Almost Famous

Searching for soundtracks at j-school Meccas

Almost Famous

Like many would-be music journalists of my generation, I fell victim to the Almost Famous trap of how the industry works – or used to function. Like Cameron Crowe in his semi-autobiographical film, I figured if I was precocious enough and grew a healthy vinyl collection, I’d end up on the road covering drug-addled musicians before I was 20.

If that dream could survive anywhere, I thought, it would be Austin. So that’s where I headed, ready to take on the world with a Moleskine notebook and a pen. Of course that’s not the way the chips fell.

From the moment I set foot in my first class at the University of Texas, each professor had their own idea of the state of journalism. Hopeless as they were, I found odd jobs because of my location in the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Maybe Austin wasn’t the fast track to a staff position at Rolling Stone, but it taught me more about music than 15 years of studying theory ever did.

Since every band from my hometown of Huntsville was a complete disaster, I didn’t expect much from Austin acts, looking forward, rather, to the wealth of roadshows that rolled through town. A few months into my first year as a deejay at KVRX, I was transformed into a hopeless addict of the Red River scene, listening to domestic over import. While my friends used fabricated driver’s licenses to buy beer, I used mine to get into shows. I spent more time at Emo’s, Mohawk, and Hole in the Wall than the library.

The very thing that confuses me about the local bands is what makes them absolutely irresistible. One of my Chronicle editor’s favorite descriptors of homegrown acts remains, “If they were in Brooklyn, they’d have made it already.” It couldn’t be more true. I hear small bands that emerge from the hip NYC borough that couldn’t hold a candle to some of the locals you can see on any given night of the week. They feel like a well-kept secret, albeit the kind that blasts at ear-splitting decibels.

Well, Austin, the secret’s out.

As I take on Columbia, Missouri, for my graduate degree in what people are still telling me is an ill-fated future – yep, journalism – I can’t wait to brag on every flavor of the week Austin has to offer. I want to attempt an explanation of the floor-stomping raucousness of a Whiskey Shivers show. I want people to ask me what sound leaks from my headphones when I blast the Sour Notes. I want to tell people that Alejandro Rose-Garcia is now better known for being an incredible folk peddler than his role as the Swede on Friday Night Lights.

So I’m off again, still with a Moleskine and pen, to take on a whole new local scene. This time I’m much more apt to pay attention to burgeoning Columbia acts, albeit with a new sort of bias. In the meantime, stay perfect Austin. I’ll see you soon.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Abby Johnston
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Swallow the Sun, Benny the Butcher, Every Time I Die, Buck Meek, and more recommended shows

Nov. 19, 2021

Friday Headliner Face-Off: Miley Cyrus vs. George Strait
Friday Headliner Face-Off: Miley Cyrus vs. George Strait
"Amarillo by Morning" or "Midnight Sky"? Here's a guide to decide

Oct. 1, 2021


Music journalism, UT, KVRX, Emo's, Mohawk, Parish, Cameron Crowe, Almost Famous, Rolling Stone, Whiskey Shivers, Sour Notes, Shakey Graves, Alejandro Rose-Garcia, Missouri School of Journalism

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle