DIY or Die
Inside Red 7's house of hardcore
The handmade poster stapled to the wall behind the cashier marks first entry in Red 7's highly visible code of conduct: "You are not a VIP. You are not on the list. You are paying to get into the show, so save your bitching."
Questions? Direct them toward Dutch Welsh of Murder One and Guilty as Charged. Painted black from head to foot with stars tattooed under each eye and issuing a grim hockey player's smile, Welsh guards Red 7's entrance like a minion at the gates of hell. Through him is the way into the suffering city, the eternal pain, the way that runs among the lost.
Welcome to Austin's new home for hardcore. Next rule:
"Be courteous, or get the fuck out."
Red 7 is a relatively new, all-ages live-music venue on East Seventh, forming a primary color wheel with the Blue Creekside Lounge across the street and the neighboring light-yellow exterior of the Beauty Bar. Originally a hip-hop hot spot, evidenced by the neon-lit restroom signs, hardwood dance floor, and trendy drink tables, the club has devolved into something more radical and independent. The wall adjacent to the entrance commemorates the damage done during the past 10 months with a collage of concert posters, while the Red 7 logo, a modification of the hammer and sickle symbol representing the unification of the underground is stenciled on everything of value.
"This is one of those nights where I don't give a shit what it sounds like," shouts Allen Dennard of Idle Kids, the first band ever booked at the club, from the stage during the Jared Is a Grumpy Fuck Fest earlier this month. "I just want to play punk rock for my friends!"
A few comrades and ex-bandmates raise their fists triumphantly.
This sentiment can be applied to any given night at Red 7. The club hosts an average of eight bands nightly, ranging from NOLA sludge icons like Crowbar and Soilent Green, the latter of which performs on Friday, to local kingpins like Iron Age and the Krum Bums.
"It's filling the void left by the closure of venues like Redrum [see "Chest Cavities, Empty Kneecaps, and Elbows," November 11, 2005] and the Back Room [see "Welcome to the Jungle," July 28, 2006]," declares Manifestation bassist Byll Spears, who's worked security at all three local live-music venues.
The difference is that Red 7 features an outside area, which resembles a construction site and smells like the Penguin Encounter at SeaWorld, a bitter combination of beer and cigarettes. A giant tarp is thrown over rows of plywood to form a makeshift stage cover. An unused bar sits in the back among random bits of graffiti scribbled throughout.
The space allows an additional 18-25 young bands to cut their teeth every week. It also enables the venue to bounce the audience a new-world mix of Hot Topic teens and old-school rockers from stage to stage like a game of Pong, making it possible to catch all 14 acts at the aforementioned festival.
Ocelot Mthrfckrs, the laptop-bound persona of the Rise's Cory Kilduff, spins French house to gets things started. Within White Shadows and Tomorrow's Too Late trade MySpace-friendly screamo early, then slam-dance to the electro-metalcore of At All Cost. Like Dogs, led by the erratic vocals of Plush manager Bryan Smith, drop a post-everything noise bomb, and the Stones We Throw do a deathly two-man dance of loud guitar and even louder drums. It's a bargain at any price.
At the end of the night, each group gets paid according to the draw at the door. Essentially, it's a commercialized house party in the heart of Downtown Austin. If no one shows, no one gets paid.
Commandment No. 3: "Wash off your "X's, get kicked the fuck OUT. No exceptions. No bitching. Fuck you."
Jared Cannon, the celebrated Grumpy Fuck and drummer for Bitter Tongues and Career Criminal, is at the helm of it all. A towering, godfatherlike punk who oversees every aspect of the Red 7's operation, Cannon got his start in the music industry at Aaron Turner's Hydra Head Records in Massachusetts (see "Earache!: The Many Heads of Aaron Turner," posted February 26, 2007) before relocating to Austin in 2002 and establishing himself at the now-defunct Ritz. He took over management of the Red 7 last year, purchasing a small portion of the venue and signing an eight-year lease.
"When I lived in Boston, we used to play in the basement of this abandoned warehouse," Cannon recalls. "I still have this mental snapshot of my kit on top of this stack of crates. That's what I envision for this place. It doesn't matter what the space is; it's the attitude and the ethos that matters."
As such, Cannon keeps things in the family, employing a crew of veteran musicians, which he halfheartedly refers to as a "community of angry people," to help take care of the dirty work. The Krum Bums' Trae Martinez and Complete Control's Sam Ghanbar conduct security along with Welsh, and Josh Wardrip, of Black Spring and These Men Are Liars (see sidebar), controls the soundboard.
Midway through his own birthday bash, Cannon positions himself behind the drums. The rest of Career Criminal quickly follows suit. Bartenders Justin Mason and Richard Crenwelge abandon their posts and join in on guitar and vocals, respectively, flanked by Zach Frady and bassist Colby Holliday. The band breaks out with an unexpected and reckless frenzy of midtempo garage rock. Crenwelge, donning the standard issue company T-shirt, "No Guts, No Glory Hole," growls the group's peccant and prideful maxim for the raucous fun house.
We can get away with anything.
We can get away with anything.
Nothing to lose, nothing to gain,
This fucking world is driving me insane.
The testosterone-drenched chorus summarizes Red 7 better than any visible sign. It's both a refuge and a battle zone. The only thing that matters is respect.
"There's not much of a hardcore scene in Austin," Cannon concludes. "That's fine. It's not about the money, and it's not for everyone. But idealistically, we're making a home for it here."