Playback: Uprooting Antone's
Antone's moves for the fourth time in 37 years
Say goodbye to Austin's current "Home of the Blues."
Antone's, one of the capital's landmark live music venues, will vacate its West Fifth Street space after South by Southwest. Proprietor Frank Hendrix confirmed Monday that two Downtown hotels, a condo development, the Beauty Ballroom, and another large property on East Riverside Drive are all being considered for future locations. He hopes the city will ultimately end up with two clubs under the brand: a smaller lounge Downtown and a ballroom on the Eastside.
Antone's opened in 1975 at the then dingy corner of Sixth and Brazos, where siblings Clifford and Susan Antone built its reputation by booking practically forgotten blues legends (Muddy Waters) alongside their successors (Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan). In 37 years, Antone's has moved uptown (setting up shop on Anderson Lane in the late Seventies), done midtown (on Guadalupe in the early Eighties), and become something of a flagship business back Downtown in the Warehouse District beginning in the late Nineties.
After Direct Events head Tim O'Connor helped keep the club afloat following Clifford's death (see "Clifford Antone," May 26, 2006), Hendrix partnered with Susan and took over operations in summer 2010. He will remain involved and asserts that locations with better parking will make it thrive again. Given his locally grounded youth and the fact that his earliest live music experiences originated at Antone's, his commitment to the legacy has never come off as anything less than genuine.
Hendrix, who also owns Emo's East, wouldn't comment on another deal in the works that would sell the punk brand to C3 Entertainment, but sources confirmed that such a transaction remains on the table. He did, however, offer this message about where his life's at currently: "Comfortable shoes, a firm bed, and a big-screen TV. ... That, my brother, is love."
Recall that this year Hendrix became a popular character on the Discovery Channel show Texas Car Wars.
The Antone's move makes way for Project Infest, which formerly operated as an underground concert, art, and community space in a Los Angeles warehouse. It held creative events like dodgeball tournaments with bands playing behind a net, and an art night where they built an apocalyptic movie set with live models for people to paint on. They were also known as a staple punk rock venue.
Project Infest made its local debut earlier this month, sponsoring a packed Leftover Crack and Krum Bums gig at Beauty Ballroom during Free Week. Afterward, Playback attended an informational meeting by the promotions group and came away impressed by co-owner Ben Riseman's vision. He insists on community involvement and a DIY, artist-focused approach. Not a typical business plan, but a great dream nonetheless. Get involved by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Project Infest opens in early April.
The Buzz Mill
After local folk stomper Possessed by Paul James christened the brand-new Buzz Mill coffee shop and bar on East Riverside last Saturday night, I ran into co-owner Jason Sabala, who detailed his vision for the hangout's entertainment. Several nights a week, he aims to have single-band bookings with the headliner curating the evening. For example, noted Sabala, if the Riverboat Gamblers were playing, singer Mike Wiebe could open the show with a set of comedy, then guitarist Fadi El-Assad could teach the audience how to build a birdhouse (a hypothetical – he probably doesn't do that), then another member could share his grandma's favorite sugar cookie recipe, and after that, the Gamblers would play. "I'd rather give people an entire evening themed around the band they want to see than book three other bands who want to sound like them," he explained. Sabala, a club veteran who began working at Austin's onetime metal and hard rock space the Back Room when he was 17 and has long handled operations for Emo's, the venue that took its spot on the Eastside, notes an increased disconnect between fans and bands locally as rooms become larger and festivals more prominent. "I'd like to create a more intimate situation with the artist." Find the Buzz Mill at 1505 Town Creek Dr., just down the hill from Emo's.
A good song's hard to write and even harder to sell. The Songwriter Symposium, happening this weekend at the Omni Hotel at Southpark, aims to make both a little easier. The yearly event, hosted by the Austin Songwriters Group, tutors attendees on the craft and currency of writing through panels, workshops, concerts, and pitch sessions. According to organizer Lee Duffy, Austin doesn't have the publishing industries that Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles do, so the Symposium offers songwriters a rare opportunity to consult with publishers, BMI reps, and current hitmakers they wouldn't normally run into around town. "We want to give people real contacts in the industry and share as much information as possible about how to make money with music," explains Duffy. This year's highlights include a keynote speech by local songstress Eliza Gilkyson and an interview with Rock & Roll Hall of Fame keyboardist Ian McLagan, but Duffy's favorite part of the weekend remains its Kerrville Folk Festival parallel: the late-night song circles wherein the instructors join attendees in song swaps and jams. "That's when camaraderie really hits you," says Duffy. "The people here really support and take care of each other. It's very validating." Visit www.austinsongwritersgroup.com for more information.
› Though the Good Music Club has taped performances by almost 50 local bands in its first year of production, producer Richard Whymark refutes any assertion that the Web-based concert video series might someday run out of "good" bands to feature. "Every corner you turn in Austin, there's a new band equal or better to the last good one," he explains. "And it's exactly that competition that makes the music in Austin so high quality." The GMC celebrates its first birthday on Saturday with a taping by Pons, Boy + Kite, San Saba County, and the Nouns at the North Door (formerly ND). Whymark divulged that he's been in talks with the Alamo Drafthouse about collaborating on the theatre's Music Monday series.
› Learning Secrets has been unifying the dance floor – bringing dance music to rock kids and vice versa – for nine years this month. On Friday, the DJ duo of Jeramy Neugent and Orthy commemorate the anniversary with a big show at Holy Mountain, where they'll import L.A. remixers Cosmic Kids and Houston nü disco artists Bagheera, the latter's first performance in Austin.
› Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds open their 14-date North American tour at Stubb's on Wednesday, March 13, for South by Southwest. Confirmation had been expected for several weeks after announcement of a Dallas show on Thursday, March 14. Prior to the performance, Cave will be "In Conversation" at the Convention Center as part of the Music and Film Festival on March 12. New LP Push the Sky Away comes out next month.
› Eddie Flores has left the stage. The popular local drummer passed away unexpectedly from heart failure on Sunday at the age of 51. Flores regularly played with the Peterson Brothers, Haydn Vitera, and John Arthur Martinez, among others, and a massive outpouring of condolences from friends and collaborators on Facebook commended his smile and positive presence as much as his musical skills. A statement issued by his family recalled his maxim: "You have one life to live so you better make the best of it!"
› Jovita's owner Amado "Mayo" Pardo, who had been in jail since June awaiting trial on federal drug and weapons charges, died this week after having been released into hospice care last week. At his bail hearing last summer, an FBI representative painted Pardo as the ruthless leader of a massive heroin ring. Cornell Hurd, who played weekly at the South Austin eatery for 14 years and was a character witness for Pardo at his bail hearing, told me a different story: "I never saw anything resembling a dope deal. I saw a guy who ran a restaurant and music business. A guy who took a distressed property in a rough part of town and turned it into a successful business. And a guy who did a lot of charitable acts for the community."
› Local rockers Scorpion Child have signed to metal giant Nuclear Blast Records. The heavy, guitar-driven quintet's nine-song self-titled bow, produced by Chris "Frenchie" Smith, comes out in May.
Antone's, Clifford Antone, Susan Antone, Frank Hendrix, Emo's East, Buzz Mill, Jason Sabala, Songwriter Symposium, Austin Songwriters Group, the Good Music Club, Eddie Flores, Scorpion Child, Nick Cave, Jovita's, Amado Pardo, Learning Secrets