Mark's thoughs on the Austin music scene

So what really is the Austin music scene?

Well, for one thing, there is no such thing as one single "scene". There are thousands of musicians in hundreds of bands. There are both surprising connections (musicians who know each other that you would not expect) and suprising missing connections (musicians who you would automatically assume know each other, who actually don't). Oftentimes in the latter case you get the "yes, I've heard his name, but ..." kind of response. On the other hand, when you talk to someone about someone else who does not exactly fit their style of music, you can get "oh yes, he did sound for us on our last concert."

You have the factor, as well, that musician's aren't necessarily immune from cover charges (this depends on the club, the owner, the door person, the price of tea in China ...) and as such have their own budgetary concerns that can prevent them from hearing their peers perform live.

Even further, a few musicians (by my guess, a minority) view their music as something that they have to work at -- to the point that they don't interact with other performers, preferring to concentrate on their own work.

However, most musicians here seem to enjoy hearing each other play, trading songs, working in unexpected combinations, and so on. This can lead to a cross-pollination that is unusual in even large cities with an active music scene. I've been told that in some cities the "folkies" don't hang out with the jazz players who don't hand out with the hard-rock players, and so forth; but by and large this attitude seems to be rare in Austin.

This doesn't necessarily mean that you will see your favorite local singer-songwriter at this week's Voltage gig -- but, on the other hand, you might be surprised.

Slightly different topic: there is, however, what you might consider a "core" group of musicians here. Generally, I'd include in this list some of the long-time residents who wind up doing a lot of studio work; because of the latter, they are generally pretty well known to each other. However, they may or may not be recognized names to anyone outside that community, because some (bassist Sarah Brown, drummer Speedy Sparks, and so forth) do not lead their own groups full-time.

Also consider the fact that the average lifetime of a group of teens or 20-somethings that get together to play, can be much shorter than e.g. a group of pros who have been on the scene for many years. Further, the "performing songwriters" (no one wants to be known as a "singer-songwriter" anymore, for reasons that mainly involve Gilbert O'Sullivan) generally perform under their own names, and so even if the backup musicians are a changing cast, it doesn't mean as much in terms of name recognition.

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Last updated Wed Jul 25 21:37:01 GMT 2001 .