Faster Than Sound: Cheer Up Charlies Booker Trish Connelly’s Thoughtful Curation

Community outpours support for booker’s multiple sclerosis treatment, city opens first for-profit venue assistance program, and Las Cruxes’ storefront shutters


Trish Connelly taking a break from the Nothing Song merch table at Cheer Up Charlies' DreamGaze II on March 22 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Even before Trish Connelly arrives, the buzz begins. Outside Cheer Up Charlies ahead of its second annual DreamGaze event last weekend, chatters admired the pastel-haired industry figure. "None of this would be happening without Trish," says one.

Connelly, a booker and promoter for the two-stage Red River venue, put on the minifest with California frequency DKFM Shoegaze Radio. Her artist-supporting work falls under pseudonym the Nothing Song. Alongside solid turnout for 20 distorted dream-pop acts, the local and beyond music community also stepped up to support the show-maker via GoFundMe.

The active fundraiser to cover Connelly's treatment for multiple sclerosis raised over $7,000.

"It was a very physically, emotionally taxing period," shares Connelly of her disease onset last fall. "When it was hitting me, it felt like my right side was walking normally and my left side was going uphill."

Persistent tingling sensations initially sent the 32-year-old to the ER last November. Following diagnosis of the unpredictable chronic illness, she says her symptoms stabilized somewhat. Still, she now faces rigorous medical appointments and high costs for monthly tests and treatments.

Connelly's online fundraiser, set up by her boyfriend Leo Ashline of homegrown ragers Street Sects and engineer/photographer Mike Manewitz, blew past its $5,000 goal in just a few days. She also mentions supportive visits from to her mother, who raised Connelly across Alaska and Europe. The booker spent her teenage years in Japan, where she taught English to earn CD store spending money.

After college in Vancouver, Connelly tutored middle school students in Austin. One summer break allowed her to try out concert-creating full time. An offer of consistent work from Cheer Up Charlies owners Tamara Hoover and Maggie Lea made it stick.

"Something catches my ear, and I'm just drawn towards it," explains the tastemaker. "Then, the whole process of curating a show becomes really smooth. The excitement, bubbling between the bands and whoever's involved in putting it on, is just infectious."

Her dozen monthly shows offer intentional helpings of genre cohesion, touring selects, and trending pockets of the Austin scene. No weeknight bill is a throwaway under Connelly's careful curating. The planner now expands the Nothing Song's efforts into a record label, launched last November at her fourth annual Luscious Heaven shoegaze convergence.

The imprint debuted with a 7-inch pressing by celestial quartet Blushing, which elegantly demolished DreamGaze II. Like her concert selects, Connelly says the label hopes to uphold a personal love for ethereal sounds and more, including acts beyond Austin. She notes a penchant for "fun, dance-y art-punk or post-punk or electronic bands."

Last month, Connelly earned her second Austin Music Award for Best Live Music Booker. Her acceptance speech thanked the local music community for support throughout her recent health uncertainties. Since then, she says the outpouring of financial assistance has prompted many happy tears.

"Sometimes I'm kind of speechless," admits Connelly. "I have no intention of leaving Austin, but this experience just makes me feel like I've found home. Every time I've asked for help, people have said yes."


Veronica Ortuño at Las Cruxes in 2017 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Las Cruxes Storefront Shuttered

After almost a decade, Eastside boutique and event space Las Cruxes ended its brick-and-mortar presence last Saturday. For the space's closing, the owners invited guests to take home artist Emma Kohlmann's colorful cutouts as a free token. The celebration also spotlighted proprietor Veronica Ortuño, previously established as a local musician in groups including the Carrots and Finally Punk.

The shop will transition to online sales, and continue producing events at other venues. Under a grant from the city of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Las Cruxes presents experimental composers Sarah Davachi and Sean McCann Sept. 14 at Central Presbyterian Church. Ortuño also plans to expand her interior design business, Casa Veronica.

"The space has seen a lot of iterations, but I never closed it off to anything," says Ortuño. "It united my friends from all different backgrounds, whether they were musicians and artists or fashion designers and makers."

After launching digitally, the storefront landed at the Spider House complex before moving to a shared space on Cesar Chavez with Farewell Books in 2012. Its final home at E. 12th & Chicon faced intense controversy for painting over a mural depicting black musicians. The owner later facilitated creation of a new mural by original artist Chris Rogers.

Over two years at the East Austin gallery space, Las Cruxes hosted mixtape exchanges, chess nights, and art exhibitions, as well as specially chosen musical sets, like Minneapolis mixers Feel Free Hi Fi and California songwriter Itasca.

"I'm really proud that we were able to bring together so many people," adds the founder, remembering sold-out, sweaty nights of DJs and dancing. "Those events were so powerful and uplifting for me. I felt like everyone in the space was connected."


Kim McCarson, back in her KOOP Radio days in 2010 (Photo by John Anderson)

Creative Space Assistance in the Works

Following a pilot program last year, applications are now open for the city's Creative Space Assistance Program (CSAP). For the first time, the program is open to for-profit music venues, performance spaces, and art galleries. $750,000 in designated funds stem from the 2016 Austin Music & Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution, which designated $200,000 to nonprofits in the 2018 Arts Space Assistance Program pilot.

"This year, [the program] expanded to include for-profit venues because they're feeling the same strains with affordability that the nonprofits are feeling," says Kim McCarson, economic & business liaison for the Music and Entertainment Division.

McCarson says funding supports a one-time program. Eligibility requirements are due this Friday, March 29, with final applications required by April 30. Unique music venue requirements for the CSAP application were developed by Rebecca Reynolds of Music Venue Alliance Austin. The definition aimed to create a new city land designation of "live music venue" within CodeNEXT's scrapped guidelines.

Under current city code, venues are designated as "bar/nightclub." A proposed bill before the state Legislature would integrate the definition into a "Texas music incubator rebate program" on mixed beverage sales.

In other venue-aiding news, the city of Austin's "$12M Bond for Creative Space Community Survey" is currently open. The online form seeks input on how to use $12 million in funds earmarked for art space assistance. After encouragement from the arts community, City Council approved release of the full amount earlier this month.


Greg Enlow (left) with the Strange Boys at Stubb's in 2009 (Photo by John Anderson)

Crosstalk

Strange Boys member Greg Enlow took his own life on March 21. The talented guitarist also played with Living Grateful and Greg Enlow's Blues Dragon. He previously owned Street Legal Guitars on Seventh Street. Enlow was remembered this week with services in Austin, Tyler, and Marfa. In an obituary posted by Tyler Morning Telegraph, bandmate Ryan Sambol wrote: "Many songs and even more people will forever bare his humble stamp, and those who knew him will remember his easy laugh. Most importantly Greg shared an understanding of all of life. Be it travel, work, spiritualism, fun and human folly; Greg knew and loved unconditionally."

The Red River Cultural District celebrated its third year as a merchants association with updates during SXSW. Executive Director Cody Cowan's photography graces new signage, featuring photos of familiar musicians playing the strip. The district also launched a website (www.redriverculturaldistrict.org) in partnership with Levitation co-owner Rob Fitzpatrick, including a listing of participating businesses.

Music Lab's Oltorf location, posted for sale last year, gave tenants notice to vacate on Monday, March 25. As detailed here earlier this year (see "Music Lab Explores Consolidation," Jan. 18), the rehearsal facility will focus business on its second location at St. Elmo Road. Renters have until May 31 to clear out of Oltorf. Read more about the shutdown on our daily blog.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Trish Connelly, Las Cruxes, Cheer Up Charlies, Veronica Ortuño, Creative Space Assistance Program, Strange Boys, Greg Enlow, Music Lab

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