The Austin Chronicle

Faster Than Sound: Austin Industry Bands Together for March Music Week

Why Austin venues and musicians need you to turn out the next 10 days, and where to do it

By Rachel Rascoe, March 13, 2020, Music

In the wake of the city of Austin's cancellation of South by Southwest at 4pm last Friday, local venues scrambled to salvage both day and night shows amid widespread pullout from bands and sponsors. To ensure as much rescheduling as possible, Red River Cultural District business owners quickly established an online fundraising effort called Banding Together ATX.

"It's more than just writing checks," explains Empire Control Room partner Stephen Sternschein, who launched the effort under production wing Heard Presents. "It's coming together to ward off as much of the damage as possible. The number one priority is to have fans come out, so we need the least amount of subsidies later on."

The coalition will coordinate updated bookings for the week under the tagline "We Can Do Magic," including preservation of headliners like Wire, Questlove, Power Trip, the Spits, and White Denim.

Sternschein says the fundraiser's goal of $100,000 can help cover production expenses like hand-washing stations, as well as housing and payouts for artists. While the RRCD team oversees distribution of the funds, the effort supports participating venues throughout the city. The group hopes to begin divvying funds during the festival week.

The GoFundMe sits alongside various other fundraisers for industries impacted by the cancellation, including the Mayor Steve Adler-backed Stand With Austin Fund. Business owners suspect that effort may take longer to distribute through nonprofits. Alongside fundraising, Music Venue Alliance Austin Executive Director Rebecca Reynolds plans to pursue federal and local disaster relief resources.

"Everybody is doing their own triage," says Reynolds. "I feel fairly confident that, once we gather all the data, we will be able to find enough disaster relief funding to help significantly."

Last Saturday at Empire Control Room, where venue owners met to coordinate their push forward, Drew Dunavan, COO of the Werd Company, distributed a memo reminding that local music production businesses should be included in any such relief efforts. His business typically helps put on multiple SXSW events daily for major clients like Red Bull and Yeti.

Dunavan calls their losses "monstrous" and doesn't expect most insurance to cover Austin's declaration of a "local state of disaster."

"We don't live and die by SXSW, but the way it went down all at once makes for potentially catastrophic loss," he furthers. "As we see everyone banding together, the gap is getting filled, which is exciting. Instead of planning SXSW in months, we're planning it in days."

There's a lot at stake. Cheer Up Charlies co-owners Maggie Lea and Tamara Hoover rely on SXSW earnings to help cover venue expenses far into the fall months. They say making up just 30% of typical festival-related profits would be a "huge victory," although they've already missed out on a week of SXSW Film events with major clients.

"We hope people who have written off SXSW [still] come out this year – maybe because it sounds more like the smaller, local festival they're looking to attend," explains Lea. "That support would be a lifesaver for us."

Adds Hoover: "It's more important than ever that people come out and see shows this next week."

Ten Standout Events for Your Non-Festival Festival

Despite the obvious no-go's, Austin music continues pushing through with festival-ish events of the revised, still-going, and totally-brand-new varieties. Find an up-to-the-minute tally at If you have a show we should know about, email the date, time, location, and band names to

Dankfest 4

Fri. 13, Cheer Up Charlies, 5pm

Fifteen of-the-moment Texans align for free. Catch L.A./Austin act Mamalarky's high-energy fuzz on Fire Talk Records, alongside sprightly punk from locals Capture Phase and Denton trio Thin Skin. Softer pop stylings come courtesy of Sasha & the Valentines and Van Mary.

Music Tech Mashup

Fri. 13 – Mon. 16,Empire Control Room & Garage

This four-day convergence, free with RSVP, reins in Questlove on Saturday. Outside, the Grammy-winning Roots drummer aligns with ecstatic local fusionists Trouble in The Streets indoors, plus music programming aplenty.

Tropic of Texas

Sat. 14, Kinda Tropical, 1pm

New West Records select Robert Ellis follows smooth-sailing Americana favorite Texas Piano Man, joined by Austin retro-pop brother duo the Lagoons. Six total acts, including Rattlesnake Milk, Jordan Moser, and a crawfish boil, complete the vibe.

Soundcheck Saturday

Sat. 14, Hotel Vegas, 2pm

Devoted local funk rockers White Denim dive headfirst into a busy week, capping a night of Austin made-for-the-stage dynamos including Calliope Musicals, Annabelle Chairlegs, Sailor Poon, and TC Superstar.

Austin Town Hall vs. Side One Track One

Sun. 15, Hotel Vegas, 1pm

The excellent annual starter-pack of local sounds boasts star power MC duo Blackillac, one-man pop machine Mobley, Sun June's pop tranquility, and Blxpltn's punk fireworks. A whopping 30-artist lineup also promises Como Las Movies, PR Newman, and A. Sinclair.

South By Cypher

Sun. 15, Parish, 4pm

Look no further for a list of Austin's pertinent hip-hop talent in Magna Carda, Harry Edohoukwa, Kydd Jones, the Teeta, Deezie Brown, Mike Melinoe, J Soulja, GhostBoy Jay$ee, Vace, and more. Tickets are $5.

Sacred Sinners Ft. Glowed Up Ball

Mon. 16, Coconut Club, 8pm

Previously slated as SXSW's first-ever vogue ball, DJs and live performers alike match up under the curation of local underground elevator Unbounded Agency.

Skylab 2020

Thu. 19, Scholz Garten, 11am

Local label Spaceflight Records and creative complex Mosaic Sound Collective blaze forward with a nonstop, totally free array of local headliners. Behold the Black Angels, the Sword, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Brownout, Holy Wave, Residual Kid, Think No Think, Peelander-Z, and many more.

Fiesta Destructo

Fri. 20, Barracuda, 1pm

Reigning Dallas thrashers Power Trip posted on Instagram that this gig is free and "111% DEFINITELY STILL HAPPENING." Their wingman bands include Pissed Jeans, the Spits, Dwarves, Starving Wolves, etc.

The Austin Chronicle’s Hair of the 3-Legged Dog Day Party

Fri. 20, Hotel Vegas, 1pm

The Chronicle's annual combo of free Tacodeli tacos and hand-picked local music – named for our tripedal canine mascot, Hank – lives on in its seventh year. Prepare for the interstellar stylings of local trio Dallas Acid, offering their only live appearance of the week. Prior, Go Fever pack salty-sweet rock earworms, while Being Dead bring spunky punk sing-alongs. Mike Melinoe begins with bold, eccentric hip-hop stylings off last year's Clajidu. Free with RSVP at, and follow @chronevents on Instagram for a chance to win a T-shirt, beer cozy, bandanna, and more!

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