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Paul Ray (l) and Denny Freeman of Paul Ray & the Cobras performing at the Armadillo World Headquarters in April 1978.
Paul Ray (l) and Denny Freeman of Paul Ray & the Cobras performing at the Armadillo World Headquarters in April 1978. (Photo by Ken Hoge)

Funny How Time Slips Away

Forty years ago on Aug. 7, the Armadillo World Headquarters officially opened, but the old National Guard Armory at 525½ Barton Springs Rd. didn't transform into a cultural haven overnight. "I remember very clearly the opening night being one of the worst of my life," recalls then-Shiva's Headband manager and venue co-founder Eddie Wilson. "There was a lot of disappointment and aggravating behavior. The line was asshole to belly button all the way out the door and around the parking lot with people who had really good reasons why they shouldn't have to pay." That changed with time, of course, as the Armadillo evolved into the Fillmore of the South, hosting AC/DC's first stateside gig (see "Let There Be Rock," Aug. 29, 2008), a heroic run from Bruce Springsteen (see "The Wild, the Innocent, and the Five Armadillo Shows," April 3, 2009), and everything cosmic in between. "I always thought it looked like Noah's ark turned upside down," smiles Wilson, who's finishing his long-delayed memoir, "and we had 'em coming in two by two, every creature imaginable." To commemorate the anniversary, Paul Ray & the Cobras headline Wilson's neighboring Threadgill's World Headquarters on Saturday, boasting the lineup – sans the late Junior Medlow – that recorded the shelved Live & Deadly album with Angela Strehli at the Armadillo in 1979, which is finally being released later this year. "A couple of chance meetings a few months ago got things in motion, and all concerned agreed it should come out now," writes guitarist Denny Freeman. Across town at Threadgill's Old No. 1, Hank Alrich, Wilson's "hero of the Armadillo," hosts an old-fashioned song swap on Sunday, Aug. 8, with a who's who from Austin's hay-daze, celebrating the second release from his Armadillo Records, Taking Turns.

Back in the USSR

Flying Balalaika Brothers
Flying Balalaika Brothers (Photo by John Anderson)

In light of the recent Russian spy bust and Angelina Jolie's espionage thriller Salt, the Flying Balalaika Brothers' Monday night Red Army Surrender Jam at Ruta Maya seems like too good of a secret to be true. Since late April, the Russian expatriates – as many as nine, no fewer than three – have quietly carved out a niche in South Austin, issuing convulsive gypsy folk tunes that combine Gogol Bordello's Trans-Continental Hustle and the desert romanticism of Devotchka with strains of bluegrass and Colombian music. "This is a crazy Russian song; don't even try this," prefaced beatboxing accordionist/guitarist Zhenya Kolykhanov before a number that sounded like Dick Dale fronting a Soviet Sir Douglas Quintet. Originally formed on the streets of Los Angeles, the FBB relocated locally earlier this year after scouting out the area while on tour with the Red Elvises, and released its self-titled debut. "Of all the places in Texas, only Austin was laid back and would get the humor," says Kolykhanov, who also leads the rockabilly outfit Russian Spies. The Red Army Surrender Jam continues throughout August, but the Iron Curtain may close soon after, due to an acrimonious split between the coffeehouse and former booker Sandra Collins. Earlier this week, the two parties reached a settlement for Collins' lost booking commissions from Aug. 26, 2010, through March 30, 2011, on the condition that, as the settlement states, she "promises never to set foot on the premises of Ruta Maya again."

Clash of the Titans

Just when it seemed like the mash-up genre had exhausted its last sample, local laptop bandits Car Stereo (Wars) and Neiliyo both dropped free mixtapes through the Austin boutique label Artifact Workshop that perfectly encapsulate this deadbeat summer. The former's Explains It All recycles Top 40 hits with 40 bars of Dirty South verses in a manner that would make Girl Talk blush, while the latter's Copyrighting 1302 layers original electro-funk raps over beats and bleeps from the 1980s and previews an all-new LP, Swish. Both artists share a wink-and-nod affection for the past and are appearing at an official Lollapalooza preparty at the Hideout in Chicago this weekend. "It's kind of interesting to bring back these older tunes because of the similarities to the newer music," relates Neil Petty, the one-man LCD Soundsystem behind Neiliyo. For the complete teleconference interview with both artists and links to downloads, visit

Guiltiest Pleasures: Car Stereo (Wars) vs. Neiliyo

Alabama, Greatest Hits

Jason Derulo

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Live at Luther College 

Miley Cyrus

Third Eye Blind

En Vogue, Funky Divas

C+C Music Factory, Gonna Make You Sweat

Janet Jackson, Control

Technotronic, Trip on This (The Remixes)

Cathy Dennis, Move to This

Running With Scissors

"I hate to use a bad cliché," reflects Mohawk proprietor and Transmission Entertainment's James Moody regarding the lineup for the 2010 Fun Fun Fun Fest, which is expanding to include a third night, Nov. 5-7, at Waterloo Park, "but this is the go big or go home year." That much is evident even at a peripheral glance: Devo, MGMT, Bad Religion, the Dirty Projectors, Gwar, Os Mutantes, the Vandals, Cap'n Jazz, Mastodon, High on Fire, the Hold Steady, Jean Grae, Deerhunter, Municipal Waste, Dwarves, and the reunited Polvo, as well as the previously announced Suicidal Tendencies, the Gories, and Slick Rick, who will be performing his The Great Adventures Of. The fifth annual fall classic boasts Transmission's strongest bill by far, with plenty of local love (League of Extraordinary Gz, Mother Falcon, Woven Bones, Hatred Surge) and tastemaking cred (Best Coast, Spain's Delorean, Dâm-Funk). Plus, in a characteristic curveball, Weird Al Yankovic headlines Friday night's kickoff, and the weekend's comedy stage transforms into Circus Austinus, with an Air Sex competition, a multimedia show from Brooklyn's Cold Cave, and Monotonix, no-holds-barred, in the ring of Anarchy Championship Wrestling. "It's going to be a full-fledged free-for-all back there," relates Moody. A second wave of early-bird tickets goes on sale this week. Weekend passes remain $75, while three-day tickets start at $95.

Random Play

Two of this fall's most highly anticipated shows – the reunited Guided by Voices (Sept. 30) and Of Montreal with Janelle Monáe (Nov. 3) – are being held at the East Side Drive In (1001 E. Sixth), otherwise known as the empty lot where Transmission Entertainment hosted Mess With Texas during South by Southwest in March. "The ultimate intention is to do a mixed-use project there," says Richard Kooris of Urban Infill Partnership, which owns the property.

E Street continues to shine a light on Austin. Springsteen guitarist Steven Van Zandt has dubbed the Mother Truckers' "Summer of Love" one of the "Coolest Songs in the World" for his Sirius radio show, Underground Garage, an honor he previously bestowed on the band in 2008 for its "Streets of Atlanta." After its current Van Tour, the Truckers pull into the Continental Club on Saturday, Aug. 28, before a weeklong tour of Denmark.

The envelope please: AJ Castillo, Vitera, Los Splendi2, and La Clave de Mexico rock the red carpet for Best Austin Band at Premios Texas 2010, returning to the Long Center Thursday, Aug. 12. The sixth annual Latin music awards show broadcasts on KAKW's Univision 62 and features performances from Ozomatli, Aleks Syntek, and Diana Reyes, among others.

Applications are now being accepted through Sonicbids for the 2011 South by Southwest Music Festival, March 16-20.

Michael Franti taped an impromptu acoustic set for Austin City Limits last Wednesday when flight issues delayed the arrival of reggae titan Jimmy Cliff. The two later performed "The Harder They Come," but the Chronicle's Thomas Fawcett subtracted style points for Franti's lyric sheet. Check his full recap at

Music news

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Armadillo World Headquarters, Eddie Wilson, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Transmission Entertainment, Flying Balalaika Brothers, Neiliyo, Car Stereo (Wars)

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