Off the Record
Forsaking the Song, Part 15
Over the course of nearly two hours at the Cactus Cafe on Monday afternoon, longtime manager Griff Luneburg never directly addressed the events that led to or followed the Jan. 29 announcement that the Texas Union would repurpose the campus landmark. He didn't have to.
Those six-plus months of drama, intrigue, and comedic horror are written all over his face. He was exhausted and a bit cagey, speaking mostly off the record. "It's been business as usual," said Luneburg, who started as a bartender at the 150-capacity venue in 1981, before the room had a stage or PA system (see "Blood on the Tracks," Feb. 6, 2009).
"Everybody knows my salary now because they can Google it, so it certainly wasn't for the money. It's been a labor of love. I'm very proud of the legacy we've created here. The music is soaked into the walls, into my blood. I got to book what I liked and get in for free. You can't beat that, compliments of the state of Texas.
"The mission has always been to educate students to music that they're not normally exposed to," he continues, "and I think by virtue of the fact that there are so many alumni that wanted to save the Cactus, we succeeded."
As the last waltz of the Cactus' "iconic years" dwindle to a close with Butch Hancock's ongoing No Two More Alike marathon, continuing through Saturday, Luneburg appears cautiously optimistic about the future of the venue. He'll stay on staff at least through December as a consultant to ease the transition into the KUT era. He's already helped book a number of upcoming shows, including a student songwriter roundup on Sept. 14 and pending dates with Eliza Gilkyson, Alejandro Escovedo, and Kat Edmonson, among others. For now at least, the song remains the same.
"The Cactus and KUT have always had a symbiotic relationship," maintained Luneburg, co-producer of the station's Live at the Cactus series in the early 1990s. "I first heard Lyle Lovett on Folkways and Darden Smith on Larry Monroe's show. The Cactus fits right into KUT's niche, seriously. Being financially self-sustaining will be the easy part for KUT with their outreach. They look at it like they're curators.
"No matter what led to this, what we're going to end up with is a great deal for the Cactus and for the Austin music community."
Eye for an Eye
Cyclopean Records has quickly become Austin's most prominent metal sanctuary. Iron Age frontman Jason Tarpey founded the label just last year to pay back the band for the recording and vinyl pressing of its 2009 gem The Sleeping Eye, which was subsequently picked up by NYC's Tee Pee Records. The self-titled debut from L.A.'s Green & Wood and Mammoth Grinder's 12-inch EP, Extinction of Humanity, both sold out soon after, the latter gaining national distribution from Relapse. "I've had a lot on my plate," relates Tarpey, who's working on a new Iron Age album, "but luckily it all keeps coming back pretty fast. I have more money to put out more records. It's what's been keeping me alive." Cyclopean's upcoming release schedule runs the metallic and geographic gamut, with offerings from Canadian death metal butchers Slaughter Strike and Connecticut classicists Nightbitch as well as local heavyweights Sungod, Hatred Surge, and a gatefold LP from the Roller, Wasted Heritage. "It's extremely heavy, epic doom metal," enthuses Tarpey, who encourages submissions to the label's website, www.cyclopeanrecords.com. A massive release party is slated at Mohawk in late September, while Iron Age opens for Corrosion of Conformity and Righteous Fool at Emo's on Friday with Dixie Witch.
I Turn My Camera On
Quiet Company has been cast in ABC's new scripted docudrama My Generation at the behest of executive producer Noah Hawley, who reached out to the group on Twitter. "It was really formal," laughs guitarist Tommy Blank. "It was a direct message, not just a regular tweet." The local romantics will essentially play themselves, a young indie band being produced by the main character, Falcon. "In the [second] episode, we're extremely happy with the hit song we just recorded, cheers-ing a bunch of fake beers," relays Blank. That's not much of a stretch either, given that Quiet Company's new single, "How Do You Do It?," has received a huge boost from local radio and selections from Songs for Staying In (reviewed in this week's "Texas Platters") have been featured on The Real World and Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "You can work so hard in this town for so long and just be completely ignored if you're unlucky," bemoans singer Taylor Muse. "It's a validation." The band's good fortune continues Friday with a taping for Austin City Limits' recently renamed side project, ACL Presents Satellite Sets. The local Web series officially launches that same day with a full performance from Denton's Sarah Jaffe, followed in short order by episodes featuring Brazos, Lost in the Trees, David Garza, and Leatherbag. See www.klru.org/satellitesets for more.
Judging from his Austin City Limits taping last Wednesday, Hayes Carll will have the most highly anticipated Texas album of 2011. The local wordsmith premiered four stunning new tunes, including the ramblin' blues of set opener "Hard Out Here" and one to be titled either "Chances Are" or "Conway Twitty Lying Naked on a Bearskin Rug by a Fireplace in the Wintertime." Carll has completed most of the follow-up to his 2008 Lost Highway debut Trouble in Mind, tentatively set for release in February. After a rousing duet with Ray Wylie Hubbard on "Drunken Poet's Dream," he's not ruling out another last-minute co-write, though. "I went home and listened to it, and he sings way better than I do on it," laughs Carll. "At 63 years old, he's as good or better than ever."
Due to both a lack of natural attrition and a decline in sales, Waterloo Records held a mandatory staff meeting on Sunday to inform its staff that, for the first time since opening in 1982, eight people would be laid off. The kicker: They actually had to show up to work the next day to find out who was getting shelved. Employees with as much as 10 years' experience were let go. "Perhaps it could have been done better," concedes owner John Kunz, "but we wanted to explain to everyone the why and the how. We tried to be as respectful and compassionate as possible."
The upcoming farewell tour from Austin's vaudevillian pranksters Asylum Street Spankers is no joke. Citing familial obligations and waning touring revenue, God's Favorite Band is calling it quits. Washboard poet Wammo won't be a part of the 45-city send-off, replaced by former Spanker Charlie King, but will likely be on hand for the final show in Austin, tentatively scheduled for early April.
Deadheads rejoice! On the heels of the 15-year anniversary of Jerry Garcia's passing and the recent reunion of Phil Lesh and Bob Weir with longtime lyricist Robert Hunter, the Long Center hosts the Grateful Dead's Crimson, White & Indigo video on Saturday (7:30pm) and Sunday (3pm) in the second installment of its Emerging Pictures series. The three-hour concert from 1989, shot at Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium, captures the jam icons at the peak of their In the Dark tour and offers a poignant final tribute to keyboardist Brent Mydland.
Hasidic rapper Matisyahu is recording a sequel to his 2005 breakthrough, Live at Stubb's, at the Waller Creek amphitheatre on Wednesday, Aug. 18.
Local soul shouter Nakia experienced C3 Presents' Lollapalooza last weekend in Chicago's Grant Park as a food vendor for MasterChef Graham Elliot, prepping dinner for Soundgarden, taking orders from Perry Farrell, and slinging lobster corn dogs and truffle popcorn. "I worked with their crew, basically barking at the people that went by," says Nakia, who joins Raul Malo on Wednesday, Aug. 18, for KGSR's Blues on the Green finale. His highlights: Spoon ("The best show I've seen them do in a long time"), Gogol Bordello, Green Day, X Japan, and Lady Gaga ("You want to see the train wreck before it happens").