Taco Fest 2k13: The Commonwealth of American Natives earn love from Denton punks

The Nashville three-piece with a long name and infectious hooks got the garage at Taqueria El Picante churning on Saturday night during the noisy, sweltering Taco Fest 2k13.

Bassist Alex Rowe traded vocals with guitarist Edwin Coombs while Ross Winchel pummeled the drums during a set that was all too short.

Between Rowe’s fierce, raspy vocals and Coombs confident shredding, Commonwealth made straight-up punk rock that was poppy-enough to lure in the day’s biggest crowd before sundown, and punk enough to set off a wild mosh pit that bloodied at least one forehead and spilled horchata and beer.

The Commonwealth of  American Natives, a Nashville punk three-piece, made room for a serious mosher during the band's set at Taco Fest 2K13 on May 18, 2013. Photo by Lucinda Breeding.

The Commonwealth of American Natives, a Nashville punk three-piece, made room for a serious mosher during the band’s set at Taco Fest 2K13 on May 18, 2013. Photo by Lucinda Breeding.

The kids, as they say, seemed like they wouldn’t have it any other way. They lined up at the band’s merch table four deep, shoveling out cash and praise in equal measure.

“We played here last night,” Coombs said. “We were booked with a band we’re touring with, Infected, and it was a great show. We asked if there was a spot we could play today.”

The trio was pushing its latest and third release, a seven inch split with Random Conflict. The seven inch was released by Shit Starter Records.

“This record is really kind of us starting over with a new drummer (Winchel) and us starting over with a new writing direction,” Coombs said. “We really tried to integrate dual vocals. I sing and Alex sings. I write half the lyrics and she writes half. We take one idea and then we write about it.””very lyrically based,” which shows. The Commonwealth of American Natives performed the single day-time set in which vocals were discernible. (Taco Fest is a punk and hardcore bash, and most of the vocals amounted to a roar that sounded like a twentysomething man vomiting up something like “BRAAAAAAAAAAWWWHHH!”)

Rowe said the band is “very lyrically based.”

“I sing these lyrics like I sing songs by other bands, you know, when you sing just to get through the day. That’s how I sing these songs,” Rowe said.

Coombs said the two-track record is a punk rock treatment of daily life, and the struggles it can bring. “Do You Read Sutter Cane” is a tribute to the John Carpenter horror film In the Mouth of Madness (an insurance investigator questions his sanity as he watches the fans of a horror writer seem to lose touch with reality.

“You know how sometimes, you think about all the violence around you and all of the crazy stuff all around you and you start wondering ‘am I the only sane person left?’ That’s where that song came from,” Coombs said.

“Bird in a Cage” is a shout-out to the wage slaves clocking in so they might make music – or follow their true passion, whatever it might be.

The band is on a three week tour with Infected, and heads to Kansas City, Missouri, on Sunday. The band continues to Minneapolis, Minn. and, eventually, Chicago.

– Lucinda Breeding.

Tacos + punk + hardcore = a fest only Denton could dream up

TACO FEST 2K13

What: Total Twit production collective presents a two-day music festival with bands on two stages.

When: Starting 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Where: Taqueria El Picante, 1305 Knight St., facing the I-35E frontage road

Details: Admission costs $5 each day. Lineups are subject to changes and additions.

On the Web: http://on.fb.me/16hVItu

SATURDAY’S LINEUP: Negaduck, Primitive Orgasm, Sin Motivo, the Sentenced, Mean and Ugly, Chainchomp, Contusions, Estonia at the 1944 Olympics, No Outlet, Macaulay Culkin, Night Crimes and more.

SUNDAY’S LINEUP: Track Meet, Brain Gang Blue, the Distressers, SeaLion, New Science Projects, the Atomic Tanlines, FOGG, Bukkake Moms, the Half Truths, Special Guest, Varsity Cheerleader and more.

"I never thought of the taqueria as a (DIY) spot," said Sven Wilde, who morphed his business, Taqueria El Picante into a taqueria-punk venue in Denton. "People just seemed to want it." The taquieria is the hotspot for this weekend's Taco Fest 2k13, a two-day bash celebrating a growing punk & hardcore music scene. Photo by David Minton.

“I never thought of the taqueria as a (DIY) spot,” said Sven Wilde, who morphed his business, Taqueria El Picante into a taqueria-punk venue in Denton. “People just seemed to want it.” The taquieria is the hotspot for this weekend’s Taco Fest 2k13, a two-day bash celebrating a growing punk & hardcore music scene. Photo by David Minton.

Tacos and punk rock go together like peanut butter and jelly, as far as Denton’s Ally Alli Play-Nice* and Sven Wilde are concerned.

And it makes sense. Tacos are simple and spicy affairs, messy food you eat with your hands and wash down with a cold drink. Punk is young, bare-knuckle conviction screamed into a microphone and caterwauled from a guitar.

Punk and tacos have no pretense, and neither do Alli and Wilde.

Alli, the front woman of the rising Denton punk band the Atomic Tanlines, met Wilde, local music fan and owner  representative of Taqueria El Picante, at a bar.**

“We started dancing with each other,” Alli said. “We caught other’s gaze. He was dancing really silly and I started dancing right next to him.”

“It got some attention, if I remember right,” Wilde said.

“Oh, yeah. The dance floor cleared out around us because we were dancing crazy,” Alli said.

They got a drink afterward and a fast friendship was sealed. Saturday’s Taco Fest 2k13 grew out of an instant connection.

But first came the punk and hardcore shows Alli booked at the small taqueria (which Wilde calls Denton’s oldest taqueria).

“There needs to be more DIY places in Denton,” Alli said. “I just asked Sven if I could book a few shows at the taqueria and that was pretty much it.”

Wilde served up tacos for the first few shows, and eventually started making tamales for the young bands and fans who gathered to watch. The birth of Saturday’s Taco Fest 2k13 is a weekend celebration of this Denton concoction – tacos, cold drinks and punk music.

Taco Fest is the first big test of Total Twit, Alli’s fresh young production and booking group that aims to increase the profile of female, ethnic and queer artists in Denton, Dallas and Fort Worth.

“Sven and I are part of the local queer community, and we’re a couple of kids of color,” Alli said.

Another part of Total Twit’s mission is space.

“There aren’t a lot of DIY spaces for punk and hardcore music in Denton, which is a real shame because the punk and hardcore scene in Denton is exploding right now. The number of bands has tripled in the last year. And all the best punk bands in DFW have played the taqueria,” she said.

Ally Play-Nice, shown here growling into the mic at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, has started Total Twit, a booking and production company that specializes in getting more punk and hardcore music gigs fronted by women, people of color and queers.

Alli Play-Nice, shown here growling into the mic at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, has started Total Twit, a booking and production company that specializes in getting more punk and hardcore music gigs fronted by women, people of color and queers.

Total Twit is upfront about its show policy: no sexist, racist, homophobic or ableist attitudes or behaviors are acceptable.

“If your music is sexist, racist or any of that shit, sorry, you’re not playing the taqueria,” Alli said. “Sometimes people get upset with me for talking about it. They’re like ‘why do you even need to bring that stuff up?’ I bring it up because there aren’t many spaces in the music scene for women, people of color and queer people.”

Taco Fest is a fundraiser for the taqueria and a community PA system.

“My parents started the taqueria eight years ago, and I’d like to give it more of my own aesthetic,” Wilde said. “I’d like to stretch the kitchen. I’d like to have the seating area be just a seating area, with no refrigerator and no buffet table. We don’t have a buffet, but we have a buffet table. I’d just like to make some changes.”

Alli said that if there’s anything left over, she’d like to work on getting a sound system that Total Twit could rent out to bands.

“PA systems are expensive, and not really easy to move around, and I think it’d be cool to have a community PA we could rent out to other bands,” she said.

Taco Fest starts at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Taqueria El Picante, 1305 Knight St. The bands will play 20 minute sets on two stages — one inside the restaurant and the other in the garage.

Alli said all the bands are worth the $5 cover for both days. Some acts, though, she’s excited about.

“Negaduck is a band that was around two or three years ago, and they’re having a reunion. They’re just really rowdy hip-hop. They’ll fit in great.”

Alli also looks forward to seeing Brain Gang, a new band called Contusions, and Sin Motivo.

“Saturday is a Golden Triangle punk-hardcore show, and Sunday is our party-on day,” she said.

Wilde said the pair hopes to make Taco Fest a semi-annual bash.

“I think we should think about doing another Taco Fest after school starts,” he said.

 – Lucinda Breeding

* Alli spelled her name during the interview, and we still managed to get it wrong.

** Wilde will inherit the taqueria from his mother, who owns the family business.

 

A show for the servants: Brave Combo leads benefit for West firefighters

BENEFIT FOR THE VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS OF WEST, TEXAS
Who: Brave Combo, Isaac Hoskins & the Charlie Shafter Band
When: 8:30 today
Where: Dan’s Silverleaf, 103 Industrial
How much: a suggested donation of $10, proceeds will benefit the fighfighters who served the town of West following a catastrophic explosion at a fertilizer pant on April 17.
SCHEDULE
8:30 p.m. – Brave Combo
9:30 p.m. – Isaac Hoskins
10:30 p.m. – The Charlie Shafter Band
Grammy Award-winning Denton group, Brave Combo brought their nuclear polka sound to the Dallas Museum of Art atrium during Late Nights at the DMA January 18, 2013. The event celebrated The Dallas Museum of Art's 110th birthday.

Grammy Award-winning Denton group, Brave Combo brought their nuclear polka sound to the Dallas Museum of Art atrium during Late Nights at the DMA January 18, 2013. The event celebrated The Dallas Museum of Art’s 110th birthday.

Denton polka band Brave Combo appears tonight in a benefit concert for firefighters in West. The two-time Grammy-winning band has participated in West Fest since its inception, and founder and front man Carl Finch planned a fundraiser for the town’s public servants. Finch recently took time to field questions about Brave Combo’s long-running commitment to the Denton Arts & Jazz Combo. He also waxed humble about his accordion skills and gave “real” accordion player and Brave Combo member Ginny Mac some serious props. He also talked a little about the band’s late 2012 release, Sounds of the Hollow. 
Littledtx.com: Have you ever felt like BC is an odd headliner for a festival associated so strongly with jazz and blues? Or do you consider BC the deeply “Denton” part of the Denton Arts & Jazz Fest?
Carl Finch: On one hand, I feel like we fit the theme of the festival pretty well, from a musical perspective. From a “Denton” perspective, I think we totally make sense.  How does Denton define jazz, or music, for that matter?  Yeah, we seem to be a good fit with the town.  To be honest, I’ve always thought the word “jazz” in the name of the festival was a little misleading, though it’s certainly the cornerstone.  But, obviously, Brave Combo is not the only band at the festival that isn’t traditional jazz.  And, I say this every year, our set is the family reunion part of the weekend. We’re the comfort food. And we work really hard to do the best show we can. Lots of new songs this year mixed in with the standards.  Lots of people on stage, too.  (Mike Dillon and Joe Cripps chipped in on percussion and Finch’s good friend and NICE MUSICS partner, Danny Jerabek came from Wisconsin to play button box and trombone at the jazz fest.)
Jazz is a huge umbrella, and generally, I think of jazz as being about rhythm — syncopation — and improvisation. Brave Combo is very much distinguished by its approach to polka standards and BC songs in terms of rhythm. And every Brave Combo show I’ve ever been to seemed to have a very improvisational ingredient to it. Do you ever think of Brave Combo as borrowing from jazz – in idea or even in structure – in making music?
If one listens closely to what Brave Combo does, it’s easy to hear a lot of jazz influence, including improvisation, in the BC mix.  We realized a long time ago, decades ago, actually, that making the band a novelty act would not work for long. So we followed our curiosity down as many musical paths as we could, looking for the essence of each and seeing how that fits in a band that’s more like a rock band.  If a listener only wants to hear “The Chicken Dance” or “The Hokey Pokey” there’s not much we can do about that, but most people know that the crazy group dance things represent only about 1 % of what we actually do… The coolest thing about being in Brave Combo is experiencing all the situations where we’re invited to perform, whether it’s a little Polish club in New Jersey, The Getty Museum in Los Angeles or an alternative punk polka festival in Berlin.
Isaac Hoskins plays at 9:30 p.m. today during a benefit for West.

Isaac Hoskins plays at 9:30 p.m. today during a benefit for West.

Here’s a question from the peanut gallery: Ginny Mac. Combo fans are nuts about her. I have always, ALWAYS seen you as the accordion player of Brave Combo. How did you recruit Ginny, and what special something do you think she brings to the group? 
Concerning me being the accordionist for Brave Combo, I can do what I do pretty well.  I know how to make the accordion loud enough to be heard with any band, but I have never been a real accordionist. I have filled the bill, sorta. Ginny is a real accordionist.  We do a few songs where she and I both play accordions and I do get requests for some of my signature tunes, but she’s the real deal and in Brave Combo’s quest to “do it our way but also do it right” she’s a great addition. Makes perfect sense to me, anyway.
 I have been wanting to talk to you about Sounds of the Hollow for eons. As an album, there is a sort of… how do I put this?… a hot intensity to the record. Can you recall what was happening that created an album that wasn’t the sort of signature “fun Brave Combo” recording that feels iconic to Denton Brave Combo fans?
Sounds From The Hollow needed to be made from a practical point of view because Ginny had joined the band. We were playing all these new songs with her and we didn’t have a CD to sell to fans at live shows. So we picked a bunch of the newest things, threw in some BC standards that I’ve always wanted to record and add a few left-field tracks.

Where does the album title come from?

The title comes from an idea I had that music comes from nothing and thqt you can, indeed, make music from nothing.  Basically, it just is, like air.

There’s something very American about this record. The Spanish, the Czech, the doo-wop, the ‘Snowflake Reel’ – they all bring a feeling of American sprawl to them. Did Brave Combo set out to do that, or is it more the result of the band’s many trips to town festivals and cross-country drives?

As well, these modern times are redefining music and the role of music in society.  But it’s like non-news. We should probably talk about this when we have more time, but that’s basically it.

This tag means “Made in Denton”

Founders Shelley Christner and Rachel Aughtry wrapping up the interior of the DIME store, Friday, March 22, 2013, in Denton, TX. Molly Tester/DRC

Founders Shelley Christner and Rachel Aughtry wrapping up the interior of the DIME store in Denton, TX. Molly Tester/DRC

The DIME Store is the definition of cozy. Neutral paint on the walls is set off by long ribboons of handstitched streamers. Handmade products are grouped into browse-able nooks in a 1000 square-foot shop. A wooden dining table and bench divide two shopping areas — with enough room to sit down and smooth a hand over the tabletop.

The downtown handcraft store is the latest in a steady up-cropping of local businesses that channel the energy of Denton’s creative class into commerce. The DIME Store is the storefront for the Denton Independent Maker Exchange, an association of local hand crafters who were, once upon a time, under the umbrella of Etsy Denton. The association gave itself a new name and a broader purpose late last year.

“We went to the Creative mixer that (Denton City Councilman) Kevin Roden had last year,” said Aughtry, who runs a business making purses and totes and selling them on Etsy.com and a personal website — and now at the DIME Store. “That really got our wheels turning. We had long thought about a storefront. But a week later, we had our show and it was the best ever.”

DIME has several shows each year, bazaar-style sales at the Center for the Visual Arts. Christner, who has a redesign and refurbishing business (Home Again, Home Again), said the shows have become a destination for both hand crafters from Denton (and Dallas-Fort Worth) and shoppers.

Ashley Sears and Sarah Yeoman check out a stuffed Owl from Fuzzy Muffins at the Etsy Denton - which is now the Denton Independent Makers Exchange - in 2011. The owls are now available at the DIME Store in downtown Denton. File photo by David Minton.

Ashley Sears and Sarah Yeoman check out a stuffed Owl from Fuzzy Muffins at the Etsy Denton – which is now the Denton Independent Makers Exchange – in 2011. The owls are now available at the DIME Store in downtown Denton. File photo by David Minton.

“My daughter was getting married that weekend after the Creative mixer. And our show was the week after, but Rachel talked me into coming and I did. It basically made something we’d been talking about happen faster. I think it would have happened no matter what.”

The store took over what used to be an office leased by Nu-Con Steel.  Materials from SCRAP Denton have been fashioned into the streamers that line the back wall, and Triple Threat Press chalked a drawing of the downtown Denton Courthouse and lettering on another.

“Every time I travel, I go into a handmade store and I always buy something,” Aughtry said. “And every time I’ve done that, I’ve thought, ‘We should have something like this in Denton.’ And it’s more than that. We can create jobs in Denton, so why aren’t we encouraging creating jobs in Denton? So that’s what we’re doing.”

It’s Aughtry and Christner who will act as jurors, making sure the handcrafters in the exchange are ready to have a spot in the store. Once the vendors are ready to sell through the store, they can rent space or barter services for booth space at an upcoming DIME sale.

“We have a good variety of products,” Christner said. “We have bath products, jewelry vendors, furniture and home accessories. We’re curating products by artists we know, and we’re looking for products that are well-made, that show the care that goes into it.”

The handcrafted items share a sort of nostalgic style, either in the products themselves or in the packaging. Handmade labels bear retro lettering, and most of the items skip shine in favor of texture. Denton handcrafters — and handcrafters all over the country — want shoppers to look and touch. The handcraft movement is a bundle of things. It’s a response to the past 30-plus years of rigorous exportation of American manufacturing. It’s a resilient American response to the recession, which put millions of Americans out of work. Its also an outgrowth of the renaissance of the craft movement, a phenomenon in which visual artists — fiber artists, furniture makers, potters, metalsmiths and jewelers — add value to their products with one-of-a-kind or limited edition designs and keeping their supply small enough to keep quality control.

These handmade purses are part of the Rachel Elise line by Rachel Aughtry, a co-founder of the Denton Independent Makers Exchange and co-manager of the DIME Store, which sells hand made goods.

These handmade purses are part of the Rachel Elise line by Rachel Aughtry, a co-founder of the Denton Independent Makers Exchange and co-manager of the DIME Store, which sells hand made goods. File photo by Al Key.

Aughtry does this through her handbag line, Rachel Elise.

“I make a living with making handbags that you can buy at target for $15,” Aughtry said. “You can give me $40 for it, and it was made here, and it will last.”

Aughtry and Christner said a storefront helps the exchange keep “a consistency of presence.”

“We’d do these shows, and they’d do well and then we’d be exhausted,” Christner said. “The store will give us a place to make our products and to sell without the effort that goes into the big shows.”

“We are going to keep doing the shows, though,” Aughtry said.

The DIME Store will be a classroom space for emerging handcrafters. The exchange will offer creative business classes, crafting classes and lots of social events for people who make and sell their own products. At all of the Etsy Denton shows, the exchange passed out surveys to participants that queried handcrafters about how the exchange can support their businesses. One of the biggest needs the surveys identified were chances for the artists to meet (“Making art means you’re spending a lot of time by yourself,” Christner said). The exchange already has a busy calendar to keep crafters connected, and to keep shoppers interested in the handcrafting  community.

Ultimately, Christner and Aughtry hope the DIME Store will stimulate the local economy so that there will be more room for local jobs using local materials selling locally made products — though neither of the store managers are as dogmatic as all that.

“Of course we want to be monetarily successful,” Aughtry said. “But its about making an impact on the community, on the handcrafter’s side and the consumer’s side. This is the best way to bring them together.”

The DIME Store

Who: Denton County handcrafters

What: a new store selling products made by local artists — from garments to accessories and bath products.

Where: 510 S. Locust St.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Sideway Sale & Lemonade Stand

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, 2013.

Where: The DIME Store.

What’s in it for you: Local handmade items, inside the store and outside the store. Gourmet lemonade with “fancy” flavors. Show a picture of yourself — or your “check-in” at the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival and get a free lemonade.

Flashback Monday: Com Truise gives Stars a galatic-sounding remix

The New York electronic outfit Com Truise picked up some local fans with a gig during 35 Denton last month (has it really been a month since 35 Denton?)

The Canadain indie rock group Stars enlisted Com Truise to remix “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It,” which recently debuted on The A.V. Club.

What’s to like: The electro-pop ease with which the New York DJ makes the track his own.

Listen for yourself here.

Com Truise. Enjoying the finer things in life. Photo by Michael Novotny.

Com Truise. Enjoying the finer things in life. Photo by Michael Novotny.