In most of the country, the music business—whether it’s hosting festivals or preparing for big concert tours—does most of its action in the summer. In Texas, though, it’s really friggin’ hot in the summer, as visitors to June’s Free Press Summer Fest in Houston learned after flooding forced visitors to the less shaded NRG Park at the last minute. Hence why events like Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest and Austin City Limits and San Antonio’s Housecore Horror Festival are all slated to occur between October and December.
Joining them on the cooler-months festival circuit (which Dallas’ Index Music Festival still intends to occupy, albeit on the other side of the calendar in early 2016, after rescheduling its late September dates last month) is a new fest in Houston, from the same Free Press Houston group that’s quietly turned Summer Fest into one of the best festivals in the country.
The new festival, announced this week, is called Day For Night, and the details are still coming out. What we do know is that it’s going to bookend 2015, which is an ambitious timeline for a festival that was announced late in the year’s third quarter. Even more ambitious: The festival actually lands less than a week before Christmas, with the dates set for December 19 and 20. As the Free Press Houston website announces:
[I]t’s something that no one who attends will have ever seen or heard before. Pairing world class musicians with leaders in various disciplines of digital art, the festival will be focused on merging technology and sound, and how audiences experience them.
“Something that no one who attends will have ever seen or heard before” is certainly quite a declaration, and the 20,000 square foot event space at Silver Street Studios is going to be full of people approaching with big expectations for several reasons—not least of which is the fact that the tickets for the two-day event are already onsale at a base price of $135 (with VIP tickets going for $350) before a single artist has been announced.
That’s a lot for a blind pre-sale, and it’s unclear what kind of major acts will be on tour a few days before Christmas to headline the festival. Still, the Free Press Houston folks have earned a fair amount of goodwill based on Summer Fest’s year-to-year improvement, and booking winter festivals in Texas is an idea more promoters ought to consider. The lineup announcement is due later this month, and we’ll be rooting for Day For Night to blow our socks off.
A few hours west of Houston, music news is less rosy: Austin’s Hole in the Wall, the storied campus-area bar that played host to early performances from Lucinda Williams and Nanci Griffith, and the first-ever show by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, is the latest Austin music venue to come under threat of closure due to rent increases. As Austin 360 reported on Thursday:
“I don’t want to overly dramatize it, but it looks like it’s a different version of the same story: The landlord wants more rent,” Hole in the Wall owner Will Tanner said Thursday. “It’s going to end up shutting down a 41-year-old music venue.” […]
While he’d like to find a way to cover additional costs, Tanner says that Cencor “wouldn’t even tell me how much” the rent would be raised. “They wouldn’t really even talk to me for a whole year about it.”
Tanner said he became further concerned when a real estate acquaintance informed him three days after his meeting with Cencor that the building was being shopped to chain establishments. “It was really bad news to hear they’re pitching it to national tenants,” he said. “They’re actively looking to replace me and never even told me.”
Losing Hole In The Wall would be another serious blow to an Austin music community that’s been struggling with venue closures due to high rent (both Red 7 and Holy Mountain, two mainstays of the Red River District, are on the outs this fall). The idea that Hole In The Wall could be a Chipotle or something a few months from now is one that’s got Austinites rallying: A petition on Change.org is urging the city’s historical preservation officer to protect Hole In The Wall by declaring it a culturally significant landmark.
That’s a status enjoyed by a few other Austin music venues—notably the Victory Grill and the Continental Club—and it’d be hard to argue that a venue with a 40-year history isn’t a candidate. The petition, which launched Friday morning, is still in the low three-figures when it comes to signers, but we’d expect to see that number spike in the days to come.
Still, it’s not all bad news for historic music venues in Texas. Down I-35 in San Antonio, Lerma’s Nite Club, which has been a home for conjunto and tejano music since the 1950’s (it was even immortalized in the Selena biopic) this week received a $500,000 budget amendment that should keep the lights on. As the San Antonio Current reports:
In the latest small victory in the battle to save Lerma’s Nite Club, the city council approved a budget amendment of $500,000 to help the Esperanza Center maintain the historic conjunto venue. As part of a budget of $2.5 billion for the 2016 year, Councilman Roberto Treviño’s proposal will boost the movement to restore the club on Zarzamora.
The situation with Lerma’s is pretty different than Hole In The Wall’s: Lerma’s was actually closed by the city in 2010 for code violations, and a partnership between an organization called Save Lerma’s and the Esperanza Center for Peace and Justice saved the venue from demolition, convincing the city of its value as a landmark and an institution.
A reopened Lerma’s would be a big deal for San Antonio, and a rare victory in a state where the march of forward progress often seems to erase a lot of history. Time will tell if the support rallied for Lerma’s is something that other historic venues around Texas can count on, but it’s good news for the time being.