Tribeza Talk March 2017
An Insider’s Guide to Austin’s Hidden Gems
by Nicole Beckley
“This is a city of musicians that have that rebellious nature,” Chris Brecht says. Rather than chase fame, “they came here because they wanted to play live music, and I think that’s the virtue of Austin, Texas. Music is our innovation.”
For Brecht, live music is more than a passion — in 2014 he launched Project ATX6, what he terms a “festival roadshow.” Each year six diverse artists (from country to bluegrass to rock) are selected to represent the Austin music scene on tour across Europe and Canada, with the trip and performances documented on film. Brecht shoots and edits the footage, and the first six-part documentary, which includes Dana Falconberry and Aisha Burns, will soon be released on KLRU.
“We are filming the musicians that we think should be the next international acts, the next Willie Nelsons, the musicians that people can see and touch and feel around Austin,” Brecht says. See them while you can.
It wouldn’t be the Live Music Capital of the World without local musicians, and March 12 the city’s best and brightest will be honored at the 35th annual Austin Music Awards. The event, at ACL Live at the Moody Theater, honors winners from the Austin Chronicle music poll, including Best Band and Musician of the Year, Best Album and Song of the Year, and Best New Austin Band.
It’s A Mad, Mad World
“Mad Men” fans rejoice. The stylish Emmy Award-winning drama’s archive has arrived at the Harry Ransom Center, donated by series creator Matthew Weiner. The archive includes costumes and props, including Joan’s pen necklace and Betty’s medical file, as well as script drafts and call sheets. As the show mined 1960s history, it now gets historical preservation of its own.
Keep Austin Rockin
When it comes to sharing the gospel (or funk, soul, rock ‘n roll … ) of local music, nobody does it like Black Fret. Since its inception, the four-year-old organization has given half a million dollars in grants to support musicians. Black Fret patrons pledge a yearly fee and in return get access to 30 listening parties at unique venues and residences across the city. The 2017 grant nominees will be announced March 4. For musicians, Austin Music Foundation (AMF) is the go-to resource. AMF provides free educational programs for navigating the industry.
“The last album was kind of heavy, so we wanted more of a blues vibe for this one,” Joe Lewis explains. On “Backlash,” the fourth album from Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, the band embraces more soulful sounds without losing their characteristic high energy. Since forming in 2007, the band has received praise from the LA Times, appeared on “Austin City Limits,” and performed at Bonnaroo and Coachella, all the while staying true to their own sound. “I think that’s how you keep your edge, you gottastay unique,” Lewis says. Catch them at SXSW before they head on tour.
Words for Good
Creative inspiration can often come from unusual places, and for writer Deb Olin Unferth it came from a men’s prison. Before coming to UT Austin as an Associate Professor for the New Writers Project in 2014, Unferth taught creative writing to incarcerated individuals through Wesleyan University’s prison program. “It was really wonderful because I had kind of lost faith in the short story around that time; I was just feeling like nobody reads and nobody really cares, and they completely reignited my interest,” Unferth says. “Seeing it through their eyes, I wanted to start writing stories again, which was kind of how this story collection came about.”
Her new book, “Wait Till You See Me Dance,” includes 39 stories focused on individuals trying to help others. Unferth’s good work hasn’t stopped since coming to Texas. In November 2016 Unferth received American Short Fiction’s award for civic contributions for launching a creative writing program at Connally, a maximum security men’s prison.
Images courtesy of Project ATX 6, The Harry Ransom Center, Gray Wolf Press, Austin Music Foundation & Black Joe Lewis.