding right along and basically rocking the fuck out. The other punk moment, so lengthy it became the centerpiece of the entire show, was the Class of '78 reunion, which collected a dozen or so alumni from Standing Waves, Terminal Mind, the Skunks, D-Day, and the Next, including Larry Seaman, Jon Dee Graham, Jesse Sublett, Randy Franklin, De Lewellen, and brand-new Hall of Famer Terri Lord. Punkest moment was a tie between a few plastic cups being hurled at Ty Gavin during a chugging "Black Ties & Garters" and Eddie Muñoz throwing his guitar in the air and catching it (unlike Nirvana's Krist Novoselic at the 1992 MTV Awards) at the end of "Earthquake Shake." The way they did "White Light/White Heat," lean, mean, and not too far in between, let everyone know these folks weren't getting back together to relive the good old days, they were doing it because the music still means something to them. As well it should. The way they played it, it was the eternal jolt out of everyday inertia that marks all great rock & roll. Moreover, it showed that punk is now as much a part of what we call Austin's roots as country (Kevin Fowler), blues (Gary Clark Jr.), or the Celtic-bluegrass crossroads where Cluan and the Greencards (Best New Band) meet. Their shared evening-opening set was rousing and poignant in all the right places, but also a little awkward: Too much time elapsed when they were switching positions and explaining what they had in common when they should have just all thrown down for a back-and-forth jam. More successful was the intergenerational inter-gender duo Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez, who with Redd Volkaert and Earl Poole Ball provided precise honky-tonk counterpoint and said everything important that could ever be said about Texas in "Sweet Tequila Blues." They followed up with a back-porch stroll through Taylor's "Wild Thing." That's right, the same song every punk rocker since the beginning of time (or at least the early Sixties) has learned to play their instruments by. We do love our wild things in Austin.