Timmy Hefner’s annual 4 day Chaos In Tejas festival just concluded in Austin this past Sunday night with competing sets by Infest on East 5th St., Iceage/Total Control/Lower at Holy Mountain and the double bill of Antwon and Bushwick Bill at Hotel Vegas. If these 3 events fit somewhat squarely into whatever notion you have of Chaos being a punk-centric event with cursory nods to other transgressive types, I’d be quick to argue the overall landscape is far more complex. For all the aggro trappings and resulting jokes about backpatches (which I’ll admit, I engage in — I’M ONLY FUCKING HUMAN, PEOPLE), Hefner covers a staggering amount of stylistic ground. This is an event that manages to fashion interesting, empathetic bills around artists as diverse as The Bats (stunning btw — perhaps stronger than their first US visit in 1986), Jessica Pratt, Abigail and Cut Hands, and many of those paying to attend aren’t merely conversant with all of the above, but are downright enthusiastic if not obsessive.
All of which makes MySpace’s decision to assign their Chaos In Tejas coverage to Austin scribe / national laughingstock Luke Winkie all the more disappointing. This was a chance for the newly revamped MySpace to shine a bright light on one of the nation’s best music fests — one mostly ignored by the mainstream rock press — and instead, they entrusted the job to a guy who openly brags of doing his preshow research via Wikipedia or other music critics’ Twitter feeds. Perhaps he was kidding. It’s genuinely hard to tell sometimes. I mean, if it turned out that Luke Winkie was actually a rather dedicated satirist (as opposed to a willfully ignorant twit), it explain a lot.
Much of Luke’s Chaos review seems pretty hung up on perceived cultural differences (based on real substantial stuff, like, what other people were wearing) and there’s a general world-weary tone that would be depressing from a 44 year old, never mind a writer half that age. Winkie goes to great pains to point out that he’s “not here to glamorize the decrepit house-show environs”, nor is he the type to wear a chain around his waist (“even in my haphazard youth”). Instead, Luke opts for that great cultural signifier, A PUBLIC ENEMY t-shirt and he cannot help but mention “I once owned custom Vans emblazoned with the album art from Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”. OK, we get it. His mom dresses him funny. None of that stuff says a thing about his values or ideas any more or less than a chain around someone’s waist or a huge spike thru my cock. In short, it’s not super different from Winkie’s infamous Pure X profile for the hapless Austinist, in which the author expressed great frustration at not being embraced by an alleged cabal of aimless cool-kids who made Cheer Up Charlie’s the hub for their ambition-free existence. Imagine if just once, one of these TOTAL WEIRDOS would just ruffle Luke’s hair and say, “hey, you’re my brother, too”, we might be spared another article about he how he thinks he’s gonna get icepicked at the Mayhem concert.
And then there’s this :
I’m back in Red 7, and I’m really not sure if anyone wants to be at this Destruction Unit show. A sad man in the corner sees his thick rims fill up with sweaty dew, 10 million metric tons of fog dumps on approximately 75 people. It’s reassuring that a noise-rock band hailing from Tempe, Ariz. tours with a smoke-machine; they probably have our best interests at heart. A few kids start a pit out of cultural obligation, looking more nervous than anything. I doubt there’s much going on in Tempe; it’s just a place where you go to college if you’re from Bakersfield, California. Destruction Unit inhaled the endless desert, and exhaled something that sounds a lot like agony.
Man, where do I start? There were more than 75 people there. Calling D.U. a “noise rock band” isn’t exactly a grave insult to actual noise rock bands, but it’s not entirely accurate, either. Those in attendance absolutely wanted to be there — did he bother to take a poll? If some four-eyed mope in the corner looked sad, perhaps that’s because Destruction Unit’s music actually made him feel some kind of human emotions. Ideally, that’s what oughta happen, right? Maybe their performances are provocative and inspiring in a way that their fans & friends, actually take their shit seriously and consider it far more important than serving as a cheap backdrop for a self-obsessed turd who can’t be motivated to look beyond his own precious existence.
“Somewhere in the Austin night, a few kids who just left the festival are probably thinking of getting a tattoo”. Or maybe they’re thinking of starting bands, record labels,putting on shows or writing for something more challenging than Austinist or the Austin Chronicle. I mean, I’m pretty sure some of those in attendance just wanna fuck or get high, but those are pretty universal sentiments, even if you’ve just seen Clint Black. But as long as we’re talking wild guesses about what’s in the heads and hearts of large groups of people we’ve not actually spoken to (let alone made eye contact with), my hunch is that Hefner’s sprawling, multi-dimensional spectacular inspires a fuck of a lot more than mere tattoos. Nothing against tattoos, mind you, but Winkie’s segregationist rhetoric fails to take into account the reality of so many great Chaos moments that somehow eluded his radar. Seeing the Bats get a heroes welcome from a large crowd at least partially composed of other bands playing the festival (most them a couple of decades Bob Scott’s junior) was not unlike Chaos 2012’s best night, when The Clean collided with an improbable Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments reunion and an on-fire Royal Headache. Some of those in attendance had ink, some not. Some folks were old fucks like the headliners. Many others were not. There may have even been a few chains-around-waists. Hefner, the bands, and the overwhelming majority of the audience can get past the superficial, especially if you’re as good as Ron House was that night. Or as amazing and timeless as the Marked Men every year.
If past instances are anything to go by, I fully expect Winkie to declare his piece was undeserving of public scorn because “it’s just a bunch of bands” (either that, or his editor ruined it). But when you compose something that’s clearly intended to call attention to yourself (as opposed to, say, elevating someone else who deeply deserves it), you can’t always control the sort of attention you receive.