Through her work as Executive Director for Austin Music People, Jennifer Houlihan is devoted to advocacy and fundraising for the Austin music industry. She keeps a finger on the pulse of the industry’s well-being and does her part to ensure its growth. “The music community is the cultural soul of Austin, an economic engine contributing more than $1.6 billion a year to the local economy.”
But Houlihan’s no Atlas and she can’t do it alone. So on April 21, 2013, Austin Music People (AMP) hosted its largest fundraiser of the year at the Moody Theater, home to Austin City Limits. The turn-out for AMP UnGala was high. Who can stay away from talent like Shakey Graves and Bright Light Social Hour, and well-known local industry staples like Margaret Moser (Austin Chronicle) and Laurie Gallardo (KUT)?
For a base entry price of $25, attendees experienced a phenomenal show that was worth far more, and they had the satisfaction of knowing they were supporting the sounds that make Austin home.
What You Missed at AMP UnGala
The night began with Charlie Belle on stage, a U18 group that made their national festival debut at ACL 2012.
KUT evening host Laurie Gallardo emceed the night, introducing musical guests and facilitating the awards ceremony. Leaving the on-stage star spotlighting to the Austin Music Awards, AMP UnGala recognized the unsung offstage heroes. Notably, The Beach Boy’s front of house manager, Mark Newman, received the award for Best Sound Engineer. Maggie Lea won Best Local Music Promoter, and Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer won the Unsung Music Award.
The Austin Chronicle’s Margaret Moser gave a touching tribute to her friend Brent Rulke (SXSW), who passed away last year. “He made Austin music what it was, and what it is today,” Moser concluded.
In another personal moment, “Esme’s Posse” – a troupe of school-aged children – awarded the Esme Barrera Award for Music Activism and Education to Joel LaViolette and the Rattletree School of Marimba.
For those not familiar, Esme was passionate about Austin music and music education, worked as a counselor at Girls Rock Camp Austin, and was painfully taken from everyone who loved her in early 2012. But her spirit lived on at the AMP UnGala, as she was remembered with a “moment of noise” (much more her speed than the traditional moment of silence). “We lost her too soon, but we continue to honor her,” said Laurie Gallardo from the Moody Theater stage.
And the music played on. Mother Falcon offered a stirring performance of orchestral rock, displaying the intense depth that classical training brings to the table. With 13 musicians on stage, Mother Falcon melded vocals, string, brass and percussion instruments with an energy that nearly brought me to tears. They’ll be going on the road this summer, and you shouldn’t hesitate to check them out if they journey your way.
Hot on the heels of Mother Falcon was Shakey Graves. The stage was far emptier and darker, but this one man show managed to engage the whole audience with quirky pauses and fast-paced guitar riffs. One foot on a kick drum and one foot on a tambourine, and armed with a respectable pair of lungs, Shakey Graves is another act you should see as soon as you get the chance.
Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards, Bright Light Social Hour and Alejandro Escovedo also played sets, and post-show entertainment was courtesy of hip hop artist Tee Double. “I was really pleased to see so many people getting into Austin hip-hop,” Houlihan told me. “We have an active scene here that not enough people know about.”
All in all, Jennifer Houlihan hosted a stellar event on behalf of Austin Music People, and we haven’t stopped talking about it ever since.
How You Can Get Involved
The big event may be over, but the team at Austin Music People works hard throughout the year to advocate for the Austin music industry, ensuring that musicians and their counterparts behind the scenes have opportunities to expand their work and earn a living doing what they love.
Your involvement can make a difference. Here are three ideas for you:
- Stay educated about Austin Music People and what they’re doing in the industry by subscribing to their newsletter.
- One-time donations are always appreciated, and membership gives you access to exclusive shows and events, ticket giveaways and more.
- Volunteer your time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was our first Austin Music People event, but it won’t be our last. It’s easy to attend local shows, buy CDs, and forget that there are business interests and government initiatives that don’t always favor the growth of the local music scene. AMP is a guardian that works to protect musicians and music venues when no one else is paying attention.
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