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James Hyland, The Danged Hole in the Wall, August 24, 2000

Sure, Austin is growing by leaps and bounds. Ask anyone who has been here for 10 or more years and you'll hear stories of how it just isn't the same place. But there are some places where things are still done the way they've always been, and the Hole In The Wall is certainly one of those. The woman watching the door and collecting your money has bright pink-orange hair. The cover is still a bargain at $3. In the back room, some pool tables and pinball machines have made way for a larger stage, though tonight some scruffy locals have set up a small TV there to watch football. On the old small stage in the front room, a group of fresh-faced youngsters, some obviously not old enough to be in a bar at 11pm, are earnestly plowing through a rough sort of country music, heavy on covers from the likes of Steve Earle and the Rolling Stones. Somehow it doesn't seem right that the opening band, led by the gangly, self-assured singer James Hyland, plays longer than an hour, but then don't forget, this is the older, slacker kind of Austin. An hour comes and goes, while the other bands that are supposed to play wait nervously, but Hyland and friends just keep on going. After a few more covers, they reach the end of the set list and the Danged scurry to set up before they lose any crowd that's still around. If the name doesn't ring a bell, it's because they're a new band, yet one composed of local veterans. Pete Stiles, former Meat Purveyors mandolin player, plays guitar. George Brainard, last seen in the Merchants of Venus, handles lead vocals. Bassist Bill Gribble was once a Barker; Gary Newcomb, on steel guitar, is a former member of the Damnations TX. It's a fine pedigree that should lead to some interesting music, but on this night their attempt at country-rock and honky-tonk has too many rough edges. There are stumbles, and where some of the tunes, the purer country ones especially, need subtlety, the Danged just keep bashing away. Cut 'em some slack, though. Old Austin surely would.

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