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.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Live music review: Utopiafest VII doubled down on Leftover Salmon and won

Leftover Salmon - acoustic set at Utopiafest
Curating a music festival can be challenging. Festival organizers have their wish list of acts, a list of available bands and in the case of Utopiafest, a modest budget compared to Austin City Limits Festival or even the mid-sized Fun Fun Fun Fest to work with. The event is a limited attendance music festival held at a 1000 acre private ranch about 90 minutes southwest of San Antonio. Festival founder Travis Sutherland and his partner Aaron Brown doubled down on... Continue reading

Monday, August 24, 2015

Live music review: Appropriately our final Red 7 show was Death and they rocked

Once obscure punk pioneers Death came through Austin last Thursday, playing one of the last Red 7 shows before the venue shutters permanently on August 28. While the name of the band fit the venue's situation to a T, Death actually play an upbeat, rocking show bolstered by guitarist Bobbie Duncan, a session player from New York who joined the group when they reformed in 2009. The rest of the group, Bobby and Dannis Hackney survived founding member, David who ...Continue reading

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Live music review: Incubus and Deftones packed Austin360 Amphitheater Monday

If you thought legacy tours were a fading trend, guess again. Case in point, TheIncubus/Deftones/DFA 1979 performance at Austin360 Amphitheater on Monday sold-out well in advance of the date. The alternative rock bands from Southern California who were both popular in the early 2000s have different aesthetics and backgrounds. They also draw different crowds. The heavier, more metal Deftones led by Chino Moreno attracted a sizeable Latino contingent while the Calabasas (West LA suburb) bred Incubus' core fan appeared to be white, anglo-thirtysomethings reliving their college days. Thus the co-headliners played... Continue reading

Live music review: Intense Canadians Metz destroyed Red 7

Last May during LEVITATION aka Austin Psych Fest we got the chance to chat briefly with Hayden Menzies of Metz. The drummer was excited about being in Austin again to perform. The noise-punks from Toronto have been to Austin three times this year including their intense, captivating set at Red 7 last Saturday. It was one of the final shows for the venue that will close its doors on August 28.

Shortly after arriving at the venue we bumped into ...Continue reading

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Live music review: Snow Tha Product Brought Woke Nation to The Parish

If you are one of my seven subscribers then you know hip-hop shows are something I rarely review. The sad fact is most rap shows are not compelling to the audience (for various reasons) and therefore a challenge to cover. Atlantic Records' Snow Tha Product proved to be an exception to that notion akin to previously mentioned acts, Devin the Dude, Jurassic Five and Wu-Tang Clan. I know that is heady company for a relative unknown but this artist has worked with notables Tech N9ne, Too Short and Lupe Fiasco. The latter cut short his Fun Fun Fun Fest set (when his mic failed) before I could see enough to give him a real review. 

On Friday last week at The Parish, Snow and Audio Push  entertained over 200 fans on her Rest Comes Later tour. A good portion of those fans made their way over to her "WOKE" merch table after the set. WOKE is Snow's brand. Her fans are called Woke Nation and they grab anything the rapper from California (now Texas) puts the logo on. 

Though the Mexican-American rapper born Claudia Feliciano has stunning good looks, it is her chop style of delivering verses and a rough and tumble aesthetic that she uses to propel her career. She refuses to exploit her own sexuality. Not only does Snow challenge the notion of what a Latina artist is, but she brings an awareness of the glass ceiling every woman faces with her. 

“There are two sides to me. I want to go hard with tracks like “Holy Shit,” but there are female subjects that I want to talk about too,” Snow says. “The only thing I’m not rapping about is sex. There are plenty of other rappers to do that.”

Before she began her set, Snow let the crowd at The Parish know her voice was failing from the rigors of the tour. So she went as hard as she could for as long as she could with her hype man, dancer and DJ behind her. She lead the audience in sing-a-longs, crowd surfed, got her dancer to crowd surf and fast rapped her way through a roughly 45 minute set before her voice gave out and she laid down her microphone. 

The subject matter in her songs is real but not with the pseudo-gangsta attitude so many hip-hop artists employ. Her message feels real because it IS real. The tracks have an edge to them. Snow flows in both English and Spanish, staying true to her roots while exploring themes Latinas (and others) can relate to. Atlantic likes to compare her to Lauren Hill but I think she has more in common with Frida Khalo with her self-deprecating demeanor and sharp wit. 

Check the track below. I think you might like it. 

Special thanks to Kim Sorin

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Live music review: Touchpants jams and lowbrow gags with Phish drummer Fishman

When we learned drummer Jon Fishman (Phish) scheduled his musical comedy side project,Touchpants Monday night at The Parish before his "other band" was slated to play the Austin360 Amphitheater Tuesday, we hardly knew what to expect. Was this going to be a revelation like Tenacious D or akin to Macaulay Caulkin's ill-advised Pizza Underground? The answer was both. Lowbrow, often offensive shock humor was tempered by what amounted to a killer jam act anchored by Fishman's clock-like precision timekeeping. Colby Dix handled lead guitar (and some vocal) duties while his comedy partner Chris Friday delivered... Continue reading

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Live music review: Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson revisit 90s at ACL Live

It seems as though everything 90s is cool again. Electronic music, flannel, Dave Grohl and a legacy act tour featuring two of the most popular bands of the era,Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson. Musically the groups have little in common apart from topping the Billboard charts around the same time. Both acts chose stage designs true to their personas. Shock rocker, Manson went with an uninspired but theatrical production while the Pumpkins' Billy Corganopted for a simple stage design choosing to allow his music to be the centerpiece of the performance at ACL Live on Sunday evening.

Manson opened his set with... continue reading

Monday, July 13, 2015

Live music preview: The inimitable Buddy Guy returns to ACL Live Friday

Photo: Matt Roberts / Getty Images

Blues guitar legend Buddy Guy returns to ACL Live this Friday, July 17 for his only Texas stop on the current leg of his tour in support of "Born to Play Guitar" which drops July 31. The new material has some Texas connections with collaborations from Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds) and Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top). The album will be released on Silvertone/RCA Records. The record follows Guy's most successful release in recent years, 2013's "Rhythm and Blues" that reached number one on the Billboard Blues Album Chart.

Guy's shows are... Continue reading

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Interview: Sweet Spirit on local music industry woes, touring with Spoon

Examiner caught up with Sabrina Ellis the front woman for Austin buzz band Sweet Spirit over the holiday weekend. Ellis answered a few questions about touring with Spoon, new material the group is releasing and she had lot to say about the challenges facing the local music scene. Ellis is dynamic on stage and an intelligent, funny young woman when she is not rocking fans' socks off.
If you are not familiar with the band, you may have heard about their previous incarnation, Bobby Jealousy or their garage-punk project, A Giant Dog. Perhaps you heard about this fantastic live band opening for Spoon on a recent tour? Or maybe this is the first you have heard of one of Austin's best... Continue reading

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Live music review: Dawes returned to Austin bigger and better

Photo: Tammy Perez

When Dawes front man Taylor Goldsmith addressed the audience at Stubb's BBQ last Thursday, he recalled the band's first visit to Austin in 2009 when they opened for Delta Spirit. Later in the set it was with genuine awe he informed the nearly sold-out venue this was their biggest audience ever in Austin. The observation could just as well be that of the arc of growth Dawes has earned. Their new album, "All Your Favorite Bands" is number one on the Billboard folk chart and working its way up the Billboard 200 (currently 37) less than three weeks after the record dropped. This will be their best-selling work at this rate.

The band arrived with a talented new member since their last stop in Austin... Continue reading

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Live music review: Musical genius Brian Wilson and friends graced Bass Hall

Photo: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

It is difficult to know what to expect when Brian Wilson comes to town. The Beach Boys founder has been waging a long and public battle with mental illness while producing a body of work any musician would envy. If he is crazy, he's a crazy genius, a savant of sorts. Touring in support of his new album, No Pier Pressure Wilson was joined on this tour by fellow Beach Boys alums, Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin.

Tuesday's performance was moved from the cavernous Erwin Center to the more appropriate Bass Hall on the University of Texas campus and featured no less than 11 band members including... Continue reading at Examiner.com