Like a misremembered Joni Mitchell lyric, they're tearing down the parking lot and building a big hotel.
Soon the grubby, gray, two-story parking structure at Ninth and Red River will come down to make way for a 305-room combination Hotel Indigo and Holiday Inn Express. A hotel spokesperson says slab pouring is projected for the third quarter of this year and the grand opening in late 2015. It will be the first hotel in an area largely inhabited by late-night live music venues.
Last Wednesday, a group representing the Red River Cultural District, including Mohawk owner James Moody, Holy Mountain partner James Taylor, and Austin Music People (AMP) Executive Director Jennifer Houlihan, met with the developers to welcome them to the neighborhood and open a dialogue about the hotel's impact on the area's live music ecosystem.
"The impression I got was that they'd done their research and knew that Red River is Austin's heart of live music," says Houlihan. "I think they want to weave themselves into the tapestry of the neighborhood instead of stomping all over it."
Parent company InterContinental Hotels' website calls Hotel Indigo an "upscale boutique brand," with each property "designed to reflect the local culture, character, and geography of the surrounding area."
Taylor stressed the importance of maintaining both the neighborhood's cultural integrity and beautifying it. He expects Hotel Indigo to upgrade the shabby sidewalks around the property and for the hotel's guests to improve happy hour sales for the surrounding clubs. Elysium owner John Wickham counts himself "cautiously optimistic," noting the upside of having a hotel invest in the neighborhood, but expresses concerns over parking. Spaces downtown are scarce, and that drives away business to districts with hassle-free parking. The removal of a public lot could potentially hurt business.
Sound is another matter – always. RRCD reps acknowledged it was addressed briefly in the meeting, but Hotel Indigo reps declined to comment on sound mitigation materials. Stubb's General Manager Ryan Garrett reports he's experienced virtually no noise issues from residents at Red River Flats, the apartment building just north of the venue.
"I'm looking at it as a resounding positive," Garrett says of Hotel Indigo, bordering his venue on the west. Stubb's unveils its renovated bar on the northwest corner of the outdoor stage area, C.B.'s – named for sauce boss C.B. Stubblefield – in about a month. "People staying directly across from our amphitheater is good for business."
Late last month, Max Frost spent two days recording with Jeff Tweedy at the Wilco frontman's Loft studio in Chicago.
"I just wanted the conversation, to glimpse his perspective on the industry and living and working as a creative person," admitted the 21-year-old Austin native. "He turned out to be even more insightful than I thought. Jeff keeps himself in a really healthy, creative place and has a realistic and wise outlook on the music world."
In addition to the career tutelage, Tweedy oversaw Frost's recording routine of playing every instrument, then jumped in and co-wrote a track. Frost played percussion and keys, Tweedy contributed acoustic guitar and bass, and the track should be available online soon. In the meantime, the local continues to log long shifts in a Los Angeles recording studio, crafting his debut album for Atlantic Records (revisit "After the Frost," Sept. 27, 2013).
"They say you get your whole life to make your first record and six months to make your second," contemplated Frost. "It feels like I've had four months to make my fifth record, which is going to be released as my first record."
Frost's singles catalog is vast. As a teenager, he flipped his Texas blues guitar education into sampling himself though a pop perspective and laptop. That prolific period of self-release landed him on one of the last major labels after his tracks garnered widespread attention online. With his 2013 major-label EP, Low High Low, in the rearview, Frost now focuses on the artistry of the LP ("making one song at a time, there were no rules"), as well as working with A-list musical director Onree Gill in New York on building a new band and stage show for a big summer tour.
"My live show is going to have a serious rebirth," promises Frost, who realized there was too much disparity between his modern recordings and a bluesy live band. "It's time to reinvent the vibe in a way that represent the records."
› Monday night at Mohawk, Ringo Deathstarr incinerated material from its third album God's Dream, released last week in America, but out since December in Japan. Go figure, the local fuzz trio recently returned from its seventh Japanese tour, where they sold out a club show in Tokyo – their best gig since playing the massive Fuji Rock Festival in 2011. "Over there everything's different," observes drummer Daniel Coborn. "The shows start at 7pm and you get treated like a real rock star. They pay for our hotels and our food and we have to do autograph sessions after every gig. The music industry in Japan is like what it used to be here 20 years ago: There are CD stores, people buy stuff, and no one pirates music."
› Last Saturday afternoon, I called KUTX requesting Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It," but deejay Kevin Connor politely refused. It was his last shift, after six and half years of Saturday broadcasts at the local station. "The great Irish writer Frank O'Connor talked about two boys walking in the countryside," Connor recounted. "When they got to a wall that they thought was too steep, they'd throw their hats over the wall so they'd have no choice but to go after them. I've thrown my hat over the wall and it's been very fun." The veteran radio personality, who can be heard all week on SXSWfm and oversees my show with fellow Chronic Chase Hoffberger on the website, now hosts "Hill Country Saturday" on KDRP 100.1FM from 9am-2pm. He describes the program as, "An informal, conversational show where favorite local musicians stop by and play." He now has total creative control to play the best Americana around.
› A Giant Dog has undertaken a Wednesday night residency at Hotel Vegas throughout April. They're raising money to record their third LP, tentatively titled Pile. The album's been written for about a year, says vocalist Sabrina Ellis, but recording it wasn't a priority until last month, when Detroit garage legend Mick Collins of the Gories lauded the new material after they performed. Ellis projects new sounds on Pile, including one Thin Lizzy-inspired track and some distinctly poppier material, but promises it will retain the band's "anthemic marching power."
› Donate $5 to Boyfrndz and get a download of their brand new album, Breeder. The psychedelic math rockers discovered their van and cargo trailer stolen last Friday morning in San Francisco. The most devastating losses were a Seventies Fibes drum kit and a custom Emperor amp cabinet, both virtually irreplaceable. They also lost 100 records, making their printed discography all that more collectible. In the aftermath, they flew back to Austin, borrowed, bought, and rented gear, then hitched a trailer to an SUV and continued the tour. Donate or join the stolen gear search at www.boyfrndz.com, and always remember to have someone sleep in the van if you're not parked in a garage.
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