When I started compiling the list of The 25 Most Significant Nights in Austin Music History I planned to highlight more incidents like when the LeRoi Brothers brawled with each other mid-set at the Hole In the Wall in the early ‘80s or when fans of the Big Boys fought with security at the Austin Opera House during the Austin Music Awards in March ‘84.
I tried to keep it light, so I left off that night of tragedy, when beloved poster artist Ken Featherston was shot to death after a Pointer Sisters show at the Armadillo in Nov. ’75. Working as a bouncer, he had stopped a patron trying to walk out with a beer and the guy came back and shot him.
During the process of assembling the 25, I became more attuned to the significant musical events than the notorious ones. I didn’t want to cut, say, the 13th Floor Elevators at the New Orleans Club in 1966, just to fit in the night that Don Henley emerged from the wings of the Hole and jumped onstage to sing “Don Henley Must Die” with a stunned Mojo Nixon. There was just too much important history to get down.
But the moments of chaos were a lot of fun to remember. Besides Dino, Donny and Biscy, here are some of the other incidents that were on the Big Board when I started, but didn’t make final cut.
The infamous ZZ Top concert was originally ruled out with the other festivals, like Woodshock and Last Bash on the Hill (with Willie Nelson and 13th Floor Elevators) but what the hell.
• ZZ Top’s First Annual Texas Size Rompin’ Stompin’ Barn Dance and Bar B.Q. On Labor Day weekend 1974, the rockin’ trio from Houston booked Memorial Stadium for a blowout concert, co-starring Santana, Joe Cocker and Bad Company, with Jimmy Page on guitar. With Tres Hombres as the band’s breakout LP, a crowd of about 40,000 was expected, but 80,000 showed up for the only Texas show of the tour, many crashing the gates as overwhelmed security could only watch. The stadium ran out of food and water even before Joe Cocker was finished heaving onstage. Anarchy reigned, as someone even brought in a mattress, which was set on fire. The plywood floor was pulled out so the crowd could carve an outline of Texas on the 50-yard-line of the brand new astroturf. This was a couple weeks before the home opener and Coach Royal was livid. “No more concerts!” was upheld for 21 years until the Eagles played the stadium.
• Husker Du and Butthole Surfers at Voltaire’s 1985. In the opening set, Gibby Haynes of the Buttholes and David Yow of Scratch Acid had worked out a prank where Yow would come out of the crowd and smash a movie prop liquor bottle over Gibby’s head. But since the audience thought it was a real bottle, Yow was pummeled by outraged justice-seekers.
• Dino Lee at Steamboat 1986. “The King of White Trash” played a benefit show without his usual costuming- his bouffant was combed down- and got into it with hecklers. Then one of them hurled a shot glass that hit Lee in the forehead, opening a cut that required more than 10 stitches. There was blood everywhere when Dino tore into the crowd looking for the perp, who was never caught.
• The Punk Prom at the Armadillo 1980. The Dicks played their very first show and practically stole it from the headlining Big Boys. Singing songs about blowing rednecks with fat wives at the porno bookstore, singer Gary Floyd showed the poseurs what punk defiance was really all about.
• Pink Floyd at the One Knite… NOT. The night in Sept. 1972 they played a show at Municipal Auditorium, the members of British rock royalty showed up at the current 801 Red River location of Stubb’s and asked if they could jam. “Are you a blues band?” asked someone. Even though named after obscure Carolina bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, the band members said “no,” they’d moved beyond blues. “Sorry, then. You can’t play here.”
• Sonic Youth at the Continental Club 1985. This was the night the club was double-booked, with “nuclear polka” band Brave Combo and NYC noisesmiths Sonic Youth both showing up for load-in. The club’s co-owner and soundman Terry Pearson made it work, putting the Combo on at 10 p.m. sharp, clearing the house, and then starting Sonic Youth’s opening act Nice Strong Arm at about 1:30 a.m. The Youth played until almost 4 a.m. and hired Pearson as their sound man, a position he held for two decades.
• The Muffs destroy the “Electric” neon sign at the Electric Lounge 1996. The band wanted the sign turned off during their set, but that was against club policy, so bassist Ronnie Barnett- not singer Kim Shattucks- smashed the sign. The band eventually paid to have it repaired.
• Greg Dulli gets sent to the hospital 1999. The Afghan Whigs singer had been snarling at Liberty Lunch stagehands named Taiter and Porkchop since an incident at load-in. Witnesses say that after the show Dulli came at “Billy Goat Boy,” which is what the singer called Taiter because of a goatee, and got laid out with a single punch. Hitting the back of his head on the concrete floor, Dulli suffered a fractured skull and spent more than a week at Brackenridge. Liberty Lunch suffered a black eye that it couldn’t recover from before then-mayor Kirk Watson ordered the wrecking ball.
• Meat Joy (including actor John Hawkes) plays a show naked at Voltaire’s. Self-explanatory.