Dancing About Architecture
The Austin music scene benefits the Red Cross.
The Dog Days of War
You could argue for the timing being absolutely ideal, but then again, you could argue for it being incredibly lousy. Either way, a study of the role of music in Austin's economy, commissioned by the city last year, is being made public this week amid much fanfare. The study, requested by the Austin Music Commission, shows that the local music industry brought a whopping $616 million to Austin in 2000, placing music easily among the city's top money-making industries. "The Role of Music in the Austin Economy" also offers socio-economic information from which to fuel further growth of the industry, and those directly and indirectly involved in the study's coming about couldn't be more pleased. "People in the music industry in Austin have long sought respect from the business community -- and a few have received it," notes Casey Monahan of the Texas Music Office. "This report," he adds, "should enable many, many more to get that respect from banks and other financial institutions." Sometimes desperation can be a positive thing, adds Monahan. "With the economy in decline, ofttimes there's an attempt to look for relief in one's own back yard," he reminds. In this case, it's the belly-up tech industry that's making things stink, and it's the music industry that's sitting here in our own back yard (and our own Backyard, even, to make the obvious pun), ready to help out. In an unprecedented move to emphasize that this study should take things beyond "business as usual" status, the Austin Music Commission is going farther than a simple press release or announcement to the local media about the study's findings. Rather, the Commission is hosting a celebration and press conference today, Thursday, 6-9pm, at Antone's, with a presentation by conductor of the study John Hockenyos and live music from the Gospel According to Austin featuring Malford Milligan and special guests. Earlier in the day, the Commission will give a briefing to the City Council on the study. There's no cover charge; donations will be accepted on behalf of the SIMS Foundation. The study is also available online at www.ci.austin.tx.us/telecom/musicstudy.htm , and with any luck, this won't be the last we hear about this study; Music Commission Chair Kevin Connor says that, "Hopefully, the city will say, 'Great study -- now let's move forward with it!'"
Few will argue that conducting the study and presenting a list of suggestions on how the city can best build a reciprocal relationship with the Austin music scene is long overdue. Yet, for many club owners, the celebration will be a bittersweet one at best. Since the tragic events of September 11, the bar/nightclub industry has seen a sharp downturn in business, with no clear indications that the slump will be ending soon. While the month of August is usually a kick-in-the-crotch month for live music clubs, with September and returning college students offering respite from the cruel summer, this fall has offered no relief to counter August's "dog days." A weeknight stroll past the usually thriving clubs of the Red River corridor reveals sparsely-peopled dance floors -- and even the occasional vacant parking space! Out at the Broken Spoke, owner James White confirms that August was indeed bad enough and that things have only gotten notably worse. Over at the Hole in the Wall, Mike White (no relation) notes that in times of sorrow and tragedy, people usually turn to alcohol for temporary relief, but that hasn't really happened. The Back Room's Mark Olivarez counters that it's the unthinkable enormity of this particular tragedy that puts relief beyond the capacity of the neighborhood watering hole. "The bar atmosphere, let's face it, is Fantasy Island," Oliveraz quips, "but when you know that some 1,000 or so children were just orphaned, there's no way you can just go out and pretend everything's okay." A closer look at the situation, however, reveals that night life as we know it hasn't necessarily died -- it's merely going through some changes. "It's like Austin's just become a normal city," observes Emo's staffer Joe Sebastian, "people work-work-work and worry-worry-worry all week long, then they come out on weekends to party." Sebastian's pretty much hit the nail on the head with that observation. Weekend shows like the Wild Seeds reunion, Wilco, White Stripes, etc. have brought in packed crowds as well as bringing visible signs of relief to the faces of grim, twitchy clubowners. Ike Turner's shows at Antone's two weeks ago were the exceptions that prove the rule, however. Despite being weekend gigs, the aging Turner's energetic, masterful set was seen by almost no one. Then again, maybe it's just because his name doesn't start with a "W"...
On Monday, KOOP will be hosting a benefit at Emo's to raise funds for the station. Among those performing are Jerm Pollet of Mr. Sinus Theater, Okkervil River, and the Swells, plus Chris Black and the Holy Ghost, featuring members of Blue Noise Band, the Stingers, and Poi Dog Pondering. The show begins at 10pm with a $4 cover for those above 21 and $7 below... Britt Daniel of Spoon may be less than happy that his new recording project has suddenly become delayed, but he can't be too disappointed about having had the chance last weekend to perform with Spoon-mate Jim Eno, Doctors' Mob-ster Steve Collier, and Sidehacker John Clayton. The combo went under the name Rite Fliers; personally, I would've suggested the moniker Spoon Doctors... No sooner do I mention that Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous wants to start a "dream band" featuring Daniel Johnston than comes word that a new disc, tentatively titled Fear Yourself, is on the way. That disc is the planned collaboration between Johnston and Linkous, recorded the week of September 14 at Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker man David Lowery's Sound of Music studios in Virginia. Linkous is credited as producer of the sessions, and the album is scheduled for release in mid-2002. Sparklehorse is showcased in one of three new episodes of the music-oriented program Sonic Cinema, which begins airing on the Sundance Channel this month, while in the latest Oxford American, Billy Bob Thornton confesses that on a recent interstate drive, the writer/actor/director listened to Johnston's song "Walking the Cow" more than 100 times in a row. Warning: That sort of thing could cause, um, what's the opposite of "road rage"?... Another sad passing on the local music scene: blues rocker Bruce Pyle of the Pyledrivers apparently committed suicide last week... For those disgruntled with the cramped conditions of the Austin Record Convention at the City Coliseum last weekend (that would be all the vendors), this weekend finds the "estate" sale of Robbie Jacks, who died suddenly in August of a heart attack. A benefit for his funeral expenses, the liquidation of Jacks' cult videos and CDs is at Alleywood Studios, 1902 S. Congress, 6-10pm Friday, and 4-10pm Saturday... Tracy Byrd's tribute to the late John Denver is next Friday, Oct. 19, and will feature members of Denver's band and support the Central Texas Cystic Fibrosis Foundation... Finally, nobody dead will be involved this Saturday at 11am when Joe McDermott and Sara Hickman perform childrens' songs at Murchinson Middle School Gym to benefit the All Austin Cooperative Nursery School... There's little doubt that Noah Balch aka Noah Ark thought he was already sufficiently flooded with problems since being threatened with prosecution recently in San Antonio via questionable application of the state's "crackhouse statutes." Well, fuhgetaboutit! His latest Austin airport rave last weekend fell victim to the same sort of problems he had at his last local event, due to last-minute troubles relating to his permits. Whereas folks were stuck in the mud à la Woodstock last time, this time, they were just plain stuck, as a reported 1,000 ravers were stranded when transportation to and from the event -- necessary for Balch to be allowed to stage the event at all -- ran short by nights end. (Balch's apology/explanation can be viewed at www.austinraves.com/viewtopic.php?topic=2578&forum=1.) Jeez, it's getting so you can't use an airport for anything anymore...