Big Chris Gates's bands, particularly Big Boys (197984) and Poison 13 (198485), have sacred status in the worlds of hard-core punk, skate punk and grunge. Led by openly gay singer Randy "Biscuit" Turner and publicized nationally by the influential skateboard magazine Thrasher, Austin's Big Boys were some of the first punks to temper their music with elements of funk, and are often credited with paving the way for the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers. No less a rag than the irreverent Chunklet went so far as to declare Gates's post-Big Boys project Poison 13 to be "the shot heard around the world of grunge, influencing the Seattle/Tacoma scene of the late '80s and early '90s."
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Gates underwent a sea change of sorts in the past few years after stints with 99pounds and Charter Bulldogs. He says he began to write more meaningful songs after conversations with consummate Austin music philosopher Jon Dee Graham, which led him to his latest project, Gatesville. The 2006 release Ain't It Grand approaches Americana, although often from a decidedly Southern rock point of view. And surprise, surprise: Gates is reminiscent of Jon Dee Graham on this one, complete with a voice that's all gravel in the throat and fire in the gut. He should be a perfect bookend for James McMurtry, who closes the evening.