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Crowe brings band, not acting, to Austin hotspot


By Chris Vognar / The Dallas Morning News

They'll descend on Austin from all over the world to see a band few have even heard of. Ground zero: Stubb's BBQ, tonight, Aug. 11 and 18, where a hunky hero will take a little break from his day job.

Don't even think about ordering ticketsto see 30 Odd Foot of Grunts; they sold out 90 minutes after they went on sale. At one point, brokers were asking as much as $2,000 for tonight's show. Press and public have been turned away in droves.

Gruntmania is running high in these parts, and it's all because of an Australian heartthrob named Russell Crowe. You know him from his recent sword-swinging turn in Gladiator or perhaps his Oscar-nominated whistle-blower role in last year's The Insider. Now, a few thousand frenzied fans will get to see Mr. Crowe wail away as lead singer/guitarist for the Grunts, in town to record their new album and test the waters of Texas' live music capital.

"I've never seen anything like this before," says Stubb's co-owner Charles Atall. "I knew it was going to be a hot show, but I didn't think we'd sell 4,500 tickets in an hour and a half."

Mr. Crowe and his gruntmates were to play the first concert at Stubb's' indoor venue, which holds only 300 people. But this week, the gig was moved to the club's larger outdoor stage, where the other two shows will be held. Additional tickets for the first show, which were put on sale Thursday afternoon, were expected to be snapped up immediately.

Prior to the stage change, a ticket for the first show could have been yours for $2,000, according to Kent Taylor of Showtime Tickets in Austin. The other two showsare going for the bargain price of $200.

"I don't get the concept of why people are freaking out over this group," Mr. Taylor says. "Everybody's like, 'Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe.' I'm like, 'Oh, he sings?' "

Perhaps Mr. Taylor is just the wrong gender. One woman sent Stubb's' managing partner/director of operations Mike Hall a dozen roses in hopes of landing a ticket. Mr. Atall scored some live lobsters. Phone calls and faxes have come in from Australia, England, Japan, Ireland, India, Taiwan, Italy, Germany, Brazil. Mr. Atall estimates that 80 percent of ticket buyers have been women and that 10 percent have been from Austin.

Mr. Crowe is hardly the first movie personality to dabble in rock; Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves and camp icon David Hasselhoff have all tried their hand. They just didn't seem to generate as much . . . devotion.

"These are just die-hard Russell Crowe fans," Mr. Hall says. "If you can imagine women who are just infatuated with this guy . . . they're concerned with how close they can get to the stage, if they can see him, if they can come to sound check."

All of this for a band that has released one full-length CD (1998's Gaslight) that isn't exactly a hot seller in these parts. "30 what?" asked an employee at a Dallas record store.

The band consists of Mr. Crowe on guitar and vocals, Garth Adams on bass, Dean Cochran on guitar and Dave Kelly on drums. They played the notorious Viper Room in Los Angeles last year, and according to the frighteningly thorough Web site,, they performed for a packed house at the Borderline in London, on July 23. The Grunts' music is generally described as pubbish folk rock. The band's CDs and merchandise are available at

Meanwhile, Stubb's' profile is going through the roof. Mr. Atall has been interviewed for Entertainment Weekly and People; the Crowe Web site features an eight-photo spread of the club, from all angles, in all of its glory. ("Stubb's is on a hillside, with two levels indoors and a river out back.") Suddenly, the venerable dinner spot/sauce manufacturer/music venue has
an international rep.

"It's been great for the venue, because people from all over the world know our name now," Mr. Atall says. "It helps us sell the barbecue sauce, too."

Thanks to BMC  for posting