Off the Record

Music News

Phranchyze (Photo by John Anderson)

On the Grind

Phranchyze is quite literally battling his way to national prominence. The 26-year-old local rapper, otherwise known as financial adviser J.J. Shaw, is an emerging star in Grind Time, an American battle league with regular bouts in Atlanta, Orlando, and across the East and West coasts. Imagine the final scene of 8 Mile but with an online voting system to determine the winner. Having earned cred at the 2007 edition of the World Rap Championships with his Austin tag-team partner Zeale, Phranchyze recently traveled to Oakland's Massacre of the Bay, where he dueled local favorite D-Lor and delivered what OTR deemed a technical knockout in the first of three rounds with his closing couplet: "Like we say in Texas, bitch, I'm finna be thow'd, like your name backwards or a backwoods, you're finna get rolled." While the video hasn't yet been uploaded to the Grind Time website for voting, the bout has garnered more than 26,000 views through "It's all about your timing and delivery, spitting with the right energy and emphasis," says Phranchyze, who just dropped his equally entertaining second LP, The Black Larry Bird. "I have a really active imagination. I'm just a little off, in a good way, not like a serial killer or anything. I'm just a little strange."

Here Come the Waterworks

Last Thursday, Jim Robertson of the city's Planning and Development Review Department briefed City Council on the Waller Creek District Master Plan, a more than $30 million set of community enhancement initiatives tied to the Waller Creek Tunnel Project. The $127.5 million underground stormwater drainage structure is scheduled to break ground in November and will remove roughly 30 acres from the current 100-year floodplain (see "Off the Record," May 7). Council Member Mike Martinez raised concern over "the expulsion of live music venues that are in rental spaces right now" and the expected hike in property taxes in the tax-increment financing district that includes Red River staples such as Stubb's, Emo's, Red 7, and Beerland. "I wish I could come to you today saying we've discovered the silver bullet that will allow us to preserve this great cultural asset," Robertson responded. "I can't report that to you." Robertson did outline four potential strategies being considered in the city's parallel Downtown Austin Plan, including a cultural mitigation fund and an incentives package to assist the current venues. The Austin Music Commission has recommended that council delay action, currently set for June 24, until the Waller Creek District Master Plan offers a more inclusive vision of live music in the affected area. As guest speaker and Mohawk owner James Moody stressed at the AMC meeting last Monday, "Nowhere in Austin are we louder and prouder than on Red River."

Radio Birdman

Off the Record

Last week, OTR received a hefty package in the mail detailing a tender offer for his 101X signing bonus: one share of Emmis Communications Corporation Class A Common Stock, valued at $2.40. The Indianapolis-based radio giant, which transmits six local stations including KGSR and KLBJ, is going private, following an offer by JS Acquisition, a limited liability company owned by current Emmis Chairman/CEO Jeff Smulyan. While KGSR has gotten flak over its recent playlist additions and reception issues (see "Media Watch," May 28), station manager Scott Gillmore is optimistic about the transaction: "We expect everything to basically stay the same." OTR won't be cashing in, though. It'll cost more to mail back the certificate. "It's a nice souvenir," laughs Gilmore. KGSR hosts its annual Family Eldercare fan drive next Friday morning, June 25, at Threadgill's World Headquarters with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kelly Willis, Jon Dee Graham, and the Gourds, among others.

Artistic Vice

Off the Record

Marquee names are being thrown around for the forthcoming Daniel Johnston biopic, including Philip Seymour Hoffman as the local pop savant and Johnny Depp as his brother, Dick. "Isn't that wild?" exclaims Dick. "There's a list of things we can object to contractually, but it's our intention to give them plenty of creative license." The film focuses on Johnston's formative years in West Virginia and will employ two actors to emphasize the changes in the songwriter's personality before and after being in a mental institution. Austin's prodigal son returns to Mohawk on Saturday, coinciding with the new import-only 6-disc Munster box set, The Story of an Artist (see cover, above), which remasters his early cassettes from that same period, roughly 1980-1983, and features liner notes from Everett True and Austin's Kathy McCarty, along with previously unseen art.

The School of Hard Knocks

Miles Barrington
Miles Barrington (Photo by John Anderson)

The Dub Academy (906 E. Fifth, is the School of Rock for DJs. Located between Progress Coffee and ND at 501 Studios, the newly opened facility offers four crash courses on the history and mechanics of the wheels of steel, as well as personal lessons and open hours for spinning. "You can throw a rock in any direction in Austin and hit a guitar teacher, but there aren't many outlets for DJs," surmises founder Miles Barrington, a Jamaica-born reggae and dub specialist better known locally by his alias, DJ Jahflex. What makes the academy unique is the actual classroom: six state-of-the-art turntable setups allow students to spin digitally or with classic wax and face the instructor's elevated rig at the head of the class, with a projection system tracing his onscreen movements. The school also offers technical production classes for Ableton Live and Logic Studio 9. Even more impressively, instructor Stephen Roberts had yours truly beat-matching in less than 15 minutes. "I take offense to people that use iPods and call themselves DJs," frowns Barrington. "I love the art of it, the records and spinning. That's what we teach, for all ages." Dub Academy's second summer camp begins June 21.

Random Play

Cinemark theatres at Southpark Meadows, Cedar Park, Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave, and Tinseltown 20 in Pflugerville and Regal's Metropolitan 14 are taking part in a global satellite broadcast of what promises to be the metal event of the year as the Big Four of thrash – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax – share the stage for the first time at the Sonisphere Festival in Bulgaria on Tuesday, June 22. The first person to e-mail with the correct answer to the following question nabs a pair of seats on the guest list at Metropolitan 14: Which two Beastie Boys songs did Slayer guitarist Kerry King play solos on?

Cheapo isn't going out of business, just "restructuring," says owner Jason Shields, who estimates that sales have dropped by about 50% over the last four years. The local shop has laid off a few employees and reduced its hours to 10am-11pm daily, while Shields has personally marked down inventory throughout the store. "We're trying to be even more Cheapo," jokes Shields, adding that the store has a $1-off happy hour daily from 5 to 6pm, "but it's an iPod world out there."

Ready for the next big thing? Registration for the Chronicle's third edition of Sound Wars, a digital battle of the bands, is open through the end of the month, with voting commencing on July 5. The winner lands on the bill for the 20th annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival at Waterloo Park in August and takes home a cash prize and a half-page ad promoting a future show or CD release. Visit to register.

Music news

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More Waller Creek Tunnel Project
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Austin Powell, May 7, 2010

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Waller Creek Tunnel Project, Waller Creek District Master Plan, Phranchyze, Dub Academy, Daniel Johnston, Emmis, Cheapo, KGSR

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