Thanks Austin

RECEIVED Tue., July 22, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Thank you for your articles in last week’s Chronicle (“Can the Bands Play On?” and “Rockin’ Solutions: A Four-Piece Combo”) [News, July 18], which I read in happy disbelief. As a working musician and recent transplant from New York City – where artists are increasingly getting priced out – I was thrilled to get confirmation from Mayor Will Wynn and the Live Music Task Force that I’d moved to a place where live music is valued for what it is: a vital element of any thriving city and one of the driving forces behind the recent population and economic boom here. I moved here because of two of Austin’s unique qualities: the heartfelt appreciation of audiences for live music I’ve seen in every Austin venue and the fact that I could afford to live here comfortably when I’m not on tour.
    A few nights ago at the Wilson Street Cottages (aka Hillbilly Heights) in South Austin, a group of musicians, producers, and friends gathered around a slow-roasting brisket to share songs and worries, stargaze, and wonder where we will each move if forced to leave when the cottages are torn down – as the landlord has notified us they will be sometime after September of this year so that condos can be built. What a shame it would be to lose this South Austin landmark and the community that goes with it: the Wilson Street Cottages have housed musicians since the Seventies, providing a cheap roof for the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Gourds, Carolyn Wonderland, and others while they kept Austin rocking. Current residents include Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Walter Tragert, Charlie Faye, myself, and others. (I’ve personally lived in several cities and traveled around the world, and I’ve never been as inspired by my surroundings or felt as welcome as I do living here surrounded by such talented neighbors.)
    But the buildings are in disrepair – built in the Forties for returning GIs – and could use some serious fixing. So given the choice between putting money into a low-rent property and razing it to make way for condos, the owner’s decision is understandable, but it still leaves the musicians in a real bind, and this is just one example of this kind of thing. As Austin continues to grow and expand, what are its options for the Wilson Street Cottages?
    I’m glad to be living where this discussion is alive and well. Thanks Austin!
Jess Klein
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