I've been a record geek as long as I can remember. As a preteen, I spent hours thumbing through record bins at Korvette's, a local department store on Long Island, and in the mall at record chain Sam Goody, drooling over the newest Cream, Monkees, and Small Faces. One Christmas season I worked at that same Goody's, and when I got to Austin in 1995, I did the same at Waterloo Records. Those experiences prepared me for the following year at the Austin Record Convention, where I've been both a buyer and a seller, spending long weekends rifling through the stacks and stacks of records, searching for what to listen to next.
Doug Hanners runs the semiannual Record Convention, the largest of its kind in the country he claims. A former record store employee himself, he's been doing it since it began in 1981, the year they razed the Armadillo World Headquarters on Barton Springs Road. Spring of that year, the ARC was held at the old Knights of Columbus Hall on the grounds of Zilker Park.
"It was totally overwhelmed," Hanner recalls. "So they kicked us out and said, 'Don't come back.' I'm not even sure if that building is still standing. The second time we went to Palmer Auditorium. We were downstairs, then we moved upstairs. We were at Palmer for almost 20 years, until 2000 or so. We had one show at the City Coliseum before we took over the Crockett Event Center out on 290."
The CEC itself moved to its current location on North Lamar and the convention followed in the fall of 2005. There were also a couple of spring conventions that were held inside the Austin Convention Center in conjunction with South by Southwest in 2010 and 2011. A noble idea, but overwhelming and decidedly impractical.
"It was just too much madness going on at once," admits Hanners. "It made sense, but we couldn't make it work."
This spring's convention was canceled after he suffered a concussion. "I got hit by a falling tree branch," he says. "I was trying to supervise a tree trimming at my house and I didn't duck quick enough. But I'm 100 percent now."
The cancellation has only increased anticipation for the upcoming event, Oct. 26-28. Along with the revived interest in all things vinyl, expectations are for an attendance-record-busting ARC. One wonders how long Hanners, 64, can keep this up.
"As long as my wife will put up with it," chuckles Hanners. "She's been pretty patient for quite a long time. My son would carry it on if I can't. He's an Austin musician. He likes records too.
"There's so many billions of records out there in the world. It's amazing how many still turn up. Those that have been stored and come out of warehouses. It's part of people's memory, their record collection." – Jim Caligiuri
Grass. More than any other single detail, that's my most vivid memory of the inaugural Austin City Limits Music Festival. Not the hippie girl plunking herself down beside me during the headlining closer and offering a joint. And okay, the band turning in that last set remains branded in my last two decades of Austin music roll call: the Arc Angels. The all-star local quartet had welcomed me to Texas 10 years previously when I'd rolled into San Antonio to find my grandmother in the hospital and a free Fourth of July concert starring the Arc Angels, Cheap Trick, Stray Cats, Bruce Hornsby, etc. Between sets, I walked to the front of the six-foot-high stage and looked through the slats to see what was going on backstage. Doyle Bramhall II caught my eye and winked.
Grass – moist, cool, alive. My hands can still feel that Zilker Park grass practically growing under my palms as I sprawled on my own acre of it in front of the festival's now traditional headliner stage. Dark blanketed everything that second evening, and only hundreds witnessed the weekend's crowning band rather than the thousands and thousands that kept me out of visual range of that same stage when the Eagles landed there in 2010. Nonetheless, that moment might as well have been Woodstock for me.
Without my desk calendar from that year, I couldn't name another act. Gillian Welch, Wilco, and Los Lobos topped Saturday, while Ryan Adams and Robert Randolph anchored the Sabbath. Locals glued together Year One: South Austin Jug Band, Jon Dee Graham, Li'l Cap'n Travis, James McMurtry. I was curious to take in Ramsay Midwood, now gigging weekly at the White Horse. ACL's biggest potential headliner wasn't even at the festival that year. The Allman Brothers rumbled through the Backyard the night before.
Grass. Vibe. Music. Over one Saturday/Sunday spread – Sept. 28-29, 2002 – Austin City Limits had transcended the small screen to amplify paradise not against the PBS staple's crafty skyline for an international viewing audience, but outdoors for locals. Austin's own version of New Orleans' Jazz Fest had arrived, only not on consecutive weekends, and substituting Lone Star roots for America's classical music. Genius. Why hadn't anyone thought of this before? – Raoul Hernandez
John Brannon prowls the stage ready to fight, his threatening scowl etched like a most-wanted mug shot. Negative Approach snaps into "Pressure," punk rock's longest 10 seconds, as the crowd and reunited Detroit band simultaneously erupts into a brief but physical hardcore tantrum.
I can't take this pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure.
Sometime in the chaotic flurry that follows, Graham Williams dives into the crowd from stage left, flipping feet-first right and disappearing into a circle pit of darkness. For my money at least, that was the definitive moment in the history of Fun Fun Fun Fest – when the line between booker, promoter, and punk first blurred with one swift elbow to the temple.
You could feel the change happening in Austin that brisk and harsh evening in December 2006. The sense that the underdogs just pulled out a last-minute save for the home team. FFFF was born mostly by happenstance, strewn together on a shoestring budget in less than six weeks to make room for a few touring acts, with help from the Alamo Drafthouse's Tim League. The lineup offered local heroes – Spoon, the Black Angels, the Octopus Project, and Riverboat Gamblers – some solid punk acts, and enough dance music to justify a tent stage.
It wasn't much, comparatively at least, but it set the format for the most unconventional music festival this side of L.A.'s Fuck Yeah Fest. The arrival of F3F also dramatically altered the game on Red River – not just by adding another lucrative destination on the city's fall calendar, but by giving Williams, then the head booker at Emo's, the leverage needed to jump-start Transmission Entertainment.
Fast-forward six years, and Williams' DIY dream has become a national touchstone: Ryan Gosling was curiously tracked at last November's inaugural event at Auditorium Shores; Henry Rollins officiated a wedding; the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne partied backstage; and Slayer reigned supreme. The 2012 edition might be the biggest F3F, with Run DMC leading the fest's strongest hip-hop bill to date (Rakim, De La Soul, A$AP Rocky), alongside such rarities as Public Image Ltd. and Refused.
While you'll likely spot him patrolling the grounds on bike or dealing with city officials, when it matters most you'll still find Williams exactly where we all belong: in the pit. – Austin Powell
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