Music Cities

Texas has its own brand of March Madness

What the city doesn't know, or realize yet, is that alcohol and tobacco sponsors are the bread and butter for smaller, not-yet-­underwritten festivals like NX35. Camel was supposed to have two "adult-sampling" tents set up during the four-day event, one at the fairgrounds and one near a "walkable" portion of the event near the Wells Fargo building on the square. Together the tents meant $10,000 in sponsorship money.

Then, to make matters worse, now that the possible number of attendees had been capped at 15,000, the NX35 crew started hearing the final estimates of what the city would have to charge to staff the event. Approximately $9,000 for police and another $9,000 for EMTs. The festival also needed a laundry list of special event permits.

Suddenly, everything had changed.

Allen Hill says that gigs like this one — on the sidewalk in front of Rue's Antiques on South Congress — are rare instances in which Austin lives up to its self-proclaimed title as Live Music Capital of the World.
Courtesy of Allen Hill Entertainment
Allen Hill says that gigs like this one — on the sidewalk in front of Rue's Antiques on South Congress — are rare instances in which Austin lives up to its self-proclaimed title as Live Music Capital of the World.

On Friday night, less than two weeks away from NX35, a handful of key volunteers met at the NX35 office. The cigarette-sampling tents were officially not going to happen. And, with down-payment deadlines for bands rapidly approaching, the loss of the Camel tent really was the straw that broke the camel's back. Every contingency plan was on the table — even canceling the show.

By Saturday, Flemmons was running out of time and out of options. By Sunday morning, he was on his way to Oklahoma.

Nothing was resolved during the Monday morning meeting with Booker, who was to call Flemmons as soon as some decision from the Lips' camp could be reached. But the programs were due at the printers that night, and, if they wanted to be sure to get them printed before the conferette was underway, then the programs needed to be sent out immediately.

There were two versions of the program — one that included the Lips show and one that didn't. They sent the printers the one including The Flaming Lips/Midlake show.

Finally, Tuesday afternoon Booker got back to Flemmons by phone. The last-minute road trip to Oklahoma had paid off.

"The show's on," Flemmons said later that day. "And this is a good day, because, well, it's the first time in almost a week that the stage, and the festival, have felt secure." He declined to go into the specifics of the conversation, or negotiations, but it doesn't take a veteran band manager or booking agent to figure out that The Flaming Lips agreed to take less money for playing NX35's free show.

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