Off the Record
Law & Order
After three days of trial and testimony earlier this month, the final showdown in the lawsuit filed by the estate of late country yodeler Don Walser against his former record labels Antone's Records, Texas Music Group, and Texas Clef Enter-tainment took place last Wednesday, May 26, at the United States Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Texas, as both sides laid out their final arguments. The three local music enterprises are being charged with breaches of contract and fiduciary duty by the Walser estate, which aims to "pierce the corporate veil" and hold primary shareholder James Heldt personally responsible for the damages. The decadelong legal saga began with the bankruptcy of Watermelon Records (see "Going for Broke," June 18, 1999, which was cited on several occasions in the case).
While the defense admitted that the Walser estate was owed money, it estimated the amount at less than $30,000 – roughly one-tenth of what's being sought – and argued that Walser's two albums for Watermelon never fully recouped their expenses. The prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of Temple Ray, a surprise witness and former bookkeeper for Antone's Records, who testified that Heldt was not only present at several meetings where Ray complained about problems with the royalties but had an affair with former Antone's President Christie Warren. "We can't right the wrongs that existed before Watermelon," concluded lead prosecutor Craig Barker, "but we can right the wrongs that still exist today." Judge Craig Gargotta is expected to inform both parties this week as to how and when he will issue his ruling.
Meanwhile, New West Records Pres-ident Cameron Strang confirmed that the Los Angeles-based Americana label, best known for its work with Austin City Limits and the recent Crazy Heart soundtrack, is moving forward with its purchase of those three aforementioned music catalogs, following its winning $275,000 bid at the March 15 United States Bankruptcy Court auction and subsequent court-ordered mediation on May 6. The label has a 30-day due diligence period before closing, and the transaction may not include Walser's LPs, as his estate seeks the return of his masters. "We're still in the process of figuring everything out, but we're really excited about it," says Strang. "It's a great catalog of Texas independent music from the Eighties and Nineties."
Before earning his keep as one of Austin's most promising new rappers, Robert "Lowkey" Hein, one-half of Southbound, made headlines as the recipient of a good old-fashioned beatdown by the Austin Police Department (see "Off the Record," May 30, 2008). The incident stemmed from an altercation with an Emo's bouncer that ultimately led to Hein's removal from the club and a police intervention. "They basically swung me around and jumped on me and [Tasered] me," recounts Hein, who required hospitalization to stabilize his condition and was charged with resisting arrest and public intoxication. Nearly two years later, both counts were dropped in court on Tuesday, May 18, based primarily on the eyewitness testimony of local promoter Matt Sonzala, who declined to comment for this story. While still weighing the financial ramifications of taking legal action against the city, Hein is finishing his proper self-titled album with League of Extraordinary Gz, featuring cameos from Devin the Dude and Bavu Blakes, and pushing their new OTR-approved mixtape, Concealed Weapons 2, which can be copped for free at www.austinsurreal.com. Hein promises, "It's gonna be heating up the streets." On that note, Run This Town, an Austin offshoot of Texans for Accountable Government, hosts its first event on Saturday, June 5, at the Victory Grill with local rhymesayers Doc Deuce, G Clef, and Fremen. Among the issues to be addressed at the hip-hop summit is the use of excessive force by the APD.
Why March When You Can Riot?
Red 7 general manager Jared Cannon succinctly summed up the havoc wreaked last weekend by Chaos in Tejas: "Four-day festival, two-week hangover." Orchestrated by local booker/promoter Timmy Hefner, the annual punk bazaar was like South by Southwest for crust punks and DIY enthusiasts, a pilgrimage and marathon that stretched around the clock and well past the confines of Red River. The carnage officially started late last Wednesday at Emo's with Pentagram's metalocalypse, led by original guitarist Victor Griffin for the first time in 20 years. The following night Australian underground legends X at Red 7 emitted a classic punk assault almost on par with Radio Birdman. San Francisco's Acephalix delivered the rudest of awakenings at Thunderbird Coffee on Saturday morning, a 10:30am surge of dual-guitar death metal that led about 150 studded punks – most of whom were still high from the previous nights' after-hours bender at the Broken Neck with Japan's Slang and World Burns to Death – to mosh on the outside patio. Other highlights included the Box Elders' ooga-booga pop and Denton psych-gazers Fungi Girls at Mohawk on Saturday and a surprise in-store from New Jersey's hardcore titans Rorschach at End of an Ear on Sunday.
Interested in more courtroom action? Ed Cavazos of the legal firm Bracewell & Giuliani hosts a seminar on music law on Friday, June 4, 1-3pm, ushering in the second half of the annual Kerrville Folk Festival, which features Ray Benson, Guy Forsyth, and Slaid Cleaves, among others. After the dust settles, local songwriter Ky Hote hosts the 25th annual Underground Kerrville Revue at the Cactus Cafe on Tuesday, June 15, a tradition that will hopefully continue under the venue's imminent changeover.
Grupo Fantasma translated Chicago's classic "Saturday in the Park" to "Sabado en el Parque" for last Sunday's episode of AMC drama Breaking Bad. According to Grupo Fantasma manager David Lobel, the veteran hitmakers had been searching for a Latin band to redo some of their signature numbers, and there's been talk of future collaborations. The cover will be available as an iTunes exclusive bonus track upon the national release of latest LP El Existential on June 15.
Last week, Cokie the Clown finally broke the seal about his infamous Patrón urine shots at SXSW 2010, releasing a video that showed the split-second switcheroo to tequila that took place shortly before he stepped on stage at Emo's Annex. His label, Fat Wreck Chords, is now offering Cokie the Clown commemorative shot glasses and a new EP from NOFX pressed on "pee colored vinyl."
School's out for summer, but the students that make up the current under-21 craze are calling a special session this weekend at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum for the second annual the Kids Are Alright Festival. The two-day seminar opens on Friday, June 4, at 6pm, with a series of free panels on music, digital media, skateboarding, and gaming, followed on Saturday by a 28-band crash course that features such emerging favorites as the Fireants, Ariel Abshire, Avenging Poor Yorick, and the Carson Brock Group. www.thekidsarealrightfest.com.
Nearly a month has passed since the flooding that swept Music City, and Soundcheck Nashville, whose 160,000-square-foot complex was used by more than 500 music entities, is now moving back into its primary facility. Soundcheck Austin, the company's local offshoot in Austin Studios, has remained largely unaffected. The company, which acquired Musicmakers Backline earlier this year, offers rental gear and rehearsal space. "I'm heartbroken," laments owner Ben Jumper, "but we're going to pull it back together."