Faster Than Sound: Austin Music Industry Awards Honor Old & New
Recapping the ceremony, plus local trio Nevil pack shout-along garage rock, and concert site ShowList Austin relaunches
Camaraderie permeated all levels of the Austin Music Industry Awards on Monday night. In its second year at Emo's, the event prompted a strong turnout and proved that Austin's behind-the-scenesters don't simply work together, they're actually friends, too. (See our photo gallery from the event for proof.) Award show and Chronicle co-founder Louis Black opened up with a definitive sentiment:
"One of the truths about Austin is, if you get a 2am call from somebody and they say, 'We need you,' nobody says, 'Why?' You go 'Where?'"
Waterloo Records owner John Kunz used his time onstage to plug that the record shop nominees are participating in Record Store Day on April 18. Best Poster Artist Billie Buck kept her speech short, joking that Best Live Music Booker nominee Lawrence Boone is still waiting on a SXSW flyer. The latter spent the last year building rock-solid programming at South Austin bar the Far Out, which won Best New Club.
Even though hosts Kevin Curtin and Mike Wiebe made their entrance on mobility scooters dressed as cranky old men – aping the old adage "Austin sure has changed" – the proceedings boasted some good sustains. To start the ceremony, Hole in the Wall veteran Paul Minor remembered buying his first PA system 20 years ago while grabbing Best Sound Engineer, debuting this year's new 3D-printed statuettes. New Austin Music Awards director Nedda Tehrany (see "An Intergenerational Vision for the Austin Music Awards") calls the red, cowboy-hatted figurines Leslies.
Despite frequent nominations, the Continental Club hadn't taken Best Live Music Venue in 25 years.
"To all the fans that come out, it makes me feel great that there's some things in Austin that haven't changed," said owner Steve Wertheimer. "You can count on us at 1315 South Congress Avenue. That place will always be the same."
Already on the slideshow to award the music business Hall of Fame, Mayor Steve Adler opted instead to go endorse Joe Biden in Dallas, prompting boos. Beating out heavy hitters including C3 Presents and SXSW principals Charles Attal and Roland Swenson, respectively, Nancy Coplin took the special all-gold Leslie. The veteran local organizer noted her years of chairing the Austin Music Commission, booking Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, and her present-day leading of musicians' housing nonprofit H.O.M.E.
"Go out, listen to music, pay a cover, or put money in the tip jar, and support your bands," concluded Coplin.
Representing KUTX, deejay Taylor Wallace accepted the frequency's Best Radio Station honors.
"We exist to uplift local artists, give them a platform, and to get them paid!" she shouted.
House band Berkshire Hounds continued the funny wordplay of past years, like Rihanna revision "Trish Better Have My Money" for Best Booker recipient Trish Connelly, who shouted out her new gig booking with SXSW alongside Cheer Up Charlies. The band cranked "Welcome to the Space Graham" for repeat Best Television/Film Composer Graham Reynolds.
Both Reynolds and Best Producer Adrian Quesada mentioned run-ins on the basketball court with Curtin, who presented a signed ball to the former. Reynolds pointed out that Quesada's last award show pitted his band against Billie Eilish at the Grammys. Home from international touring with local breakouts Black Pumas, he spread the love among his fellow nominees.
"Everybody supports each other, that's what's great about this town," announced Quesada. "I was just traveling around the world, and this city's pretty cool. If you don't like it, look around and make it better."
Having Fun for Once With Nevil
Local trio Nevil subsist on deadpan vocal delivery, sarcastic choruses, shout-along group cheer, and stripped-down garage rock. Players Tessa Castor, Katelynn Garza, and Emily Ng hang somewhere in the balance.
"People will be like, 'I can tell you really love each other,'" says Castor, high school best friend to lead vocalist/guitarist Ng.
After moving to Austin together, the two began practicing as Castor picked up the drums. In 2018, when a house- sitting gig opened in Marfa, the duo planned to focus on Ng's solo bedroom pop and Castor's woodworking. Instead, Garza drove out to play bass in the beginnings of Nevil.
"I remember learning a White Stripes cover, and Tessa was like, 'Play more power chords,'" recalls Ng, also owner of No Good Tattoo. "That's how it started – me playing things Tessa wanted to drum to. Before this, I wrote stuff that was all sweet and acoustic."
In their borrowed West Texas abode, the group built the bones of 2019 debut EP Having Fun for Once. Local label Mas Music Records partners to release physical copies during various shows during SXSW. Before landing prime placement on this year's Burgermania poster (Sun. 22, Hotel Vegas), the band weathered creative frustration in their early recording efforts. To keep spirits high, Garza chanted the line "strong, stable, creative genius," which now edges tough track "Tangie."
"We lost our minds – taking apart the beds to use the mattresses and hanging mics from the ceiling," details Castor. "That song was our amp-up. We were chanting it nonstop."
Since launching Nevil, Garza and Ng now also play in local indie rock act Van Mary. The former's savvy band email responses also earned her a spot as Hotel Vegas' new booking manager. The group revels in Ng's vocal affect on conversational punk lyrics, akin to Modern Lovers frontman Jonathan Richman.
"Emily has earth-shattering, straight-faced sarcasm," explains Garza. "She's mean-mugging the whole crowd."
"I definitely feel like being onstage is a persona," adds Ng. "To me, Nevil doesn't sound the way I talk. In the recording of 'Daddy's Not Home,' the end is them both making fun of the way I say, 'No, you nev-ah do!'"
ShowList Austin Is Back
After a year without updates, local concert listing website ShowList Austin is back up and running. Mohawk GM Tyson Swindell and sound engineer/web developer Reggie O'Farrell team up to run the site, with founder Dan Machold still on as a silent partner. The free relaunch party lands this Sunday at Mohawk with Otis the Destroyer, Western Civilization, and Booher.
Swindell says there aren't many changes to the concert hub, preferred by fans as a bare-bones list of local music happenings.
"We went out of our way to re-create the experience," admits Swindell. "People loved it, and when it went away, no one was filling that gap."
Following the demise of underground print/online resource Texas Show List, distributed through Sound Exchange record store, Machold launched ShowList Austin over 15 years ago. The new website, programmed by O'Farrell, automatically pulls show info from select local venues, hopefully minimizing the workload that eventually took Machold off the job. Promoters can also submit their own events at www.showlistaustin.com.