Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Why You Should Care About Austin Venue Closings: Real Issues Facing the Local Music Scene


Photo: Tyson Zoltan Heder
This post originated on Facebook September 28, 2015. As the year comes to a close I thought it appropriate to share again via this blog in hopes that Austin residents gain a clearer picture of the challenges facing the local music industry and the City of Austin as we head into 2016. Will this be the year Austin residents, local government and local business owners align their vision for the "Live Music Capital" or will we continue to claim that title despite the current disconnect? I certainly hope it is the former. The people who work tirelessly to make the music industry in Austin function as well as it does deserve it. Go see a local show. 

Yesterday was the last day for music venue, Holy Mountain and tireless partner/general manager James Taylor there are a few thoughts I would like to share regarding the closing and what it means to the Austin music scene:

1. Venues come and go (they have since I arrived here over 15 years ago). The real loss this week is an Austin small venue operator, music industry proponent and musician who helped grow the Red River scene, supported young acts and worked behind the scenes to further the cause of all small venue operators. The fact that we're losing James to Minneapolis hurts a lot more than losing the venue he made successful. It will be difficult to replace him.

2. The significance of Holy Mountain, Red 7 and now possibly Hole in the Wall closing is not that venues closing is intrinsically bad for the live music ecosystem in Austin, rather it is the message it sends to prospective small venue owners that investing in such ventures may be too risky to consider (with fast-rising real estate values), the fact that a long-term lease is unlikely because of those rising values and costly obstacles to overcome (like a complicated city permitting system).

3. Holy Mountain's closing also highlights another issue many of us aren't talking about much: The fact that the majority of Austinites seem to prefer supporting out-of-town bands over their musician neighbors who ostensibly make Austin "The Live Music Capital." Venues like ACL Live regularly sell-out shows like last week's Death Cab for Cutie two-night run at around $50 a ticket. Fans are less likely to see a talented band like Sweet Spirit for $5 at a tiny club. If nothing else, the intimacy of a show like that makes going to a local show a somewhat more appealing than a venue that holds 2800 fans. It's time we start taking OWNERSHIP of the city's unofficial logo and spend a lousy $5 (or $10) to make sure our scene lives up to it's moniker.

4. Change is the constant we can count on both in the music scene and in our everyday lives. Make a change for yourself by deciding TODAY you want to be a part of Austin's music scene by supporting local clubs like the newly opened Sidewinder and whatever they're going to call the new venue at the old Red 7 space. Or just plan to regularly hit your favorite venue and buy locally produced records. Get involved with organizations that support local artists like Austin Music PeopleMosaic Sound CollectiveHealth Alliance for Austin Musicians - HAAM and The SIMS Foundation or simply donate funds to a similar group annually.

5. Understand that talented musicians who chose to make Austin their home will stay if as a community we do what is necessary to give them the opportunity for the same quality of life as their predecessors. It is not a given that folks will stay here struggling to make ends meet if they see little indication of improved work opportunities and/or a healthy music scene. For a long time Austin was attractive to artists because the city was affordable to live in. Now with high rents and increasing property values, the community needs to give artists a reason to stay and pursue their goals (some of those are listed in #4 above).

Monday, December 21, 2015

Live music review: Galactic brought NOLA funk, The Suffers added H-Town soul



Friday evening at Emo's was billed a headliner show for New Orleans-based Galactic but ended up a fantastic double-bill with H-town buzz-act The Suffers opening the show. A large portion of the audience came for Galactic but those in know arrived early to catch the soulful Kam Franklin and the nine piece, self-styled Gulf Coast soul players lay a heavy dose of emotion on fans. The soul didn't stop with The Suffers as Galactic guest vocalist Erica Falls belted out lyrics with ferocity. The feel-good vibes were flowing.
Beyond being New Orleans' best known jam band, Galactic features... Continue reading

Friday, November 27, 2015

Live music review: Heartless Bastards returned to ACL TV for debut at Moody



One aspect of television's Austin City Limits (ACL TV) Texas music fans can appreciate is the show stays true to its roots by showcasing local talent on a regular basis. Considering the venerable live music program has the option to book internationally acclaimed acts Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and recent Grammy winner Beck, it is reassuring to see producers persist in sharing the best Texas acts with the rest of the world. Monday evening's taping with Austin-based Heartless Bastards (HB) continued the tradition with their second appearance on the show, their debut at ACL Live at the Moody Theater.
The quartet is now a... Continue reading

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Live music review: BADBADNOTGOOD packed Yellow Stage to close Fun Fun Fun Fest



If you're a frequent Examiner reader, you may have asked yourself why the hell we included an instrumental jazz band among our top picks at this year's Fun Fun Fun Fest(FFF Fest) last week. We had good reason. Toronto trio BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) performed as a quartet Sunday for most of their headlining set with frequent collaborator, saxophonist Leland Whitty. Simply put, their music is sublime. There is no other touring act that sounds like these guys. Where else can fans hear a band that takes classic and contemporary hip-hop tunes and turns them into... Continue reading

Monday, November 2, 2015

Live music preview: 5 must see buzz acts at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015



With eight short days left on the calendar until Fun Fun Fun Fest (FFF Fest) takes overAuditorium Shores in Austin we're overdue to share our top five picks from the excellent lineup this year. Since most of us are familiar with the headliners: Chvrches, Wu-Tang Clan, NOFX, Odesza and Lauryn Hill we're sticking to buzz acts in our list. After all, Fun Fun Fun Fest curates a lineup that is made for discovering bands.

Speaking of Hill, her addition to the line-up in place of D'Angelo and the Vanguard who first cancelled his ACL TV appearance last week then cancelled his ....Continue reading

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Live music review: Sir Elton John played hits at F1 US Grand Prix Sunday

Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro
If you have never seen British pop star Elton John perform, naturally you want to see the gifted songwriter play his many hits. John recognized the F1 US Grand Prix fans at his show last night at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) were largely race fans not necessarily concertgoers. Thus he decided to play a greatest hits setlist. The diminutive piano player ran through 21 songs in two hours while dressed in a glittery black coat emblazoned with Rocket Man across his back. Backed by longtime collaborators, John and his band jammed, played sing-alongs and made fans forget about the soggy, muddy conditions that plagued COTA all weekend.

Performing on the temporary Super Stage between turns 11 and 12, the "Rocket Man" kicked off the show with appropriately titled... Continue reading

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Live music preview: 9 recommended acts at ACL Festival 2015 weekend two



The second weekend of Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL Festival) is upon us at Zilker Park beginning tomorrow at noon. For once, it looks like there will be no rain this year (fingers crossed). Here's to hoping that prediction rings true on Monday morning. You are likely asking yourself (if you're a regular reader of this column) why read a weekend two preview when most of the lineup is similar to opening weekend? The answer is simple. We now have the benefit of hindsight. We can look both back to last week and forwards to this weekend's slate of music and intelligently choose our weekend two lineup. It sounds scientific when we say it like that doesn't it?

The truth is there is... Continue reading

Monday, September 28, 2015

Live music preview: 12 bands you should see at ACL Festival 2015 part II




With this second-half installment of our Austin City Limits Music Festival 2015 (ACL Fest) recommendations the emphasis is on the middle-tier acts booked. To our sensibility that is where the gold is found. A good example is TV on the Radio who played an exceptional Lollapalooza set last month. The group was booked on a second-tier stage at sundown. Their performance was spellbinding. They may not get the attention of acts like the Foo Fighters but they get plenty of respect from musicians and hard core music fans. The bulk of our recommendations reflect that sentiment.

The lone exception to our list might be... Continue reading

Monday, September 21, 2015

Live music preview: 12 bands you should see at ACL Festival 2015 part I




We are 13 days from the 14th Austin City Limits Music Festival which means it is time to take a look at the weekend one schedule and plot your attack. The festival is top loaded with talent on Friday which means you are going to have to make some choices on which acts to catch. The bright side is Friday tends to be the least crowded of the three-day event making stage hopping a possibility for those ambitious enough.
We put together a list of a dozen recommended bands. The bands run the gamut genre-wise. There is soul, hip-hop, psych-rock, folk, Americana and punk represented and that's only half of our picks. With the festival safely tucked away in October, chances are high festival goers will encounter ideal fall conditions. According to the National Weather Service the long-range forecast calls for... Continue reading

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Professional Boxing: Kenton Sippio-Cook first Austin brawler in 10 years to get title fight Friday


Kenton Sippio-Cook (right) of Austin, Texas

It has been over ten years since an Austin-based boxer had an opportunity to become a title-holder but that is exactly what is happening this Friday when Kenton Sippio-Cook takes on undefeated Khiary Gray for the vacated UBF Northeast Light-Middleweight title in Lincoln, Rhode Island. There has not been an Austin title-holder in professional boxing since lightweight, Jesus Chavez won the IBF Lightweight World Championship in 2005. Friday's bout is a rare opportunity for a fighter from Austin to bring a championship belt home.

I asked Sippio-Cook what it means to be the first Austin boxer with a title fight since Chavez. Here's his reply:
"It means greatness is a possibility now... an option in my path. Though this is merely a start, I'm grateful to be able to have one. We have a job to do and I plan to do it well. A seek and destroy mission [is] at hand. This guy picked the wrong opponent..."
Kenton Sippio-Cook
On the surface it appears Gray's 8-0 record gives him an advantage over the 6-2 Sippio-Cook but looks can be deceiving. The majority of Gray's previous opponents held losing records while Sippio-Cook's fights have been against generally stronger opponents. Additionally, Gray has not gone past four rounds in any professional bout. The fighter from Austin has fought more rounds than Gray in several previous matches going the full eight rounds in one of his fights.

Sippio-Cook fired the first jab before the contest issuing a statement prior to a press conference held late last month in Gray's hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. While it may seem like a typical barb traded by boxers before a big fight, Sippio-Cook appears ernest in his belief that Gray's people have not done their homework in selecting an opponent for this fight:
“Somebody in Khiary’s team either got lazy with their work in finding an opponent or really just doesn’t care about Khiary. It’s as simple as that.”
 Gray responded:
“On Sept. 18, he’s going to feel everything,” Gray told the cheering crowd. “He’s going to see me box, he’s going to see me punch, he’s not going to be able to touch me on Sept. 18. The title is coming back to Worcester, and that’s it.”
While Sippio-Cook has lost his last two bouts on judges' decisions, he is more experienced at longer fights against stronger fighters. Gray does not have the equivalent of professional experience and is largely untested. It stands to reason Sippio-Cook is hungrier, looking to avenge his two losses (one was a questionable decision) while taking advantage of the opportunity to win a title in front of his opponent's fans in the Northeast. If he does take the title it will be that much sweeter knowing he did it in hostile territory.

Sippio-Cook is managed by Austin amateur boxer and legacy tattoo artist, Keith Underwood. Originally from Chicago, Underwood relocated to Austin after marrying Texas native, Kindel Lee Underwood several years ago. Underwood has owned the highly regarded Austin Tattoo Company since 2009.

While the fight is being broadcast locally in the Rhode Island area, it is not clear a live stream will be available Friday night for Texas fans. Follow promoter, CES Boxing on Twitter for live updates and results on fight night. Fans can follow Sippio-Cook on Twitter and Facebook.

Want to see this fighter in the ring? Check out this slick Sippio-Cook promo video:

  Kenton Sippio-Cook: All Work Is Easy Work from Illest Flight on Vimeo.