Liberty Lunch, Late Seventies
a doubt, one of the great lost Austin bands was
Joe "King" Carrasco's first combo, El
Molino. Made up of a ragtag mariage of local and
San Antonio musicians, El Molino all looked like
they'd just gotten out of jail (a few of them had),
and could play in almost any state of consciousness,
ranging from near-coma to plugged-into-the-cosmos.
In the late-Seventies, Carrasco wheeled this zany
bunch into Liberty Lunch for a gig that still makes
me giggle and cringe, often at the same time. Granted,
the group had played a few other shows, but they
tended to be at lean-tos on East First Street, where
you needed either a map or blind luck to find them.
Carrasco really hadn't penetrated the Austin rock
radar in any real way, so playing this night at
Liberty Lunch was like El Molino's coming out and
going away party all rolled into one.
its leader called an El Molino show, it was a roll
of the loaded dice on who would show up; the band's
only album, Tex-Mex Rock-N-Roll on Lisa Records
(a label named after Carrasco's girlfriend at the
time), was still sitting in huge piles at the singer's
West 221\1 Street pad, and no one really knew who
was actually in El Molino. But that night at Liberty
Lunch, the stars were out in strength on the bandstand:
sax player Rocky Morales and trumpeter Charlie McBurney
had somehow made it up from San Antonio, along with
their sidekick Richard "Eh Eh" Elizondo
aka 'The Penguin." Ernie "Murphy"
Durawa was on drums, and Speedy Sparks had a night
off from working the door at Soap Creek to play
bass. On lead guitar was none other than Ike Ritter,
head of all things psychedelic, a down-home cosmic
traveler of the first order. Token straight David
Mercer had taped his Farfisa organ together, Carrasco
came with guitar, cape and crown ready to wear.
evening had the air of a big time twist-off. After
a brief opening set by newcomer Lucinda Williams,
the El Molino men started trying to find the stage.
Back then, the lighting at Liberty Lunch was along
the lines of glorified flashlights, and the darkness
coupled with Morales' ever-present shades (not to
mention the gravel-filled ground) had him bumping
into walls and having to crawl onto the bandstand
like he was mounting an angry bull. Same for McBurney,
who for some strange reason looked to Morales for
leadershop. Ritter was still in the car preparing
his head, while Sparks, the king of la manana laid-back-ness,
couldn't be bothered. Only Mercer was in his proper
place, waiting for the Keystone Kops of Austin Rock
to find their spots. But holy guacamole!, when they
did hit it, El Molino came on like funhouse had
taken over Austin, and were intent on tickling the
town's Cosmic Cowboy\blues brigade into a two-out-of-three
free-for-all hands-down victory. Songs like "Jalapeno
Con Big Red" and "Mezcal Road" leaped
off the stage with such spirit that no one there
could help but be overwhelmed. Before long, there
was a huge cloud of dust kicked up from dancer on
the gravel, making it seem like Carrasco had his
own smoke machine blowing full force. Joe King himself
was running around the Lunch with a 50-foot guitar
chord, swinging from light poles and jumping on
tabletops. Beer bottles were flying and people were
falling down from sheer excitement.
halfway through the set, Ike Ritter's flight-mix
must have kicked in , because monstrous guitar runs
started pouring out of his Stratocaster, egging
Carrasco into even further lunacy. Two hours later,
the band came crashing down with a burning cover
of "Wooly Bully" that might have made
Sam the Sham hang his head in shame.
"King" Carrasco forever earned his crown
that night, and El Molino made it into any thinking-person's
Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, there weren't to be
any more gigs, as Carrasco turned New Wave the next
week, forming the Crowns and starting to play Raul's.
For me, the night ended Blue Wave, when I wound
up at the Austin Police Department swearing - when
I was allowed to make my single telephone call -
that I was in San Antonio. iQue, que que!