This is a picture of my friend Mikey, snapping a photo from side-stage as the Dead Milkmen played at Sound on Sound Fest this past weekend. If you didn’t know Mikey, you might think, “Who’s that guy, and how’d he get to sit side stage while I’m out here in the crowd?” (Which is what I usually think every time I see someone watching a band from side-stage.) But how Mikey got that sweet spot is an equally sweet story.
I’ve known Mikey for nearly 20 years, from my days in my hometown of San Antonio. Mikey’s also an accomplished turntablist who performs mash-ups under the name DJ Jester the Filipino Fist (he performed in Studio 1A back in September.) Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes to DJ Jester’s 2006 album, Secret Love. But this story isn’t about DJ Jester, though it certainly intersects with him. This is about Mike Pendon, the guy behind Jester, who was once a music-loving thirteen-year-old.
Mikey grew up in a small town outside of Houston. As a kid in the ‘80s, he was into the fringe kind of music that one had to search hard for, or learn about from older kids or record store clerks. He definitely had company – me, and maybe Win Butler, and lots of other suburban Texas kids listening to underground music back then – but didn’t know it. One day, on a school trip, a girl seated next to him on a plane saw Mikey’s Butthole Surfers cassette in his Walkman (a band, incidentally, formed in San Antonio), and told him he should check out the Dead Milkmen. So Mikey did. He bought all their tapes at Sam Goody, and listened to them on repeat. He saw an address in the liner notes of Beelzebubba, and sent a letter to the band. Like kids do.
Joe Jack Talcum of the Dead Milkmen and Mikey Pendon became pen pals, and corresponded from the time Mikey was thirteen until he was a sophomore in college (around when email became popular.) Eventually, Joe and Mikey stopped writing letters to each other, though from time to time, they’d exchange e-mails and songs. In 2008, the Dead Milkmen reunited at Fun Fun Fun Fest and Mikey contacted Joe to set up an after-party at Beerland. In 2010, DJ Jester joined Joe on tour.
Three years ago, Mikey began posting his letters from Joe on a Tumblr blog called Letters from a Milkman. The blog features pages and pages of letters, tour photos, even a Christmas card from Joe. “I’ve always had these letters with me,” Mikey told me by email. “These letters are probably one of my most-prized possessions. Like those years when I moved to San Francisco and most of my stuff was in storage – I basically moved there with these letters, my turntables, and clothes.” The letters span a huge chunk of Mikey’s development, and he calls them “the ultimate #tbt.” He doesn’t know exactly what he wrote to Joe, and while Joe admitted to not keeping Mikey’s letters to him, he does keep up with Mikey’s blog. “I suppose it would be even better,” Joe told him once by email, “if I could post scans of the letters you sent to me in the comments. But I am not entirely sure I still have them.”
I ran into Mikey in the media area at Sound on Sound, just a couple hours after the Dead Milkmen set. He pointed to where the band was hanging out, just a few feet away. “There’s the Dead Milkmen,” he laughed. “Just hanging out!” Here was a guy who had toured the country with his hero, and who had opening slots for bands like Of Montreal and Arcade Fire on his DJ resume, but I could hear the boyish excitement in his voice. In the presence of Joe and his band-mates, a part of Mikey would always be that thirteen-year-old kid, opening the mail to find another letter from a Milkman.
– Jacquie Fuller, Assistant Program Director, KUTX
The Austin City Limits Music Festival has announced the lineup for its 15th installment of the festival, with heavy hitters Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem and Mumford & Sons headlining the fest. Austin’s own Willie Nelson will also join the festivities in his first ACL appearance during the fest’s second weekend.
Black Pistol Fire, the incendiary guitar-drum duo of Kevin McKeown on guitar/lead vocals and Eric Owen on drums, splits its time between hometown Toronto and their new adopted home of Austin. After extensive touring with the likes of Gary Clark Jr., they’re back with a new album.
Don’t Wake The Riot, their fourth, evolved from songs written over the course of the past year, each designed to push the duo into new directions. Using inspirations as diverse as Alabama Shakes, Dr. Dre and Bobby Bland, BPF has expanded its sonic palette without sacrificing the band’s hair-raising electricity. With new instruments in the mix, will the live shows evolve as well? We’ll find out soon – they play KUTX’s Studio 1A on May 17th, and kick off their tour a few days later on May 20 at Emo’s.
– Jeff McCord
Listen to KUTX all month long for tracks from Black Pistol Fire!
Photo: Prince’s last show in Austin during SXSW 2013. Credit: Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman
It’s only April, and we’ve lost yet another music legend. Here at KUTX, all eyes were on Minnesota this morning as reports came flooding in of a death at Prince’s Paisley Park compound. Prince’s publicist confirmed the news to the Associated Press this morning: Prince Rogers Nelson was dead at age 57.
Prince’s impact cannot be underestimated – from forging the unique “Minneapolis Sound” in the 1980’s, to launching the careers of artists from The Time to Janelle Monae, to inspiring bands and artists like Spoon, St. Vincent, Alabama Shakes, Tame Impala and countless others.
All day long on KUTX today, we’ll be honoring Prince by featuring some of our favorite tracks. Friday at 8 A.M., Adrian Quesada will join Jeff McCord to share stories about his experiences as a musician playing with Prince. Then later Friday night from 7-11 P.M., Rick McNulty will host a special all-Prince edition of Left of the Dial*. We’ll be collecting reactions from Austin artists here, too – keep checking back.
* In compliance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, the KUTX stream will be turned off during Left of the Dial Friday night. If you stream KUTX from afar, we encourage you to put your favorite Prince records on your turntable and play them unreasonably loud.
Below, Austin musicians remember Prince.
Seeing Prince play was like witnessing God’s love.
— SPOON (@spoontheband) April 21, 2016
Didn’t cry until my lil bro sent me this pic. So lucky to have met the man. Can’t believe he’s gone. pic.twitter.com/5evMkJ6WTi
— Yogi Bari (@yogi_bari) April 21, 2016
A legend. An innovative powerhouse. The symbol. And one of our heroes. R.I.P. Prince
— Magna Carda (@MagnaCarda) April 21, 2016
Oh god no. 😱😰 My heart is broken. In total shock. Prince is dead!?! https://t.co/qAfHJoKThG
— Nakia (@Nakia) April 21, 2016
Man, 2016 is losing some of the greatest of all time. RIP
— DeltaSpirit (@deltaspirit) April 21, 2016
Watch for Prince’s guitar solo at 3:24.