Getting funky with marching bands, ridiculous petitions, and an even more ridiculous amount of new albums
Even before the 2002 hit movie Drumline, marching bands were a huge part of the black college experience at schools like Prairie View A&M, Southern, and Grambling; afterward, Destiny's Child (RIP) and 50 Cent took that funky staccato sound to No. 1 on "Lose My Breath" and "In Da Club." To increase local interest and participation in this burgeoning African-American art, Austin's Eastside Story Foundation is hosting a Battle of the Bands this Friday and Saturday at Nelson Field, next to Reagan High School at 290 East and Berkman. All-star bands of high-schoolers from Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Beaumont, Louisiana, and Memphis will compete for both full-band and drumline honors, and march in two parades: up Congress Avenue at 2pm Friday, and the Juneteenth parade through the Eastside that starts 10am Saturday at MLK and Comal. Although a band of Austin ISD students is entered, event coordinator Derrick Norris says the district's adherence to the UIL model, marching-band arrangements of classical works and pop-rock hits practiced by schools like UT, is costing local youth educational opportunities. "A lot of kids are losing out on scholarships to black colleges because they're not prepared to play that style of music," he says. Norris calls this weekend's activities, which brought 14,000 people to Nelson last year and is expected to sell out again, a "first step," and notes that the district is exploring hiring a band director to teach "SWAC-style" marching (named for the athletic conference of Grambling and Prairie View) at Reagan. "They're at the tables talking, so that's a good sign," he says. Tickets are still available ($25) at Mitchie's Fine Black Art and Gift Gallery, Pizza Hut, and the Eastside Story Foundation's offices at 2209 Rosewood Ave.
On the March
Austin's Damnations recently wrapped their first collection of new songs since 2002's Where It Lands at Bruce Robison's Premium Recording studio. Robison produced the album, which drummer Conrad Choucroun calls "organic, but not conspicuously so," and emphasized the sisterly harmonies of vocalists Amy Boone and Deborah Kelly. "Bruce worked really well with the girls, and with everybody," says Choucroun, who also plays in Robison and wife Kelly Willis' band. The Damnations plan to shop the disc around, adds Choucroun: "I just hope it comes out soon." So do Moonlight Towers, who lack only distribution and/or label support to release their now-finished LP.
Elsewhere, the Real Heroes are cooling off in Tequila Mockingbird studios, hoping to have their third album ready for their ACL Fest appearance. "We're killing ourselves trying to write new shit," offers drummer Joey Spivey, who figures the cheeky rockers have seven songs done and seven "pretty much done." Hoping to exit their "comfort zone," Spivey says the Heroes, who play Friday upstairs at Buffalo Billiards with Friends of Lizzy, are "pushing each other to go with different influences." Bolan instead of Bowie, perhaps?
Lots more: Retro-poppers Masonic just returned from Mason brothers Kevin, John, and Brian's native Oklahoma, where they began tracking their third disc at former Flaming Lips soundman Trent Bell's Bell Labs Recording Studio in Norman. It's their first album with singer Eryn Gettys... Honky releases its latest slice of Southern thunder, Balls Out Inn, Aug. 30 on Detroit's Small Stone Records, before heading off on tour with Nashville Pussy and Zeke. Catch a preview Friday at the Crazy Lady(!) with Little Rock's Go Fast... Voxtrot will have their excellent self-titled EP available at their June 24 Emo's show, before its national release next month on Cult Hero... Look for Super Secret albums later this summer from Manikin and the Nervous Exits... The Addictions are re-releasing last year's self-titled debut, with new songs, next Saturday at the Red Eyed Fly... Finally, Dallas' Old 97's shows at Gruene Hall this weekend will show up as a live souvenir from Austin's New West in the fall.
Driving to the New Braunfels Museum of Music & Culture (www.nbmuseum.org), which sits astride the Guadalupe River a few doors down from Gruene Hall, for an exhibit on Austin City Limits is like going to Katy for an auction of Houston Oilers memorabilia, but it's still well worth the trip. Besides vintage sound equipment, publicity stills, and ticket stubs, there's a complete mock-up of the ACL set, complete with the Frost Bank Tower in the faux skyline (the KLRU backdrop has yet to be updated). The behind-the-scenes documentary offers revealing commentary on both the show and the ACL Festival which just added Lone Star legend Roky Erickson for his first official concert appearance in 20 years as do Scott Newton's annotations to his resplendent photographs. Newton's recounting of Ray Charles' encounter with a Mexican free-tail bat in his dressing room is hilarious, while George Strait's 1982 ACL debut "marked his graduation from the clubs and honky-tonks to the concert stage."
For this weekend's anniversary festivities, the Hole in the Wall is updating its Wall of Fame, the collection of caricatures that line the 31-year-old Guadalupe bar's interior, for the first time since 1990. Joining the ranks of regulars and reprobates captured in eraser-proof pencil are current booker Paul Minor and bartender Waldo, former owner and Swishbuckler Jeff Smith, Two Hoots & a Holler frontman Ricky Broussard, ex-Sincola guitarist Greg Wilson (the "Wendal Stivers" of Spoon's first album Telephono), and several others including TCB himself. (Words fail me.) The induction is 7pm Saturday, before music from Troy Campbell, Walter Tragert, and Beaver Nelson, and a Free for All reunion of sorts Sunday with Minor's Superego All-Stars, the Small Stars, and Conrads.
BULLET THE BLUE SKY
Countryman, the Willie Nelson reggae album that's spawned almost as many prospective release dates as cheap pot jokes, has cleared its last bit of red tape and will be out Aug. 2 on Lost Highway records. Appropriately for an album begun nearly a decade ago, it includes a cover of Jimmy Cliff's "Sitting in Limbo," plus songs co-written with pals Ray Price and Hank Cochran, and a duet with Maytals main man Toots Hibbert. In further Willie news, Andy Klier of Things That Go Pop and some friends, including members of Halley, will perform Nelson's 1975 homicidal-preacher horse opera Red Headed Stranger 7pm this Friday and next at Cafe Mundi.
The Texas Music Office has just released its 2005 Texas Music Industry Directory, your guide to anything and everything musical in the Lone Star State: recording studios, management companies, instrument manufacturers, media outlets, and the rest of Texas' 8,000 music-related businesses. "Texas artists represent the rich diversity and culture of our state," writes music-loving Gov. Rick Perry in the greeting. Unless, obviously, those artists happen to be gay.
Believing metal currency deserves a metal icon, some fans have posted a petition online at www.gopetition.com/online/5921.html, asking to replace Franklin D. Roosevelt on the U.S. 10-cent piece with late Pantera and Damageplan guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. As of Tuesday, their bid to put Dime on the dime had garnered a whopping 12 signatures, trailing both the nearly 29,000 attracted by "Save SpongeBob SquarePants" and the 14,000 who think Abbott deserves induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Jesus Christ Superfly guitarist/singer Rick Carney and wife, Mary Ann, plan to open their own branch of the Paul Green School of Rock Music, the shredder academy featured in new movie Rock School, here in September. Unlike Austin's many summer music camps, the Carneys' school will be open year-round, offering guitar, voice, bass, drum, and keyboard instruction to aspiring rock stars ages 8-18. E-mail email@example.com.
Are you a music nerd? You live in Austin; of course you are, but how much? Take the quiz at www.couplandesque.net/culture/musicnerd.htm and see how you stack up against the Chronicle music staff: Senior Writer Margaret Moser is an "Extreme Music Nerd" at 73%; TCB and Associate Music Editor Darcie Stevens rank as "Mega Music Nerds" with 65% and 61%, respectively; and Music Editor Raoul Hernandez is merely a "Super Music Nerd" at 46%. No shame in that closet ABBA fixation, Raoul.