The Return of Baldemar Huerta, succumbing to the Darkness, and I swear that I don't have a gun

Illustration By Nathan Jensen

Right Said Freddy

Freddy Fender was one of the first Texans to take rock & roll south of the border, but he's hardly fond of his "Mexican Elvis" nickname. "I never dwelled on that, because I knew it wasn't true," says the man, born Baldemar Huerta, from his Corpus Christi home. Even so, no less than the King himself was a fan of Fender's 1975 No. 1 hit "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights." "My wife got an e-mail from a woman who used to fly on Elvis' plane," he says. "She would wait for Elvis to get on and put the eight-track in. He loved the song." Fender, now 68, began his long musical career as a young Marine stationed in Okinawa, where he wrote "Holy One," which sold 281,000 copies. "I remember driving through New Mexico and Arizona in the late Fifties, and hearing my music in the wee hours of the morning." After a stint in Louisiana's notorious Angola Prison Farm for marijuana possession ("It was only a couple of cigarettes' worth if you rolled it up"), Fender topped the charts with "Wasted Days" and follow-up "Before the Next Teardrop Falls." These days, he's nearly recovered from a liver transplant in January, preparing the follow-up to 2001's Grammy-winning La Musica de Baldemar Huerta. He's headlining his own tribute Saturday at the Paramount, Texas Folklife Resources' Freddy Fender: Fifty Years of Music. "This time I think I've got all the spark plugs together," he chuckles.


Darkness at Noon

Their riffs are bigger than Jesus, their singer Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant reborn, and their videos mate pterodactyls with UFOs. They're the Darkness, bitch! "TCB" caught up with bassist Frankie Poullain outside Washington, D.C., where the London lads' 9:30 Club show sold out in 37 seconds. Their Stubb's gig Tuesday broke similar speed barriers in selling out.

TCB: Are you surprised at your success in the U.S?

Frankie Poullain: No, not really. Maybe surprised it hasn't gone quicker, to be honest.

TCB: Tell us a good tour story about our mutual friends from Austin, Young Heart Attack.

FP: Oh my God, it's all very hazy, that tour. I don't want to cop out, but I can't think of anything at the moment. But they're great guys, and of course the lovely lady, too.

TCB: Do people take the band more seriously now you're selling out shows and selling lots of albums? FP: Definitely. People on the street, they don't particularly listen to the snooty, dismissive comments and the jargon – all this irony or post-irony, mock-seriousness, whatever it is. They don't listen to that stuff. They listen to tunes.

Photo By John Anderson

Scene Stealer: DJ Pandora

DJ Pandora has a thing for insects. Behind the Disco Hospital decks since November, she's fascinated with the six-legged critters.

"They're like little machines or alien creatures," she says. "They're so small, but they inspire such fear in humans."

Humans have nothing to fear from Pandora's far-flung sets – personal faves include the Birthday Party and the Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored" – as long as she remains queen bee.

"I love being able to control the environment people are in," she admits. "To manipulate the emotional and sexual energy and create a group vibe."

The well-traveled Pandora grew up in the Austin area and attended Southlake Carroll High School near Dallas before striking out for New York, San Francisco (twice), New Orleans, and most recently Los Angeles. Along the way, she's been an insect-taxidermy instructor, dating-show contestant, tea-tasting hostess, stilt-walker, and fire-breather for Porno for Pyros – until her costume went up in flames.

"I had the wrong fuel, basically."

She started DJing after some friends in San Francisco admired a mix CD she made, but given her druthers, Pandora would rather be onstage.

"I've been in so many bands," she complains. "It annoys me the thing people know me for is playing other people's records."

So far, her search for local bandmates has proven fruitless, but a solution may be at hand.

"I should just pick a bunch of teenagers and mold them into what I want."

DJ Pandora spins at Disco Hospital, 10pm Sundays at Beerland and 10pm Wednesdays at the Whiskey Bar with Attack Formation's Ben Webster.


Something in the Way

On April 8, 1994, UT freshman "TCB" went home for lunch at Jester Center to discover that Nirvana's Kurt Cobain had shot himself. How do Austin musicians remember that black Friday?

Carrie Clark, the Pretty Please

"I was working at TSB at the time. [Sixteen Deluxe's] 'Idea' is about Kurt. I wrote it the next day."

Kacy Crowley

"I was waitressing in NYC at a Seventies diner in the East Village. Shitty little dark room, dark day; we lost one of our own. I was so sad and heavy with it – mixing up orders and ignoring the cook swearing at me from the kitchen."

John Mason, Masonic

"I was at my pizza job in Stillwater, Okla., just about to start my closing shift. Heard from a co-worker. Brian heard on MTV, right before going to an Unrest show in Norman."

Sean O'Neal, This Microwave World

"I was playing drums in a punk band – this was junior year in high school – and we were in the middle of rehearsal. We took a break and turned on MTV and heard it from Kurt Loder. At the time we did 'Love Buzz,' and we just went straight back in the rehearsal room and did that song five times in a row."

Brent Palmer, singer-songwriter

"I remember stopping at a red light and listening to Rock 101 (I think) in Houston. I was on the way to school. All I remember was the sobriety in the DJ's voice."

Ray Pride, Crack Pipes

"Scott Calonico [of the Collegians] and I were editing our Austin access show Alternity when we heard it over CNN. We then went out to the West Mall and started informing people who weren't sure if we were kidding or not."

Beaty Wilson, Fivehead

"I was a senior in college. My roommate woke me up to tell me the news because he had called Sub Pop that morning to order a vinyl copy of Bleach, and the person there yelled at him for being so disrespectful."

Justin Bankston, Death at Sea

"I was sitting on the back porch of a big old house I shared with a bunch of weirdos here in Austin. Drinking some beers with my good friend Tom Lockney. My much older roommate came out and started making head-blown-off jokes. He thought it was hilarious and assumed we had heard. Needless to say, Lockney and I blanched and had to run off to digest the information. We weren't really equipped with the emotional tools to talk about it, so we decided to drink a lot more beer and smoke a lot more weed. Then I got a bass guitar."

Rick Carney, Jesus Christ Superfly/Gravy Boat

"When Kurt offed himself, Jesus Christ Superfly was on its first-ever national tour. We were driving from Washington, D.C., to Richmond, Va. All of a sudden we heard about 10 Nirvana songs in a row on the radio, including 'Polly,' so we knew something was up. At the show that night, it was almost like going to a funeral or wake. To start our set, we played the opening riff of 'Teen Spirit' and when the drums came in, we stopped and I yelled, 'Bang!' A couple of girls in the audience started crying, and we laughed as people hurled insults and beer cans at us."

Chopper, Kissinger

"I was working in the Bruce Hall cafeteria in Denton, serving chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes. A friend of mine who stocked the juice and milk dispensers, and who was usually never serious about anything, told me. I thought he was making a bad joke."

Stefanie Crock, Backstage Suicide

"I do remember actually. I'm a huge fan of Nirvana, but there was this girl at my work who was obsessed with Kurt Cobain. I remember she was in the back crying, and I think she may have even had to go home."

Britt Daniel, Spoon

"I was listening to that Pearl Jam song 'Jeremy.' Where was you when Shannon Hoon died?"

Dirty Steve, Pink Swords

"I distinctly remember. I was in college in Madison, Wis., working at a group home for adults with mental disorders, doing an extended shift where I was isolated for the weekend. One of my friends called me and told me the news. I pretty much neglected (or half-assed) my duties and instead turned on MTV and watched their vigil, incredulously. I figured out that the Rome 'accident' months earlier was probably the first attempt."

George Duron, Sheridan/Dumptruck

"I remember watching MTV with my roommates and one of my bandmates in Killing America when the news started pouring in. We were really affected mostly by the overwhelming sentiment that Cobain's music was the only music worth a shit right then. Cobain kicked everyone in the ass and jump-started this 'new sincerity'/anti-corporate movement that we felt was really important and had saved 'rock' music from the last wave of mediocrity we'd all endured. It was as sad a day for me as when John Lennon or John Bonham died."

Ainjel Emme

"I got a call from a friend of mine asking me if Kurt was really dead. I told her of course not, thinking that she was making reference to his overdose in Rome. She said she'd heard something on the radio and I remember telling her, 'The radio is bullshit' – 'cause you know, I was so punk rock and all. Later that day I was riding with some pals up to the Drag and sure enough, the radio was playing Nirvana songs back to back and the DJ confirmed what my friend had said that morning. We pulled the car over in front of Le Fun and joined our Drag-rat friends in a sobbing chorus on the sidewalk. I wore black for the rest of the month, and I still have the cassette I made of the day's radio broadcasts, even though it doesn't play anymore."

Mike Mariconda, Stepbrothers

"Yeah I remember, driving white-knuckled on Highway 290. I heard it on the radio of the first car I ever bought, a '66 Rambler, on the first day I bought it, driving back from Houston. A friend had taken me to Houston to buy it from some old lady. I was buying it as a present for myself, as I had moved to Austin the previous January and was so sick of taking public transportation I vowed I would get a car before my birthday on April 12. Having come from New York, and not having driven a car very much, it was a pretty nerve-wracking trip, driving this crappy car alone, hearing the news, and having to struggle to hold the wheel to the right (no power steering) the whole way as the alignment was fucked. Lots of gas fumes; the car hadn't been driven or serviced in a while. It was hot and humid. I was feeling real sick for a good two hours on the highway, and for several hours later."

Doe Montoya, 20-Eyed Dragon

"Ten years ago I lived on 21st Street where Jenna [now a Rollergirl] and Eddy Cute [Gay Sportscasters] also lived. I can't remember if Jeff Smith was still living there or had just moved out. I was sitting in our community garden, playing guitar and smoking pot, when Eddy and another tenant joined in a chorus of depressed yelling. It was a very surreal moment. Don't you think it's strange when you feel a loss from someone you never shook hands with?"

Darin Murphy

"I was living in Houston at the time, but I was here that weekend. Trish and I were on a road trip with our band, and we were watching TV in a motel on I-35 and Oltorf. Right around noon Jay, our drummer, burst into the room and exclaimed, "Dude! Kurt Cobain dead at 27!" Of course we turned to MTV immediately and watched the gruesome scenario play out. I felt bad, but I wasn't surprised. I knew that the culture of pain and self-abuse ushered in by Nirvana and amplified by the media was going to suffer heavy casualties. There was never a more negative time in rock than the early Nineties, and Cobain's final act drove that point home for everyone."

Chepo Peña

"I was at Wendell Stivers of Sincola's house talking to a pissed off ex-girlfriend on the telephone. She told me. She was mad at me, not at Kurt. It was shocking, then I felt really fucking pissed. That fuck had everything a band could want and he gave it up. Unless you think Courtney killed him."

Marc Perlman, the Midgetmen

"I was in 10th grade and found out in the computer lab when my older brother shot me an e-mail from college. I remember being stunned, because I had turned down a chance to see Nirvana a few weeks or months before in NYC with my chemistry lab partner because I was saving money for my first car. One of the stupidest things I've ever done."

Sarah Sharp

"It is embarrassing to admit this, but I was far more concerned with who I was going to take to prom than the fact that Kurt Cobain had just died, so it's all a bit of a blur. I do distinctly remember that we were listening to Nevermind when my best friend totaled her mom's Lincoln Town Car with me in it. At the time, we were members of Young Life (remember that?). We were told that it was the devil's music that influenced Dina to run that red light.


"I was in Houston nursing a really bad Jägermeister hangover. I remember thinking to myself, 'Courtney Love is finally going to be able to crawl out from under her husband's shadow and show the world just how talented she is. Good for her! Maybe her and El Duce can start a band together.'

Melissa Tucker, Coco Candissi

"I was working for High End Systems at the time, and had a group of clients in town whom we had taken out to dinner and Sixth Street to entertain. When we returned to their hotel the story of Kurt's death was all over the news. I was so shocked, and remember thinking how sad I felt for his family and newborn daughter."

Bullet the Blue Sky

From the "Rumors Are Always True" department: After months of speculation – and one crazy story that had them opening Sonic Youth's pre-SXSW Stubb's date – the Pixies are confirmed for the Austin City Limits Music Festival Sept. 18 in Zilker Park. Other ACL names listed on include Solomon Burke.

From the "Or Maybe They Aren't" subdepartment: Not confirmed for a July 19-20 Zilker stopover is Lollapalooza. "I know we're not having it in Zilker," a spokeswoman for the Austin Parks & Recreation Department said Monday.

Handling piano chores on the Rolling Stones' new studio LP, the White Stripes-inspired Seven Year Silence, is none other than Saxon Pub regular Ian McLagan. Could this be the in Austin needs for the band to finally play here?

Bluesman Doyle Bramhall Sr. joins the cast of Zach Scott's Ain't Nothin' but the Blues revue tonight (Thursday). The house is likely to be a-rockin'...

Congrats to Austin's Tee Double, whose single "Let It Go" is getting airplay on every urban station in town. Double, who sold 200 copies of "Let It Go" during SXSW, is now seeking distribution and tour support.

Local shredders Amplified Heat are in the studio working on their first full-length, which they hope to have out this fall on Arclight. Meanwhile, partners in grime Grady lay it down 7pm Thursdays at Room 710.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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