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Westlakes Center by Google Street ViewDropping my phone in the restroom.
Kneeling instead of picking up,
laying down, hot skin,
goose pimples, touching the tile.
Smells like Fabuloso and fast-casual funk.
Air rattling in my throat, a failed
mating call. Just tell me what’s wrong.
My therapist calm, annoyed.
Choking now. My life is—
And I don’t remember what I said.
Just think of the worst you’ve ever felt.
Fred's Fish Fry by Google Street ViewI will never tell Valerie that she
makes me dream of another me. One raised
on raspas and elote at Marbach and 410.
Watching the fast-food chains overtake
the taquerias, finding solace
in HEB and La Michoacana.
I’d grow my hair unashamed, speak more
Spanglish, ask her to prom and get an
apartment when one of us was promoted
at Sweet Home.
Never needing a car because
Marbach is for exploring
in cold shoes or hot feet.
I’d be here, requiring no neither or either,
with other problems but nothing to prove
when I look into the mirror of my neighbors.
Back in the Northeast Side,
in the life being lived,
my phone rings and Celeste,
my fiancé, tells me I miss your cock.
Parked in my best friend’s apartment complex.
My heart is a vice. We haven’t spoken in
days. Weeks since I bathed her son.    
Marbach Square CourtesySometimes I am a jolly giant.
Arms aflail, my voice sits at every table,
tells Valerie about the shanty in Progresso,
the old woman in the muumuu, announcing
hot gorditas and fresh salsa through her
only tooth. STUPID Valerie yells when
I pantomime using a lateral incisor to pierce
a soda can. Her cackles bounce
off the concrete floor.
Says the way I tell stories is,
I don’t know, different.
Later, I turn away before she notices
me watching her eyes
as they make sense of the food
tickets hanging over styrofoam containers.
I know what I feel is an idea and not reality.
But if attraction has anything to do
with knowledge, sometimes the weight
suffocates the heart.
I turn to the sink and I don’t know
how many dishes I wash before I let a fart.
Rowdy rangoons. Valerie’s hands drop
plates into the oily water and
relief turns to terror. Our gazes
meet. We exchange the smile
she picked up from somewhere else
and she floats away.
John Jay High School by Google Street ViewThree a.m. calls.
Driving in my sleep clothes.
Chastised by Celeste as Asher
sleeps ignorantly. Her righteous
words razor edges.
She pauses and puts
her hand in mine.
Creeps close into an embrace
and I say something tender.
We take off our clothes and make
desperate, everything distilled
into something raw.
I volunteer into a government-ordered
program. Months pass and Celeste’s
mother and father sit with us,
my apology letter in hand.
I read as Celeste lays
her head on the table.
Everyone is sorry her
Mother says. I nod, while
she feigns interest in the future.
The door closes.
Celeste stands with me in the
hall near the kitchen.
Her head in my chest, says
You’re not gonna hit me, again, are you?
My arms wrapped tight,
trying to squeeze the past out of now.
Marbach Animal Hospital by Google Street ViewThe way the rage sleeps,
allowing for quaint breakfasts,
dollar movie Saturdays,
and that one moonlit night
with salt, sand and sanctuary.
Until I’m on the phone with
Asher gnashing through a tantrum
and Celeste’s voice:
Your little. Fucking. Experience.
With your journaling and therapy and emoting.
Your fucking badge.
I know when I am and am not included,
I repeat apologies and promises
like prayers to a passive god. I
wait for certainty again in her calm.
I knew it would creep up again,
after I hung up with Tiger from Sweet Home.
Clenching my eyes, dialing Celeste,
telling her the viewing for Valerie is tomorrow.
You’re going.
Her words like a gavel.
Fireworks Stand on Bear Springs by Google Street ViewValerie was coy when
I asked her about the marks.
Blood blossoms creeping
like tangled webs across the
collar bones, masked
feebly by foundation.
Called me sweet,
acted flattered while
finding something else
to do in the restaurant,
before I could give her the number.
A shelter along I-90.
I heard you yelling at
each other last night said her Tia
Ida, visiting with Neveah,
who dipped her rangoon over and over.
Ruby sauce dripping into the ramekin
before taking a bite,
eyes and smile intense
as liquid sugar. Glee within
and away from the world.
Marbach Super 8 Crime Scene. Original photo by John DavenportTwenty-two years wasn’t long enough
but it was just enough.
Words from the slideshow
at Valerie’s rosary on repeat
Valerie with a basketball. Valerie laughing
in her flannel jacket holding a Bud Light.
Valerie holding Neveah for the first time.
Valerie at prom with a boy,
not Jason.
Jason wore a flannel jacket, too,
probably on that night he
pushed her into traffic,
as they argued along I-90.
He shook her after she
landed on the shoulder, told
her she better not die,
the way she did at Wilford Hall
three days later.
Manslaughter, not murder.
2 to 20 not 5 to 99.
Free sooner than you think according
to my sponsor. Valerie had lost
her second baby some weeks prior.
Why, Tiger knew but had not seen.
Could not stop thinking about
the slide show, how words make sense
even when they don’t.
Chatting with former
co-workers at the rosary. I work
at a paper, now, but I miss
delivering Chinese most days.
Heard footsteps coming toward me as
I huddled into the corner where my mattress
meets the wall and searched the darkness
of my room for
Something other than silent
slivers of moonlight,
indifferent as men
with nothing to lose.
Westlakes Villas by Google Street ViewMonths later,
healing is here.
I bath the boy while his mother
does dishes. We read,
close the door reverently,
the presence birthed by wringing.
The past is grey water.
We joke on the couch
about how she paid the plumber earlier
and we watch paranormal
movies over beers.
I think about how she
got macabre drunk a few weeks ago,
joked about me slapping her around.
Another time where she mixed rum
and Xanax and punched my face.
Glazed joy above my terror.  
She will squeeze me out soon
for a man with a clean slate
but a worse record. Someone who
her parents won’t see like me.
Until they do.
The screen goes black
between scenes and I feel us


Transmissions From Ventura Grand Opening

Carrillo breathes for a moment behind the bar on opening night.“I’m doing alright. It’s been stressful everyday. When you’re passionate about something, it’s just gotta be your full time…You don’t have that kind of financial background where you can just hire people and open up a place. This is us coming from the ground up and building out. As we go along, I feel more calm.” -Michael Carrillo, Owner, Ventura
 Last Nighters“I didn’t see any walls knocked down. The back area is still pretty much the same. A lot of this kind of thing is a branding issue…I think when it comes to live music and events, these days people show up to a cocktail bar and drink music in numbers. [They could] walk down the street and see something incredibly creative and unique, but they’d rather go to the cocktail bar and the drink show. A lot of that has to do with the environment, the buzz and the hype with ‘the night.’ So when it comes to something like Ventura, it’s the exact same location and chances are a lot of the same bands, but you’re gonna’ get a different vibe. If you were to come here in the weeks and months before 1011 closed, there weren’t these people here. If you were to come back here in a few months with these same bands, will there still be these people here?” -Miles Terracina, Managing Editor, Sobre Sound


Terracina“The first thing I wanted to address was everything being comfortable. We’re no longer a music venue strictly, but we’re also an open bar. That’s why we went with the air-conditioning because that means people stay. There’s a lot of good things happening in San Antonio and, of course, the inspiration comes from the growth of everybody doing their own things. We don’t necessarily right now have our own theme. I kind of like the speakeasy kind of bar. We want it to be nicer but still accessible because of all these lofts that are going up [in the neighborhood]. Somewhere people could drink without spending all their money. I guess it’s easier to say what we’re not going to be, like a sports bar or a full time venue. We don’t have a TV inside anymore. [For the Spurs], I think what we’ll do for that is have a projector and blow it up and make it more of an outdoor sort of thing. Because of course you have to support the Spurs.” -Carrillo



“When I saw that Mikey was taking it over…it went from being we were all so sad that this legacy was ending and then when we found out that it was going to continue, that was amazing. And that it’s being spearheaded by someone that I love and trust and he knows the music scene and has been working here [all this time]. -Kim Johnson, Content Manager at Do210.com

Future Sailor“One thing about this corner downtown…you’ve got Rosella’s, you’ve got Luxury, you’ve got Brooklynite not very far, Paramour’s right here, VFW [next door]…If you go over there right now, they’re playing tejano and serving two-dollar nachos…you get the vast difference of what [all these places] have. San Antonio can maintain and hold onto the variety. Not everything will be knocked down and turned into a high end cocktail joint. San Antonio has this anti-hipster streak. You have a certain type of crowd that’s being brought down that wasn’t here. But San Antonio has this, ‘Oh, no. We’re barbacoa and Big Red.’ People still hold onto The White Rabbit…they don’t want to let go of that. People here have this anti-‘new.” -Terracina
 Hydra Melody

“That’s a good term ‘art metal.’ Those are the kinds of decisions we’re facing as we move forward. I guess our priority is to adapt to the location and take the full potential. Unfortunately, that means we’re gonna have to make some sacrifices as far as our booking. I mean, I do like all music. [But] as far as adapting to the apartments around us and trying to be that day time and night time bar, we gotta’ make sure that people know that they can come here anytime—regardless of the music—and enjoy themselves. Walking in and preparing your earplugs for the night…[laughs]. There’s really only so much we could stick with. I hope that we still attract the Strip and the people that know where we’re coming from. But yeah, everything is changing. In this area…if we had a music venue, we’d have a music venue. But we have a bar. We want to make it a good bar.” -Carrillo
 Rear view“There were fundamental flaws with the [original] venue. First and foremost, being hot as hell. It doesn’t matter for dudes coming to punk shows [laughs]. The other thing was that people liked the DIY [aesthetic], you know, stickers on the door. But I actually like that they’ve done stuff with the décor. These crazy paintings that are beautiful [by artist Monika Rostvold]. And the chandeliers. I think that had a lot to do with branding and Mike’s girlfriend [Brandy Rae Perez] being involved in that aesthetic development. I think she roots him. I date a musician, so I know this is true.” -Johnson
 Perez. Courtesy

“All of the fine details of it, I guess. We spend all of our free time together so I’m there with him every step of the way. Like figuring out what paint we’re going to use. All the business decisions. Anything that is going on in his head, we talk about.” -Brandy Rae Perez, Co-Owner, Ventura.



No more overhang. No more TV.

“Once the liquor comes up, we may be 21 and up. But we also may pull a Limelight and Korova and do 18 and up. The liquor license is so important because it’s a completely different ballgame of financial revenue. It’s not necessarily, ‘Oh we’ll make more money with liquor,’…I just want to become a full time bar. With liquor, it’s something that allows us to do that. We’re trying to be that connection…The Pearl and cocktail bars like TBA and also along the strip, we share a lot of our crowd with people that would go there. That’s definitely all part of the plan.” -Carillo

“Sound is good. I want to say part of it could be the bands. If you were to come in here and watch a screamo band or something, it might not be like that. Might be a little more in your face, might be a little bit more ignorant levels of sound.” -Terracina
Bunting. Courtesy

“One of the first shows I ever went to was at the 1011 and the one thing that stuck with me was how intimate the venue was, and I'm so happy Ventura was able to keep that aspect. I admire their [Carrillo’s and Perez’] drive to keep booking shows even amongst the renovations and how quickly they were able to get things up and running for what seemed like a flawless grand opening weekend. It's nice to know that the venue is not only run by someone who understands our music scene, but is very active in it.” -Alyssa Bunting, Assignment Editor/Reporter, Sobre Sound
“Outlook good. [What they’re doing well is] one: the sound. Two: location. Again, about the perception, environment and branding. The New York Times is competing for peoples’ attention with cat videos and music is, too, now. Now you have movies in the park and cocktail bars and all types of events whether they’re free or at different price points. Music just has a lot to compete with.
Heavy bands and certain types of punk will always have a home somewhere [just] as a three-piece jazz band will always have a home somewhere. But is that the focus of the ‘cutting-edge’? Probably not. If Ventura can hone in and serve audiences…I don’t know if they’re going to have a specific format. Some venues try to cater to one crowd and other venues try to bring them all in. It becomes less about being loyal to one kind of identity and more just being a stage and a proper venue for performers.” -Terracina

Zamarron. Courtesy 
"The negatives: it's small, dark, and I felt like a sardine. The positives: it's cozy, has a great moody feel, and is the most intimate music experience I've ever had. Can't wait to go back." -Mario Zammaron, Owner, 210LocalMedia.com

“I love San Antonio. From where we started six years ago, it’s like a different world now. How much stuff happens here. We really have a vibrant arts and music community and no one ever fucking knew about it. I see a lot of potential in this place and I’m glad that it’s someone that understands the music scene already. I think it will be awesome.” -Johnson
“As far as the transition, everybody that knows me and Brandy, they saw us then and they see us now and we’re being very open about the moves we’re making because we have that personal relationship with [people]. We are that community. I don’t know of anybody that is rooting against us. I’m not really worried about how people might see it. If they know, they’ll [know] just as much as I [do] how things are changing.” -Carrillo


Small Hours

Paul Almasy

The wet thump in your chest,
pogoing my skull,
slowing to a muted meter.
Sound of you drifting.
Peel the sheet,
feel the fan that I only like now.
You’re a monolith of skin and sweat,
long exhales through your nostrils.
I think of the butt of your palm against my labia.
Painful. Thrilling.
Like the way you stood
too close to me two nights ago,
laughing jollily at something I said,
while I didn’t think about
my husband
rambling about the bar.


Prints by Paul Almasy [L & R].



There's a moment in every neighborhood bar where the chatter rises above the juke and the bartender disappears to the office of no-tells to flip the ambiance once more. That moment where the third whiskey squeezes between the temples, fills the cheeks and fattens the palms.

Owen arrives at twilight, before the couples show, to sit with men seeking daughter, mother, girlfriend, waitress. He hates Tuesdays, when the service industry flood with their first apartment problems on the driving range out back. Sitting in the aforementioned moment, he folds his arms tighter, waits patiently as Caro shakes her hips with a tin full of Cheap Fucks for boys behaving badly in large groups.

At 11:00, with the music up and the walls down, Owen turns down a fourth Blue Label, closes his tab and shuffles past a woman out back who tells her boyfriend that swinging clubs is already not fun anymore.

Owen hired a promising manager so he can finally just count the money and meet with an accountant sometimes. He doesn't know what he wants Caro to say but he wants the money out.


Concerning Yearning

The times spent solitary
on a night lit porch with spirit
or smoke, thinking of
almosts, shoulds and unknown knowns.
The longing,
pang above the plexus.
Wipe your eyes and wrap your
fingers and clench back.
For longing is when the heart sees every shade,
blinded, but unable to crane the corneas,
open as potential,
fearless as a moment before death.
It is living by a growl that won’t be crowded out
until every hue has been inhaled.
Longing is the heart knowing
it could move, but remaining
for love accepted is sweeter than
love taken. Damn the
risk of sitting still.
Longing is choosing an unknown
danger over a known doldrum
A possible victory over
a sure draw.
It is the charm and wisdom of broken glass
when a moronic vase tied the room together.
Longing is not now over never.
Maybe over no.
Longing is living as if death is inevitable
and joy missed is
joy mourned. 
Longing is a friend.
The hunger that heals.
The emptiness that exalts.
The blunt edge that opens valleys
and lets rain quench the river soul.
May we be sated only when we are spiritless.



“What?” says Will. “He’s into country music and votes Republican?”
Before he croons “Sara Smile” karaoke.
He’s a natural on the mic,
and his birthday at the Parched Marlin is a hit.
Cherie yells above the juke,
“And I told him, ‘I know how to do a fucking
timing belt, dude!’ I thought
Autozone guy was going to propose right there.”
Hurley laughs hardily and orders
another pair of Dos’ dressed.
He’ll offer his ears now
and his tears when the moment is right.


Transitional Climate

Claire adjusted her cheongsam dress from Value Village.
Felt the rush of gooseflesh.
“I’m not new to you anymore,” she said in their cabin.
His bags packed and brain somewhere in the lower 48.



Your Love, Unrequited

Daniel Bystedt

Never not valiant at first.
Your declarations feel
mighty as you take a bruised love into your mind.

Heel in wait with impaired eyes—
you sell as wounded—
smelling your paramour fleshy 
with discord and doubt.

She threatens to fall into your jowls,
supple with suffering, ripe with rapture;
you just need a boa's patience
and a poacher's heart.

The problem is that you are no predator.
Only a toothless scavenger
who confuses low-hanging fruit with
the toils, failings and ecstasies 
of feral devotion on the burning plain.


Hire Daniel Bystedt [L&R].


The Cost

Standing in my old room, iron
in hand, sweat beads
that are okay because the morning comes
through the blinds in pearl shards.
Another a.m. I’d still be sleeping
off a headache, thirst and misery after feeling your
lips lucid to me before your work.
Later awaking like a specter sucking
caffeine and active cultures in
a race to normal.
But today I left when you did, sipped
fresh coffee, bought groceries in a desolate
market, picked up weekend whiskey, fried
an egg, ate a bear
claw and looked with dry
eyes out the window and thought
to write down these things before
I had no time to remember them.


Addict Haiku

We fear just two things:
Feeling everything at once
or nothing at all. 


Observation #12

When the silver roadwhale flipped, Marcus laughed.
He said the wayward Oldsmobile reminded him of
stumbling out of Bennigan’s into a
backseat full of ass and limbs.
We stopped fishtailing and
Martin was losing his shit,
pounding the wheel and ranting about bucketlists,
journals to unborn children, and unfinished screenplays.
I realized we would probably miss the 10:20
No Country for Old Men when we left the ground.
But I’m more likely to be standing
on a seaside cliff going,
“shit—I could jump right now,” anyway.
It’s Martin who’s living
in a studio with a bike and a MacBook
and my copy of Catcher in the Rye
He’s read it five times.


My Missus, The Hairstylist

My missus, the hairstylist
revives me from follicle to foot.
Her wifely words are the gospels of
drunken debauchery, where
Jager begot Jacob and Patron, Patty,
one short of a trinity.
Dad, (someone else’s husband now)
helped conceive them over
the armoire, between meth runs and
hole-y pokes.
After their lab closed, she melted Jesus
in her mouth and found him
a silhouette breathing in the moonlit curtains.
My missus, I hope
your dreams of managing
strip clubs or Christian hair salons
are all raised up.
Please, just put your
working hands on my hairy
neck and cut me clean again.
Hire Kristin Proctor [L&R].


What Occurred to Me on a Hillside In Sonoma County

Adam Villela Coronado

People don't like alone.
Least of all in people who seem to enjoy it.

They'll walk right up to a body plumbing the brainy cosmos,
Say, "What are you doing off by yourself?"
Existential hall monitors.

The vines, hills, and breezes of Sonoma are ambrosial serendipity.

Butte-side, overlooking a reticent pond.
The soft burn of sunset.
Wind crisp as truth in a lover's mouth.
Wet yearning from the tongue of the vineyard hound.

Even this moment, random as weather, came from a fortuitous handwringing.



Ploughing in the Iron Age, as illustrated by Neils Bach.

Supreme energy. Cosmic force. The Dao.

Alive in all things, you unite me with the world and the world with me. Thank you for this cup of boundless vigor.

Every breath, thought and deed I draw from your measureless temporal waters. I employ your absolute zeal in all things loving. I accept that I am complete and perfect, my worth embedded in neither my greatest deed nor my most vile failure.

I am fortified with infinite potential, free to be anything that my will allows. This agency, resting in my soul’s seat, is my divine gift to an empirical world. I am not my work, wealth or possessions. Nor my friends, family or lovers. Nor my desires, deeds or mind. I am the celestial grounded, quickening through vessels, sinew and gray matter, forged in eternal ardor.

We are us. Our perfection frees us of the pain of yesterdays and the uncertainty of tomorrows. We occur as we choose, trading on all the experience, knowledge and love that we sense at will.

May we remain present in this body, this moment until we depart.


More by Neils Bach. [L&R]



Zen PencilsThe comic with its original color palette, drawn by Zen Pencils and based on a quote by Bill Watterson, can be found here



Vetter Kids. Courtesy.

The Texas is Funny Records Fall Showcase kicks off tonight at The Ten Eleven (1011 Ave. B) at 9 pm for $5 at the door (all ages). Night two is at Hi-Tones (621 E. Dewey) at 9 pm for $5 (21+ only). Before you head out to the show tonight, check out this interview I had with label owner Scott Andreu on expanding the showcase, signing bands both here and out of state, and also the ongoing mission of the Bands I Know collective.

Adam Villela Coronado: So are you switching from annual to seasonal as far as Texas is Funny Showcases are concerned?

Scott Andreu: Possibly it will turn seasonal. We have a lot of stuff going on in early 2014 release wise and we wanted to have a showcase featuring bands that will be a part of those releases: Deer Vibes, Glish, Vetter Kids, and Young /// Savage. Plus we have big plans for what will be our normal yearly showcase. It will expand to being about much more than just us. 

So this Fall Showcase seems to be marrying with or at least overlapping with the annual "Black Friday Blowout" show at 1011. Was it supposed to be this way?

Not originally. We had the showcase planned for 11/30 at Hi-tones and I had actually completely forgotten about the annual Black Friday Blowout. When I told James from Grasshopper Lies Heavy about 11/30, we decided to combine the two nights and promote them together. After we decided to combine the events, we separated the bands by the level of heaviness because some on Friday night play too loudly for Hi-Tones.

The showcase from January 2012 (at the White Rabbit) struck me for its wide swath of musical styles. The event repped indie country, art metal, space folk and all were either on the same label or part of the TIFR family. This weekend the lineup will be no different, featuring nu-gaze, post grunge pop and post punk. What is it that strings the TIF roster together? 

All these styles of music are basically off-shoots of the punk/hardcore genre. When TIFR first started, I pretty much just worked with my friends and the genres were even more “all over the board.” We did a split for Grasshopper and God Townes and that's when I met Marcos Gossi. Since his joining, we have molded the label into something a little more focused, something along the lines of labels like Matador or Sub Pop.  

TIFR has also begun featuring some out of state acts like Glish. Talk to me about deciding to support bands from outside of Texas.

Our first band from out of state was Heat Dust from New Orleans. We have also released albums from out of state bands American Thunder Band [KS] and Sixteen [KY]. Glish, from New Orleans, and Cherry Cola Champions, of Ohio, will be added to that list early next year. I know the label has the word “Texas” in it but I never had the idea that I would only put out Texas bands.

Now that isn't to say we don't care about San Antonio or Texas in general. We host as many bands as we can that are coming through town by either booking shows for them ourselves or supporting booking companies like Bexar Naked Booking. We want some of these national touring bands to leave Texas saying, "San Antonio was our best Texas date."

Deer Vibes. Courtesy.

In July, the Bands I Know media collective (that you are a member of) scored a weekly spot on KRTU 91.7 [airing Sundays and Mondays at midnight]. How has that been going? 

It has been going great. We pitched the show idea to the KRTU operations manager over a lunch at EZ’s in the Quarry last spring and he was intrigued. He asked us to do a demo show and he loved it. We won second place in best local radio program in the San Antonio Current, which was cool because we didn't know it was a category people could vote for.

BIK seems like it's been a little de-centralized since its 2011 inception. A few Youtubes here, a few blog posts there. Is the concept coagulating on KRTU?

I had the idea for BIK while floating on my back in a pool in New Orleans in the summer of 2011. I was still doing TIFR by myself and wasn't sure what direction I wanted to go with it. I did know I wanted to work with more bands than I wanted to sign to contracts.

At first, BIK was going to be a subscription-based 7" record club but morphed into a video project. It was a way to work with bands that had nothing to do with the label and was a fun project that I did with my brother Stephen. It did have the side effect of people finding out about the label because I was at their show filming them.  

The radio show, however, is about giving voice to styles of music that are being heavily covered by Spin, Brooklyn Vegan, Vice and being booked in San Antonio by smaller booking companies. It's a way for smaller labels in the region (Crowquil, Trends Die, Crime Fighter, Community, Better Days Will Haunt You) and national independent labels to get some coverage in San Antonio. We want the radio program to be an anchor piece to an overall puzzle being put together by a very dedicated group of people.

What do you hope people take away from this weekend's shows regarding TIFR?

I want them to see these new bands we are supporting and get pumped up about them. We are staying true to ourselves, doing our thing and putting out music that we love.



"He was a small town hustler and would-be shaman with big dreams, a heart of gold and a silver tongue more suited to live at the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th Century than in today’s world. He was a perpetual outsider and definitely the truest rebel I’ve ever been close to. Jukebox - I hope you find all the things that escaped you in this life on the other side. I hope you will forgive me for not letting you know that I understood and respected you for who you were while you were still on this earth. I will always carry some of you with me brother."

-Jeff Smith, Owner of Saustex Records, on the death of John Thomas Jackson aka "Jukebox" (pictured above). Jukebox was a founding member and guitarist of Texas cow punkers Hickoids. 

Read the full eulogy.

Download classic Hickoids' cuts with Jukebox on guitar.




Not an hour before I begin this review, Seattle transplant and Bad Breaks creative force Chuck Kerr tells me on the phone that he’s sorry he’s bad at giving good answers in interviews. I reply that you don’t have to say a lot to mean a lot. Case in point: the former San Antonio Current Art Director’s new Carry On EP begs the question, “What now?” without uttering the words. Being an SA scene vet in multiple bands, it’s no surprise Kerr was short on time and long on savvy when he logged these sessions over two days last December. In that time, he captured the sound of a scrappy talent in a victory lap that hopefully isn’t his last.

But if this were the end, what a way to go out. Carry On is 13 minutes of raucous, platinum-polished indie pop that flexes Kerr’s expanding musical charms. On “Feel It In My Bones,” Kerr waxes cynical about conspiracy theorists over spooky-cheeky grooves provided by bassist Ryan Teter (Mission Complete!), guitarist Jackson Floyd (Ronald Ray Gun) and pianist Alex Wash (Black Magic & the Full Expose). “Feel” is pure Kerr, all stomping snares, pounded keys and “Oooh-ooh-ooh!” choruses. When Kerr injects a joke about fucking corpses and Floyd shreds after verse two, the song becomes sing-songy mania. 

In line with that crack on scenes and necrophilia, Kerr’s strongest musical weapon seems to now be his wry, often caustic point of view. He spent last year’s Bad Breaks painting and re-painting himself in relationship meltdown, often making us laugh at his delivery as we cried over his (our?) realities. Where the macabre melodrama of “Feel” pokes fun at conspiracy theorist paranoia, Kerr also snipes suburbanites “who will never shut up/’bout how proudly they are digging a rut” on the EP’s title cut. He implores a certain someone to “carry on” before “they carry you out,” with pianos and hand claps bouncing in mockery. The biting words and campy sounds cast Kerr as snide but sweet, like April Ludgate attending a prom she secretly loves.

Meanwhile, “Tell The World” finds Kerr returning to the well of love gone wrong, but in a way we didn't see last LP. The music is stripped to just Kerr’s voice over a piano (his fingers, not Wash’s) and a tambourine (god knows how) and it becomes clear why all his facetiousness has been funneled into wry character critiques. When Kerr tells a failed love that it’s them not him and that it’s breaking his heart, he sounds like any funny man caught in a moment of arresting honesty. No punchlines. No smiles. Just inopportune, unrelenting feels.

The moment is sobering enough on its own merits, but is underscored by Bad Breaks’ uncertain future. Kerr plans to continue writing but admits to being paralyzingly picky about collaborators. The hope is that Carry On sees him doing just that in Seattle.

Hear/buy this album.

Bad Breaks celebrates the release of Carry On tonight at 502 Bar (502 Embassy Oaks) with Chris Maddin and We Leave At Midnight. Music begins at 10 p.m.


LaJIT On the Rise

Poverty, survival, and chasing dreams are hardly new themes in rap. But the genre has shown us that, in the mouths of a raw talent, the ideas can reinvent themselves with striking conviction. Enter LaJIT, born John Isaac Torres (23), a fledgling San Antonio cloud rapper who’s struggled with a broken family, suicidal thoughts and minimum wage jobs. His 2012 Black Sun EP attempted to chronicle the pathos of such topics with mixed results. A year later he returns with Blue Sun, an EP tackling the same issues but with muscle, consistency and, most importantly, confidence.

All three elements are thrown into sharp relief on “Cards in Hand,” where LaJIT says no victories come without costs. He casts a portrait of his troubled nephew against his own recent successes as an artist. Then he links both tales by admitting that he hasn’t had much time “to be a dad.” By cloaking this inconvenient truth in staccato verses, ethereal synths and machine-gun snare fills, LaJIT makes “Cards in Hand” a tragic hero anthem. Credit his co-opting of beats by Lil B producer Keyboard Kid and the mixing/mastering of Creekside Sounds labelhead Ldotsdot. Both musicians give Blue Sun a spherical, subdued sound that underscores the EP’s late night character.

LaJIT has also become more aware of who he’s drawing on and what his limitations are, working within them always with the intent to expand his abilities.  On “That’s Life,” he updates the stoop-side musings of Nas’ “Life’s a Bitch” with the longing in Bone Thugz N Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads.”  His voice is on the softer side of grown, but his hyperawareness and speed make his meditations lean. When he exclaims, “Am I really doing something wrong?!” to his skeptical-of-art father, he’s channeling a generation low on prospects and high on discontent that doubles down against all doubters.

LaJIT’s hasty maturity gives the impression that he is onto something big, even on clumsier, too self-focused offerings like “Look Into My Eyes.” He has the lyrical chops and a gift for choosing collaborators. If he can expand his lyrical focus beyond himself, he may become San Antonio’s street storyteller in the style of Nas. 


Listen to Blue Sun single "Fear in Me."



Can't stop thinking about this song while prepping my review of LaJIT's forthcoming EP.