An unrelenting rainstorm in June broke through the ceiling of the building behind the original Threadgill's on North Lamar, dumping water into a second-story room neatly arranged with commercial antiques and music ephemera. For owner Eddie Wilson, that "upstairs store" was a clubhouse, museum, seldom-used event space, and a tribute to late artist Bill Narum. It also housed the lingering physical history of Wilson's Seventies concert venue, the Armadillo World Headquarters.
Insurance appraisers ordered Wilson to clear the room before they fixed the water damage. Those moving fees would've totaled $50,000.
Rather than pay out the nose relocating relics, the pack rat lightens his load with "Eddie Wilson's Armadillo World Headquarters and Threadgill's Collections" auction at the Burley Gallery in New Braunfels on Sat., Jan 17. Among hundreds of items up for grabs: an autographed Janis Joplin nude, Vulcan Gas Company co-owner Don Hyde's marijuana leaf cowboy boots, the 'Dillo's piano played by Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Count Basie, original concert posters of the grand opening (Jim Franklin) and Bruce Springsteen's Austin debut (Micael Priest), and signed fliers from Waylon Jennings and Johnny Winter.
"I remember the good times I had up here," reflects Wilson in the half-empty store room. "My wife's a little melancholy about it. She thinks of it as pieces of me.
"I think of it as stuff that widow Wilson won't have to dust," chuckles the 71-year-old cancer survivor. "I hope it raises money so I can start thinking about my next move."
That might include opening a Threadgill's in New Zealand or maybe another in Austin.
"I'm talking about one to replace the Downtown restaurant when the inevitable high rise happens," he clarifies. "My rent went up 500 percent – to $20,000 – a couple months ago. I finished the 15-year lease and moved on to a three-year with a three-year option."
He expects the Downtown Threadgill's to remain open for three years, maybe six.
"That's the cost of being in a boomtown. I get accused all the time of having caused it because I introduced Willie Nelson to hippies. It's hard to take credit for some of the stuff I would've thought was a good line in my résumé."
Find Wilson in person at the auction next Saturday. Online and absentee bidders can get the jump at www.burleyauction.com.
Good thing the city has no hand in Free Week. Like Austin's New Year's Eve celebration Downtown, they might've "postponed" its first two nights on account of wind and rain.
"It's like Austin's free South by Southwest for locals," declared Qué Pasa frontwoman Liz Burrito during the first weekend of the annual January convergence, which continues through Sunday (see "Music Listings," p.60).
And kudos to the scenes it represents: underground pop, rock, hip-hop, electro, punk, and metal, all by virtue of the venues not charging a cover for their stacked local bills. Participating clubs exceeded a dozen from the Red River and East Sixth corridor to outliers including Spider House and Sahara Lounge. Swan Dive, historically overshadowed by competition, was invigorated with exceptional bookings. Empire's newly renovated garage also jumped out as a primary locale.
"Free Week carries us from that moment Fun Fun Fun Fest ends until things kick into gear again in mid-February," says James Taylor, co-owner of Holy Mountain, which boasts mighty Free Week scheduling. "It foots the bill for those three months where it slows down exponentially because of the holidays."
Regarding the dollars and sense of Free Week: many venues don't pay artists, while others fork over a percentage of bar sales. Annually, the argument arises that Free Week doesn't benefit bands – that it devalues music and attracts people who enjoy free entertainment, not future fans. The other side of the coin is potential exposure.
"A lot of people I never met before come up and say, 'That was great! I've heard about you, but I've never had a chance to see you,'" says Taylor Wilkins, whose band Otis the Destroyer debuted at Free Week 2014 and played a packed show Saturday. "I think it opens up that opportunity."
Some of my favorites from Free Week's first half: the Jamey Simms Band's stylistic collision of MC5 and Jimi Hendrix, the Berkshire Hounds' clever, soul-infused garage rock, and telepathic fuzz punks Hundred Visions. Since our overachieving music scene stretches a week into 10 days, enjoy four more nights of no cover.
With no unknown local musicians earning national buzz via televised singing contests and Bob Schneider not putting out an album last year, the field appears wide open in the 2014/15 Austin Music Poll.
We've revamped the ballot. Categories have been cut ("Roots Rock," "Indie," "All Ages Venue"), others consolidated ("Acoustic Guitar" and "Electric Guitar" become simply "Best Guitar"), but we've also added 17 categories including "Music Store" and "Club Sound" that expand the Awards beyond the stage.
Winning musicians will be announced at the Austin Music Awards during SXSW, Wed., March 18. Non-performer honors break off into the Austin Music Industry Awards, held on March 9 and hosted by yours truly and Chronicle scribe Chase Hoffberger. Find a ballot on p.61, or vote online at austinchronicle.com/polls/musicpoll/14.
Voting tip: Don't anguish over accurately selecting the "best" musicians in Austin. Choose your favorites. Here are mine.
Band of the Year: Flesh Lights
Musician of the Year: Ian McLagan
Song of the Year: "Dearly Departed," Shakey Graves
Album of the Year: Free Yourself, Flesh Lights
New Austin Band: Sweet Spirit
Rock: Bad Lovers
EDM/Dance: Roger Sellers
Hip-Hop/Rap: Magna Carda
Jazz: Brannen Temple
Blues/Soul/Funk: Mrs. Glass
Avant-Garde/Experimental: Golden Dawn Arkestra
Country/Bluegrass: the Beaumonts
Folk: Scott H. Biram
Latin: Conjunto Los Pinkys
World Music: Hard Proof Afrobeat
Cover Band: Brown Sabbath
U-18: Residual Kid
None of the Above: That Damned Band
Female Vocals: Sabrina Ellis
Male Vocals: Joe Doerr
Guitar: J. Crow (Sabbath Crow)
Bass: Glenn Fukunaga
Drums/Percussion: Erik Conn
Keyboards: Mike Flanigin
String Player(s): Erik Hokkanen
Horn Player(s): Ephraim Owens
Miscellaneous Instrument: Walter Daniels (harmonica)
Songwriter: Jesse Moore (East Cameron Folkcore)
Radio Station: Sun Radio/KDRP
Radio Music Program: Kevin Connor's A Hill Country Saturday, KDRP
Radio Personality: John L. Hanson Jr., KUTX
Record Store: End of an Ear
Music Store: Austin Vintage Guitars
Instrument Repair: Lauren Ellis (Strait Music)
Specialty Instrument Store: Fiddler's Green
Equipment Rental: Rock N Roll Rentals
Recording Studio: Cacophony Recorders
Producer: Mike McCarthy
Local Label: Saustex Records
Music Writer: Chase Hoffberger
Live Music Photographer: Maurice Eagle
Poster: Jaime Zuverza: Spray Paint, Hotel Vegas, March 29
Album Art: Churchwood, 3: Trickgnosis
New Club: Badlands
Live Music Venue: Hotel Vegas
Live Music Booker: Graham Williams
Club Lighting: Parish
Club Sound: Cactus Cafe
Outside Austin City Limits Music Venue: Triple Crown, San Marcos
Best Music Venue to Play: ABGB
Ongoing Music Residency: Margaret Wright, Skylark
Music Support Non-Profit: Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM)
Music Business Hall of Fame: Clifford Antone
Austin Music Hall of Fame: Pocket Fishrmen, Fuckemos
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