Playback: The Austin Music Industry Awards Come of Age

Kevin Curtin reverses his “awards are bullshit” stance

Craig Stewart (l) and King Coffey, Feb. 25 (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

The following is my acceptance speech for an award I didn't win:

"Wow, look at this, so much of Austin's music industry is here tonight. If a bomb went off right now, our scene would come to a complete standstill ... and nobody in Los Angeles, New York, or Nashville would even notice [pause for laughter]. I should say I'm honored to be winning a fourth consecutive Best Music Writer plaque, but let's face it, awards are bullshit. We're just patting ourselves on the back with imaginary achievements in a field that's subjective by nature. Are we really this insecure?"

I didn't win Best Music Writer at the Austin Music Industry Awards, held last Sunday at the Palm Door on Sixth; Michael Corcoran did. It was long overdue for the Pete Rose of Austin music scribes – the best never honored. A testament to his transcendent talent, after decades penning columns in the Chronicle, Statesman, and Dallas Morning News, "Corky" got the most votes at a time when Facebook remains his foremost publication.

Yours truly and Riverboat Gamblers/Drakulas frontman Mike Wiebe served as the night's attention whores – I mean "co-hosts." The house band, led by Magic Rockers of Texas singer/guitarist Jim Campo and PR Newman frontman Spencer Garland, again stole the show in the AMIAs' fourth year of spinning off the business side of the Austin Music Awards, which occurred on Wednesday after this issue went to press (see review online and here in print next week). They greeted each guest with personalized walk-up music, like altering Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" into "I Want Andy" for media brand Andy Langer, who claimed the group was the "only reason" he attended.

Given that the sentiment of any awards show is forged by the winners, this year's acceptance speeches were especially heartfelt. Veteran poster artist Billy Perkins painted a harrowing picture of all his mother went through to raise him, then described her joy when he told her he'd won. Antone's co-owner Will Bridges commemorated the blues joint's Best Music Venue to Play honors in revealing late club founder Clifford Antone's original vision: Make a place musicians want to play and the rest will follow. Sun Radio's A Hill Country Saturday host Kevin Connor collected his Best Radio Music Program plaque with a simple formula: "Play a good song, then think of another song that will sound good after it." Croy & the Boys singer Corey Baum lampooned gender stereotypes by effusively lauding AMA director and all-around renaissance lady Celeste Quesada, then stated, "Behind every great woman, there's a great man" and presented the Best Producer award to her husband Adrian Quesada.

The podium was also ground for declarations. Tommy Robertson, owner of Best Specialty Instrument Store Tommy's Drum Shop, gave us a strong affirmation: "This is a community!" Soon thereafter, Rick Pierik, operator of Best Local Label honoree Nine Mile, made a plea for Austin's music community to be greater by collaborating more. Indeed, because rare is the occasion that so much of the industry has an opportunity to get together as they did at the AMIAs. No wonder the guest list has grown a mile long.

It's amazing how the event has developed. Debuted in 2015 to shorten the AMAs, the invite-only industry gathering has become a truly significant event in Austin music. It's like your redheaded stepchild turned out as cool as your kids. New this year was a nomination round in the Austin Music Poll that resulted in triple the amount of total votes and younger demographics.

That dynamic shift saw new winners taking home major awards. Central among them was Cheer Up Charlies' talent buyer Trish Connelly seizing Best Booker. No doubt that Red River staple stands among Austin's best venues to discover burgeoning bands and, as presenter Libby Webster noted, Connelly's done an incredible job of representing Austin's female artists.

Still, one of the most important categories at the AMIAs has become the Music Industry Hall of Fame, which recognizes epic careers of behind-the-scenes visionaries. This year, a groundswell of support erupted behind Craig Stewart, the man behind highly influential Nineties labels Trance Syndicate and Emperor Jones before becoming an integral piece of the SXSW Music team.

"The acts [on Emperor Jones] owned their master recordings and were free to sign other deals. That's the level of respect Craig has with his artists," offered SXSW Director Roland Swenson in his heartfelt introduction, adding that Stewart's reputation and relationships were instrumental in SXSW establishing its indie credentials.

Stewart isn't a household name, but anyone who knows him or what he's done bends the knee. People like him are the reason the Industry Hall of Fame exists. Organizers didn't expect him to show up – he's been rendered unable to speak by a neurological disorder – but when Swenson called his name, he walked onstage with his husband, Butthole Surfers drummer King Coffey. Everyone suddenly shut up and listened.

With Stewart by his side, Coffey explained that his mate loved music more than anybody and how he dedicated his life to championing obscure bands. As Coffey spoke, Stewart smiled broadly and gestured in a way that screamed, "Yes! He's saying what I want to say." I wasn't the only one wiping away tears.

That's when I realized that awards aren't bullshit. They're a sign of respect, a show of love. And sometimes, they go to people who really deserve them and make them genuinely happy.

Half Notes

Black Angels Multi-instrumentalist Jake Garcia and guitarist Christian Bland are unveiling a rock & roll bar on 12th and Chicon called the 13th Floor. The new joint, occupying the former Moloko space, won't be a live music venue per se, but Garcia relays that he wants to pay tribute to homegrown psych forefathers Golden Dawn, the Chessmen, Bubble Puppy, and namesake heroes the 13th Floor Elevators to help keep their music bending minds. Saturday's grand opening features DJ sets by Fuzz Club record spinner Sue Purr, poster artist Mishka Westell, and DJ Dr. Explosion from Spain.

The Old Settler's Music Festival previewed its new grounds last Sunday. It took "Playback" 50 minutes to drive from Austin to the 145-acre plot of farmland in Tilmon just southeast of Lockhart. Despite scattered showers, hundreds showed up to see Kevin Russell of newly branded Band of the Year Shinyribs christen the land, which has been worked on for months by the roots music fest's ultra-loyal volunteers. The layout for April 19-22 features two main stages, a campground bandstand, plus the Camp Goodtimes stage. The OSMF-owned site's more than double the size of their previous home in Driftwood, but the real game-changer is four large camping lots, which means festers won't have to scramble for a spot to pitch their tent or RV.

The greatest rock & roll rummage sale this city's ever seen hits this weekend at the South Austin Popular Culture Center. Our late friend Margaret Moser has left backstage passes, choice vinyl, posters, books, CDs, DVDs, press kits, and old zines. Also up for grabs at the sale, running Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday noon-3pm: incredible comic strips Hickoids/Ideals guitarist Davy Jones drew when he was in the Army, early-Eighties fliers made by David Yow and Randy "Biscuit" Turner from the collection of late local punk legend Steve Anderson, original hippie comics including those of R. Crumb and Gilbert Shelton from brainiac scribe Ed Ward, and CDs, LPs, and promotional items from author/manager Joe Nick Patoski.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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2017 / 2018 Austin Music Industry Awards, SXSW Music 2018, 2017 / 2018 Austin Music Awards, Craig Stewart, King Coffey, Butthole Surfers, Billy Perkins, Old Settler's Music Festival 2018, Margaret Moser, the 13th Floor, Black Angels

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