Faster Than Sound: Goodbye Prop B, Hello HOT Monies

Following the defeat of Proposition B, Austin music advocates brainstorm applications of the first city funding for commercial music

KUTX's Taylor Wallace at the Nov. 4 Music Commission meeting (Courtesy of ATXN Video Feed)

Earlier this month, a pop-art-inspired GIF flashed on my screen:

"This November Vote for Music!"

Shared by the Red River Cultural District, the image urged voting against Proposition B in the Nov. 5 election. The ensuing defeat of the ballot item stands as one of local advocates' most coordinated efforts to turn out the music vote. The victory primes city bureaucracy to eventually churn out an estimated $3 million annually to support commercial music.

Packaging citywide anti-proposition efforts, PHAM PAC rounded up support from major music players like South by Southwest and RRCD venues. Campaign manager Jim Wick estimates via text that "the involvement of the music community was a big part of the win." With Convention Center entanglements in the rearview (revisit "Historic Approval of City Tax Fund for Local Music," Sept. 27), music wonks move on to the proverbial fun part: What are they going to do with all that money?

At a meeting on Nov. 4, the day before the election, the Austin Music Commission blazed ahead to form a task force for the new funding. Nominated citizens include rapper/Jump On It founder Charles Byrd (aka NOOK Turner), Loro Management operative Cris Flores, Blue Mist bandleader Robert Kelley, Music Venue Alliance Austin founder Rebecca Reynolds, singer Nakia Reynoso, EQ Austin co-founder Frank Rodriguez, and SXSW Planning Manager Catlin Whittington. From KUTX, weeknight host Taylor Wallace and The Breaks co-host Aaron "Fresh" Knight join.

Commission Chair Rick Carney says the team will first decide on an independent entity, maybe a new nonprofit, to oversee the monies.

"From there, they'll look into how we would like to see the funds distributed," he adds. "We're in uncharted waters, and there's no preconceived idea at this point."

That hasn't slowed chatter over a concept where music venues receive rebates for booking a local opener for a touring act. Players also mentioned programs to ease the cost of parking and transportation to gigs. At the meeting, Wallace suggested musicians receive vouchers for nearby eateries.

It's unclear which brainstorms will actually align with state law, which says Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) revenue "may be used only to promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry." At the meeting, Reynolds, an attorney, recapped years investigating HOT funding for music.

"We are right here on the goal line," she said, enthused. "I would love to lend my legal understanding so we don't waste time coming up with wonderful ideas that we wouldn't be allowed to do."

Beyond the task force, Patrick Buchta is already canvasing members of new nonprofit Austin Texas Musicians, formed with Reynoso. Through the end of this month, they'll accept applications for a Musicians Advisory Panel to spearhead upcoming advocacy. Local artists can join their Facebook group.

"It takes success for musicians to see we can be effective," adds Buchta, a songwriter and former head of nonprofit partnerships at KVUE. "This Prop B victory gave us the confidence to keep moving forward."

Nate Cross (l), Morgan Coy, and Cory Plump of Monofonus Press in 2014 (Photo by John Anderson)

R.I.P. Monofonus Press

Cory Plump lives in Kingston, N.Y., where he launched indie venue Tubby's with Monofonus Press founder Morgan Coy a year ago. Plump used to help run the Austin imprint along with Soft Healer guitarist Will Slack, who still lives in Austin. The longtime local arts outlet is ending because the friends have distributed across space and time.

"I feel more proud than I do sad," adds Plump, who helped put out work by acts like Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, ATX analog synth lords Survive, and Thor Harris. "We didn't have any hugely massive hits, but the majority of our records will stand the test of time."

In fact, the crew counts 55 LPs and 33 tapes in their catalog, dating back to 2007, alongside too much print media to tally. A 22-act bill of label friends lands at Hotel Vegas Friday and Saturday. The Rebel, aka Country Teasers frontman Ben Wallers, visits from England, and Plump's bandmate Chris Stephenson returns from Australia for a Spray Paint reunion. Other notables include L.A. psychotropic artist Sun Araw and Tim Kerr project Up Around the Sun.

Early shows start Friday at the Monofonus Compound, still Googleable from years of SXSW gatherings. Sunday afternoon pulls from Astral Spirits' selects of free jazz and beyond. Monofonus helped Nathan Cross launch the sister label in 2014; it lives on as the retiring outlet's spiritual successor.

Peelander-Z at Mosaic Sound Collective in 2017 (Photo by John Anderson)

Mosaic Sound Status Update

Last Wednesday, Mosaic Sound Collective celebrated considerable growth and improvements since its 2015 launch in a former juvenile detention facility. The cooperative music space, now nearly at capacity, invited Shinyribs and Mayor Steve Adler to christen a new courtyard stage. The event also unveiled the permanent "W'ALL" art installation by Mosaic tenant Soundwaves Art Foundation, featured in last weekend's East Austin Studio Tour.

Mosaic founder Dan Redman remarked on recent albums completed by Holy Wave and ...Trail of Dead within the hallowed halls. Exemplifying the importance of proximity, tenant Greg Gonzalez's band Grupo Fantasma soundtracked recent Nintendo Switch game New Super Lucky's Tale via neighboring video game audio designer Aaron Brown. At the event, Brown showed off how twisting collard greens and other veggies creates bone-snapping effects for the Call of Duty franchise.

"We want to create a one-stop shop of resources for musicians and artists, but the prerequisite is that you have to give back," shared Redman onstage. "We've said no to a lot more [tenants] than we've said yes to."


Black Pumas at their ACL Live taping (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Grammy nominations Wednesday, Nov. 20, yielded bountiful Austin recognition, with Black Pumas landing in the vaunted Best New Artist category and Gary Clark Jr. netting four nods for 2019's This Land. Also in the running: Willie Nelson (Best Country Solo Performance), Patty Griffin (Best Folk Album), Sarah Jarosz via supergroup I'm With Her (Best American Roots Song), both Delbert McClinton and Jimmie Vaughan in the Best Traditional Blues Album division, and Craig Hella Johnson with Conspirare (Best Choral Performance).

Gary Davenport, shape-shifting San Antonio songwriter, receives the reissue treatment from Chicago archivists Numero Group. Scattered Thoughts rounds up 13 largely unheard tracks spanning Eighties post-punk oddities with Mannequin to dreamy pop collaborations. Some first found home on Davenport's Closet Records, one of S.A.'s first punk outlets. On Facebook, the artist credits Jason Chronis (Voxtrot, Tele Novella) with "relentlessly" seeking out his records via MySpace over a decade ago. The supportive local penned liner notes for the LP.

Oblivion Access, the rebranded Austin Terror Fest, adds Mohawk to a venue roster of Barracuda and Empire Control Room, June 5-7. Monday's reveal includes industrial pioneers Swans' first Austin performance since 2016, plus Converge, Anna Von Hausswolff, Despise You, True Widow, and Lil Ugly Mane, whose 2015 album inspired the fest's new name. Colorado doom presence Primitive Man serves as artist in residence. The rising annual promises 40 more acts in its fourth year.

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