Although widely respected and regarded as the live music capital of the world, some Austinites are pushing to move the city in another direction. After a series of headline-making SXSW crimes spanning from a failed arson attempt at the Capital to the mass killing of 170 of the city’s black birds at a death metal concert that took place on Red River Street, Austinites seem to have finally had it.
City Council members presented a bill yesterday that will, if passed, slowly fade out the city’s focus on and support of live music, particularly in the downtown area.
Council member Arthur Miller, age 42, thinks the emphasis on live music in Austin has gone “too far” and is beginning to “deteriorate” the city from the inside out. “This has become madness,” he said yesterday afternoon when I was able to catch up with him briefly to discuss the bill. “I like live music, of course, but there’s a difference between supporting live music and encouraging widespread belligerence.”
The bill proposes that the city of Austin approach the live music in town, in general, with more scrutiny. “We don’t need 2,000 bands playing every year for SXSW,” Miller points out. “What’s wrong with, say, 100 bands? 100 really good bands who don’t start trouble, don’t punch club owners in the face, don’t pee in our streets, don’t vomit on legally parked cars? We propose that the bands invited to play in our city are subjected to a sort of background check. We’re no idiots, we know musicians drink alcohol, but if they think they can smoke pot in our streets or play cover songs without proper licensing, for instance, we want to show them that they have another think comin’.”Miller’s co-council member, Mary Ellen Lang, age 47, thinks Miller is, perhaps, too liberal on the subject of Austin vs. Live Music.
“Arthur means well, and I agree with him on a lot of points, but his efforts to compromise with these debauchery-inclined barbarians is idiotic”, says Lang. “I grew up in Austin. My parents and their parents grew up in Austin, too. There was a time when this town was a good old fashioned town that didn’t encourage blatant sin on every street corner. I wish it weren’t true, but this obsession with live music in Austin is hurting just about everything in Austin except for the economy. And yes, the city is booming financially in respect to profits from the music industry, but why should we focus on worldly success like this when all of these musicians are going straight to Hell and they’re taking the entire city of Austin with them?”
Other members of City Council disagree. Robert Williams, age 38, a long-time advocate of arts funding in Austin, says he suffered from “dangerously” high blood pressure yesterday afternoon during a doctor’s appointment that happened to follow the unveiling of this “anti-art” plan. “I kid you not, my doctor advised me to consider leaving politics over this,” said Williams, clearly enraged. “And I said to him, why should I leave politics? Maybe I should just leave this backwards town instead.” I pressed Williams for his thoughts on why the bill was created in the first place.
“Why was it created? It was created because a bunch of fun-hating jerks got elected into City Council and now we have to listen to their party-pooping opinions”.
Meanwhile on Congress Street, thousands of Austin residents began rallying at 10am to protest the bill.
“This is a joke, right?” asked Martha Steinberg, a harpist who recently moved to Austin from Brooklyn, New York to pursue her music career. “If I’d moved to Hollywood to become an actress three weeks before the City Council there announced they were proposing to do away with the movie business, that wouldn’t be any different than what they’re doing here. But that would never happen in California. Only in Texas. God. Why did I move to Texas?”
Marcia Garcia, a 63 year old resident from the Clarksville neighborhood of Austin, was spotted protesting the protesters at the Capital this morning, pumping a neon poster-board sign reading “Starving Musicians: Go Starve Elsewhere!”
“You know what? I don’t care if they are starving,” she shouted at me. “The only thing between these mindless self-absorbed drunks and a stable career is ego. As long as we continue encouraging these jobless diluted twenty-somethings to ‘make it’ here in Austin, we’re asking for all of the trouble we’re getting. It’s time we cut back funds for musicians. This is out of control,” said Garcia.
“Did you know that musicians in Austin receive health care benefits?” she asked me, wild-eyed. “They do! My son has a lucrative contract debris removal business. He wakes up every day at 6am to work and he is still uninsured. And yet the musicians in Austin sleep in until the afternoon and they are rewarded medical benefits! I mean, it’s like, why should they ever snap out of it and get a real job? They don’t have a reason to with our city giving them everything they need to slack off, even health care.”
Garcia’s comments didn’t go unnoticed and Belinda Rovinsky, a 55 year old mother of 3 twenty-somethings, all of whom play music in Austin, was clearly upset by Garcia.
“Lady, watch your mouth. You’re talking about my kids and I’ll be damned if they don’t deserve health benefits,” snapped Rovinsky, who was wearing a t-shirt for her eldest son’s band, Memorable Lines from Lost.
Without warning, Garcia dropped her sign to the ground and slapped Rovinsky across the face. A crowd of spectators gathered around the two women.
“You think the musicians here are belligerent? And you just go around hitting people?” exclaimed Rovinsky. “This is insane!”
Garcia was restrained by a few large men in the audience, members of the local Alternative/Country/Punk/Fusion band, Big Britches Unite!, until the police arrived and arrested the silver-haired conservative.
Arthur Miller, when informed of this scene at the Capital, had a few words to spare.
“Hey, look. Austin is a weird town. But what’s weird is that people like her [Rovinsky] endorse badness and are ok with their children participating in the kind of negative lifestyle prevalent among the musicians in Austin. They cover themselves in tattoos and piercings. Hardly any of the men shave–ever. The girls are on stage rolling around, actually rolling around, in skirts, showing everyone their underpants. Austin has a reputation for being weird, but it’s because other respectable Texan cities, like Dallas, view us as a brothel. This place is like one giant dive bar. Do you think I want my children growing up around this nonsense?” Miller asked.
As I began to answer Miller’s rhetorical question with a simple, “Of course not, sir,” we were interrupted by a throng of punk-rockers and their roller-derby girlfriends wearing t-shirts depicting Miller’s 13 year old son, Justin, playing air guitar.
“He wants to be just like us when he grows up!” one of the mohawked strangers, Johnny Blamethem, shouted. Blamethem owns an online Cafe Press store and later said that ripping the photo of Miller’s son off of his son’s public Facebook profile and making the shirts was “a cinch”.
And with that, Miller pushed through the crowd, walking at first, and then, eventually, running back to his car where onlookers reported he sat for the next 3 and a half hours, staring off into the distance at the “ethically decrepit” Austin skyline.
The city of Austin will host an open discussion with residents looking to engage in civil dispute regarding the bill on Monday evening at 7pm at the Annex on Trinity.