The World Cup kicks off this week, and in an international city like H-town, the many bands are lining up behind as many different nations. Sure, most people are pulling for the USA, but what's interesting is to find out which foreign countries the bands hope do well.

One such is Dune*TX. The band and its singer-guitarist Chris Sacco are pretty up-front Rockets, Astros and Texans fans, and now they are adding the Dynamo to the mix as well. (The band played the parking lot party before the match at Robertson Stadium last Saturday.) And when the World Cup rolls around, Sacco, at least, gets into it. "There's nothing like country versus country, mano a mano," he writes in an e-mail survey Racket conducted last week. Barring what would be a miraculous American victory, Sacco hopes his Italian paesanos will seize the Cup. And maybe he's more of an Italian fan than an American one, after all. Asked what he would do if his favorite team won, he said he would "have some pasta and a Peroni," which seems kind of a bizarre celebration for an American victory.

Arthur Yoria has no such qualms. The native of Colombia would be pulling for that country, if they had only made it to the Cup. But they didn't, and paradoxically, you can tell what a die-hard fan of both soccer in general and the Colombians in particular Yoria is by the fact that he is relieved that they did not make it.


Chango Jackson

There's no agony worse than being a fan of Colombian national soccer. Back in the 1994 World Cup, for example, the Colombians were the trendy pick to win it all. On paper, they had a great team, with frizzy-haired Carlos Valderrama anchoring the midfield and an array of fleet, accurate strikers up front. Pel himself thought they would win, but Pel underestimated the power of Colombia's drug cartels. One of them pretty much owned the team, while another -- which wanted to see to it that the Colombians washed out early -- is rumored to have wagered huge sums of money on that outcome. It was as if the Crips assembled the U.S. National basketball team, and the Bloods bet against them, except the Colombian cocaine cartels were far more powerful than the L.A. gangs ever dreamed of being. At any rate, the team was knocked out early, and lost to the United States when Colombian defender Andres Escobar put the ball in the back of his own net, a miscue that cost him his life after he returned home. (The killer is alleged to have shouted "Gol!" for each of the 12 shots he pumped in Escobar's body.)

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So it comes as little surprise that Yoria is relieved to be free of this drama. "I celebrated when Colombia didn't make it into this Cup because I knew that I'd be able to relax and enjoy the tournament without having my heart shattered by those bastards," he writes. "The Colombian national team are not unlike the old Red Sox, except try to imagine Babe Ruth getting shot in a shithole Boston bar instead of being traded to the Yankees."

Yoria, who also played college soccer at UH, plans to kick back this time around, catching the matches either at his place or at fellow soccer maniac Tody Castillo's apartment. (He advises an in-game diet of "drugs and non-alcoholic beer.") He's even planning to ease back his gig schedule for the event: "I actually plan on not having any shows while good games are on, and I think that my soccer fan/musician friends would agree that the World Cup is a good opportunity to forget about the Houston music pain in my ass for a little while."

But here at Racket HQ, we never get the opportunity to forget about the Houston music pain in the ass, so here are some local music news bits and bites while Racket wonders what ever happened to Paul "In Vietnam the average age was n-n-n-nineteen, nineteen" Hardcastle...Seven years in the making, Chango Jackson's self-titled debut CD is finally out. Featuring a striking cover -- a gold-toothed chimp grinning amid swirling orange and yellow stripes -- the album sounds as good as the demos did back in 1999. I caught up with three of the hermanos Jackson -- bassist-singer Tino, guitarist-singer Chango Van and guitarist Mo -- in front of Sig's Lagoon. Amid a rambling conversation that touched on throwing TVs off highway overpasses and the music of Jimmy Buffett (or was it the music of TVs and throwing Jimmy Buffett off a highway overpass?), the guys expressed tremendous relief to finally just get the damn thing out there.

"We're working with a new label, and we told 'em we didn't want to release any new stuff until we got this out there," says Chango Van. "And after all those years, we have a lot of new stuff. We're thinking of coming out with a double album now -- we hope to start recording it this fall. We've accumulated tons of stuff in the last seven years."

The album's delay seems comical now, even though it wasn't at the time. The band recorded the album at Marco Saenz's Aztlan Studios, and just as the sessions wrapped up, the studio went under. The album was locked inside waiting to be mixed, and the band couldn't find Saenz for several months. And after the album was mixed and mastered, three different backers pulled out of the project at the last minute.

It was worth the wait. Though most of the album is in Spanish, there's plenty on there for the English-only crowd. Great rock is great rock in any language, and Chango Jackson is one of Houston's finest bands. Chango is both grounded in the classics -- the melodic sense of the Beatles, the psych majesty of Pink Floyd, cool forays into jazz -- and forward-looking enough to have their own sound. And they will also rock your face off with alarming frequency, as anyone who has heard their own "Speak English" or their cover of "Helter Skelter" can attest. (The CD is available from the band or at Sig's Lagoon.)

Sugar Hill Studios and KPFT are up to some cool shenanigans. DJ Rhonda Garner, co-host of KPFT's Radioactive program, is also hosting the Sugar Hill Sessions, wherein she interviews local and touring bands over the air, and the bands also perform at the studio for live broadcast. The sessions got under way in April with a set from Philly roots rockers Marah, and May's installment found indie rockers Ume and Bring Back the Guns in the fabled studio. This Saturday, Todd Snider joins Garner in the studio before he heads over to the Verizon to open for John Prine. Tune in to Radioactive Friday at 2 p.m. for details about the Snider interview/concert.

Aw, hell, this week's as good a week as any to introduce "Here's What They Think About You," a semi-regular glance through the tour diaries of acts that pass through town. Up first is Britain's the Crimea, who played the Engine Room with Ash and the Bravery in March of last year. Here's what they had to say about Houston:

"It's a bizarre place, with a few tall buildings and very little else. Once again, against all the odds, the show goes well. Up until five minutes from stage time, the local crew were still working out which lead goes where and which button switches the PA 'on.'

"After the show, we get a lift to the designated 'after party,' which is a few miles from the venue. We cram seven people into the car of the promoter, Jagi. Andrew's sharing a front seat with Mark from Ash and Owen; Andy, Charlotte and Davey are crammed in the back. Two hundred yards from the club and we see flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror. An imposing police officer pulls up to have a word with Jagi and a bad situation is made even worse when Jagi realizes he's forgotten his driving license (which is against the law in the U.S.). He quickly makes up some bollocks about us being lost tourists and generally manages to sweet-talk the stern policeman. He gets off with a fine and is allowed to drive us to the club anyway. Result."

(And shame on you for lying to the nice policeman, Jagi.)

And what the hell, we've got room for one more, and this one's kinda related. Here's an entry from Denton/Dallas-based Centro-Matic, explaining the disastrous cancellation of their show with Ben Kweller and Death Cab for Cutie at Numbers two years ago: "A bit of advice for aspiring stagehands -- do not plug the lights and the PA into the same circuit-thingy. (I hope I am not being too technical here.) Bad things will happen. Rock shows will not happen. Hundreds of fans waiting for hours in the rain did unfortunately happen. I must say that if the same thing had occurred at a n-rapmetal show, the crowd would not have been anywhere near as gracious in their drenched defeat."

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