When the Ritz shut down after briefly serving as a country/blues bar in the Seventies ("TCB," April 13), it eventually passed to Esther's Follies founder Shannon Sedwick, who decided the once and future movie house was too roomy for the local comedy troupe's needs, not to mention too hot in the summer for a place with no air conditioning. However, her friend Randy "Biscuit" Turner was looking for a place for his punk rock band the Big Boys and their like-minded friends to play. "Nobody would book anybody," says former Big Boys bassist Chris Gates. "There was a two-year period between when Club Foot closed and when I talked Mark Pratz into letting us play the Continental and Liberty Lunch." At the Ritz, however, punks had the place to themselves, as well as the surrounding blocks. "The only things down there were Maggie Mae's and Steamboat," says Gates. "The college kids weren't really hanging out down there yet." Shows at the Ritz were true DIY affairs. "The electricity was on, and that was it," Gates says. "We brought in the PA, did all the advertising ourselves, which basically consisted of fliers up and down the Drag, [and] security was me and a few of my friends." Nonetheless, the old theatre sometimes drew as many as 500 to 600 people for a who's who of prime Eighties punk: Black Flag, Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Hüsker Dü, TSOL, Minor Threat, and Circle Jerks; now-legendary local bands Scratch Acid, MDC, the Offenders, and the Dicks; and even early gigs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and a strange San Antonio band called the Butthole Surfers. "It was really the best hardcore venue in the county," says Surfers drummer King Coffey, who wasn't as impressed by the Surfers the first time he saw them in 1982 as the Dicks the next night. "It was one of those life-changing events," he says. "I knew I wanted to live in Austin and be part of this amazing scene." Even New Wave snuck in once in a while. "Heck, one night I saw the Psychedelic Furs play a 20-minute version of 'Louie Louie' as a well-meaning, if ill-conceived, apology for a lackluster show at the Opera House the night before," Coffey says.
Holiday on Pecan Street
Break out those leopard-skin pillbox hats, y'all. After months of general speculation, Internet guesswork, and crossword-puzzle teasers, Bob Dylan has indeed been confirmed as the big cheese at this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival, Sept. 14-16, at Zilker Park. Bring the kids, too: Sliding into the main support slots are the White Stripes, Björk, Killers, Wilco, Arcade Fire, and Muse. ACL virgins this year include Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Regina Spektor, M.I.A., Reverend Horton Heat, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. For the complete lineup, you have only to glance at the facing page. Tickets, meanwhile, are now a flat $145 until they're all gone. Go to www.aclfest.com for more answers. Over in TV land, Austin City Limits has an Austin-heavy summer taping schedule, with Grupo Fantasma up first May 31 and Ghostland Observatory, Explosions in the Sky, and a Jimmy Reed tribute headed by Jimmie Vaughan following. Don't be surprised if Norah Jones, John Mayer, Feist, Decemberists, and Erykah Badu come calling as well. Around Festival time, ACL publicist Maury Sullivan says Dylan unfortunately passed, but Wilco, Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, and Lucinda Williams were more receptive. For anyone (i.e., everyone) interested in what the weather might be like that weekend, the venerable Farmer's Almanac's long-range forecast says sunny and warm, with temperatures slightly above average. If only.
Neil Curran, singer for Austin old-school punks the Score and budding TV personality after his appearance on the Learning Channel's Flip That House last year, has parlayed that episode into an entire TLC series about him, his wife, his construction business, and, of course, his band. "The band angle is a big part of the show," Curran says. Filming for the 12-episode series starts in July.
Bullet the Blue Sky
Kid stuff: May is a busy month for the Paul Green School of Rock Music, as its fleet-fingered students salute the classic metal of Scorpions, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and more at Ruta Maya Friday and Saturday nights, then come together to trip across the Beatles' universe May 18, same time (7pm) but slightly to the northeast at Penn Field's Gibson showroom. Meanwhile, the Anthropos Arts music-education program has its eighth annual end-of-year concert, with both middle school and high school ensembles joined by members of the Grooveline Horns, Boombox, Atash, and many others May 20 at Stubb's.
In memory of late chapter Vice President Ginger Shults, the American Federation of Musicians Local No. 433 is hosting spring and summer concerts at Zilker Park that shake out a little cheaper than ACL Fest: They're free. Shows are Thursdays and some Sundays through June 7, with a dance night of Baby & the Last Word and Jumpstart tonight; see www.austinmusician.org for more. Founded in 1907, the Austin chapter counts more than 500 area musicians among its ranks, including Willie Nelson, George Strait, and the Austin Symphony Orchestra.