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Sweatbox Studio closing in August

Peter Mongillo, Music Source

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Austin-based Sweatbox Studio, which has been recording punk and garage bands since 1993, is closing in mid-August, owner and engineer Mike Vasquez confirmed last week.

Vasquez opened the studio because there wasn't an affordable place for local bands to record. Over the years, it has become famous in Austin and beyond, attracting generations of local musicians as well as bands from outside the city that came to record with producers including Vasquez, Tim Kerr, Mike Mariconda and Bryan Nelson. New Bomb Turks, the Mooney Suzuki, the Golden Boys and Flesh Lights are among the groups that have recorded at the studio.

In 2006, fire destroyed Sweatbox's downtown location; the studio relocated in East Austin.

Vasquez, who is heading to Oregon to train to work on wind turbines, said his main reason for leaving is that he is ready to try something new.

"The volume of quality bands coming through my studio has never been better than it is right now, and the Austin scene has never been better," he said.

Vasquez, who is working to finish several recording projects before he leaves, plans to reopen Sweatbox in Portland. He added that he plans to return to Austin to record from time to time. "It's not completely over for me down here," he said.

Some thoughts on Chaos in Tejas 2012: After a day or so of seeing a stack of hardcore bands at Chaos in Tejas, one understands why people — many of them at the festival, many of them wearing various shades of studded, ripped and otherwise abused black T-shirts and jeans — make this music their life: It is incredibly addictive. You pound down a set by Austinites Criaturas or New York raw punks Crazy Spirit and a few more on Thursday, and by Friday afternoon, all you can think is, in the immortal words of Ian MacKaye on the classic song "Minor Threat," "PLAY IT FASTER."

Most bands were more than happy to oblige. Japanese bands such as Forward, Reality Crisis and Skizophrenia rocketed along, chaotically, like a bullet train on ancient tracks. Over a series of performances throughout the week, No Statik reminded fans that the Oakland outfit might be the best active hardcore band, with frontwoman Ruby Koger a furious, sweaty blur, shoving her way into the audience and screaming at emotional walls.

For me, the metal highlight was Power Trip, a band from Dallas specializing in the sort of circle-pit-generating "crossover" (read: hardcore mixed with the early thrash metal of Metallica and Slayer) that changed lives in the mid-1980s. Tight as a drumhead, Power Trip generated some of the weekend's most violent, tantrumy moshing, but considering the band has only a few released songs to its name, it was thrilling to see the (largely male) crowd scream along to most of the 45-minute set.

But not everything great was pure hardcore. Thursday night, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' passion and verve made for one of the weekend's strongest hours, a perfect apéritif for a darkly apocalyptic set from veteran English anarcho-punks the Mob, three British guys who looked like dads on holiday and whose dark sound owed as much to goth rock and post-punk as anything else.

Their matter-of-fact look made their music all the grimmer, though the title of their sole studio LP was as good a motto as any for punk at its most open and spiritually unifying: "Let The Tribe Increase."

Other highlights:

¦ Moss Icon's trippy passion. Reunion sets are always a crapshoot, but these four Maryland natives did a phenomenal job, delivering emotionally exhausting punk from when they were teens in the late 1980s. Attention emo bands of the late '90s: This is who you were ripping off. Not Rites of Spring, not Embrace. These guys. And they still do it better. Before Moss Icon, the Danish band Iceage showed fans that teenagers can still rock. (Sometimes one looks at delicate indie bands such as Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver and their young fanbases and wonder this very thing.)

¦ Speaking of elder statesman, New Zealand's the Clean's elegant trio workouts were heart-stopping for those of us who had never seen them. Newer songs were mixed with classics such as "Oddity," "Tally Ho!" and the wonderful jammy "Point That Thing Somewhere Else."

¦ Royal Headaches deserve some sort of good trouper award for playing a powerful, energetic set of smartly hook garage rock mere hours after getting off a plane from Australia on borrowed gear. Cheers!

¦ Punk is a way of thinking about the world. Let the tribe increase.

– Joe Gross

In brief: Robert Ellis, "This One's For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark," Sarah Jarosz and Patty Griffin are among the nominees for the 2012 Americana Music Awards, which take place Sept. 12 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville ... Cheap Trick and an electronic dance music Halloween show with Dirty Vegas, Classixx, RAC, and Flight Facilities are among new shows announced at ACL Live ... Indie pop band Yeasayer has announced a tour to promote their new album, "Fragrant World," out Aug. 21. They play Stubb's Sept. 6 ... The Walkmen, no strangers to Austin, play Stubb's Sept. 20 ... KGSR's Blues on the Green kicked off last week with Charlie Mars. The long-running series also announced that the Aug. 8 show will be an ACL preview of sorts, with Austin acts Quiet Company, the Eastern Sea and Wild Child ... The Backyard has added another Willie Nelson show Aug. 23 with Paula Nelson.