Off the Record

Music News


Thunder of the Gods

"Festival has been canceled. Sorry." That's the text message Dallas' death metal soothsayers Absu received Saturday, May 9, from Will Pruitt, the promoter behind the Thunder of Gods Festival, two hours after arriving at the Austin airport. Held at the Recreation Plantation Campground in Dripping Springs, with ticket prices ranging from $60 to $105, the three-stage, four-day jaunt promised a European-style extreme fest, with more than 100 acts originally booked, most notably My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. According to keyboardist Dimitri Hammond of Austin's Tungsten Coil, only about 250 people showed up for Friday's activities, the majority of whom were performing artists. The festival was subsequently canned, and Pruitt, who resides in Dayton, Ohio, reportedly hasn't been heard from since. "There were a few notorious acts on the bill, so I thought it was a safe bet," relates Absu drummer Proscriptor, who, despite receiving an advance for the band's performance, lost roughly $400 in hotel cancellation fees and travel adjustments. Absu still fared better than most. Some groups traveled from overseas for the gig, while others had merchandise stolen, and most local acts, including industrialists Tungsten Coil, Hipnautica, and Lucid Dementia, went uncompensated. Following November's World United Music Festival in San Marcos and Austin's Exit Fest last July, this marks the third time in less than a year that such an event proved ill-advised. To ensure local bands avoid such blunders in the future, OTR came up with this helpful list.

Top 10 Ways to Know a Festival is Going Bust

10) Bands are asked to play for "exposure."

9) Vendors = taco stand.

8) The official sponsor is a blog.

7) No afterparties.

6) Only promotion is through MySpace.

5) The number of bands outnumbers advance ticket sales.

4) The Ice Cream Man isn't there.

3) No beer comps.

2) Bands listed in cryptic, death metal font.

1) It's in Dripping Springs.

Two Steps from the Blues

Off the Record
Photo by John Anderson

Meet the new owners of Antone's Record Shop (pictured, l-r): local garage rocker Eve Monsees, longtime employee Mike Buck, and Forrest Coppock, who helped open the store on Guadalupe in 1987. Having successfully managed the company since the passing of founder Clifford Antone in May 2006, the three banded together to purchase the beloved record shop from his estate earlier this month. "Clifford would come by and make sure that stuff like Bobby Bland, Clifton Chenier, and Magic Sam was in stock, but he pretty much left it to the employees to run," says Monsees. Susan Antone, meanwhile, recently returned from the 30th annual Blues Music Awards in Memphis, Tenn., where her brother was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame by Marcia Ball, who walked away with Pinetop Perkins' award for piano player of the year. "I really thanked them for remembering Cliff this way," smiles Susan. Antone's the club pays tribute to its namesake this weekend with the Scabs and Lost Soul Review on Friday, followed by Perkins and Gary Clark Jr. on Saturday.

To Live Is to Fly

(l-r) Steve Earle, and Bill Callahan
(l-r) Steve Earle, and Bill Callahan (Photos by John Anderson)

Bill Callahan cast an unnerving funereal ambience through Waterloo Records for his last-minute in-store appearance on Friday, May 8. His towering command perfectly suited the natural ruminations of the stark "Too Many Birds" and more reflective "The Wind and the Dove" from his latest LP, Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, but it was the startling beauty of his Kath Bloom cover, "The Breeze/My Baby Cries," that ensured the silence lingered well after his nearly 40-minute performance ended. Steve Earle, on the other hand, proved on Monday that he's not so much trying to fill Townes Van Zandt's boots with his recent tribute effort, Townes, but rather that he's already walked a few hard miles in them. The Delta desperation of "Lungs," hard blues jive "Brand New Companion," and the striking "Rex's Blues" sounded worn and battered, ingrained with a deeply personal and revered resolution, while Van Zandt's haunting influence revealed itself through the eulogy "Ft. Worth Blues" and rousing closer "Copperhead Road." Both appearances were part of small, unaccompanied promotional tours of indie record stores. Meat Puppets continue the welcome trend on Monday.

Fu Manchu

Absu (Photo by Dave Mead, Courtesy of Austin Facial Hair Club)

Mustache rides might be free, but they won't get you to Anchorage, Alaska. Australian Cattle God Records cohort Bryan Nelson, Corey Plump of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, and local scenester Allen Demling, collectively known as the Austin Facial Hair Club, are en route there for the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Veterans of Misprint magazine's like-minded annual romp, all three contestants are competing in different categories of the full beard division: natural, garibaldi, and styled mustache, respectively. "All beards are cool," Nelson stresses. "A lot of people think they can't grow one, but I'm a firm believer that if you give it enough time, the patches will fill in." Mohawk owner James Moody is helping sponsor the excursion, and fans can show their support by picking up a Beard Tour 2009 shirt at his club this week. Follow the adventure at

Random Play

Robert Harrison of Future Clouds & Radar (see "Strawberry Fields Forever," Nov. 14, 2008) played before his largest audience ever last Tuesday, roughly 4.5 million viewers. Filling a role originally written for the Kinks' Ray Davies, the local songsmith performed a stripped-down revision of "Build Havana" as part of a music-themed episode of ABC's Cupid, the new romantic comedy from former Austinite Rob Thomas (see "From Austin to Neptune," Screens, Jan. 13, 2006). "I haven't seen it since I don't have a television," admits Harrison.

• The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport commemorates its 10-year anniversary on Friday with a special performance from Rick Trevino at the newly opened Ray Benson's Roadhouse, which now serves live music every weekday at 3:30pm, along with the Route 66 Margarita and the Wheel Panini.

Iron Age has inked a deal with NYC indie Tee Pee Records for the band's sophomore LP, The Sleeping Eye, due in August. The local hardcore-sludge titans bruise some shins as part of the Chaos in Tejas festival on Sunday at Red 7.

• At a City Council briefing last Thursday, City Manager Marc Ott's chief of staff, Anthony Snipes, presented three possible options for the creation of a music department and/or the combining of arts-based functions into a Department of Arts and Culture, none of which managed to strike a chord due to their budgetary implications and inflated staff requirements. For more on the presentation, see "Back to the Drawing Board," News.

Music news

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Thunder of Gods, Bill Callahan, Steve Earle, Waterloo Records, Antone's, Robert Harrison, Austin Facial Hair Club, Eve Monsees, Absu, Tungsten Coil

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