Faster Than Sound: The College Kids Are Alright

First-ever KVRX Fest offers a buzzing platform for indie artists, Symphony Square, and industry-aspiring students. Also, Broken Spoke daughter Ginny White-Peacock needs “robot legs.”

Why Bonnie, who just returned from a tour with Beach Fossils, performing at Symphony Square on May 10. Full KVRX Fest photo gallery online. (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

UT Austin's "none of the hits, all the time" aficionados, KVRX 91.7FM, began broadcasting in 1988 following persistent student organizing efforts. The alternative frequency employed a similar tactic for its first-ever KVRX Fest last weekend. Basically: We don't have this thing, but we should.

The nation's largest music festival solely organized by a student-run radio station kicked off May 10-11 at Cheer Up Charlies and Symphony Square. Headliners included Drab Majesty, Palm, and Fat Tony matched with local selects and fulfilled station manager Gab Soong's promise for a "safe, diverse, inclusive, and joyful" assemblage. She and booking director/Chronicle music contributor Elise Barbin discussed plans here earlier this year (revisit "KVRX Launches the Largest College Radio Festival," March 1).

"College kids seem to know about music before anyone else does," emailed poster-topping Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos.

Flying in from another college gig, she invited local songwriter Alex Peterson (Alexalone) onstage for a portion of "Being Alive." Some 40 acts enjoyed light to medium crowds during the first-year event. Undergrad enthusiasm buzzed through the push pit during Atlanta rock trio Omni, local Detroit riddler Mike Melinoe's drink toss, and Dallas high school act Fishing in Japan.

"College radio is so important, and this seems like the best station in the country," added Eve Alpert of Philly experimentalists Palm.

Backed by the Waller Creek Conservancy's shiny new bar, KVRX Fest also pushed a pioneering use for Symphony Square: Projections by Astral Violet arted up the historic outdoor amphitheatre, Blair Howerton, frontwoman of local indie-pop act Why Bonnie, dubbed the space "the Game of Thrones stage," and Caroline Says namesake Caroline Sallee drolly considered jumping in the water flowing between bands and onlookers.

Palm at Cheer Up Charlies during KVRX Fest (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

KVRX has long stood as an incubator for Austin music (see "KVRX: Almost Old Enough to Drink (Legally)," April 17, 2008), namely Spoon frontman Britt Daniel. During the fest, Mamalarky lead Livvy Bennett fondly remembered work with Local Live, and Veranda singer Chris Nordahl told me about his past goth/industrial on-air hour. Max Gregor, head of festival partner Ritual Events, spent months training radio kids to run the weekend event.

"It felt like the first Fun Fun Fun Fest, where none of us knew what we were doing, but we were all really excited," says Gregor, formerly of Emo's. "Without that opportunity, I would never be where I am now."

To cut station costs, Gregor agreed to potentially be paid in university tuition credits. He wants to study Buddhism. While Texas Student Media helped secure sponsorships, including support from Austin Community College, UT did not directly fund the weekend experiment.

Meanwhile, the fest deejay founders were embedded in onstage antics: Barbin kicked off Saturday in Pavement cover band Cement and TC Superstar invited Soong onstage at night's end. With both graduating, Gregor hopes to support the gathering in future years.

"[KVRX Fest] had a great intention," he adds. "As long as they pick up that momentum and keep running, it's going to grow into something much bigger."

Benefit for the Broken Spoke's Ginny White-Peacock

Broken Spoke founder James White brought his daughter to the legendary honky-tonk at just 11 days old to snap a photo with Ernest Tubb. Her photos lining the dance hall walls, Ginny White-Peacock eventually became general manager. Last fall, a life-threatening battle with toxic shock syndrome kept her away from the South Lamar hub for the first time in her 43 years.

"We almost lost Ginny two or three times," reveals her father. "The chaplain had the whole family come in and say a prayer. I've prayed more in the last few months than I have my whole life."

Days after Peacock's October birthday, the sudden condition forced induction of a two-week-long coma. To save her life, doctors circuited blood flow to her vital organs, eventually requiring the partial amputation of both legs and nine fingers. Doctors suspect the infection spread to her bloodstream via a scrape on her knee.

"I didn't shed a tear or anything about the amputations," says Peacock, calling from her home. "I can either feel sorry for myself or make a game plan for the rest of my life. My dad always says, 'It's better to laugh than cry.'"

Her two sons keep her in good humor. Her 6-year-old's inquiry of, "Mom, when are you gonna get your robots legs?" inspired a poster for the Spoke's benefit show this Friday. The Wagoneers, the Derailers, Two Tons of Steel, and special guests fundraise for Peacock's sky-high medical costs, including prosthetic legs.

"If it wasn't for people donating, we would be living with my parents," adds Peacock of support from an online GoFundMe campaign.

Auction items include a private catered show from Gary P. Nunn, Peacock's own original paintings, and a signed George Strait guitar. Strait's chart-topping March album, Honky Tonk Time Machine, features the Broken Spoke on the cover.

During our chat, Peacock's husband Mike fills in medical details from the background. Formerly a bartender at the family business, he now provides round the clock care for his wife, who he met playing online poker while living in England. Without two central employees, the Broken Spoke also relies on community help.

"We earmarked the Broken Spoke to let Ginny run it when we were no longer able to," says 80-year-old White. "Now we'll just see. It's in God's hands."


Austin Record Convention: Even though Nathan Hanners can't be completely sure because his dad Doug Hanners wasn't the strictest bookkeeper in the Eighties, this weekend's Austin Record Convention likely stands as the biggest ever. Already the country's largest, the May 17-19 vinyl paradise sold out over 300 vendor tables at Palmer Events Center. Tickets are online now. "The buzz seems stronger than ever," adds Nathan. "It's always a fun reunion with the usual suspects, but it's really cool to see new people interested in the show."

DJ Southpaw, aka local radio host Steven Galindo, died on May 7. The 47-year-old faced ongoing health problems and was on the waitlist for a heart and kidney transplant. Throughout his work on KAZI 88.7FM, 102.3 The Beat's Saturday Night Beatdown, and 95.9 RnB's Mix at Six, Galindo championed local hip-hop and popularized our now-ubiquitous city nickname "ATX."

Poet/critic Hanif Abdurraqib offers new book Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, 7pm on Wednesday, May 22, at Austin Central Library. The hybrid love letter, history, and memoir supplied UT Press' first bestseller in decades. Abdurraqib speaks with Evan Narcisse, a writer for Marvel Comics' Black Panther series.

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KVRX Fest, Ginny White-Peacock, Max Gregor, Ritual Events, Broken Spoke, James White, George Strait, Austin Record Convention 2019, Nathan Hanners, Doug Hanners, DJ Southpaw, Steven Galindo, Hanif Abdurraqib, Elise Barbin, Gab Soong

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