Dark Side of the MoonButt Out: Whether or not his foundation put up the money that took today's new smoking ordinance from dubious idea to fait accompli in record time, Austin's infatuation with Lance Armstrong is so out of control that it now believes it can stamp out cancer, and by extension death itself, like so many cigarette butts. This is not true. No matter the condition of their lungs, everyone dies. Deal with it. All the smoking ban really does, besides give smokers one more reason to stay home, is show how deeply in thrall City Hall is to those with deep pockets, and how indifferent it is to everyone else. The city can proclaim September "Live Music Month" and sponsor events like Sunday's "Live and Kickin'" concert at Threadgill's until it's gasping for breath, but that won't change the fact that it has sold out the same people, bar and nightclub owners especially, upon whose labors it relies to justify the increasingly laughable nickname "Live Music Capital of the World." If Austin truly cares about public welfare, it should make defensive driving a requirement for residency. Or stop letting cops who kill young blacks and Latinos off with a slap on the wrist. Or not pass any more absurd initiatives it has no idea how to enforce. Much more on this folly in "911, We've Got a Smoker," p.56.
Oil Shock: For about three hours last week, Austin rapper Bavu Blakes thought he was a finalist in Scion's Nextup contest, mainly because someone from Inform Ventures, the marketing company administering the contest, called and told him so, according to the MC. He says the same person then called him back and said his song "Black Gold" had been disqualified due to politically volatile lyrics. Scion, a division of Toyota that uses hip-hop in its ads, is offering a prize package of $5,000 in cash, a music video, and the chance to perform at Scion-sponsored events. The lyrics do mention the Bush family and Osama bin Laden, but Blakes says the black gold in question is himself, not petroleum. "I honestly didn't mean it as a political song," he admits. "I'm talking about oil as a Texas underground commodity, like me." Within a day, The Source and Dallas Morning News were calling, and seminal Texas rap blog HoustonSoReal.com carried messages like "fuck a Scion ass motherfucker." Though he admits being upset upon learning the news, Blakes soon got over it. "This whole thing was about me getting publicity anyway," he says. "And it's working like a charm."
Close Knit: X, oops, the Knitters, honored their old friend and late Austin punk icon Randy "Biscuit" Turner last Saturday at their Parish date. Before singing a note, Exene Cervenka (below) held her longneck high and said, "Randall J. Turner, we love you. I know you're listening. This set's for you. To Biscuit!" After the toast, their lively rendition of "Give Me Flowers When I'm Living" touched off a lengthy set of raucous cowpunk that had the nearly sold-out crowd stomping their feet and square-dancing by the bar. Plans for Biscuit memorials continue taking shape: Gallery Lombardi will host an all-Biscuit art show this month, and Emo's has offered its services for a tribute show organizers hope will happen before the ACL Music Festival.
AnimalsMilwaukee's Best: Winsome Austin indie-rockers What Made Milwaukee Famous packed Emo's inside to the gills at their Aug. 19 show, their first local appearance in many moons. "It's getting to the point where people are singing the lyrics back to us," says bassist John Houston Farmer. Characterizing their hiatus as "extremely productive," Farmer says the quartet has eight songs ready to record, two more CDs' worth of ideas they haven't yet fleshed out, and are in talks with several labels he declines to name. They hope whoever does sign them will re-release debut Trying to Never Catch Up nationally, but realize their mushrooming local fan base craves new product ASAP. "We'd like to get it done sooner rather than later," affirms Farmer. "Our album's been out for over a year in Austin." Before embarking on a three-week fall tour, WMMF returns to Emo's Sept. 8 with the Glass Family and Lord Henry.
Living Single: MTV2 watchers should look for CMJ-bound Single Frame's "Exact Copy of This in the Basement," now playing on 120 Minutes heir Subterranean, 11pm Sundays. The hard-to-classify local trio is also breaking in new guitarist Ian Graham, who came aboard when Brendan Reilly left to pursue "lifely" things. "Every time we practice, [Graham] pops out another song," says drummer Adreon Henry. With his friends at Super!Alright! media, Henry has started Car Stereo Wars, a no-cover Sunday-night series at Plush where local musicians, artists, and the like take over the wheels of steel. Henry got addicted to DJing in New York, where the band spent a month earlier this year and played with upstarts Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! one week too soon. "The next week, David Bowie was there," he says. "I was so bummed." Easing the pain is the prospect of starting Single Frame's next album on the sweet Pro Tools equipment provided by their label, Volcom. "Maybe I'll finally get to live that dream of having 500 drum tracks," Henry exclaims.
Starting Over: If you're anything like TCB, you're constantly wondering, "What's Matt 'Insane in the' Meshbane (right) up to now?" Well, it turns out, besides playing Mondays at Trophy's, hosting KOOP's Around the Town Sounds once a month, and working at family pizza joint Slices & Ices, he's informally managing the Austin Music Co-op. "We're starting over, but we've got a lot of the basics already," he says. Meshbane stepped in after the previous managers were unable to buy the property for insurance reasons and "got involved with other things." The Co-op is undergoing extensive renovation, with one wing being set aside for businesses to set up offices. They need not be explicitly music-related, says Meshbane, though he's talking to the SIMS Foundation about possibly moving in. The residential wings are nearly full, he reports, with co-opers agreeing to work its free Sunday and Wednesday shows as a condition of their lease. "That's all it takes, is people participating," Meshbane says.
Say hello to Snake Eyes Vinyl (above), Austin's newest record store. The stock is mostly actual records, but "I do have CDs," says owner Rebecca Hubinsky, who opened the small house at 1211 E. Seventh in July. She says business has been "slow but steady," but hopes it picks up with in-stores and screenings like Ramones doc End of the Century this Sunday at 8:30pm.
Happy anniversary to No Depression magazine, celebrating 10 years of chronicling alt.country without bothering to define it. The current issue (Nickel Creek cover) is thick with Austin flava: stories on Eliza Gilkyson, the Greencards, and Charlie Sexton; a write-up of June's Willie Graham benefit; and locally connected album reviews (Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Jesse Dayton, Stephen Bruton, new Dripping Springsian Iron & Wine). Sexton and Willie's dad Jon Dee play Wednesday at the Continental Club.
Speaking of Mr. October, aka Jon Dee Graham, Alejandro Escovedo's manager Heinz Geissler reports that the Los Lobos/True Believers benefit for Graham finally has a firm date: Thursday, Oct. 27, at Antone's. "Ring the Bell," as the song goes.
Austin music hit Time magazine last week, sort of. The article about communities coping with military base closures featured a lovely photo shot from the stage of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, with guitarist Mike Keller at stage left. Look for the issue with hip-hop golden child Kanye West on the cover at a library near you.