Emo's stays indie. For now.

The Eastside's Frank Hendrix
The Eastside's Frank Hendrix (Photo by John Anderson)

Emo's Stays Indie. For Now.

Negotiations broke down Tuesday between Emo's and C3 Presents over the future of the East Riverside music venue. At 5pm, the third, and according to Emo's owner Frank Hendrix, final deadline passed in a process begun on Dec. 5.

"We were close, but close is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades," laughed Hendrix early Wednesday morning. "C3 is a great organization. We worked for weeks and weeks and weeks on this, but we just couldn't pull it together."

At issue were five figures of the negotiating price on Emo's – the lease for the new building, all the club's equipment, and the brand itself – which Hendrix wouldn't characterize overall, adding only that his was a "bargain price." Asked if the deal with the Austin-based concert promotions giant – which books shows at Emo's – would go through tomorrow were that last sum to be agreed upon, he didn't hedge.

"At this point, no. I'm tired, butt-hurt, and going to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl," Hendrix chuckled. "For now we'll get through South by Southwest, and we'll reappraise the situation after that."

Like last year, Emo's East won't be an official South by Southwest venue, but Antone's will. Its spokesman, Hendrix, announced last week that Austin's venerable "Home of the Blues" would cede its West Fifth Street location after the giant March Festival to make way for Project Infest, an arts and music collective new to town. At the same time, he confirmed that the Beauty Ballroom, an Emo's satellite club sharing the block, has closed. Is Hendrix divesting himself of the music business?

"Not really," he says. "We're gonna do something with Antone's. [Meanwhile], I've been offered a couple TV things and am moving in that direction. I'm 52; the fire in my belly for the business part of music isn't what it used to be."

Hendrix, a natural on Discovery Channel reality series Texas Car Wars – he's long mined the auto business – nevertheless sounded characteristically upbeat about the resolution of these current dealings.

"At some point I'll put it back on the market. I thought C3 was a great fit for it. [C3 head] Charles Attal is a savvy business guy."

Black Flag 5.0

January brought the announcements of two separate Black Flag reunions. One called Flag, featuring original members Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Off!) and Chuck Dukowski, will headline Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas in May. The other, actually billed as Black Flag, reunites Jealous Again-era singer Ron Reyes with band boss Greg Ginn and late-model fill-in Gregory Moore for a new LP and tour.

Then, not content with only nostalgia gigs, Ginn joined up with pro skateboarder and punk rock frontman Mike Vallely in a new band called Good for You. The jagged riffs and stretchy atonal leads that made Ginn one of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists are dominant in Good for You's groove-based punk as topped by Vallely's fire-breathing hardcore couplets: "Hanging around like a fuckin' piñata/ Slice me open and you'll find nada!"

Vallely, a guest vocalist for the 2003 Black Flag reunion shows, visited Ginn's studio in nearby Taylor (revisit "Rise Above," Aug. 21, 2009) twice last year and recorded tracks, 11 of which make up Life Is Too Short to Not Hold a Grudge, out Feb. 26 on Ginn's now locally based and legendary label SST.

"I slept in the studio under the microphone," recalls Vallely. "I'd sing all night, then lay down on my sleeping bag, wake up, and sing again. It was the best creative experience of my life."

While Good for You lands much closer to Ginn's hardcore heyday than his weird recent offerings like Jambang, Taylor Texas Corrugators, or Greg Ginn & the Royal We, it's by no means a Black Flag replica.

"When we first talked about this project, we decided it isn't about the past," asserts Vallely. "It's about right now."

Ginn, Reyes, and Vallely were all sighted at the Legendary White Swan last Saturday watching Deadly Reign. While nothing's on the books yet, Vallely says touring starts April, right here in Texas.

Melvins Go Pinkus

A good soul at South by Southwest recently gifted us a strange LP, red and white splattered clear vinyl with killer, late-Eighties Butthole Surfers tracks on one side and an obscure Melvins recording on the other. Turns out it's volume six of a 13-edition split series from the Melvins on famed imprint Amphetamine Reptile, plus a bit of foreshadowing. In December, Melvins drummer Dale Crover performed with Honky, the local trio led by the Surfers' favored bassist Jeff Pinkus. Not long afterward, he met with Crover and Melvins singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne in L.A. for some writing and recording. The session, engineered by Big Business/Melvins wingman Toshi Kasai, yielded four songs, two written and sung by Pinkus. Titled "Pist Pistoferson" and "AM Radio Head," they reined the sludge vets into Pinkus' world of "big stupid rock songs." The other two tunes, penned by Osborne, utilize the cryptic tunings and oozing riffage that remain distinctly Melvins. "My songwriting is so much more structured than theirs," laughs Pinkus. "I write in a rock way whereas Buzz comes up with riffs so intricate that we'd have to remind ourselves what we did last practice. That's probably why they want me as a bass player, because I can remember his parts when he can't!" Pinkus and Osborne even did a little role reversal, switching off guitar and bass duties on one song. The EP, titled Pinkus, comes out on AmRep this spring. Many of the label's releases are in quantities of 700 and sell out quickly. "The Melvins put out so much stuff that this will be only a brief blurb in the timeline of their releases," reflects Pinkus. "But for me it's something that I've been real proud to be a part of."

Half Notes

› Voting in the Austin Music Poll ends Friday, so cast your picks if you haven't already. Early reports from ballot counters indicate that several high-profile categories are currently at a dead heat, so your vote can put your favorite on top. Winners get honored at the Austin Music Awards on Wednesday, March 13, which will feature performances by Ben Kweller, the Trishas, and many yet-to-be-announced local stars.

Luther Smalls, bassist for local instru-metalists Eagle Claw, traveled to California last weekend to compete in the amateur mixed martial arts event Epic Fighting 16. The whole San Diego crowd was against Smalls as an out-of-towner, but he stood up his opponent with a strong jab in round two and pummeled him against the cage until the ref called the fight. Smalls, who's been competing since last summer, plans to continue MMA fighting for Epic Fighting Championships and grab the amateur belt, then go pro. "I love training," he enthuses. "It makes everything in my life better, but, of course, I can't let Eagle Claw suffer, so I have to be sure to handle both carefully."

› A big thank you to Matthew Squires who mailed us a beat-up, old George Foreman Grill with his logo stenciled on it. Inside the grill was a handwritten letter with slightly alarming details about his sanity and a CD of his Matthew Squires & the Learning Disorders project that had pretty imaginative lyrics, but didn't quite stack up to the three-cheese panini I grilled up.

› Adios Texas – Playback has left for tour. I'm playing mandolin and acoustic guitar for roots-punk gang Black Eyed Vermillion, led by venerable growler Gary Lindsey (Assjack, Four Hour Fogger), as they beat up the road with local hellion Scott H. Biram. Expect dispatches from the road, and remember the immortal words that only Joey Ramone could rhyme: "Touring, touring, is never boring!"

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Emo's, C3 Presents, Antone's, Black Flag, Greg Ginn, Melvins, Butthole Surfers, Jeff Pinkus, Austin Music Awards, Eagle Claw, Matthew Squires, Scott H. Biram

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