Rubber Gloves Goes Smoke-Free, and The Toadies Get Animated.

First up today, we'd like to extend some birthday wishes to Willie Nelson, a true Texas legend if ever there was one. The former DJ at Fort Worth's KCNC 870-AM is now 80 years old.

So how did he celebrate the milestone (aside, we assume from getting severely baked)? By recording a bit for Conan O'Brien's show in which the blunt-wielding singer is auditioning for the role of Gandalf in The Hobbit 2.

Hey, when you're the greatest musician to have ever called Texas his home, you can do whatever you damn well please. Longevity, it seems, affords musicians a certain amount of leeway.

Drummer Mark Reznicek of the Toadies knows this. His band's been at it for 24 years now. But drumming alone isn't enough to satiate The Rez, it seems. Recently, he teamed with Hunter Quaid co-creator Donny Cates to create a new comic book series for Dark Horse Comics called Buzzkill, which features a Popeye-like super hero named Ruben. Only, instead of spinach, The Rez's character derives his power from booze. Rez might be on to something here. Beer muscles are totally a thing.

But, in the mornings after we get a little too drunk, we couldn't feel farther from heroic. And if all that raging went down at a show in Denton, the effects are usually a solid 10 times worse, what with our eyes and lungs still stinging from enduring a marathon of secondhand smoke on top of that hell we put our livers through.

That situation is looking to improve next week, though: Eighteen months after Dan's Silverleaf became the city's first non-smoking venue, Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios is now set to join them in that regard starting on May 7. Smokers be forewarned: You've got just a week to get all of your bitching and coughing out of the way.

Speaking of Dan's: That Denton venue will play host to the long-anticipated Baptist Generals' album release show in June, just before the band leaves for a national tour with The Mountain Goats. Perhaps long-anticipated is an understatement, though: When their upcoming Jackleg Devotional to the Heart hits stores next month, it'll be the band's first in 10 freakin' years! Fortunately, fans don't have to wait another month to hear how the band's sound has changed in the past decade: The band released a video for a new track called “Fly Candy Harvest” earlier this week. Filmed by Texas Theatre partner and current Baptist Generals member Jason Reimer, the video features a ton of familiar North Texas faces, including Texas Theatre employee Susie Sue, Chris Gardner from The Bad and musician Daniel Folmer, as well as some food styling by former MasterChef contestant and Polyphonic Spree member Jennie Kelley. Here's the really crazy thing: As good as this new song is, it's not even one that made the album's final tracklisting. Folks who pre-order the album from Sub Pop's store will receive the track as a bonus download, though.

Another notable music announcement of late: The 30 finalists that will be competing in next month's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition were just announced not too long ago. The list of competitors includes some locals, too, including Plano resident Alex McDonald, who also teaches private lessons at TWU, plus a trio of current and former TCU students: Marcin Koziak from Poland, and YouYou Zhang and Jie Yuan from China.

Lastly, we've noticed an influx of local bands posting interestingly-filtered, artsy shots of themselves working on new albums to Instagram this week. Thus far, we've seen shots from War Party, who appear to be recording with Britt Robisheaux at Fort Worth's Eagle Audio, and Larry g(EE), The Phuss, and Reverend Horton Heat who have all been splitting time at Jeff Saenz' Modern Electric Sound Recorders here in town.

In other words: It should be a good summer!

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Cover photo of Rubber Gloves by Hance Taplin.

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