To every season

The times they are a-changin' at the Sons of Hermann

Amid a flurry of rumors, it has finally been confirmed that the Sons of Hermann membership will be taking a more active role in the booking of their facility, the popular Sons of Hermann Hall. In a move bound to decrease longtime booker Mike Snider's access to the venue, more and more members of the two chapters that share the hall--chapters 22 and 66--have expressed an interest in bringing their own shows to the Sons.

First a little background: The Sons of Hermann is a fraternal organization established in 1871 in Fredericksburg, Texas. Like many of these groups, the Sons serves not only a social function, but an economic one, with benefits primarily in the area of insurance. The hall is the focus of the attention of three entities: the two chapters, both of which built and own the structure at 3414 Elm St., and the Home Association, the body that governs how it's used.

The first signs of change came a few weeks ago, when the Dallas Observer ad for the Sons changed from the one Snider had been building on his home computer--and splitting the cost of running--to one that came wholly from the Sons. Rumors began to crop up that Snider was on his way out.

Nothing could be further from the truth, according to Jo Nicodemus, president of the Home Association and--along with Snider--an instrumental figure in the hall's revival. "We think that the shows bring people in," she says, "and the building and the people in it keep them coming back. We've been having bands play here for 15 or 20 years, but Mike really did turn things around."

As the Sons of Hermann Hall grew in cachet, members began wanting to book their own shows, certainly their right in light of the money they put into the organization. "The main thing that's changing is that Mike won't have all of the dates to choose from," Nicodemus says. "Members will have more choice to bring in the bands that they want. We're a nonprofit, charitable organization--everybody's time is donated--and we want to benefit as many people as possible. We have squabbles like any other big family, but we always end up kissing and hugging." Nicodemus is well aware of the role Snider played in rejuvenating the hall. "It used to be that the members couldn't afford to support the hall or make repairs--it didn't make the money--and now we can," she says.

Snider, for the most part, is reluctant to say anything for fear of further feeding the rumor mill. "Just say that I've got a lot of big plans and big shows coming up," he says. "I still love the Sons, but now I'm looking at other venues, like Trees and the Lakewood Theater [where he's booked larger shows before] and the Longhorn Ballroom."

It is indeed a complicated situation calling for understanding on both parts. On one hand, when someone helps you out, you don't necessarily ransom your entire future to them; for the money they put into their organization, members deserve consideration and a return on their investment. On the other hand, Snider was there for the first--and hardest--years, sometimes making money, often losing. Folks who go to a packed hall to see Junior Brown often aren't there for great--but money-losing--shows like Ray Price or Dan Hicks.

Snider--who has booked most of the shows at the hall through the end of the year--also has a reputation for straight shooting among most musicians. A recent article on Dale Watson in Hustler features a scene in which Snider (with the wrong last name, misidentified as the owner of the Sons, whose name was misspelled--nobody said journalism was all hard work) chases down Watson to pay him the money owed him from his last gig. That's the kind of rep that's easy to screw up and hard to repair, and one would hope that no innocent mistakes interfere with that.

Nicodemus isn't too worried, though. "If Mike weren't around," she says, "I wouldn't like that at all. As far as I'm concerned, everything's going well, but the Sons will never just be about Mike Snider or Jo Nicodemus--it'll always be the members. These walls would fold without music. The Sons of Hermann are about friendship, love, and loyalty, and that's how we try to run things."

Scene, heard
Welcome back to the Jazz Connection, the hard-to-classify combination of live music venue, very small record store, and high-end memorabilia shop devoted to jazz and located just across the street from the Inwood Theater. Closed for the last few months to incorporate a bar and attendant facilities into the space, the Connection saw Shelley Carrol play for a shakedown evening Saturday, August 30, and had their grand re-opening last Tuesday, September 2...Congrats to Gene Summers on his headlining the "We Wanna Boogie" rockabilly festival in East Hanover, New Jersey, this last Friday. Four songs from Gene's Crystal Clear album The Ultimate School of Rock 'n' Roll have been released as a vinyl 45 by Norton Records titled A Gene Summers Record Date...Junior Brown and Hank Thompson just got done down in Waxahachie making the video that will accompany "Sell Those Chickens," tagged to be the first single off of Hank's upcoming album of duets, scheduled for release October 14...Congrats to Mustache for snagging the opening slot for the Kelley Deal 6000 this September 5...The Winners is a new band made up of longtime local scenesters that will play its first show Friday, September 5, with the American Fuse at the Orbit Room. Incidentally, the show will be the Fuse's record-release party. Members of the Winners are bassist Rob White (formerly of the Crank), guitarist and vocalist Roger Dean (Agitators), guitarist Marcus Striplin (Static), and Steven Dupree (Super Secret Weapon), and their sound is basically "old-school rock 'n' roll," according to Dupree; the Blue Flames are also on the bill...

Denton band Dr. Teeth has a four-song cassette out titled Old Style that showcases the band's Dixie Dregs-ish jazz-rock...Dallas band Roller--originally formed as Steamroller 88 three years ago--has a new album out, Southbound and Down, 12 songs of relentless punk-influenced rock. The band--which has gotten good reviews from such oughta-knows as Buzzmonger and Crash magazines--is currently working on a split seven-inch with Billyclub...

Congrats to two local bands that got good ink from the bimonthly music mag Request: Brave Combo got an almost all-good review of Group Dance Epidemic (they didn't much care for "The Hokey Pokey"), and Fireworks' Lit Up! was said to be "...trailing smart, smug concepts through a low-down mire of dirty-ass rock 'n' roll that keeps one foot in the garage and the other in the house of voodoo." Whoa, Nellie! Zach Bair and No Control have a five-song EP poised for release; check 'em out Sunday, September 7, at Q102's "Texas Tapes" at the Green Room...Cresta is looking for a drummer...

When we said that one side of Kim Lenz and her Jaguars' new 45 consisted of obscure covers, we didn't know just how right we were: the song "Bop City" hasn't even been recorded before. Originally done by local gal rocker Sherry Davis back in the '50s, the song was on a tape of live cuts from the legendary Big D Jamboree unearthed by steve records' David Dennard and passed on to Lenz...Mazinga Phaser, whose new release Abandinallhope is reviewed in this issue, will be appearing at the Borders bookstore in Fort Worth September 19...Thursday, September 4, will see a tribute to Rockadelic Records founder Mark Migliore, a pioneer in promoting and preserving Texas (and other forms of) garage psychedelia. Migliore, who committed suicide a year ago, will be honored by a show performed by Iron Bong, whose Big Hits was released earlier this year on Lost Records. Iron Bong is a veritable Texas psych history lesson, boasting (and in just four guys) members or alumni of bands such as Bag, the Modern Whigs, Fish Eye Lens, Burnin' Rain, the Whirligigs, the Stingrays, and the Mood Swings...

Street Beat welcomes all your tips, comments, assistance, and advice at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com.

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