A Night for Austin: Willie Nelson joins dozens of beloved Americana performers to raise $531k for musicians, businesses
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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The original Z’Tejas location on West 6th Street is closing its doors after more than 30 years on the lot to make way for new development.
Z'Tejas owner Randy Cohen told Austonia the restaurant will be open at least through the end of 2022, possibly through March 2023.
Cohen said the owners—Larry McGuire of McGuire Moorman Lambert Hospitality—of the land have something new planned, though he’s not exactly sure what. Additionally, Cohen said maintenance costs for the old building were becoming prohibitively expensive.
“I think the people who own the dirt will tear it all down and build condos or some other development,” Cohen said. “I mean, it's a 60-year-old building, Z'Tejas has been here for 33 years and before that, it was something else. So it's just progress, that's all."
The restaurant isn’t going away though—Cohen said Z’Tejas is already looking for a new spot in the downtown area to move into. Z’Tejas also has a location in Avery Ranch, another in the works for Kyle and two in Arizona.
“We have all our ducks in a row right now and the management team is all rowing in the right direction,” Cohen said. “We're just excited, we're excited to build this iconic brand back.”
Once he finds a new place, Cohen plans to bring along its mural, “The Last Zupper,” which features Willie Nelson, Matthew McConaughey and Barbara Jordan. Cohen also plans for the adjoining ghost kitchen, Woo Woo Burgers, to follow to the new downtown location.
“We're still booking events through the end of December,” Cohen said. “Come ‘Z' me at Z’Tejas, we'd love to see you before we’re gone.”
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Two towers could be coming just south of the Austin American-Statesman’s former headquarters in the South Central Waterfront district.
According to city filings, the proposed planned unit development agreement is set for 200 East Riverside Drive, an area Project Connect’s Blue Line is slated to pass by someday.
Carrying this out involves removing the existing building, which is a state office complex and surface parking.
The new towers in place would reach just over 400 feet at their maximum and include office space and space for retail on the ground level. The mix of office and retail is a trend that’s been cropping up in downtown sites like the Perennial and the Meta tower.
The proposal on a plot of about four acres aims to incorporate green infrastructure and create a lively environment for pedestrians. It’d also be adjacent to the 118-acres of the South Central Waterfront Initiative, which is aimed at enhancing connections to and along the waterfront over the next couple of decades.
The filing lists architects STG Design, a group involved with work on the sailboat-like Google tower.
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