The Margaret Moser Award: Behind-the-Scenes Concert Wiz Rosa Madriz

The talent buyer and Margaret Moser Award winner discusses her career shift and influential decades in Austin music

Rosa Madriz outside her longtime place of work, the Mohawk (Photo by Jana Birchum)

From Fun Fun Fun Fest to Mohawk, Rosa Madriz has been a show-making Swiss Army knife on the ground floor of so many Austin institutions. As the longtime director of talent buying with leading local agency Resound Presents, as well as with prior iterations Margin Walker Presents and Transmission Events, she’s booked gigs across Central Texas for two decades. After earning her master’s in mental health counseling last year, the Baytown, Texas, native shifts to a career in therapy – while maintaining a part-time role running behind-the-scenes operations at Resound.

Madriz will be celebrated with the Margaret Moser Award, which honors outstanding women in the Austin music community, at the Austin Music Awards on Feb. 25. On her years of spreadsheets, hospitality runs, and hanging around Mohawk to pay out bands, 43-year-old Madriz says: “I was gonna be here anyway. All my friends were there. It wasn’t just a job, it was my identity.”

Austin Chronicle: What brought you to Austin?

Rosa Madriz: I applied to only one school, UT. Because I was super shy, my sister suggested I start working at KVRX. She was like, “listen to these bands,” like Stereolab. When I started there, I had the worst taste. Growing up in the mid-Nineties was not a good time for music. I started volunteering for things that didn’t really make me interact with too many people, like making the PSA announcements and helping with Local Live. Then I was like, “Why don’t I run for station manager and become a DJ?” That really got me around people, going to shows, and ended up with me helping friends book shows and starting a small company, [Green Potato Ventures].

AC: You’ve long worked with [Resound CEO] Graham Williams, who came out of punk and hardcore. What scene were you coming from?

RM: I was coming from what I would call a “pretty pop” kind of thing, not very punk at all. But I had a good handle on the local scene when I think it was at its best, right when Red River was really forming to what it is now, around 2002. Beerland was very kind to me, and I was lucky enough to get to book at Emo’s too. When Mohawk opened in 2006, I happened to meet [club owner James] Moody. It was like, 'You should book here.’ Graham [Williams] had experience getting national bands. It just really worked well – with my knowledge of the current local scene, and [Graham’s] willingness to teach me how to book shows.

“I try to make sure that people know when to stop working. Like, slow down. You don’t need to do five things at once. It took me like 12 years to figure that out.”

AC: You were around for the beginning of so many things.

RM: When Mohawk first opened, it was under deep construction. A bulldozer would come in and actually dug up all the cement where the floor is outside during the day. Then at night, we would still have shows and just cover that up with plywood. Bands would come by like, 'I don’t think that the club is open.’ It was like, 'Guarantee you that at 7, when you load in, everything will be fine.’ One of the first bands that we did was the Decemberists. It was really cool – they came outside and played to this crowd of people with no amplified sound.

I’ve been lucky that I’ve really only had this one job for a long time. It was at the beginning of a really good time for music, I think, in Austin. Which is probably also a good reason for me to shift over. It’s not mine anymore.

AC: And you’ve always been on the logistics side?

RM: I love spreadsheets. When I started booking shows, I was hands-on from beginning to end. I sent the offer, went and bought their hospitality. I was there at the venue, and one of my favorite things was giving bands rides. I had a truck for a while, and they loved it. It’s like, 'You’re in Texas.’ I’ve picked up Ted Leo. I love Ted Leo. I drove around with Kool Keith. He’s nice, but weird. I may have picked up GZA. A lot of folks.

AC: What advice do you give to younger bookers you work with?

RM: Some of these folks are way younger than when I started, so, “Don’t do that to yourself. Don’t burn out before you’re even 27.” I did too much work, you know? I shouldn’t expect anyone to do that, because that’s not healthy, so I try to make sure that people know when to stop working. The work we’re doing isn’t life or death. Like, slow down. You don’t need to do five things at once. It took me like 12 years to figure that out.

AC: How long have you been working on a career change?

RM: I had decided, when I’m 40, I should figure out some other thing to do. The idea to go into therapy was [because] I see all these folks, in the industry that we work in, that have substance abuse problems. There’s a lot of suicide. I wanted to do something that was in a helping profession. I will now be working at a place called the Children’s Shelter in San Antonio, with kids in the foster system. If you start working with people when they’re young, the hope is that by the time they’re adults, they have all these coping skills.

It’s not related to music, but I hope that once I get my full license, I can [also] provide help to the music community through Backline or SIMS or something. Therapy’s expensive, but there are so many resources that people don’t use enough. Locally, the SIMS Foundation and Backline are for anyone in the music industry, or their family members.

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Rosa Madriz, Austin Music Awards, Resound Presents, Graham Williams, Austin Music Poll, Margaret Moser Award

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