The Austin Chronicle

Off the Record

Music News

By Austin Powell, July 9, 2010, Music

Gods of the Earth

Having conquered the land of ice and snow, the Sword crafted a "psychedelic space opera" for its third LP, Warp Riders, due in August, along with a limited-edition hexagon-shaped picture disc single for "(The Night Sky Cried) Tears of Fire." "The new record is a concept album based around a somewhat convoluted science-fiction story about a tribal outcast on a planet that has experienced tidal locking," outlines guitarist J.D. Cronise (see "Seek and Destroy," Jan. 9, 2009). "It's your basic allegorical adventure story." The local warlords opened for Ozzy Osbourne last weekend at the iTunes Festival at Roundhouse in London, with the live set available as a download release later this month. Elsewhere, the 2010 Volcom Enter-tainment Vinyl Club, a six-part run of colored 7-inch releases, features the Sword breaking Thin Lizzy's "Cold Sweat." Grab it while you still can at


Wild America's first proper club show was the three-day release party for Matador's Texas hold 'em, Casual Victim Pile, at Beerland. Formed in 2008 from past and current members of Red River regulars Naw Dude, the Teeners, Capitalist Kids, and Party Garbage, the quartet earned a spot on the comp through a near-weekly residency at Trailer Space, Spot's DIY record shop on the Eastside, which continues on Wednesday, July 14, with Black Wine, Apache, Cosmonauts, and Cum Stain. "We try to do house shows, but they're hard to do in Texas because there are no basements," relates singer/guitarist Lew Houston. "We wanted to create an atmosphere, away from Downtown, where people can bring their own beer and donate money if they have some. And if they don't, they can still come have a good time." That vibe permeates Wild America's terrific vinyl-only debut EP for Brooklyn's Freedom School, The Sea, but even more so the band's nine-song cassette demo, which hisses and hums with the drunk-dial charm of early Replacements. OTR's copy was dubbed over an old evangelical church service. "I found this crate of tapes on East Fifth one day, and we used those once we ran out of copies," laughs Houston. Download a proper version at

Winged Life

"If my life was a film, it would be mostly pretty dull," writes Thor Harris in the liner notes to his new ambient LP with Rob Halverson, Fields of Innards II. "However, with the right soundtrack, it could be pawned off as an 'art' film." Harris' saga is far from ordinary (see "Hammer of the Gods," Jan. 21, 2000). Alongside backing Bill Callahan and anchoring Shearwater, which tapes a special performance at Austin City Limits' Studio 6A for KUT on Friday, July 16, the Nordic percussionist is also a member of Michael Gira's recently reformed Swans. The New York outfit recently completed a new album, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, and announced plans for a corresponding worldwide tour (with a noticeable gap around November's Fun Fun Fun Fest). "Michael is one of those artists, kind of like Nick Cave, that just keeps getting better," observes Harris, who wrote Gira a fan letter before joining him in Angels of Light, leading to the paean "My Friend Thor." In that context, Fields of Innards II makes a perfect soundtrack, elusive and disquieting, like an audio collection of all things that bump in the night.

Explosions in the Sky

As history dictates, Willie Nelson's annual Fourth of July celebration isn't always a picnic. Such was almost the case last Sunday at the new Backyard at Bee Cave, a sold-out, 13-hour marathon that, despite Billy Joe Shaver's last-minute cancellation, featured more than 20 acts. The changeover between sets lasted as long as some performances (about 15 minutes), but that hardly dampened blistering performances from picnic stalwarts Ray Wylie Hubbard, assisted by David Allan Coe, and Leon Russell, who had Direct Events owner Tim O'Connor pounding air piano. The whole affair ran like clockwork, overseen onstage by a life-sized wooden statue of Willie's late road manager Poodie Locke, who Paula Nelson promised would "never miss a picnic." By the time her dad finally took the stage after midnight, most of the food had run out, wait times for the parking shuttle were mounting, and the bathrooms were, um, less than sanitary. The evening's saving grace was Kris Kristofferson (see "Capricorn Jesus," Oct. 16, 2009), who joined Ray Price's 10-piece revue earlier on a duet of "For the Good Times," while providing annotations to his own rough-hewn acoustic tales. On "Best of All Possible Worlds," he also waxed political: "Here in the land of the free, we have more people behind bars than any other country."

Random Play

The wagons are starting to circle at the Cactus Cafe. Flatlander Butch Hancock will reprise his infamous "No Two Alike" stand Aug. 10-14, to commemorate its 20th anniversary and the venue's final week in its current configuration. After that, operations at the campus landmark will be split between KUT Radio and the Cactus Cafe Bar, overseen by University Unions and longtime bar manager Chris Lueck. "Our biggest challenge right now is just hiring the right person for the job," says KUT's associate general manager Hawk Mendenhall, who's received 81 applications to date. "And then showing people we're not going to screw it up."

The Austin Music Memorial was established by the city in 2008 to honor both the legends and unsung heroes of the local scene with plaques at the Long Center for the Performing Arts. This year's inductees include certified icons (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Janis Joplin, Townes Van Zandt, Kenneth Threadgill, and Clifford Antone), along with trumpeter Martin Banks, Eastside bluesman Erbie Bowser, Latino promoter Liliado "Lalo" Campos, and Victory Grill proprietor Johnny Holmes. While OTR has seen coin collections better commemorated, the city is helping promote the memorial with a community tour of the plaques, starting at Antone's on Sunday, July 11, for Marcia Ball's Pianorama, followed by stops at Threadgill's the following Thursday and El Sol y la Luna on Friday.

Matador Records is blowing out the candles for its 21st anniversary with a three-day hangover at the Palms Casino & Resort in Las Vegas, Oct. 1-3, featuring the reunited Guided by Voices, Pavement, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion alongside Austin's Spoon, Harlem, and Shearwater. "We couldn't get our shit together in time for the 20th," laughs locally based label co-owner Gerard Cosloy (see "Slanted & Enchanted," Jan. 22). Tickets go on sale Friday, July 9.

Local bluesman Rusty Trapp showed up for his residency at Nuno's on Sixth Street recently only to find the local blues club, a regular fixture for Pinetop Perkins among others, had been boarded up. As of Tuesday afternoon, the phone line had also been disconnected and no events were listed on the venue's website.

OTR's colleague Richard Whittaker breaks down the logistics this week for Formula One's proposed Austin entrance in 2012 (see "Austin at Very High Speed"). Worth noting is the potential boost an F1 racetrack could give the local concert community, providing a possible pit stop for major national tours, such as Roger Waters' The Wall Live, that routinely skip town in favor of larger venues in Dallas and Houston.

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