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Some of the nation's most beloved Americana performers raised their voices—along with more than half a million dollars—on Wednesday night in a livestreaming concert event to benefit Austin musicians and businesses devastated by the pandemic. Hosted by actors Ethan Hawke, Renee Zellweger, Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, "A Night for Austin" featured never-before-released segments and videos recorded for the event by more than two dozen stars performing in as many locations—home, studios, empty venues, the streets of Austin.


Each played one song, whether it was headliner Paul Simon playing "Homeward Bound" from his house, Norah Jones at her electric piano playing "Lone Star," Ray Benson rocking his session at the Broken Spoke, or Willie Nelson doing a jazzy rendition of "On the Road Again" to wind up the two-hour show. Lukas and Willie Nelson contributed a video showing signs on Antone's marquee ("We Love You, Austin") and boarded up Sixth Street bars painted with inspiring messages.

The performance was free to watch and audience was (and still is) invited to donate. The last reported total as the credits rolled was $531,785.30, now earmarked for the "A Night for Austin" fund managed by the local nonprofit Austin Community Foundation.

The fund, along with some matching donations from BMI Austin, Universal Music Publishing, and AT&T, will benefit: The Central Texas Food Bank, MusiCares, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, Six Square—Austin's Black Cultural District, People Fund, the Southern Smoke Foundation and the Red River Cultural District.

Organized by Simon and Edie Brickell and headlined by Willie, the show also featured songs by Patti Griffin, Britt Daniel of Spoon, Alejandro Escovedo, Shawn Colvin, David Ramirez, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Charlie Sexton (also the project's music director) and more, along with duets like Bonnie Raitt with Boz Scaggs.

Several performers professed their love for Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, and their sorrow at the devastation in the city and what the closing of live venues has done to the estimated 8,000 local musicians and other industry workers.

"Austin had a big, big impact on my life," said country star Vince Gill during his segment. "One of the very first bands I was in, we did Jerry Jeff Walker songs, and Gary P. Nunn songs, and Guy Clark songs, Rodney Crowell songs, Willie and Waylon, and the great Bob Wills. An awful lot of good has come from Texas, and I'm glad to be a part of singing a song trying to encourage you to give, if you can—if your heart leads you to that. I know all of these musicians will be grateful."

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Two days shy of the one-year anniversary of Texas' first confirmed case of COVID-19, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will rescind statewide pandemic restrictions, including business capacity limits and mask mandates, next week. Although businesses—especially those tied to the hospitality industry—have suffered financially over the last year, many Austin establishments are rejecting Abbott's order.

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(AUSTIN, TEXAS) Austonia has hired Claire Partain as a reporter covering Austin FC, the MLS expansion team that will be Austin's first major league sports franchise.

Partain is a former sports editor for the The University Star, Texas State University's daily newspaper. She edited, covered sports, produced podcasts, and hosted a pre-game TXST football tailgate live series. Partain has been freelancing with the company since January, prior to accepting a staff position.

A native of Fairfield, Texas, Partain grew up playing youth soccer. In her high school years, she played alongside her mother in what was then called the Freestone County Hispanic Women's Soccer League.

Claire's coverage philosophy: "I like to bring out the humanity of sports, and I want to make this the most accessible sports coverage possible."

She notes that soccer is the predominant sport for young people. "It's a global sport, and we're more connected to the world than older generations."

That approach fits the team's already visible presence in Austin, says Austonia CEO Mark Dewey. "Austin FC has established itself as a leading Austin brand, one that stands for a more unified Austin community, a bigger global presence for Austin and fun. Austonia shares those values."

Partain's soccer coverage begins immediately, with her free, hosted text service—Austonia FC. For updates, special access and inside info, all moderated by Claire, sign up below.

Austonia is the city's independent, free, locally-owned and all-digital source for Austin news, information and entertainment.

Connect with Austonia through its daily email newsletter and text updates, @austonianews Instagram feed, @austonianews and @austinist Twitter feeds, @austonianews Facebook page and its website austonia.com.

Two hours after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that state mandates on wearing masks and limiting business capacities would be lifted, Mayor Steve Adler wrote a letter to the city urging residents to keep their masks on and stay safe.

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