Tom Petty Day in Austin: Sun Radio marathon, plus two tribute bands in the clubs

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Friday was officially Tom Petty Day in the City of Austin, as declared by formal proclamation from the mayor’s office in acknowledgment of what would have been the 67th birthday of the legendary rocker who died Oct. 1. Austin had seen its share of Tom Petty tributes over the last couple of weeks, especially at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, but Friday brought a fresh wave of salutes to his music.

Local station Sun Radio led the way, airing 24 hours of Petty’s music, from well-known classics to obscure outtakes and live tracks plus quite a few Petty covers by a wide variety of artists. The capper was a 7 p.m. broadcast of Petty’s 2006 ACL Fest headlining set, in its entirety.

Around the time that broadcast was winding down, live tribute shows in two Austin clubs were gearing up. At One-2-One Bar, the Damn Torpedoes, an Austin band that has been playing Petty’s songs for years, held forth with special guest Patricia Vonne. We headed over to Hole in the Wall, where Petty Thieves, who formed around a year ago, were holding forth with a half-dozen guest singers sitting in. Check out the video above for a dozen highlights from two-plus hours of Petty classics.

Petty Thieves — l-r, Mike Nicolai, Randy Franklin, Travis Garaffa, Hunter Darby, guest singer Kevin McCarthy, Steve McCarthy — at Hole in the Wall on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

As fate would have it, we began our Tom Petty Day on the phone with Chris Hillman, the Byrds co-founder and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer whose new album “Bidin’ My Time” was the last record Petty ever produced. Hillman will perform Nov. 10 at the Texas Union Theater with his longtime cohorts Herb Pedersen and John Jorgenson. We’ll have more of that interview in the American-Statesman soon, but here’s a brief excerpt:

“Tom was a good producer, and a good man. I’ve known him sort of since 1978, but I really got to know him in the first couple months of this year” (while making the record). “It was hard to look at Tom Petty as a rock star. He was so humble; I never saw that in him. And I have very little tolerance for that rock star thing. They did this article in Mojo magazine, and they interviewed Tom, and he said, about me, ‘You know, Chris, he’s just a consummate musician, I don’t think he ever liked show business; he didn’t really want to be around it.’ And I looked at that, and I said, he’s absolutely right. That’s right, I just never cared much about that. And I don’t think he did either. He was totally into the music.”

Fastball’s Miles Zuniga, who closed out Friday’s Hole in the Wall show just past midnight with Petty’s heartfelt ballad “The Best of Everything,” echoed those sentiments as he noted how personal Petty’s death seems to have been. As hard as fans may have taken last year’s deaths of Prince and David Bowie, it was different with Petty precisely because he always seemed so approachable and un-godlike.

“You couldn’t be Prince. You couldnt’ be Bowie,” Zuniga summed up. “But you could be Petty.”



Austin goes overseas: three outreach efforts featuring local musicians

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Spain, France, Germany and Australia: The month of September has found a handful of Austin artists looking well beyond national borders toward musical opportunities to represent the city’s music community in other countries.

Pueblos Blancos

First up was the Pueblos Blancos Music Festival, which featured a handful of Austin acts including Joe King Carrasco, Riders Against the Storm, Nakia and Leeann Atherton playing free shows in four southern Spain mountaintop villages from Sept. 7-10.

Joe King Carrasco y los Side FX on the opening night of the Pueblos Blancos Music Festival in Montejaque, Spain. Contributed/Pueblos Blancos Music Festival

The Austin connection comes from Phil Plata, a drummer known for his work with 1980s-’90s Austin pop band the WayOuts. A few years ago, he recorded with a Madrid guitarist who invited Plata to come play with him in Spain. Plata fell in love with the Pueblos Blancos region and suggested starting a festival there.

“I wrote up a proposal, my friends took it to the mayors of the villages, and much to my surprise the local governments liked the idea and wanted to move forward with it,” Plata said. “When I first envisioned it, I thought we would be playing in little clubs, but my amigos here were able to get the local villages to give us these amazingly beautiful stages that I still can’t believe.”

This year’s event followed its debut in 2016, with plans for another festival next year. “The goals of the festival are to introduce Texas bands to Spain and the European market, develop a fan base there and meet European music industry connections for future tours,” Plata says.

Project ATX6

This week, the latest class of Project ATX6 musicians is in Europe to play a couple of special events. Austin artists Corey Baum, Sisi Berry, Little Mazarn, Mobley, Acey Monaro and Taylor Wilkins will perform Wednesday at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany, before heading to France for a couple of events as part of the Austin Week celebration in Angers, one of Austin’s sister cities.

This year’s Project ATX6 musicians are, from left, Taylor Wilkins, Acey Monaro, Mobley, Little Mazarn, Sisi Berry and Corey Baum. Contributed/Letitia Smith

The European events are just the beginning of a busy fall for the four-year-old Project ATX6, which features a different half-dozen Austin musicians every year. In October they’ll travel to the Yumeiro Music Festival in Oita, Japan, followed by a November trip to Toronto for Indie Week. A season-concluding hometown concert is set for Nov. 29 at Stateside at the Paramount.

House of Songs

Tuesday evening at the House of Songs in South Austin, Austin acts Graham Wilkinson, Akina Adderley and Dawn & Hawkes gathered for a screening of “Albert E. Brumley: Songwriter of the Ozarks,” which documents last year’s project that brought songwriters from Australia to the House of Songs. Together, the two camps wrote new songs working with recently unearthed lyrics by Brumley, the 20th-century legend responsible for such classics as “I’ll Fly Away” and “Turn Your Radio On.”

READ MORE: House of Songs reaches toward new horizons

The musicians also played a short acoustic set (see video above) for the small gathering of attendees that included Austin mayor Steve Adler and his wife, Diane Land. The event was held in part to raise funds for the four musicians to attend a documentary screening at a festival in Adelaide, Austin’s Australian sister city, next month.

The city of Adelaide is covering the cost of three musicians. House of Songs is seeking donations to allow all four to attend. Local music patron group Black Fret is accepting donations to the cause via the Black Fret website (with instructions to earmark PayPal contributions with the special instructions “for Adelaide”).

A short film documents the collaboration between Austin and Australian songwriters on recently found lyrics of legendary Arkansas songwriter Albert E. Brumley. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman



Six fall music festivals in Austin (that aren’t ACL Fest)

Like fall temperatures, fall music festival season comes later to Austin than it does to much of the country. The big behemoth, Austin City Limits Festival, featuring Jay-Z, Chance the Rapper and Red Hot Chili Peppers is set for  Oct. 6-9 and 13-15 at Zilker Park. Sound on Sound Festival, the indie shindig that rose from the ashes of Fun Fun Fun Fest ,  doesn’t kick off its second year at Sherwood Forest Faire with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grizzly Bear and Iggy Pop until Nov. 10. But never fear, this is Austin and if you can’t wait two months for a day-long multi-band binge, we’ve got you covered.

At the big festivals everything happens on a larger scale, from the stages, to the artist names to the massive crowd you rock with at Zilker Park. These smaller events offer an opportunity to get up close and personal with artists and do some in-depth musical exploration.

Sept. 2: Pennyfest at Empire. Does a single-day event really count as a fest? It might be stretching the definition, but we’ll let it slide for this one for its solid offerings of top notch indie rock. Gigs by San Antonio outfit Girl in a Coma have been rare over the last couple years as lead singer Nina Diaz focused on her solo career, but they kick off a national tour later this fall and they’ll be in Austin to headline this shindig. Also on the bill, presented by Penny Loafer PR and 101X Homegrown Live, are Emily Wolfe, Ghost Wolves, Darkbird and many more. More info. 

Jai Malano plays the Titos Handmade Vodka Stage at ACL Fest weekend on Sunday October 2, 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Sept. 9-10: Eastside Kings Festival. Dialtone Records founder Eddie Stout has made preserving the heritage of gospel and blues music in Central Texas a lifelong mission. This is the fifth year for his signature festival, which jump starts the heart of Austin’s historic blues district on the Eastside. The event features over 30 bands at eight venues with a big stage in the Mission Possible parking lot at Twelfth and Chicon. Featured artists include old school greats like Sonny Rhodes and Blues Boy Hubbard alongside some of the hottest new acts on Austin’s soul scene like Jai Malano and Tomar and the FCs. New events this year include a kickoff party at Antone’s and an after party at Justine’s Brasserie.   More info

RELATED: Eddie Stout grows Eastside Kings blues fest to 9 clubs in East Austin

Sept. 12-16: Austin Music Video Fest. Now in its third year, this festival explores the intersection of Austin’s music and movie-making communities and celebrates the music video as a form of short film. This year’s event includes world premieres from local artists Golden Dawn Arkestra, Sip Sip and Walker Lukens, retrospectives from Spike Jonze and the Flaming Lips, local artist Christeene and local label Holodeck Records (which includes members of Survive). There will also be a Video Swim Bike and a Video Bike Night –a bike-in movie theater, and the annual Austin Music Video Awards. More info.

Sept. 14-16: Sonic Transmissions Festival.  The self-proclaimed “pioneering improvisational music festival without boundaries” presents a diverse cross-section of sounds from experimental punk noise to psychedelic cumbia and free jazz. Featured artists include jazz multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, Norwegian jazz bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Colombian cumbia group Carmelo Torres y Los Toscos and more. Events take place around town at Kick Butt Coffee, Kenny Dorham’s Backyard, Barracuda and the Victory Grill. More info.

Sept. 22-23: Red River Family Festival at Barracuda. Like it loud? Local label Red River Family Records presents two days of metal madness with Inquisition, Uada and Volahn and more. More info.

Sept. 23-24: Pecan St. Festival . The biannual art and music festival takes over Sixth Street for its 37th fall edition. The event features free music on several stages and the lineup includes rising blues artist Jackie Venson, back from a couple summer stints supporting Gary Clark Jr. on tour, and Louisiana act Royal Teeth. The Peligrosa DJ collective, who are celebrating 10 years fusing hip-hop funk and Latin sounds this fall, will make an appearance alongside local acts like Moving Panoramas, Kay Odyssey, Kiko Villamizar and more.  More info

WATCH: Jackie Venson performs with Anderson.Paak, Mac Miller on Colbert

’90s hip-hop heads rejoice: Ms. Lauryn Hill and Nas joint tour coming to Austin

Here’s a solid bet for fans of lyrically fierce ’90s hip-hop: Two pillars of that era, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Nas are embarking on a joint tour this fall. The show hits the Austin360 Amphitheater on Sept. 30.

Lauryn Hill performs in concert at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q on May 2, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Tickets run $31.50 to $131.50 and go on sale Friday at 10 a.m.

Over the past decade Hill’s performances have been notoriously inconsistent and frequently tardy. The last time we caught her, in the final moments of the final Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2015, she was brilliant, transcendent. Her set had a hard curfew of 10 p.m. and she actually started a couple minutes early.

The last time she played Austin, when her “Diaspora Calling” tour hit ACL Live last fall, she was reportedly good, but quite late to hit the stage. Fans who caught recent performances from Hill in Pittsburgh and Atlanta fared worse.

Nas, who headlined Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2014, is, and has always been, “half-man, half amazing.”

Nas. Photo by Tammy Perez/For American-Statesman.



Music returning to old Strange Brew digs? Quack’s has plans for the spot

The former Strange Brew coffee shop and its adjacent Lounge Side live music room have been dormant on Manchaca Road in South Austin since the business shuttered amid financial problems in January. But yesterday, Hyde Park coffee shop and bakery Quack’s announced they’re taking over the spot this summer, apparently with a music venue as part of the plan.

READ MORE: Quack’s bakery opening a location in South Austin

South Austin music venue and coffee shop Strange Brew closed in January. Peter Blackstock/Ameridcan-Statesman

“We just signed the lease for our second location to be open this summer,” Quack’s posted to its Facebook page on Monday. In addition to Captain Quackenbush’s Coffeehouse & Bakery — harkening back to the long name used for the original location on the Drag in the 1980s — the site “will also proudly present The Austin Soundroom at 5330 Manchaca Road,” the Facebook post added.

Strange Brew opened in 2010 and added a live music room in 2012. The business filed for bankruptcy in 2016, then abruptly closed in mid-January. It had become an important cog in the local music scene, winning several Austin Music Industry Awards categories in recent years. Many of its residency gigs have since relocated to other Austin venues including El Mercado Backstage, One-2-One Bar and Cactus Cafe.

The specified Austin Soundroom address of 5330 Manchaca Road was actually the previous home of Tobaccoville, a smoke shop next to Strange Brew’s coffee and music rooms that Strange Brew ownership had taken over as part of expansion plans that never panned out. The inclusion of that address, in addition to the 5326 Manchaca Road address given for the new coffee shop, suggests Quack’s will expand or change the footprint of the previous Strange Brew music room.

Shovels & Rope exude DIY rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasm at Emo’s


Listening to Shovels & Rope’s latest album “Little Seeds,” one wonders how the duo can pull off its sound live. The rollicking folk-rock Americana of the married couple from South Carolina skews closer to the White Stripes than it does The Civil Wars. Drums, bass, keys, guitars, harmonica, a mandolin and more lined the stage before the couple’s set at Emo’s Thursday night, right next to two empty chairs. Any doubts as to whether two people could make much of a racket with just a few instruments were quickly cast aside after a few songs.

Shovels and Rope with guest Matthew Logan Vasquez perform at Emo’s in Austin, Texas on March 30, 2017 – Photo Credit: Scott Moore/for American-Statesman

Moving effortlessly between instruments as well as their song catalog, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst gleefully seemed to conjure a full-band roots rock concert out of thin air. At one point, Trent was playing the bass drum, the keyboard and the harmonica while Hearst furiously strummed a guitar and sang about how “the rich is rich and the poor is poor and the money you had ain’t good no more.”

More: See photos of the concert here!

Even without knowing the words to some of the songs, it wasn’t hard to get swept up in the sheer Do-It-Yourself joy the two felt on stage. Trent and Hearst swapped seats and instruments at least five times throughout the show. One feels like the decisions on which instrument to play were made organically — either one could have sat down at the keyboard or strapped on a guitar at a moment’s notice. The end result was a show that was a little rough around the edges but was all the better for it because of how much fun Trent and Hearst seemed to be having.

The songs, however, weren’t all fun and games. Mixed in with the raucous “I Know,” the witty “Buffalo Nickel” and the scuzzy Chuck Berry tribute “Hail, Hail” were songs that dealt with the aforementioned class woes (“Gasoline”), the over-medication of children (“Johnny, Won’t You Come Outside”) and the worries that come when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (“Mourning Song”).

That thought-provoking subject matter combined with Shovels & Rope’s DIY ethos to create a listening experience that is best experienced live. Trent and Hearst made all the tone switches and instrument changes look so effortless that one almost thinks they too could start a rollicking folk duo if only they had the right partner. (I left Emo’s with a plan to go start a garage band with my friends, my lack of musical talent be damned). But, as with all partnerships (marital or musical), this one is impossible to duplicate.