Local Music News

Behind Curtain No. 1"

What's cool about The Brewery is its homeyness. Soft lighting adds intimacy to the interior's dark oaken furniture and bar. Table conversation rarely rises above casual tones. And just like the stereophonic boom coming from your big brother's bedroom, the sounds of the live band in the adjacent room fill the building.

The only thing that separates The Brewery's performance stage from its general bar area is a curtain. And it's an expensive curtain at that. For a $6 cover charge you can enter through it and see whatever band's playing. For nothing you can stay in front of it and simply hear the band. The question is: Why should patrons pay $6 simply to see a band, when they can pay nothing and hear the music just as clearly?

"That's a good question, and I left there last week because I had problems with that place," says Chadd Thomas, who had booked acts at The Brewery since it started showcasing live music about four months ago and who brought marquee rockabilly stars such as Ronnie Dawson, Dale Watson and Wayne Hancock to town. "And [the curtain] was one of the things I had problems with."

Thomas says a typical performance night would bring in 30 or 40 people for a show, but only half would leave The Brewery's common area and its spacious bar to pay to go behind the curtain and actually see the band. "And it's easier to get a beer when you're at the bar, too."

An Austin musician who frequently plays The Brewery and wants his name withheld concurs: "We asked them to lower the cover, they said no. 'Cause that's the money they use to pay us our guarantee. We're guaranteed, like, $350, and say we bring in, like, $500, we'd still never even know if we were getting the rest of the door."

But wouldn't it make sense for The Brewery to charge less at the door? That way more fans would be likely to contribute, in turn generating more money?

The Brewery disagrees. Says bartender John Haws: "We don't have any real plans to change it now. It's just too hard. For big bands, we thought maybe we'd charge at the door. We tried to turn the volume down. Though it's not that loud at the bar, it is in the [performance] room. But we figured if you came to see a band, it's not good to sit at the bar. Most people I see who come in really want to see the band. We don't really have lots of people just sitting at the bar listening."

The whole setup is still confusing. But The Brewery isn't the only place in town screwing up its customers. The Ale House and Rudyard's also mix non-music-listening patrons with paying music-lovers. But at least these venues do it with some discretion. To really hear and enjoy the bands at The Ale House or Rudz, you have to travel upstairs to the second floor. Whereas at The Brewery, all the action is on the first. In any case, this trend of cordoning off sections of clubs for music is creating problems.

"I think a lot of bookers and clubs don't see the craftsmanship behind what we do," says the Austin-based musician. "They just see us as a means to an end, as a way to get more money in their pockets. That's all they really care about. They don't care about a fan base or developing bands. But I guess it's hard to blame them."

Live Webcasts from Austin

Kiss those Sixth Street blues good-bye. If you can't make it to Miguel's La Bodega in Austin this weekend for a show, then Miguel's will come to you. Over the Internet. WorldNet Box Office of Austin will be Webcasting live performances from 15 clubs around the Texas state capital. Starting this weekend, one can tune into ClubCastLive at www.clubcastlive.com or wnbo.com to hear both Austin-local, touring and, of course, Houston acts. And all the music is downloadable in MP3 format. HowŠ futuristic.

"If a band comes through Austin," says Steven Phenix, WNBO marketing director, "chances are they'll be on the site."

Who's most psyched about this is hard to say. On one hand, there are the club owners, who will be salivating at the free advertising. Says namesake owner Miguel Alvarez of La Bodega, a salsa club: "We're trying to figure out now how to use this to our best advantage. We're pretty excited. We don't know how it is in Houston, but we got live music galore here." On the other hand, there are the performers, especially the unsigned, who now have another way of getting their music "out there." Says former Houston resident Michael Rodriguez of the band Brew, which plays La Bodega every Thursday: "We came here from Houston, which used to be a boomtown, man, in about '81, and we've been here ever since. So this is just great. Publicity like that? Any kind is better than none -- except the bad stuff, you know. And as long as it sounds right, I love it."

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