Local Judge Brings Veteran Punks to Play for the Pooches

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It only takes a few minutes of phone time with Judge Michael Schneider of the 315th District Juvenile Court to get the feeling that here is a public official who is genuinely trying to make a difference. This Friday the judge plays host to a benefit for Friends of B.A.R.C. (Bureau of Animal Rescue and Control) at Rudyard's.

Assisting His Honor musically will be three bands, some dating back to Schneider's days as a mosh-pitting punk at joints like the Axiom: Dead Cowboys, We Are the Asteroid, and San Antonio cowpunks the Hickoids.

"I've been a fan of the Hickoids since I first saw them in 1988, at the Axiom, I believe," says Schneider. "As a judge, I'm bound by ethics that prevent me from raising money for charities, but I can put on a show and let others donate."

After an introduction to head Hickoid Jeff Smith in 2013 via 25-year friend Frank Garymartin, drummer for We Are the Asteroid (as well as Pain Teens, Culturcide, Helios Creed, Walking Timebombs and others), Schneider began exploring the possibility of the Hickoids doing a show in support of his election campaign. But, alas, the judge ran unopposed, so there was no reason to move forward with a show.

"We kept talking, though, and I told Jeff I wanted to find a way to help abandoned and rescued dogs," the judge explains. "I used to do a lot of dog rescue, and I donate lots of prints every year for the silent auction for the Animal Law Society of South Texas College of Law."

About five years ago, Schneider also started a scholarship for Animal Law at the school.

"I've known Gary Chester almost as long as I've known Frank," he says. "I've loved Gary's playing since I saw him in Ed Hall in 1988."

The judge has even more history with Dead Cowboys, a drumless three-piece ensemble that does a few originals and covers of country classics. He and guitarist Scott Ayers (Pain Teens, Culturcide, Walking Timebombs, Dead Links) worked together "on countless projects involving film, music, and sound design."

"I did the digital mastering and cover photo of the Walking Timebombs album in 2001," says Schneider. "Houston Press gave us an award for Best Local Album Cover that year."

Along with Ayers, Dead Cowboys includes longtime scene veterans Toby Blunt on accordion and Mary Manning on acoustic guitar.

"I met Mary years ago when she was living in Queens," says the judge. "I was staying in Brooklyn on a mutual friend's couch when she brought by a cat that needed adoption. We became mutual friends when she moved back to Houston."

Austin-based We Are the Asteroid is a another three-piece whose members Houstonians will likely recognize. Ed Hall/Pong guitarist Gary Chester, Butthole Surfers bassist Nathan Calhoun, and Garymartin on drums are the players; dense, sludgy rock is their oeuvre.

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Schneider points out a subtle distinction between Friends of B.A.R.C. and the actual city agency, Bureau of Animal Rescue and Control.

"Friends of B.A.R.C. is a 501.3.c registered charity that donates money and resources to the animals at B.A.R.C.," he explains. "I'm involved because I try to involve kids passing through my court in activities that support the facility, and kids really seem to respond positively when we have them help out at the facility, so everyone comes out ahead.

"Through probation we do a ton of animal stuff," adds Schneider. "Kids in my drug court can work at the canine unit as part of their probation."

Outside the music, the other big item on the evening's agenda is a print auction featuring the work of noted Houston music photographers like analog avant garde darkroom printer David Salinas, former Chronicle photographer, homeless advocate, and filmmaker Ben DeSoto, and local rescue activist and studio photographer Robyn Arouty.

"Bill Daniel, the legendary black-and-white Texas punk-rock photographer, archivist and filmmaker, is giving us some of his over 10,000 prints," says Schneider. "Bill does those old-school gelatin prints. Some of them will be of Jeff Smith's early punk band, Bang Gang, for anyone looking for something rare."

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