The Austin Chronicle

Off the Record

Music News

By Austin Powell, August 27, 2010, Music

How Heavy This Axe

In a matter of weeks, the Sword departs for an Australian and Japanese tour with Metallica. At Waterloo Records' temporary heavy metal parking lot early Monday evening, Austin's Four Horsemen trampled through what was essentially a practice run, delivering 50 minutes in support of their new fantastic voyage, Warp Riders (see "Texas Platters.") The opening shredder's delight, "Acheron/Unearthing the Orb," served as preamble to the sundering of Gods of the Earth's "How Heavy This Axe," J.D. Cronise's bell-bottom filler "Tres Brujas," and the Thin Lizzy cold sweat "Night City." The occasion never felt like the homecoming celebration it was – a few rarities or a full album preview would have helped – but when the real-life guitar heroes locked into iron-clad metallurgy for encore "Freya," there was no doubting the fierceness of their collective conviction. "A lot of Sword fans like to put us up as poster boys for some kind of metal revival or something, but we're kind of our own thing," furthered Cronise the following afternoon. "[For Warp Riders] I shied away from the more aggressive material. I wanted to make something that was uniquely us that didn't sound like anything else. It's a big audio comic book. There's going to be people that aren't going to get it."

The Sky Is Crying

Twenty years ago on Aug. 27, Stevie Ray Vaughan took his final flight after a show at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin. "There's no words for it really," Double Trouble bassist Tommy Shannon said last month (see the Chronicle Music blog "In a Blink of an Eye," July 28), obviously still struggling with that reality. "In a blink of an eye your life is changed forever. Stevie was my best friend. I lived with him and his wife. We always had adjoining rooms in hotels and stuff like that. We were just very close, and that just changed in a blink of an eye." Austin changed, too. While this city is no longer the famed blues bunker of yesteryear – Antone's just partnered with Emo's management, and Larry Monroe hosts his final Blue Monday program on KUT this week – the legacy of SRV still casts a shadow larger than his Downtown statue, especially here at the Chronicle. As then-Managing Editor Michael Hall wrote in "Page Two" after the tragic accident, "Stevie Ray was our patron saint."

Good Vibrations

In the simplest of terms, cymatics is the study of visible sound. It's a science that local prog-rock act Distant Lights employs to dramatic effect with its "music visualizer." The homemade device, six months in the making, projects the varying geometric shapes that water takes when subjected to the frequencies of the band's guitar cabinet – scientific psychedelia. "It's really unfortunate for us that it looks so much like a Windows Media Player, because then people miss the point," notes cellist Jon Dexter, a lecturer at Texas A&M-Kingsville who has collaborated with Balmorhea and Graham Reynolds. "You realize that everything is vibrating and that the shapes you get when you send a guitar string through water are the same as those that you see in cucumbers or in atoms. Everything's related. It's not new or novel, but it's pretty fun to look at." Distant Lights, the winner of the Chronicle's Sound Wars competition, will have the device on hand at the 20th annual Hot Sauce Festival this Sunday at Waterloo Park, featuring David Garza, Uncle Lucius, and El Tule. Three nonperishable food items or a cash donation to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas will get you in the gates. Prepare to be schooled.

Game Theory

As the incomparable house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, the Roots are already the hottest thing on television. Factoring in contemporary R&B crooner John Legend further guaranteed their collaborative taping for Austin City Limits on Tuesday would highlight the program's 36th season. Recalling the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the two parties put a suave, modern touch on 1960s protest songs, including Baby Huey's soulful "Hard Times," Donny Hathaway's "Little Ghetto Boy," and Bill Withers' Vietnam-era stunner "I Can't Write Left Handed," which went off like Woodstock, guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas playing Hendrix to ?uestlove's thunderous Buddy Miles boom-bap. "It never goes out of style though 'cause we're always in war," Legend remarked. ?uestlove kept the momentum going afterward at Red 7. As the Roots crew and Chromeo held court side-stage, the Afro'd drummer proved a walking Wikipedia of real hip-hop with a near three-hour DJ set that prefaced rap classics like Wu-Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M." with their original sample sources, in this case the Charmels' "As Long As I've Got You."

Random Play

The largest electronic music outing in the country, the Nocturnal Festival camps out next weekend, Sept. 4-5, at Apache Pass in Rockdale, Texas, an isolated town 90 minutes northeast of Austin best known as the home of the Alcoa smelting operation. "Somebody's going to need to get me directions," laughs local DJ Wolfgang Gartner, who's already stopped at Coachella and Lollapalooza this summer. "I know the promoter, and they wouldn't do it if they didn't think they could pull it off." The rave boasts some marquee names (Disco Biscuits, Kid Cudi, Girl Talk) across four lavish stages. Details at

Elsewhere, C3 Presents announced the official pre- and aftershows for the 2010 Austin City Limits Music Festival, kicking off with the Strokes at Stubb's (Oct. 6). For the first time, the parties spill to Mohawk for Spoon (Oct. 7) and Momo's, which hosts Ryan Bingham and Beats Antique (Oct. 8-9) and celebrates its 10-year anniversary this week (see Tickets go on sale Saturday, Aug. 28, 10am, exclusively through the new site,

Yet another lawsuit has been filed in regard to the new Backyard at Bee Cave. Buda's Kiva Inc. is seeking $78,009 from Planet Earth Music LLC, PEM-JTOC, and the John Paul DeJoria Family Trust for its installation of the sewage system at the facility, the drainage for which the firm never certified as completed. On July 30, Judge Rhonda Hurley issued a temporary restraining order preventing the use of the sewers, and a temporary injunction hearing is scheduled to take place today (Thursday, Aug. 26). In other words, expect plenty of Porta-Potties on site for Sheryl Crow's visit on Saturday, Aug. 28. Direct Events owner Tim O'Connor could not be reached for comment.

Voting for South by Southwest's PanelPicker officially closes on Friday, Aug. 27. In correlation with the spring 2011 publication of The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology by UT Press, OTR helped pitch "Fun Fun Fun?: Thirty Years Chronicling Austin Music," a panel that would use the Chronicle as a microcosm to explore the conflicts and colorful history that come with covering the local scene. Also worth noting, Geezerville resident Jim Caligiuri's proposed panel, "I'm Not Old, Your Music Does Suck." Check it out:

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