Playback: Chaos in Tejas
Chaos in Tejas courts hip-hop, and other tales from the underground punk / metal fest
Back in February, Chaos in Tejas proudly announced it had booked Queensbridge, N.Y., rap duo Mobb Deep to perform its 1995 album The Infamous. The duo then quietly ditched the music festival this weekend to headline a show Friday at Antone's.
With a vacancy in CiT's hip-hop program, mostly one-man festival booker Timmy Hefner scored Internet sensation Antwon, who hits Hotel Vegas Sunday with gangsta rapper/noise producer Lil Ugly Mane, and Geto Boy Bushwick Bill, who's spent much of the past four months in town readying a comeback album. Hefner also landed respected Long Island rapper Roc Marciano, who tops a bill tonight, Thursday, at the North Door that includes Queens spitter Meyhem Lauren.
"I like to put hip-hop shows on the Thursday and Sunday of Chaos to break up all the punk and metal," explains Hefner, who debuted his heavily curated matrix of one-of-a-kind talent in 2004 and added rap two years ago. "It goes hand-in-hand with the heavier music we have because both make a really big statement."
Antwon, whose hefty voice draws constant comparisons to the Notorious B.I.G., tells "Playback" he's wanted to attend CiT as a fan for years, and that his only concern about rapping at the predominantly extreme music fest is that his set time might cause him to miss Infest, one of his favorite hardcore bands.
"I grew up in California going to punk shows every weekend," says the MC, whose February release In Dark Denim went nuts online. "That's how I learned to put on a high-energy performance."
Indeed, footage on YouTube finds Antwon sharing the microphone with a screaming crowd at historic Bay Area punk venue the Gilman as kids stage dive to his raps.
"It's street music," offers Antwon. "That's where punk and hip-hop came from. And the attitude for both is rebellious. Not with every type of hip-hop and punk band, but with the good shit."
Gimme Gimme Gimme Black Flag
The crotchety old punks who saw Black Flag in the Eighties stood along the back with arms crossed as wiry youths provided a constant aerial assault of stage diving. Hardcore icons Greg Ginn (l), Ron Reyes, and a couple alternates played every old song the band's fans wanted to hear and five new ones at Infest last Thursday. Rising above leery expectations, Black Flag's proved that, unlike people, songs don't mellow with age.
Hands on a Holodeck
Aside from obvious imports like Michigan noise terrorists Wolf Eyes and Portland, Ore., drone whisperer Grouper, the bulk of Chaos in Tejas' experimental roster comes from Austin's backyard. With a small number of boundary-pushing musicians mounting a large number of projects, the local scene remains collaboratively incestuous, eminently creative, and, with the help of homegrown label Holodeck Records, extremely prolific. "There was this critical mass of cool music coming from our experimental scene, especially on the electronic side, that wasn't being amplified enough," says Jon Slade, who with four others formed the imprint last April and began releasing small runs of cassette tapes, which carry the advantage of being inexpensive, collectable, and good for transferring analog music. "We're not alone," affirms co-founder Adam Jones, a multi-instrumentalist involved in five local bands. "There are hundreds of tape labels throughout the country as more and more people are being reintroduced to the format." Much of Holodeck's catalog has sold out, largely through international online sales, and their first vinyl issue, Troller, an exquisitely dark and bassy synth pop-project with badass beats, required a second pressing almost immediately. Momentum, it seems, is on the side of this small local label that, as they build a reputation for themselves, can do the same for Austin's experimental artists.
Holodeck at CiT
Thursday: Survive, 8pm, Mohawk; Troller, 12:40am, Mohawk
Friday: Silent Land Time Machine, 8pm, Central Presbyterian Church
Saturday: Thousand Foot Whale Claw, 10:45pm, Holy Mountain
Los Crudos at Chaos
Martin Sorrondeguy should be counted among the most righteous frontmen in punk music history. With his Chicago hardcore band Los Crudos, which mangled guitar necks 1991-1998 and reforms this weekend to mangle minds at Chaos in Tejas, the Uruguayan native screamed en Español about issues facing disenfranchised Latinos. Later, in quintessential queercore band Limp Wrist, Sorrondeguy raged, "Fake fags in Hollywood don't impress me/Try to demonstrate how I'm supposed to be!"
Austin Chronicle: What's the extent of the Los Crudos reunion?
Martin Sorrondeguy: It's weird how these things happen, because we have no plan. We re-formed to raise money for a friend with cancer, but then decided to do a few more shows and ended up playing South America and Chicago. Then [Chaos founder] Timmy Hefner threw it out there that he'd like us to play Chaos again.
AC: In your documentary, Behind the Screams, you describe how the political climate of the early Nineties made the Latino community feel targeted and cornered. How has that situation changed?
MS: Not that long ago we saw Arizona lawmakers completely ignoring the Constitution and Latino's civil rights. That stuff's not going away. I look back and think about Crudos lyrics and realize they're just as relevant today as the day we wrote them.
AC: A ton of punk bands sing in Spanish now. How many were there when Los Crudos formed?
MS: It was a relatively new approach to address punk in Spanish. When I was going to school in Chicago, we weren't allowed to speak Spanish in school. We were being told to assimilate and be ashamed. We knew it was bullshit. That's where Crudos stems from. We were told what we spoke was wrong, what we ate was wrong, who we were was wrong, and our response was, "Fuck you! There is nothing wrong with us."
AC: You're among the best known homosexual punk singers, but Austin had its greats long before. Were you into the Dicks or the Big Boys growing up?
MS: It always blew my mind they were from Texas, which has such a conservative reputation. It impressed me, like, "Man, these guys are really fucking with stuff." Right now, I'm staring at original Dicks and Big Boys fliers, and they say "Kill the Klan," "Commie rock," "Faggot rock." Holy shit. It's intense! That was the Eighties! I'm not kidding: I'm looking at the flier right now! Man, they took a fucking stand and stuck to their guns. I love that!
What We Do Is Secret
› Set your alarm to 11am on Saturday for a CiT breakfast show at Cheer Up Charlie's. Along with Iron Lung, No Statik, Replica, and Common Fears, "vegan bacon cheeseburgers" have also been promised. As of press time, the Chronicle remains uncertain as to whether that's referring to actual food or another obscure crust band.
› You don't have to be homeless to hang out on the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge all night. Head down to the Colorado River crosswalk after the bars close tonight, Thursday, to catch Krömosom, No Statik, and Long Knife. Joyce Manor, Power Trip, and Hoax play the same time on Friday.