Faster Than Sound: Ryan Garrett Assumes Beerland Lease

Stubb’s GM Ryan Garrett takes over lease on neighboring punk club Beerland, expanding Red River Cultural District involvement.

Spoon's frontman Britt Daniel leads Divine Fits at Beerland in 2012. (Photo by John Anderson)

A summer of uncertainty over the fate of Beerland finally comes to a close. Stubb's general manager Ryan Garrett confirmed in person on Tuesday, as reported on the Chronicle Daily Music blog, that he's taken over the lease on the club. The Red River advocate wasn't ready to comment on specific plans for the space, but intended to continue its use as a concert venue with hopes of opening by Thanksgiving.

"Either you get involved, or you're going to sit on the sidelines and watch the world go by," he said of his advocacy for the Red River Cultural District. "We saw Beerland close abruptly and we lost Sidewinder and Headhunters. Either we start working to reopen these businesses, or the trend is going to continue."

Musician Ned Stewart joins Garrett's new Beerland ownership team. At least two other local venue owners showed interest in the business, which closed abruptly on May 28 when owner Richard Lynn sent out a press release announcing Beerland's sale to an unnamed buyer. The night before, disgruntled venue employees had delivered the club owner a letter with their intentions to strike due to unpaid wages dating back to SXSW. Beerland had passed down to Lynn from founders Randall and Donya Stockton, who established the Downtown punk hub in 2001 as a haven for local and underground punk and garage rock.

Around the same time, Garrett began working as a fry cook at Stubb's Bar-B-Q. He's since risen through the ranks as a leader in the ever-intensifying efforts to advocate for music on Red River. When a slew of unrelated shootings shook the district in July, Red River Cultural District Executive Director Cody Cowan and Garrett worked overnight to set up an emergency town hall with the mayor. Garrett's civic participation amped up in 2016 with business owners' successful efforts to expand the district's live music curfew.

Since then, he's joined the boards of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) and the Downtown Austin Alliance.

"In addition to what we do in the venues, the advocacy and meetings is a full-time job," adds Garrett. "If we're going to make a difference, that's the only way. It's special territory down here."

A few ARCH clients now work on Stubb's concessions team during UT football games. Beyond Red River, Garrett has spoken at the Capitol in favor of statewide paid sick leave. He's also an investor in local FBR Management bars Lala's, Mean Eyed Cat, and the Wheel.

On current hotly debated Downtown issues, Garrett is optimistic about the Convention Center expansion and its potential to attract lucrative opportunities to the district. He calls private event hosting the "fastest-growing element of operations we see at Stubb's." The GM also points out that a wave of major developments like Waterloo Park, a new Erwin Center, and the Convention Center will cement Red River's status as a worldwide music hub – as long as local venues are preserved along the way.

"We've had our dip here. We've seen businesses closing," says Garrett. "Now it's time to have our day."

Portrayal of Guilt Comes Home

After earning recognition from The Washington Post in the resurgence of American screamo, local quartet Portrayal of Guilt returns from European dates with megawatts Deafheaven and Touché Amoré. The abrasive genre-blenders make land Friday at Mohawk with Regional Justice Center, Die Young, and Expander. In less than 12 months, the group's output includes an acclaimed first LP, September EP, and recent grindcore single "Sacrificial Rite" with label Closed Casket Activities. Singer Matt King also crafted a few solo darkwave tracks as Test.

"I don't go out very often, so I spend my time at home in front of the computer most days working on music," he emails. "It's pretty relaxed."

The San Antonio native describes an "amazing" reception the night before at Portugal's Amplifest. This tour totes extended play Suffering Is a Gift, a natural progression from breakout Let Pain Be Your Guide. In both, densely constructed tracks find value in discomfort.

"I have my own way of dealing with my issues," adds King. "One being simply dealing with and 'suffering' through the pain. Once it passes, I find myself in a better place (most times). I feel thankful for the learning experience."

Jad Fair and Kramer during the Celebration of the Late Great Daniel Johnston at the Mohawk (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

The Late Great Daniel Johnston

Following the passing of Texan outsider legend Daniel Johnston, Austin's Hi, How Are You Project hosted a memorial at Mohawk last Thursday, World Mental Health Day. Longtime collaborators Jad Fair and Kramer reprised their performance of "Some Things Last a Long Time" from Johnston's memorial reception in Katy last month. After his set with Luvweb, local singer Chris Lopez recounted taking the bus to the Katy services to perform "My Yoke Is Heavy." Alongside Johnston bud Amy Annelle's dynamic covers, locals Little Mazarn presented a magically minimalist take on "Story of an Artist." Ahead of Kathy McCarty's finale, the tribute subject's brother Dick Johnston announced a script in the works for a film. "[Daniel's] musical legacy has not been fully exposed," he added.


Billie Eilish at her Austin City Limits taping (Photo by Gary Miller)

ACL Fest Wrap: Weekend two delivered another massive audience for Lizzo on a non-headlining stage, this time broadcast on the Honda stage jumbotrons too. On Instagram she estimated 75,000: "I guess one stage wasn't big enough for my ass." Lil Uzi Vert made up for a cancellation at weekend one, but Megan Thee Stallion fans waited in the rain for the no-show, who was still in her hotel room at showtime. Mumford & Sons stepped up their much-maligned headlining spot with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and the Austin High Marching Band.

Billie Eilish debuted last Friday on Austin City Limits between well-attended Zilker Park sets. Screaming fans of the 17-year-old spook-pop queen filled the upper balconies, while elementary-age kiddos sang along to lines like, "I don't need a Xanny to feel better" from the front row. A few burst into tears. After calling the photo pit separation "stupid," the starlet invited everyone up for a final embrace.

Juan Wauters went acoustic and unplugged at Electric Church late last Friday, marking his first show in Austin since 2015. The magnetic soloist invited the audience to permeate the small, chatty performance with claps, bilingual sing-alongs, and set list suggestions. An underage fan took over the guitar for "I'm All Wrong," and Wauters mixed in Beatles melodies on finale "Escucho Mucho."

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Beerland, Ryan Garrett, Richard Lynn, Red River Cultural District, Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH), Downtown Austin Alliance, Portrayal of Guilt, Daniel Johnston, Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Juan Wauters, ACL Fest 2019

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