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Expanding the borders of Chaos in Tejas

In its seventh year, Chaos in Tejas still has punk rock, but it also adds New Orleans bounce and Syrian folk-pop

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

If there's one idea that Chaos in Tejas producer Timmy Hefner wants to drill into people's heads, it's that the seven-year-old festival is not just obscure punk and hardcore anymore, let alone just two nights.

There's bouncy indie rock and folk-pop stars from the streets of Syria. There's death metal and New Orleans bounce music. There are musicians closer to AARP age than high school and musicians who are too young to rent a car. There are punk bands from the 1980s and punk bands that nobody knows yet. There are Japanese bands and Scandinavian bands and Austin bands. There are day parties and night shows.

"There's more of everything this year," Hefner says, including new clubs. Antone's is participating for the first time, hosting Syrian street-pop sensation Omar Souleyman (and yes, he is coming from Syria for his first American tour).

"Omar was the only one I was definitely super surprised to get," Hefner said.

There's also plenty of the underground hardcore punk Chaos was built on, from Japanese bands to studio projects that never play live. Chaos will have the live debut of hardcore supergroup Veins, featuring former Drunkdriver singer Michael Berdan and guitarist Mark McCoy of late '90s hardcore stars Charles Bronson.

McCoy also runs the cultish hardcore label Youth Attack, which will feature a virtual South by Southwest-style showcase at 2 p.m. Saturday at the 29th Street Ballroom when Vile Gash, Veins, Raw Nerve and Hoax perform at an art show. And yes, there is an 11 a.m. breakfast show Saturday at Cheer Up Charlies. Food trailers will be in attendance.

There's more from Hefner personally this year as well.

Last year, Hefner started a tradition of releasing a slate of records from his 540 Records label during Chaos. This year is no different — 540 should have five new records out this weekend, including a seven-inch single from noise punks Nerveskade, who broke up soon after recording it, a seven-inch from Japanese band Slowmotions, an LP from fellow Japanese band Isterismo, and two more reissues of Australian punk records.

"I don't sleep," Hefner says, clearly on a cell phone, clearly making moves. No. No, he does not. And neither will anyone else this weekend.

The full schedule for Chaos in Tejas, which is Thursday through Sunday at clubs including Beerland, Emo's, Mohawk and Red 7, can be found at Chaosintejas.com. Here are some recommendations:

If you are into punk of the 1980s and '90s:

1. Universal Order of Armageddon.Brilliantly chaotic mid-'90s Baltimore outfit known for shows that are like passionate explosions. (Friday, Mohawk)

2. Youth of Today. Mid-1980s, "youth crew" straight edge icons. Time to bust out your hoodie and throw an enormous "X" on the back of each hand. (Saturday, Mohawk)

3. Cro-Mags.Iconic, first-wave New York hardcore. The pit for this show likely will be intense. (Tonight, Emo's)

4. Citizens Arrest.Yes, this late '80s New York hardcore act features Ted Leo (of Pharmacists fame) on bass. (Friday, Emo's)

If you're into obscure hardcore:

1. Tragedy. One of the all-time great hardcore bands; for more than a decade they've been delivering impossibly heavy, anthemic, crusty punk rock. (Tonight, the Broken Neck, Saturday day party, Emo's)

2. Veins.Their first and perhaps only show, former Drunkdriver singer Michael Berdan and guitarist Mark McCoy of late '90s hardcore star Charles Bronson make a band, create panicked blur of rage. (Tonight, Emo's; Saturday day party, the 29th St. Ballroom; Saturday afterparty, Broken Neck)

3. Raw Nerve.Frantic, buzzy guitar gunk. (Saturday day party, the 29th St. Ballroom; Saturday, Mohawk)

4. Crazy Spirit.Raw, chaotic punk with a staggering debut seven-inch EP on Toxic State. (Tonight, Emo's; Sunday day party, Beerland)

5. Iron Lung. One of, if not the, very best fastcore/power violence acts in the country — impossibly fast, impossibly short. (Friday, Emo's; Saturday breakfast show, Cheer Up Charlie's)

If you are into hot and cold running metal:

1. Autopsy. Seminal American death metal act, oddly underrated in their own time, reunite for shockingly excellent album, "Macabre Eternal," released this year. (Friday, Emo's)

2. The Dillinger Escape Plan.Their impossibly complex 1999 album "Calculating Infinity" is one of the cornerstones of modern metal and they've rarely wavered since. (Saturday, the Beauty Bar)

3. Miasmal.Swedish death metal that actually happens to be from Sweden. (Saturday, Emo's)

4. Acephalix.Metal/punk fusionists have (d)evolved into worshippers of extremely brutal old school death metal. (Tonight, Red 7)

5. Baroness.Complicated, almost brainy Southern metal for complicated times. (Sunday, Emo's)

If you are into indie rock:

1. (Expletive) Up.Please, no angry letters. Damien Abraham's raw power voice may still channel hardcore heroes past, but the music on "David Come to Life" folds in everything from the Kinks to My Bloody Valentine to Sham 69. (Sunday, Mohawk)

2. The Beets.Twee-as-heck pop just like K Records used to make. Welcome to 1991, here is your cardigan. (Saturday, Beerland)

3. Milk Music. Straight out of Olympia, Wash., this trio is part Dinosaur Jr and part Husker Du, complete with rich, chewy riffs. (Friday, Emo's; Saturday in-store, End of an Ear; Saturday afterparty, Broken Neck)

4. Shellshag.Brooklyn duo with its distorto guitar and "ba-ba-ba-das" in place. (Tonight, Red 7)

5. Unholy Two.A two-guitar, uglier sounding John Spencer Blues Explosion with a lot less blues. (Friday, Emo's; Saturday in-store, End of an Ear)

6. Balmorhea.Austin's increasingly popular chamber rock outfit. (Saturday, Antone's)

If you are into garage punk:

1. The Marked Men.Very possibly the best band Denton ever produced: hooks for days, catchy melodies, high-octane live show. (Friday, Red 7; Saturday day party, Beerland)

2. The Spits. Punk meets rock 'n' roll at the arcade. They will steal your quarters. (Tonight, Red 7)

3. The Hex Dispensers. King of the Austin garage pile, band leader Alex Cuervo can do very little wrong. (Saturday, Red 7)

4. Guitar Wolf.Furiously loud Japanese roar, equal bits punk, garage, rockabilly, leather jackets and hideous noise. (Saturday, Red 7)

If you are into dancing or music from other parts of the globe:

1. Omar Souleyman. Other than perhaps the folks from Japan, this Syrian musician wins the prize for furthest distance travelled. He definitely wins for farthest distance travelled culturally. Since 1994, Souleyman has issued more than five hundred studio and live cassette albums, which melting-pot blend Syrian folk forms such as dabke, the Iraqi choubi music and various other Arabic styles. Add fast synthesizer breaks, bits of oud, reed and percussion and you have a propulsive mix of music you are unlikey to hear anywhere outside Syria. Souleyman was introduced to Western audiences in the mid 2000s by the Sublime Frequency label, which has released three anthologies of his work. You are unlikely to see him again any time soon. Friday, Antone's.

2. Big Freedia and Katey Red. Two sissy bounce artists from New Orleans, Freedia and Katey have become favorites of the Austin underground. Expect an impossibly fun, impossibly sweaty time. Friday, Red 7.