Off the Record
Youth in Revolt
According to Urban Dictionary, Schmillion can either mean "more than a lot" or "an awesome all-girl punk rock band from Austin, Texas." Stick with the latter. Since forming in summer 2009 at the Girls Rock Camp Austin, the local teens have helmed a guitar-rock assault to give Kim Fowley visions of cherry bombs, recorded a debut EP with Mike Vasquez at Sweatbox Studio, and earned the first-ever Best U-18 Band honors at last year's Austin Music Awards. Based on online voting, Schmillion also made it to the finals of SchoolJam, a national teen battle of the bands, which concludes Jan. 15 in Anaheim, Calif. At stake is a trip to Frankfurt, Germany, for the SchoolJam Festival and $5,000 toward the music programs at the ladies' schools – the McCallum Fine Arts Academy, the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, and the Griffin School. It might prove one of the band's last shows as singer Natalie Shea gears up for college. "We might have two months or two more years," shrugs guitarist Zoe Graham, stepping out of a study session. "We've come a long way in a year, so we're happy with whatever happens." Schmillion opens for Follow That Bird!, Sundress, Ume, and Ringo Deathstarr at Emo's on Friday, Dec. 17. The following Sunday afternoon, at the same venue, fellow kids-in-the-hall Edison Chair, Avenging Poor Yorick, Electric Society, and AfterMath play a benefit for the Austin chapter of NARAS' Music in Schools Program.
Bang a Gong
Dax Riggs jokes that police escorted him out of Louisiana. "I was being harassed and targeted in the small town an hour south of New Orleans that I lived in," he recalls. "I couldn't stay at my house and play music for an hour without police knocking at my door." An Austin resident for close to five years now ("I don't get out much"), Riggs has had no such trouble locally. His latest Fat Possum outing, Say Goodnight to the World, was recorded at his Bee Cave hideout "T. Rex-style" (floor tom, tambourine, electric bass, and acoustic guitar). It's the gothic bluesman's strongest outing to date, a stirring collection of nighthawk noir and proto-metal groove, a far cry from the sludge metal he helped pioneer with Acid Bath and Agents of Oblivion, a period Riggs now dismisses as "high school." "I pray to the god of rock & roll that there would be a metal band that I give a fuck about, but I don't," spouts Riggs, who continues his monthlong residency at Continental Club on Tuesday, Dec. 21. "I don't feel like anybody's doing anything. It's all gone down the shitter. There was that golden age of thrash and before that the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and then death metal – then it got sold out. Now we're stuck with these half-ass versions of Sleep."
Sleepy and craving breakfast tacos, Mister Heavenly rolled into the Eastside's Big Orange studio for a Daytrotter.com taping on Monday afternoon, the last date of the band's first tour. "Wait, is everyone taking their shirts off?" asked touring bassist Michael Cera before tropical ballad "Pineapple Girl." They weren't. Despite the jovial nature of the session, which included at least one request to "turn the trill knob up," Mister Heavenly – a new collaboration between Islands' Nick Diamonds, Man Man piano basher Honus Honus, and Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer – delivered some surprisingly straight pop tunes with a serious Roy Orbison streak and a nod to 1950s doo-wop. The band's encore at the sold-out Scoot Inn even included a cover of Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You in the End." To his credit, Cera proved that his moves in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World weren't the result of mere acting. "On our section in the chorus, let's have a moment," Honus directed him in the studio. Cera responded with confidence, "I'll find you."
It's a Wonderful Life
Nothing brings out the musical ghosts of Austin's Christmas past (Hank & Shaidri Alrich with Doug Harman), present (Uncle Lucius, Deadman, Suzanna Choffel), and future (Sahara Smith, the Trishas) like the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. The annual holiday tradition commemorates its 35th anniversary at Palmer Events Center with another impeccable lineup, overseen once more by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport booker Nancy Coplin, from now through the Texana Dames' yearly closer on Christmas Eve. On the occasion of another appearance, this Sunday, Dec. 19 (noon-2:30pm), Ray Wylie Hubbard shared his Top 5 reasons for returning to the Bazaar.
5) "It is festive, and about as festive as I want to get."
4) "I love the idea of combining Austin and armadillos and Christmas and bazaars."
3) "The sound is stellar."
2) "The booths are full of arts and crafts rather than arts and crap."
1) "Austin people from the '60s and '70s who aren't dead or incarcerated show up."
Having romantic issues or roommate quarrels? Tell it to Oh No Oh My. Taking a cue from Mike Jones, the local indie-pop outfit has set up a hotline, 481-2143, that connects you with one of the band members, in support of their new album, People Problems. Be warned, any drunken messages left might be used on the band's website.
Local vocal starlet Kat Edmonson joins Lyle Lovett on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno on Friday, sharing the wintry standard "Baby, It's Cold Outside." The two have performed the duet together regularly since its debut at the Bass Concert Hall last November.
Earlier this week, Monahans released the final installment in its downloadable monthly series, 2010 Recordings, a stunning, desert-hewn duet with Sinead O'Connor called "Seabirds." "It captures the primary theme that we're all trying to make sense of this world that's both beautiful and harsh, but we're still holding out hope for a meaningful resolution," relays frontman Greg Vanderpool.
Atlas Sound, Prefuse 73, Black Moth Super Rainbow, and Spacemen 3 offshoot Spectrum have been tapped to headline the Black Angels' Austin Psych Fest 4 at the East Side Drive-In, April 29-May 1, along with personal favorites the Fresh & Onlys and White Hills, among others. The Reverb Appreciation Society just released a DVD of last year's tonal holiday, which will be followed in March by a double-vinyl live LP.
VideoRanch3D.com, the simulated realm overseen by Monkees operative and acclaimed director Michael Nesmith, hosts the second Global Zone Music Festival at Austin Studios on Saturday, Dec. 18. The interactive affair features a special acoustic set from Nesmith as well Carolyn Wonderland and the Good Listeners, the subject of the tour documentary Don't Quit Your Daydream, which is being screened throughout the day.