"It looked very bleak for a while," musician and sound engineer Jonas Wilson says, "but it wound up being something that was a positive thing at the end of the day." Wilson, who has played in numerous Austin-area bands, including the White White Lights and his newer group, the Plastic Habit, is talking about being among the thousands who lost his home and most of his belongings to the 2011 Bastrop wildfire.
In October 2011, Wilson described a pink haze and hearing what sounded like trees exploding as he pulled away from his home. Among the things lost was his studio, full of specialized gear that had taken him years to amass. He made it out with a drive containing some of his work and a couple guitars.
After several months staying with family in the Austin area, Wilson is once again living in Bastrop, in a house with a new studio space. Wilson, whose recording clients include country songwriter Robert Ellis and the Strange Boys, has slowly been able to get back to work, albeit with a different set of equipment than before, including rented gear.
"I’ve taken a more fiscally responsible route this time," Wilson said. "The other stuff was a lifetime’s collection of really odd equipment that was hard to replace. I’ll never quite get over losing all of that stuff." The recording equipment lost in the fire was not insured.
He’s also at work on his own music with the Plastic Habit. Packed with local players including Shawn Jones, Lauren Gurgiolo, Sweeney Tidbal and Stephen Bres, the group is recording and has been playing around town.
The group has its roots after the fire, when Wilson’s other band wasn’t able to play a benefit show, and Wilson decided to play some of his solo material with a group of musician friends who grew into the new band. "We started recording a little, and did a couple of sessions where we said, ‘Oh, that was kind of interesting, let’s do it again’ … it turned into a cool band, I’m having fun with it," he said.
Wilson and the band hope to release an album in the next few months.
The Plastic Habit plays Jan. 23 at the Hole in the Wall with the Sweet Nuthin.
The march to March. South by Southwest Music, which is March 12-16, announced a third round of bands last week. Italian pop act Jovanotti, Austin roots act Sons of Fathers, Tegan and Sara, the Thermals, True Believers, What Made Milwaukee Famous, Icona Pop and Frightened Rabbit are among the new additions.
This latest reveal of groups includes a few bigger acts, including Vampire Weekend and Local Natives, who have had very big debuts/appearances at SXSW in past years. Check out the current lineup at sxsw.com.
In South-by-speculation news, David Bowie announced last week that he’ll release a new album, "The Next Day," on March 12. Producer Tony Visconti (who also works with Alejandro Escovedo) told British music magazine NME that the Thin White Duke wouldn’t be touring on this album, but an appearance at SXSW doesn’t necessarily count as a tour, so speculate away.
HAAM battle. HAAM’s Corporate Battle of the Bands will take place Friday, April 26, at Antone’s. Soul Track Mind, who release a new album that week, will headline after the corporate bands play.
HAAM is also auctioning off an autographed poster from Patty Griffin and her Driver (Robert Plant) on Ebay. Visit myhaam.org for more information.
Old Settler’s Fest gears up. The Old Settler’s Music Festival announced more of its lineup Monday, with Michael Franti, Son Volt and Bob Schneider set to perform when the annual roots music jam hits the Salt Lick Pavilion on April 18-21. Discounted weekend passes are on sale through Tuesday; single day passes go on sale Wednesday. More information at oldsettlersmusicfest.org.
Lone Star Jam expands. Country fest the Lone Star Jam, now in its sixth year, will expand to two days in 2013 when its takes place May 4 and 5 on the LBJ Lawn at the University of Texas. The festival will announce its lineup on Jan. 28. Last year’s acts included the Randy Rogers Band and Cody Canada and the Departed.
Ruby Jane gets fiddle back. On Dec. 8, 2011, teenage fiddler Ruby Jane and her mother, Jobelle Smith, were carjacked at gunpoint after a show in Houston. The thief drove off with, among other things, a prized violin Jonathan Cooper had custom-made for Ruby Jane. Last week, the 18-year-old was reunited with the violin after Houston police returned it.
The lead in the case came when an acquaintance saw a Craigslist ad for a Jonathan Cooper violin that looked a lot like "Danny," as RJ has called the fiddle. "My mom called the Houston police, and they set up a sting," Ruby Jane said. An officer, posing as a buyer, met with the seller, determined the violin was indeed the one stolen in the carjacking, made the arrest and confiscated the instrument. The seller was eventually released when it was determined he was not involved in the carjacking. "He said he bought it on the street for $40," Ruby Jane said. The Cooper violin is valued around $4,000.
RJ’s taking "Danny" to Los Angeles this week to record some demos for prospective producers. The next Austin-area gig is Jan. 20 at Gruene Hall.
— Michael Corcoran