Always There to Help: Mark Jensen, 1968-2021
ABGB co-founder was committed to community and generous to musicians
Shock waves of grief gave way to an outpouring of love in the days following Mark Jensen's sudden passing. The ABGB co-founder, known as a spirited supporter of Austin musicians and a positive-minded community advocate, died of unknown causes last week at age 53, leaving a legacy of generosity.
"I don't know anyone who has done more for the community," said Paul Minor, who books the popular South Austin brewery and venue, which Jensen unceremoniously parted ways with in 2019. "The ABGB's reputation for taking care of musicians is all due to his vision."
Indeed, from when the ABGB opened in 2013, performing artists received unusually warm welcomes. Backstage, amongst the brewery vats, there'd be pizzas and pitchers with each band's name on it. While they played, Jensen – in his thick-rimmed glasses, trucker hat, and jean shorts – would be in front of the stage, cheering them on.
When you were around Mark Jensen, you always knew you were in the presence of someone who gave a shit.
In a statement to the Chronicle, the business' owners called Jensen "the driving force behind our support for musicians and the community" and noted that, during ABGB's creation, he passionately lobbied to construct the largest bandstand possible.
In a widely resonating social media post, Austin label Nine Mile Records lauded the goodness Jensen showed bands.
"Mark's recipe was simple: instead of treating musicians as a resource to be exploited, he approached them as he did his other passionate causes ... as unique Austin resources to be nurtured. His immense generosity toward every single musician who played that stage was well known around town, and a gig at ABGB meant, not only generous hospitality and a fair payday, but something much more precious: respect."
The University of Texas alum, who went on to do ad copy and creative direction in New York for two decades before returning to Austin in the 2010s, was equally enthusiastic about community advocacy. A tireless volunteer for Austin's favorite swimming hole, he sat on the board for the Friends of Barton Springs Pool, handled their social media operations, and showed up every first Thursday to scrub the pool's bottom with a brush broom. Through the brewery, he brought pizzas to children in transitional housing with Foundation Communities and held fundraiser after fundraiser benefiting local initiatives like Austin Pets Alive!, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, SIMS Foundation, and music exporter Project ATX6 – which, according to founder Chris Brecht, would not exist without Jensen's guidance.
"He had a level of compassion that I don't think I'll ever see matched," said Millie Clark, who worked closely with Jensen on events at ABGB. "When people came to him with a need, he'd say yes even if we didn't have the bandwidth because he would do anything to help anybody.
"Honestly, he exhausted me."
A joyous human with eyes that saw the best in you, Jensen emanated contagious zeal toward life. His penchant for silliness peaked each Christmas with his ludicrously goofy hype role as Randy the Elf in Wild Bill's Honky Tonk Holidaze musical. A candidate for Father of the Century, he helped his 7-year-old twin sons, Waylon and Wyatt aka the Robot Farts, put out a recent collaboration with the Ghost Wolves called "Poop on the Virus." Mark's wife, Maria Mack Jensen, says on behalf of her sons, "The Robot Farts will live on!"
A GoFundMe benefiting the Jensen family had raised over $32,000 at press time and is ongoing.
"The outpouring of love and support has left us speechless and I just love that his legacy is exactly what he would want to be remembered for," Maria Mack Jensen told the Chronicle. "The family is obviously hurting and missing Mark terribly, but we're so grateful and thankful for the community that Mark built because now they are holding us up."