Playback: Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee: A New Campaign

Begin your write-in campaign for Poison 13 duo Tim Kerr and Mike Carroll to reunite Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee – possibly at Grizzly Hall, with Leo Rondeau opening!


Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee, the only Austin act with a more exhausting name than ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, resurfaced this month – a decade after their last performance – with a long unissued recording titled Your Move.

Imagine a garage-soul Fugazi with peace punk motives and jazz instincts, as launched at the millennium from the loins of veteran screecher Mike Carroll and Big Boys guitarist Tim Kerr. The pair endures today as one of Austin's most potent punk partnerships, anchoring pre-grunge dynamos Poison 13 (1984-87) and garage-punk upstarts Lord High Fixers (1995-2000).

"Mike and I have been friends since the Big Boys days, when he was sort of a 'roadie' for us," offers Kerr. "Total Sound was an extension of the ideas we had started in the Lord High Fixers."

If Lord High Fixers hinted at free jazz, Total Sound Group embraced it as an ethos. The unclassifiable quintet, rounded out by drummer Ben Webster, bassist Nick Moulos, and organist Patrick Benfield, staked a six-year run of chaotic all-ages performances, bingeing on crowd participation and improvisation, often ending with broken equipment and bloody fingers. Four years after their only LP, 2002's Party Platform... Our Schedule Is Change!, TSGDAC went out with a bang after a performance at England's All Tomorrow's Parties festival.

"Basically life happened," shrugs Webster. "I went on tour playing drums in Har Mar Superstar's band Sean Na Na and Tim's art world completely blew up. A lot of things changed in a short amount of time, and we didn't play any more shows – which was weird because we'd just mixed this record."

Your Move was recorded in 2004 at Mike Vasquez's Sweatbox Studio.

"It felt like a jazz session," Webster remembers. "On every take, everyone in that room was trying something totally different, representing the songs in a completely unique way. We were celebrating life in the moment – which is what the band was all about."

"Now's the time to do what you're saying!" sneers Carroll before a squall of whooping horns, screaming organ, and raw distortion detonate Total Sound doctrine "Our Friends Are Friends," a highlight of Your Move, freshly co-released on ooze green vinyl by (iN)Sect Records and Twistworthy in an ultra-limited run featuring fold-out wall art by Kerr and Rich Jacobs. Kerr's other highlight: "Freedom Piece," a 12-minute meditative chant skronk. The LP advertises such euphoric chaos as "joyful noise."

"Joyful noise, for me, is a self-expression call to arms to celebrate your time here," smiles Kerr. "Celebrate your friends and extended family."

Asked if the group will reassemble for a show, Kerr won't rule it out.

"I learned a while back to never say never."

Leo's Last Dance

It's 11:50pm and the White Horse is shoulder-to-shoulder from the cement dance floor to its taco-and-cigarette scented patio. Thursday night feels like Saturday at the Eastside honky-tonk thanks to pre-weekend residencies catering to two-steppers, groundwork laid by Mike & the Moonpies in 2011. These days, the boots move to eagle-eyed country singer Leo Rondeau, who's built a fiercely loyal following headlining Thursday festivities since 2013. A painting of his likeness, with trademark braids, even hangs over the bar.

Two minutes after midnight, the lanky North Dakota native fires up his fivepiece band and the dance floor erupts. Disparate casts unite as elderly swing the youthful, and tech bros dance with cowgirls. Rondeau, looking like a ranch hand but singing like a free spirit, drives the action with propulsive workingman anthems "Breaking My Back" and a state-mandated Doug Sahm cover. No time to clap, just one more dip, one more spin, then off to find another partner or another drink.


Leo Rondeau (Photo by John Anderson)

Catch it while you can. After tonight, Rondeau hits the pause button for a summer break, which will facilitate national touring. White Horse booker Howdy Darrell says he'll try out Michael Dart & the Skyline Wranglers in the coveted Thursday slot. Meanwhile, Rondeau's colorful bassist Corey Baum has launched a Tuesday two-step night nearby at Barracuda, featuring free 8pm dance lessons followed by his country hot dog crew Croy & the Boys.

The residency name nods to a new ATX C&W heyday: This Ain't No Armadillo.

Grizzly Hall Opens


Unsane brutalizes Grizzly Hall. (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

"They're calling that Emo's," denounced Honky axe Bobby Rock, his Les Paul-tattooed arm pointing east. "This is Emo's!"

Eastside event space Grizzly Hall kicked off its concert-filled calendar last Friday with a class reunion of Nineties Red River delinquents that doubled as a love-in for owner Jason Sabala, who ran Emo's in its heyday. Russell Porter, toad-king of nitrous oxide rockers Fuckemos, sang locally cherished anti-hits while audience members ejaculated Silly String before Rock and Butthole Surfer Jeff Pinkus debuted material from new Housecore Records release Corduroy and enlisted Down's Pat Bruders to sing "Snortin' Whiskey & Drinkin' Cocaine."

Having housed the short-lived Beauty Ballroom and a forgettable iteration of Antone's, the building at 2015 E. Riverside remains a stellar sounding room – even better now with the walls coated in raw wood. The rustic renovation, including elk, deer, and buffalo heads, courts a hunting-lodge aesthetic, but headliners Unsane stalked big-game grooves with a sledgehammer instead of buckshot. The NYC noise trio christened the venue with raw aggression behind fire-throated frontman Chris Spencer.

Grizzly Hall celebrates its grand opening Saturday with Oakland stoner metal champions High on Fire.

HALF NOTES

Florence Welch surprised a 15-year-old girl at Hospice Austin's Christopher House on Friday with a private concert. After doctors determined the teen too ill to attend Florence + the Machine's concert on Thursday, Welch came to her bedside and sang "Shake It Out" and "Dog Days Are Over," with the young fan harmonizing beautifully.

Stacy Sutherland Tribute: A 70th birthday party for the late 13th Floor Elevators guitarist takes place in his hometown of Kerrville on Friday at the Lazy Dog, a building the 'Vators played in 1966 when it was an American Legion Hall. Bandmates John Ike Walton and Ronnie Leatherman, in Austin Sunday at Symphony Square (see Music listings), plus onetime bassist Duke Davis and 2015 reunion ringers Fred Mitchim and Eli Southard, are all confirmed to perform. The concert, $20, raises money to repair the broken grave of Sutherland, who died in 1978 after being shot during a domestic dispute.

The Jazzus Lizard welcomes Jesus Lizard screamer David Yow on Aug. 27 at the Lost Well. The local tribute act plays jazz renditions of the noise rockers' repertoire, and although their bassist Adam Kahan says the singer hasn't laid eyes on the lounge troupe in action, he reports that Jesus Lizard bassist David Sims has. Jazzus Lizard, hatched in the mid-2000s, has been inactive in recent years as members focused on other projects like Churchwood and Future of Air Travel. "I thought the joke had run its course," admits Kahan. "Clearly I was wrong."

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Christopher Gray, Sept. 3, 2004

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee, Tim Kerr, Big Boys, Mike Carroll, Poison 13, Ben Webster, Leo Rondeau, Grizzly Hall, Jason Sabala, Emo's, Fuckemos, Unsane, Florence + the Machine, Jesus Lizard, Jazzus Lizard, David Yow, Stacy Sutherland, 13th Floor Elevators

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