Luv Doc Recommends: Austin Yam Jam
Threadgill's World HQ -, Sunday, October 17, 2010
Every time you're tempted to moan about another benefit for some musician who wrecked his car, had his equipment trailer jacked, or broke his wanking arm in a spectacular dive into an apathetic mosh pit, remember that in Austin, benefit money usually flows the other way – and by a large margin. It's amazing that a city with such abundant wealth habitually relies on the inhabitants of Hand-to-Mouthville to fill its charity coffers. In other cities, fundraising is done with walkathons, bake sales, golf tournaments, or car washes featuring bikini-clad high school girls with soapy sponges, but here in the River City, fundraising involves calling your musician friend and seeing if he can rustle up a few bands that will play for free … for a good cause, of course. Fortunately in the "live music capital of the known universe," bands outnumber good causes by a hefty ratio, so there is almost always a stellar lineup willing to step up to the plate. Sure, some of the savvier bands might request an ice chest full of Lone Star tallboys or first dibs on the VIP buffet table, but that in no way undermines their altruism. In fact, most bands playing fundraisers don't even make gas money. If it weren't for their girlfriends' day jobs, they would have to walk to the gig. You've probably seen some scruffy-looking guy walking down the street with a guitar and thought, "Wow, someone should have a fundraiser for him," never realizing that he was just between girlfriends and on his way to play a fundraiser. That's so Austin, isn't it? Of course, not all fundraisers in Austin are benefit concerts. It just seems like it. There are plenty of golf tournaments, road races, garage sales, and cook-offs that don't necessarily feature live music but include it nonetheless. Why? Because live music gives it that Austin twist. What runner wouldn't want to hear 15 seconds or so of original Austin music played by live bands scattered intermittently along the 26 miles of a marathon course? And what band wouldn't want that gig? Well, as long they are allowed to sell merch and put out a sign up sheet for their mailing list. You really can't beat that kind of exposure. As common as they are, benefit concerts can be a bit of an ego boost for musicians. People are much more willing to pay a hefty cover for a benefit than they are for a regular show. Maybe it's because they feel much better about dropping a 10 spot on cancer victims than having it all go to some terminally broke slacker who gets to do what he loves and still manages to score talent that is way above his pay grade. Regardless, as far as benefits go, musicians have been the golden-egg-laying geese in Austin for decades, so forgive them if they sometimes complain about the pain in the ass. Don't hate; appreciate. It's a successful, long-standing symbiosis, and ultimately, no matter what the motivation on either side of the relationship, it does good for Austin. If you want an example, check out Sunday's Yam Jam at Threadgill's World Headquarters benefiting Operation Turkey, which provides food and clothing for the Austin-area homeless during the Thanksgiving holiday. From 3pm until close A-string artists like Malford Milligan, Jake Andrews, Guy Forsyth, Lance Keltner, David Holt, and Driver will take the stage to help someone other than themselves. That's truly something to applaud.