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Bringing punk fervor to covers of Tejano legend

Peter Mongillo, Music Source

Staff Writer
Austin 360

The Converse All-Stars, a Ramones cover band complete with wigs and leather that surfaced over Memorial Day weekend at the 29th Street Ballroom, made perfect sense in that punk-focused scene. The crowd sang along with every word. People flew into each other. "Joey Ramone" crawled around on the ground. Nothing out of place.

A cover band dedicated to the music of late Tejano pop legend Selena, generating a similar level of excitement from a lot of the same people? Not so much, you might say. You'd be wrong.

Enter Liz Herrera, aka Liz Burrito, vocalist for Austin punk wild people the Dikes of Holland and Gangster Rainbow. Burrito formed Selena and the Burritos several weeks ago for Cinco de Mayo; the band regrouped Thursday at the 29th Street Ballroom as part of a birthday celebration for manager and booker Jason McNeely. (Bobby Jealousy also cranked out Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town.")

Backing Burrito were two of her Dikes of Holland band mates, guitarist Chris Stephenson and Phil Dunne on keys; bassist Austin Shockley and drummer Cody Johnson rounded out the band.

Another expectation shattered: Pop covers from underground rock bands are usually taken apart in true rock n' roll fashion and spit back out on the stage. Selena and the Burritos delivered a faithful, respectful and all-around well-done tribute to the fallen singer.

As a child in El Paso, Burrito watched Selena on television, emulating her dance moves.

"It just seemed so real and honest," Burrito says.

Among her favorites: "No Me Queda Mas." The band also tore through Selena's Pretenders cover "Fotos y Recuerdos."

Burrito kept her vocals in Spanish, not bothering with Selena's English-language material. The crowd chanted "Selena! Selena!" Burrito, in a black Selena-esque wig, chanted back.

"I pretty much wanted to just sound like it," she says. "I didn't want to offend real fans — this was my opportunity to embrace it."

Thor hammers on. Thor Harris took a break from touring as a longtime member of Shearwater this year, but that doesn't mean he's slowing down. Aside from handling drums and percussion in noise rock band Swans, Harris has been busy as a member of post-punk trio Nazi Gold, which has an album on the horizon.

Harris' latest group is Knest, a three-piece experimental outfit that also includes cellist Randall Holt and guitarist Jonathan Horne. A few weeks ago at Trailer Space, the band rolled slowly into their set with a rising tide of noise that eventually found its way to a groove as Harris left his vibraphone and hammered dulcimer for the drum set.

Harris points to pre-Kraftwerk ensemble Organisation and Australian trio Dirty Three as influences.

"It's pretty free-form, but we rehearse," he says. "We've gotten to where there are things that we know are going to happen."

Knest plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Road.

Aqua Fun Fun Fun? The people behind Fun Fun Fun Fest wear their sense of humor with pride, so it wasn't immediately clear Monday whether organizer James Moody was kidding when he posted on Facebook that this year's FFF would "pay homage to Austin's legendary Aqua Fest" with "glimpses of Austin in the 70s in everything from design to skipper pins, events, and promo stuff." Asked for clarification, Moody said that it was indeed true, but it would be "metalfied."

The annual music festival, Nov. 2-4 at Auditorium Shores, will release a second round of tickets this week. The lineup will be released in July. The festival is giving away tickets through at www.guessthefest.com.

Changes at the ACVB. Rose Reyes, who has spent the past seven years as director of music marketing at the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, is stepping down. Reyes has worked to promote the Austin music scene in a number of ways, including choosing the tracks for the CVB's annual music compilation.

In brief: Pat Green will play ACL Live on Aug. 24 with Nelo. Chris Isaak returns Aug. 26. Tony Bennett plays Sept. 12. Tickets for all three go on sale Friday. Check www.acl-live.com. ... Austin band Driver Friendly got a boost from Tom Hanks last week when he tweeted the video for the song "Messidona," in which the band acts out various Hanks roles.

pmongillo@statesman.com; 445-3696