Off the Record

Electric Lounge's second act on the Eastside, catching up with Scratch Acid and Austin's other 'Voice' contestants

ND time, ND where:  Mike Henry
ND time, ND where: Mike Henry (Photo by John Anderson)

The Cutting Edge

During the opening sequence of Glass Eye's appearance on MTV's The Cutting Edge in 1985, a construction crane looms over Downtown Austin. "Signs of growth are everywhere," the narrator warns. "Change is not always welcome, however. Some of Austin's best clubs have disappeared." While bands and venues change, the story keeps repeating (see local music doc Echotone at the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar on Sunday, Sept. 11, 10pm). As the principal creative force behind the Electric Lounge (1993-1999), booker Mike Henry knows this dilemma and has worked for the past three years to get ahead of the curve with the ND, the 299-capacity venue just east of I-35, reopening Saturday, Sept. 10, with the reunion of Sincola (see Music Listings). "This location is rare at this point," stresses Henry. "The scene is fully moving this way." That trajectory is a reaction to the city's Downtown planning and the Waller Creek Tunnel Project (see "Off the Record," May 7, 2010), an imposing threat that led to Emo's East, which squares off with the Butthole Surfers on Sunday, Sept. 11. The ND 2.0 comes with an espionage-themed cocktail lounge, the North Door (try the Cyanide Pill), and a boutique restaurant, Tamale Molly. Henry says the booking will be a throwback to the eclecticism of the Electric Lounge. The difference this time is that the lease won't be in jeopardy: Building owner Richard Kooris (501 Studios) is a partner in the operation along with Electric Lounge co-founder Jay Hughey. As Henry states, "This is our second chapter."

As Seen on TV

Tje Austin
Tje Austin

This week's Chronicle cover subject Nakia wasn't the only local making a splash on national TV.

Rebecca Loebe emerged as an early favorite on The Voice, debuting with her almost-cabaret revision of Nirvana's "Come as You Are." The cover hit No. 7 on the iTunes alternative chart overnight. Not bad for a whimsical songwriter working in a genre she calls "post-brontosaurus indie folk/crunk."

"The two performances I did on The Voice were so terrifying that it took everything I had to not pass out and vomit onstage," she laughs. "It's for a television audience and famous people whose job it is to pass judgment on you." That's a big change for the Clarksville transplant, a former New Folk winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival, but there's no turning back now. "I'll sing 'Come as You Are' and 'Creep' every day so long as people show up and pay me to do it," chuckles Loebe, who headlines Saxon Pub on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

Rebecca Loebe
Rebecca Loebe

Curtis Grimes' bio reads like a country song: A college baseball player throws away his career and then loses the girl he did it for. Lovesick and drifting, the 25-year-old made his way to Austin, slowly breaking onto the Red Dirt circuit and winning a KASE contest to open for Kenny Chesney at the Frank Erwin Center. He had less luck on Team Cee Lo though, being asked to perform Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" and Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love," not exactly the Great American Songbook. "I would've picked a couple of different choices," says Grimes, who just released a new EP, Doin' My Time, "but you take what you get, and I tried to make the most of it."

Tje Austin's the total pop-star package: a smooth, black/Hawaiian soul singer with an impressive Afro and endearing backstory. He was adopted at age 4 into a Mormon household, with eight siblings of various descent. "We were a normal family, but we're all very different from each other in our personalities and talents," relates Austin, who moved here in 2008 to attend UT. After securing a spot on Team Cee Lo with Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are," Austin lost in the battle round to Nakia, but not before receiving some encouragement from R&B star Monica. "She said I had a voice that most artists would kill for," recalls Austin, who took that in stride for his recently released third album, Dreamin' Big. Austin lights up Flamingo Cantina on Sept. 23.

Finally, nonlocal Javier Colon, who took home top honors in the inaugural season of The Voice, appears at the One World Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 2, for two shows.

Unlike a Baptist

Curtis Grimes
Curtis Grimes

Scratch Acid's confirmation for the Jeff Magnum-curated All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in the UK this December has sparked a full stateside tour. "I seem to recall after our 2006 reunion someone in the band emphatically stating, 'We will never be playing again,'" relays guitarist Brett Bradford (see "The Greatest Gift," Sept. 1, 2006). "I'm happy to say it wasn't me, and that never saying never is, indeed, never a good idea." The legendary Austin noise-punk outfit has confirmed a local date for the second week of December. Let's hope the occasion gets properly documented, like the Jesus Lizard's 2009 tour, which will soon have a double-vinyl LP, Club, to accompany the recent DVD of the same name.

Random Play

In late July, Darden Smith hosted the Soldier Songwriting Project, a three-day retreat with Radney Foster and Jay Clementi in which 10 military veterans turned their experiences into songs. The results were recorded in Nashville, Tenn., and will be premiered at the Faces of Freedom concert in Colorado on Sunday, Sept. 11. "They've seen the highest and the lowest of human nature," said the local songwriter of the endeavor, an extension of his Be an Artist initiative. "I realized I had always participated in the very prevalent 'us and them' attitude that exists in our culture toward the military. It comes from a post-Vietnam thing. I'm still anti-war, but I'm very pro-human." For the full interview, see

Gimme Danger: Iggy Pop recently told Rolling Stone that the Stooges are headed this way next year in one of only two confirmed U.S. engagements. Raw Power­ guitarist James Williamson (see "Shake Appeal," May 28, 2010) added some clarification via email: "I don't know much about it other than it's a festival of some kind around the October time frame."

Off the Record

White White Lights guitarist Jonas Wilson and vocalist Jenny Gacy lost their home and studio in the Bastrop fire, saving only a couple of guitars. A relief fund has been created on their behalf: For more ways to help, see

KUT taped David Ramirez's performance at the Cactus Cafe on Tuesday as the pilot episode for a new video series hosted by Folkways' Kevin Connor. It's being pitched to the Longhorn Network, the University of Texas' ESPN-backed sports center, which is the only thing keeping Bevo from the greener pastures of the Pac-12.

On the heels of Monarchs' fine second album, The Rise and Fall, local alt-soul songstress Celeste Griffin is trying her luck in the Big Apple. Monarchs headline a final evening with special guest Michael Kincaid and Mother Falcon strings at Mohawk on Thursday, Sept. 15, featuring Frank Smith and My Golden Calf.

Band of Joy? Robert Plant and Patty Griffin were spotted "researching" at Waterloo Records over Labor Day weekend, according to a close source.

Music news

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ND, Electric Lounge, Scratch Acid, Rebecca Loebe, Curtis Grimes, Tje Austin, Darden Smith, Emo's East, North Door

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