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A cave-like room with electric red walls and blue light fixtures is the new home to the $100 million podcast of new Austin resident Joe Rogan. And who would Rogan trust to construct this room? None other than his fellow Austinites.
Rogan, a mixed martial arts enthusiast and comedian, entrusted two local businesses—Sound Shed Studios and Wrightsmith Studios—to construct his new podcast studio after recently moving to Austin from Los Angeles. In just under three weeks, the two Austin companies scrambled to complete the project of their most high-profile client yet.
Timeline of Joe Rogan moving to Texas:
Sound Shed Studios, a local audio and visual business, was a side project Matthew Alvarez started 10 years ago, transforming a storage unit into a recording studio. Getting laid off from his full-time audio engineering job due to the pandemic and seeing the outcome of the Rogan studio, Alvarez has since decided to run Sound Shed Studios full time.
Alvarez began working with Rogan after getting a call from an old friend he had done some work for who said he wanted Alavarez to meet the person who had hired him for private security—Rogan. Alvarez met Rogan the next day, and the two had a thorough discussion about the studio design.
In an interview with Austonia, Alvarez said when he saw the room, he knew he had to make some major changes for it to be podcast ready, and when he told Rogan, Rogan responded with, "Hey, I trust you, I like you, build this out as if it were your own studio."
Alvarez, who usually works alone, gathered some friends—Jacob Rangel, Nate Laningham, Richard Castro, Nick Fette, Justin Contreras and Christopher Spikes—to jump on the project with him on a tight two-and-a-half-week deadline. Together, they sound proofed the inner walls with open core polyurethane foam, adding double doors and treating the finished room with sound dampening panels.
Rogan gave Alvarez the creative freedom—and budget—to make a stunning studio with input mostly on the color scheme.
At the completion of Sound Shed's part of the studio creation, Alvarez said he sent Rogan a photo of the studio, to which Rogan replied, "Fucking sick."
But it wasn't until Rogan saw it in person that Alvarez received the validation that the project was a success.
"He didn't really say much. I could tell that he was really absorbing everything, and he gave me a knuckle bump and [said], 'Matt, you killed it.' To hear that from him in person … I knew that we had something to be proud of," Alvarez said.
And what's a podcast room without the right table? For that, Rogan brought in a recommendation from another famous podcaster in Austin, Adam Curry—the first guest on Rogan's Austin podcast.
Drew Teague, founder of Wrightsmith Studios, is a friend of Curry's and was in the process of designing a podcast table for him when he was asked to put that project on hold by Curry to complete Rogan's Austin studio table.
While Wrightsmith Studios is only officially about a year old, Teague has had lots of experience building and fabricating unique furniture pieces, especially for studios.
After speaking with Rogan on what he wanted, Teague came up with a design. Usually clients will request tweaks to the design Teague said, but at first glance, Rogan said, "That's the one, build it."
On the same schedule as Sound Shed Studios, Teague also brought in outside help to complete the project on time, as he usually works all on his own.
Teague and his team made a 500 pound white oak discussion table with a specific frame for enough leg room for podcast guests.
When Rogan saw the table for the first time in person, he reached out to Teague and told him how much he loved it.
"[Rogan] is outstanding in every way," Teague said. "From the first meeting, he was friendly and down to earth; he was very encouraging."
When Rogan posted the almost-complete podcast room to Instagram, tagging both Sound Shed and Wrightsmith studios, the two accounts were all of a sudden in the public eye. Both accounts gained over a thousand new followers with direct messages asking questions about the studio and requests for their work.
Rogan is up and rolling in the new studio, and the two businesses behind it know their work payed off.
He could literally have anybody come in to [complete the studio] from anywhere, but he decided to find local guys who were already doing it in town at relatively small businesses," Teague said. "It says a lot about Joe's character."
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After Austin voters passed Proposition B, reinstating a ban on public camping, City Council directed staff to look into possible sanctioned campsites where homeless residents could live legally. Now two members are asking to shelve discussion on the controversial topic.
Staff presented dozens of possible sanctioned campsites across each fo the 10 council districts in late May, following the election. But members mostly pushed back on the proposed locations, citing cost, wildfire risk and lack of transparency as concerns.
With updated criteria, staff recommended two sites—one in District 1 and the other in District 8—for further review last week. After being briefed on the options during Tuesday's work session, Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, who represents District 1, and Council Member Paige Ellis, who represents District 8, issued a joint statement proposing "a pause" on further discussion of temporary sanctioned encampments.
"We are not convinced that these sites would be a cost-effective solution, but rather a band-aid tactic when we need to be supporting the long-term strategy to get folks off the street permanent," they said. "It is our responsibility to look at the situation holistically and objectively, and to spend out city's limited resources on solutions we know can work."
Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey noted that the two locations were imperfect and would require a lot of time and money to outfit as sanctioned campsites during the briefing.
City staff and homeless experts have previously raised concerns about sanctioned encampments, saying they are expensive to maintain, challenging to manage and hard to close, even when intended to to be temporary.
In 2019, staff declined to make recommendations for such sites despite being directed by council to do so, citing 2018 guidance from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. "Neither authorized encampments nor parking areas provide housing for people experiencing homelessness," staff wrote in a memo. "Rather, each option detracts from the staff resources assigned to addressing this moral imperative."
But with Prop B being enforced and too few shelter beds and affordable units for the estimate unsheltered homeless population in Austin, the city is facing the same predicament that prompted District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo to pursue possible sanctioned campsites in the first place: "When individuals in encampments ask where they should go, we need to have places to suggest," she said at a May 6 council meeting.
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Don't lose your mask just yet—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it is now recommending masks in areas that are surging as cases rise nationwide and the Delta variant looms.
The CDC announced Tuesday that even fully vaccinated individuals should mask up indoors if their community is experiencing substantial transmission—defined as areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people. Travis County is sitting at an average of 94.59 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days, falling into the highest risk category, according to the CDC.
#DeltaVariant surging in U.S. New data show Delta much more contagious than previous versions of #COVID19. Unvaccinated people: get vaccinated & mask until you do. Everyone in areas of substantial/high transmission should wear a mask, even if vaccinated. https://t.co/tt49zOEC8N
— CDC (@CDCgov) July 27, 2021
After two COVID-19 recommendation stage jumps in the last two weeks, from Stage 2 to Stage 4, Austin-area cases are the highest they have been since February. The seven-day average for cases is on an upward trend, reaching 226 on Tuesday.
The CDC is also recommending that all students K-12 wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. A May executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott prohibits schools from requiring masks, regardless of vaccination status. Austin ISD is "strongly" encouraging students to wear masks.
Although vaccinated individuals are still protected against the most severe symptoms of the variant, infections are spreading rapidly and now make up 83% of confirmed cases in the U.S. At least a dozen cases of the delta variant have been confirmed in the Austin area, though there are likely more since testing for it is limited.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that hospital admissions are "almost exclusively" coming from people who are unvaccinated but those who are vaccinated can still catch and spread the virus.
"Unlike the alpha variant that we had back in May, where we didn't believe that if you were vaccinated you could transmit further, this is different now with the Delta variant," Walensky said. "That leads us to believe that the breakthrough infections, rare that they are, have the potential to pool and transmit at the same with the same capacity as an unvaccinated person."
Research suggests those who become infected carry 1,000 times more of the virus than other variants and could stay contagious for longer.The announcement comes on the heels of the Biden administration ramping up cautionary measures in the face of the Delta variant. Just last week, the CDC said it had no plans to change its May guidance of vaccinated not having to wear masks unless there was a significant change in the data. Officials met on Sunday night to review new evidence, according to reports.
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The Moody Center, a $338 million, 530,000-square-foot multipurpose arena at the University of Texas at Austin, celebrated its topping out on Tuesday.
With the final beam placed, the arena's steel-frame structural phase—which involved more than 5.3 million pounds of steel—is complete.
"This past year has been full of unprecedented events, not to mention weather challenges, and yet the women and men working on this project continue to deliver," Moody Center General Manager and Senior Vice President Jeff Nickler said in a press release.
To celebrate the topping out Oak View Group, the development and investment firm behind the Moody Center will affix a tree to the final beam in keeping with the time-honored tradition.
The practice dates back to ancient Scandinavian religious rites, which involved placing a tree atop new buildings to appease tree-dwelling spirits displaced during the construction process, according to the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers in Washington D.C.
After the steel-frame structure phase, the development will move on to enclosing and finishing the interior of the Moody Center.
The arena is set to open next April and already has some major acts scheduled for its inaugural year, including The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, John Mayer and The Killers. It will replace the 43-year-old Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center and serve as the home of UT's men's and women's basketball games, among other sports and community events.
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