Faster Than Sound: A Year’s Headlines in Limbo: A Flurry of Industry Activity in an Intermittent Reopening Scene – Music


Gary Clark Jr. at the Moody Amphitheater in Waterloo Park in August (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Austin’s music has spent much of the year in limbo, and here we are again – holding our breath as a handful of sets and events cancel each other out because of Omicron. Rather than being defined by an album or show, the local music headlines of 2021 crawl to the beat of national events.

When COVID raged, concerts were canceled, a tedious continuum, over and over again. When an unprecedented frost hit Texas in February, musicians and production workers distributed essential supplies. In April, as vaccines became available, an advocacy group Austin Texas Musicians musicians dosed at Pershing while Austin Musicians’ Health Alliance vaccinated limbs inside Emo’s.

Just in time for the fall of a largely maskless live touring economy to return, many big clubs have struck a ceasefire with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission under sliding protocol: concerts require recent negative COVID-19 tests in all areas and accept proof of vaccination as an alternative, always mentioning the cards in second position in the infographic.

The year of limbo conformed to a quote provided by ACL Live at the Moody Theater General manager Colleen Fischer in March, speaking of rescheduled tours: “It’s a moving target, unfortunately. We do our best to navigate it. We continue to move shows. We continue to book shows. “

Former Music Lab location in Saint-Elme (Photo by John Anderson)

Lost musical spaces

Lost music venues of the year include the BARN on Brodie Lane, the Parish, Dry Creek Café and Boat Dock, and Hazelnut amphitheater (whose owners plan to open a new Round Rock concept). Otherwise, 2021 also closed Groover’s Paradise Record Store, the hi-fi paradise Sound gallery, and Music labthe final location of St. Elmo. An indicator of Elon muskthe growing presence of in Austin, this latest beloved music incubator has become a You’re here showroom and service center.

Asked about the viability of operating a rehearsal space, the secretary of the Music Lab Joe cabela said to the Chronicle: “I think it would be difficult within the city limits. The cost of construction and the market rents make it difficult.”

The parish abruptly closed in October after the owner Matt reppert changed the locks and barricaded the windows without warning, according to a lawsuit filed by the owners of the premises. Seeking more than a million dollars in damages, the lawsuit alleged that the owner “had instigated a plot to requisition the business”. By the lake, Dry Creek Cafe threw one last Halloween party after its longtime owner Jay “Buddy” Reynolds sold the 68-year-old dive bar, despite fan rallying.

Inside the Concourse project in September (Photo by John Anderson)

An influx of openings

With the re-emergence of live music, an influx of new venues has made debuts delayed by the pandemic. The cavernous Competition project started booking big names in dance and electronics near the airport in June. Public green space during the day and a room for 5,000 people at night, Waterloo Park‘s Moody Amphitheater started hosting major tours in August, working with promoters C3 presents.

In other opening updates, Long-term salon established a second location at 1910 E. Cesar Chavez, formerly Stay Gold. Captain Quackenbush’s Cafe opened a 100-seat venue in the former South Austin site house Strange drink. Dance club with murals Outer Heaven nightclub occupies 1808 E. 12th, which once housed dozen street and Club 1808.

Right next to Burnet, North Austin stop Love wheel discs open in April under the ownership of Mike Nicolai, known as the longtime sound engineer at Hole in the wall. The breweries also provided top-notch outdoor stages, including increased bookings to Central machinery works and Meanwhile the brewing.

Astromonde impacts

ScorePlus, an Austin-based production and promotion company owned by Living country, has come under scrutiny following the Astromonde Festival tragedy in Houston. Considered one of the deadliest concerts in US history, the event left 10 people dead and dozens injured. A state task force headed by Texas Bureau of Music Director Anthony brendon – including safety experts, police and fire officials, state agencies like TABC, and unspecified leaders in the music industry – began meeting to produce a report on the safety of concerts.

The virtual convention avenue designed for SXSW Online

Who owns Austin Industry?

Following a virtual edition of the flagship festival in March, South by South-West announced a major new investor in April. Owners of Rolling stone, Billboard, Variety, and more, media umbrella P-MRC took a 50% stake in the Austin company. The partnership bolstered finances while the CEO of SXSW Roland swenson called “an incredibly difficult time for small businesses, including SXSW”.

Austin’s Keeled scales in partnership with the important Illinois footprint Polyvinyl in May, opening of a joint local office. By purchasing a 25% stake in the local brand, Polyvinyl takes care of direct fulfillment of consumer orders, while Keeled Scales retains creative control. And in June, members of the concert promotion team behind Margin Walker and Transmission events launched a new events company Resonate present below Graham williams‘ ownership.

The places have also changed hands: Ryman Hospitality Properties, owners of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Olé Opry, renewed its plans to acquire the flagship Austin site ACL Live at the Moody Theater. Spider House Ballroom renamed just “The ballroom“under a new owner by Chris Boulanger, owner of from Arlo herbal restaurants.

The end of a 10-year management contract between KUT / KUTX and UT-Austin leads to the dismissal of Cafe Cactus director Matt Muñoz and executive assistant Amy Chamblesse. The venue has been reduced to anecdotes, open mics, and less than a dozen artists booked this fall semester, mostly curated by a group of students Events + Entertainment.

Funding of local and federal sites

After lobbying throughout 2020, local and federal site relief has been rolled out this year. The city of Austin created Preservation of live music venues The fund has allocated $ 5 million to local concert halls as part of COVID-19 relief efforts. As part of the emergency funding for Phase 1, 74 local sites received upfront payments of $ 20,000, quickly distributed by the city’s partner, the Long center. In phase 2 of the program, 28 clubs received larger ongoing grants.

Many Austin site owners hoped the local fund would complement larger support from the Subsidy for shutter room operators – also known as Save our steps. After many delays, the Small business management awarded more than $ 11.3 billion over the summer, awarding more than $ 130 million to 108 Austin-based live music and performing arts entities. According to data released in October, the top five amounts went to UT-Austin’s Texas Performing Arts, Messina Tourism Group, South by South-West, Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, and Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline.

Chencho Flores (Photo by John Anderson)

In memory

Twelve months have claimed many essential figures in Austin’s music. Alphabetically:

Nanci Griffith on the cover of The Chronicle of Austin in 2005

Austin Music Network Programmer Benjamin kent, former local spouse Chencho Flores, masterful blues guitarist Denny freemanesteemed folk and country songwriter Nanci griffithpoignant punk musician Brandon hamiltongenerous ABGB co-founder Mark Jensen, old Small Longhorn Lounge owner Ginny Kalmbach, renowned jazz drummer Scott Laningham, influential bassist Yoggie Musgrove, sound engineer who shapes the industry Rupert neve, promoter of powerful concerts /Backyard and Austin Music Room owner Tim o’connor, super harmonica Paul Oscher, psychedelic visionary /Janis Joplin group mate Powell St. John, boogie-woogie pianist Gene Taylor, pioneering music journalist Ed ward, and to top it all Broken spoke patriarch Jacques Blanc.

The last time I spoke with White, in July 2020, he reflected on the pandemic, “I don’t want this damn virus to kill live music, whether it’s country or rock or blues or whatever. It’s just a fucking shame … You can listen on TV or radio, but nothing beats being there with live music and letting the music take you where it takes you. can’t be the capital of live music if you don’t have music. It makes sense to me! “


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