Dancing About Architecture


Move It or Lose It

The Lunch is dead! Long live the Lunch! Such an outcry wouldn't have been unexpected following last Thursday's City Council meeting, the one that finally made the long-awaited decision on the city's proposed plans for a large section of downtown Austin. You've read about it before: It encompasses several blocks, including the home of longtime favorite (and frequent Austin Music Awards poll winning) live music venue Liberty Lunch. The city, as most had already predicted by that point, voted to proceed with plans to bring the Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and related building projects to said area of Downtown (see our Politics section for complete coverage), plans that include demolishing the building which has housed the Lunch for over 20 years (but not the ugly little former grocery store next to it; one assumes that will be built around like the rabbit hole in that old Bugs Bunny cartoon). Members of the council repeatedly emphasized their affection and respect for Liberty Lunch (the business, not the building) throughout the meeting, with one councilmember calling it a "landmark" and announcing that the city would be helping the venerated venue in its upcoming move to a new location. That long-touted new location, which the councilmembers tend to speak of as a done deal though Lunch owner J'Net Ward says it's not, is at the corner of Ninth and Red River (the lot adjacent to Stubb's). Ward went on the record this week saying she's for bringing in CSC but against the destruction of the current Lunch, adding that she'll "soldier on" into the next century with the new location. The move entails razing the building currently on that spot (protests, anyone?) and building a new structure that Ward says, in a subtle dig at Direct Events, is planned to hold "200 more people than La Zona Rosa" (that would be around 1,400). Fortunately, the council also voted in favor of supporting Ward in her future real estate deals with a loan of $600,000, which is to be repaid at a more than charitable 2.5% interest rate over the next 20 years. (At that point, one assumes, the Lunch will again be torn down and moved to make way for the incoming Soylent Green Corporation). As far as dates on the move, Ward says she has no notion whatsoever on when she'll need to start packing her bags and heading up the street. Presently, says Lunch Money Productions' Mileah Jordan, Liberty Lunch is booking acts for its current location through June and into July, with several roadshows including Dave Davies of the Kinks. As far as the immediate future, she's been answering calls from the press with "I know why you're calling. You want to know more about the Handful CD release show on April 16, right?!"

As for the rest of Austin's downtown music venues, the evacuation of the Electric Lounge comes this weekend, and here's the final lineups: Tonight, Thursday, the Lounge's "Six Year Anniversary Show" features Sixteen Deluxe;halfwatt; Morningwood; Friday, it's Cher UK, Rip & Destroy, Pocket FishRmen, Lowbrow, and Mariachi Estrella; and Saturday, the final night, you've got Spoon; Wannabes; Hammel on Trial, SXIP, and Prescott Curlywolf. It's a rather sudden goodbye, but the clubowners' realization that they couldn't afford to continue only shortened an already dead-end road. This past South by Southwest was projected as the last music festival the club would have the space around them to put up their big tent in the parking lot, according to co-owner Mark Shuman, and he expected further development in the area to crush the club out of existence within two years as rent prices and property taxes spiral into the stratosphere. Direct Events' Tim O'Connor says he's not worried about either La Zona Rosa or the Austin Music Hall getting squeezed out of their spots, and is in fact hoping the future will bring more patronage to the two venues. A strong relationship -- and contract -- with La Zona's property owners puts him on solid ground, says O'Connor, and he's only worried about noise problems if apartments end up coming right to his doorstep. Having glimpsed the designs, O'Connor says, "I haven't seen anything that life-threatening." Michael Parker of the Waterloo Brewing Company at Fourth and Guadalupe, which offers up irregular weekend music festivals and a free Saturday evening rooftop music series, isn't so optimistic. "We're worried about too many apartments cropping up," he says, adding that Waterloo hopes the city will be doing a lot of "grandfathering" in their Downtown plans (allowing existing businesses to be exempt from some new laws which may affect the area), especially regarding sound ordinances. "If you move down here," his wishful thinking concludes, "you can't complain."


See You in October?

The long and winding road that leads to the door of self-sufficiency for the Austin Music Network doesn't seem to be getting shorter or straighter. In its first incarnation as a city-funded nonprofit entity, hardly a month went by without cries of the channel's impending doom and meetings to determine how to keep the fledgling local station on the air without actually spending any money on the fool thing. Eventually, the city made the decision to privatize the station, and currently (pay attention here, as there are misconceptions about this) AMN is still the city's nonprofit "project," but now, it's managed by a for-profit company: Rick Melchior's Music Management Group. As a nonprofit, AMN has a near-perfect record since Melchior's company took over -- it's hardly taken in a damn cent. Which is the problem; without ad revenue this nonprofit project runs soley on city money, and that's exactly why Melchior was brought aboard in the first place -- to make AMN a self-sufficient nonprofit. While Melchior's spending is in check, his income projections, according to the man himself, have "missed by a mile," an admission that led to a tense Music Commission meeting on Monday. Following an ugly scene between Melchior and several members of the Commission over procedural matters and apparent miscommunication, anger gave way to confusion as the Commission attempted to determine whether they really felt secure in their recommendation of advancing next year's budget to AMN in order to keep the Network on the air through October. While one commissioner later referred to Melchior's position as "a sweetheart deal based on fiction," you can't fault the man's honesty when the Commission pressed him for evidence that giving AMN the $200,000 would do anything more than drag the station's death out for another few months; he referred to his previous predictions and said any figures he could come up with now would likely turn out to be just as horribly wrong.

Basically, the facts are this: AMN needs around $60K a month to keep going; without city funding it would go dark (off the air) in eight weeks, and while Melchior's projected figures called for the station's ad-generated income to rise from $10,000 in December to $45, 000 in March, the actual increase was from $1,740 to $3,950 (with that final figure only an estimate). Obviously, AMN has Frosty the Snowman's chance on MTV's Spring Break of becoming self-sufficient by the time all the allotted city monies run out, so what to do? Some commissioners, perhaps afraid that drafting a real contigency plan would indicate a lack of faith in the current AMN, are already espousing the idea that no matter what, the city should continue to lay out money to keep this valuable resource going. Not a bad idea -- except that's exactly what people said should've been done before they brought in a private company to manage the damn thing at higher cost (and admittedly higher technical quality)! It's a sure bet that, with May elections just around the corner, the City Council will thumbs-up the advance when they make the vote that really matters on April 15 (don't forget, however, what they did to the Lunch when the time comes), but after that, we're back to the same "see you again in a few months" game that was played with the old AMN, and by October, expect the council's dedication to AMN to have mysteriously faded away. Some things never change in the "Live Miser Capital of the World."


Mixed Notes

Gotten a call from Nikki Sixx lately? Well, we have -- or more specifically, Crüekeeper Eileen Gill forwarded the Chronicle a missive from Sixx to his Motley cronies beaming over the coverage we (and the San Antonio Express-News) gave their live appearances in our respective cities this year. Gill also says that in response to the Crüe's winning Best Roadshow in our Music Awards this year, tour manager Gordon Spence is ordering a whopping 40 copies of the award certificate so that he can give one to each of the guys in the band and everyone who was on the crew. "The guys are really psyched about this," adds Gill, "it shows that their hard work on the road is not for naught." Even more impressive than their graciousness, however, is the fact that the Crüe didn't even try to scam the certificates off us for free...

Duval Discs on Guadalupe has sold off its stock and shut its doors, and while there's no word where the collectibles shop inside, Rollin' Pin, might land, it turns out Duval Discman John DeFore will be keeping busy with Don Van Vliet. Yep, DeFore is involved in working on a 5-CD Captain Beefheart box set centered around the classic Troutmaskreplica and featuring early demos, outtakes, and live material. Look for that on Revenant Records...

I don't know about you, but I thought the best moment of King of the Hill Day last Monday -- keeping in mind that I missed the lawnmower races -- was at the Q&A after the screening when the non-Texan cast members finally found out what a "LuAnn Platter" really was...

New albums to cross the desk of late include Dumptruck's Terminal, Jake Andrews' Time to Burn, and the punk-as-fuck compilation Goin' for Pussy, with the Bulemics, River City Rapists, Humpers and around two dozen others...

Outdoor hangin' out weather means KGSR's free Unplugged at the Grove series starts today (Thursday) at Shady Grove with the Gourds playing before they head off on a European tour. Also, Central Market Westgate has started up their live music this week, with 81*2 Souvenirs today, Tosca Friday, and the Geezinslaws Sunday, all 6:30-9pm, and Connie Leaverton Saturday at noon...

Maybe we're jumping the gun on this one, but the ARC Angels are apparently readying the announcement of two Austin reunion gigs at Dessau Music Hall and Antone's. Dates are TBA, but they're sure to precede the band's December 4-11 Hawaiian get-together on KLBJ's Millennium Mission to Maui vacation...


--Contributors: Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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The last installment of "Dancing About Architecture."

Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

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