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Editor's Note 1:45 p.m.: This story has been updated from the previously published preview to the rally to tell what happened at the rally.
Austin music industry members and supporters rallied Monday morning in front of City Hall to remind elected officials of their essential role in the "Live Music Capital of the World."
Austin Texas Musicians and Amplified Sound Coalition, advocacy groups recently formed to support local music industry workers, co-hosted the rally ahead of City Council meetings scheduled this week to potentially approve a COVID-19 relief proposal that music industry workers say "doesn't go far enough." Several speakers instead proposed a three-point plan in support of Austin musicians, venues and support staff:
- Music Venue Preservation Fund: Dedicated, fast-tracked funding for music venues
- Clear Eligibility/Requirements: Simple application process and reasonable requirements for qualifying for relief aid
- Transparency: Clear understanding of how relief money is distributed and who receives it
"It's time to put up or shut up," Kevin Russell, frontman for Austin band Shinyribs, said repeatedly to the 200-plus people in attendance. "Too long this city rode our cultural coattails while taking us to the cleaners."
Russell was among almost a dozen musicians and music industry advocates to call for dedicated music industry relief money from city officials.
"We can't turn back time and we don't aspire to turn back time," Russell said. "But we can ask the city to repay our debt to this world-famous culture."
Other speakers included musicians Guy Forsyth, Lauryn Gould, Jesse Dayton and Anthony Farrell of Greyhounds as well as Reenie Collins, executive director of the Health Alliance of Austin Musicians, and Patsy Bouressa, executive director of the SIMS Foundation.
Nakia Reynoso, another musician who led the event as president and co-founder of Austin Texas Musicians, repeated a rallying cry throughout the event, "No money, no music," to emphasize the critical emergency in Austin's music scene amid a half-year of pandemic-related closures and canceled gigs.
"They know how valuable the brand of live music in Austin is, and they damn sure know it when they see how much tax revenue we drive to this city every single year," Reynoso said. "For six months, they keep telling us how valuable Austin music is with 'blah, blah, blah' resolutions. But we have yet to see any actual substantial help for the venues that employ us."
Musicians, as well as venue workers, engineers, site security and other essential workers, are struggling right now, said Jeannette Gregor, a longtime bartender at Mohawk and co-founder of Austin Sound Coalition.
"I recognize all of you for who you are: skilled laborers who are a crucial part of Austin's identity," Gregor told the crowd.
The option to pivot to another paying job isn't practical, she said, and it denies the fact that music industry jobs represent legitimate careers.
"These gigs are part of our careers and our work may be what defines us individually, but our work is what defines this town, too," Gregor said. "We want to go back to work, desperately."
Gregor called for the industry to unite regardless of past allegiances or grudges, starting with agenda items slated during Thursday's City Council meeting.
"Together if we stand united we can amplify our voices and they will have no choice but to listen," Gregor said.
City Council meets for its routine work session at 9 a.m. Tuesday before its full meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday to potentially discuss COVID-19 relief money for essential Austin industries, including music workers.
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Summertime sure does fly by, doesn't it? It's time to jam-pack as many summer activities as you can while there is still about a month left before school starts up again and the grind gets going. Luckily, Austin is full of places to visit that will fill your season full of memories.
To get you started, check out some of these seasonably-fit museums, galleries and snacks.
Beyond Van Gogh, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
Like the name suggests, Beyond Van Gogh Austin takes visitors deeper into the Dutch painter's work by surrounding them in his post-impressionist world. Aptly taking place at the Starry Night Pavilion at the Circuit of the Americas, this immersive exhibit allows Vincent Van Gogh's masterpieces to be "freed from frames" as they are projected onto the walls and floors for guests to explore. Van Gogh's thoughts, dreams and words are set to a symphonic score to drive the narrative as you walk through the rooms, giving visitors insight into the tortured artist's swirly world. Adult tickets start at $46.99, children at $28.99 and it offers student and military discounts while the museum runs through Sept. 5.
Museum of Ice Cream, 11506 Century Oaks Terrace
The runaway hit from New York City has made its way to Austin, complete with a rainbow sprinkle pool, banana forest and bright-pink-everything exterior. The Museum of Ice Cream is a favorite of major celebrities—Beyoncé, Ryan Reynolds and the Kardashian Krew have all been spotted at the New York Location. The whimsical museum promises an undisclosed "Texas twist" at its new Austin location, which also has an on-brand café that serves Museum of Ice Cream original treats. You didn't think you'd leave without ice cream, did you? Tickets run $39 per person.
The Selfie Galleries, 3220 Amy Donovan Plaza
Looking for a place to get that perfect summer selfie? Look no further, because the newly-opened Selfie Galleries has 20 wildly decorated different rooms to roam through, capturing an unforgettable photo of yourself and your faves in each one. The backdrops were made so you can flex your creative muscle and make some documented memories at the same time. The gallery also hosts mixers for all age groups so you can meet local Austinites in a safe setting. Tickets start at $20 for an hour, $40 for two, depending on how many people you bring along.
Wonderspaces, 1205 Sheldon Cove
The self-proclaimed "new home for extraordinary art," Wonderspaces is an interactive art gallery like you've never experienced before. With rotating exhibits that you can touch, Instagram and ogle, the artwork is designed for everyone to create their own unique experience when visiting. Virtual reality, a house of mirrors, anonymous conversations and a dragon made of teabags are just a few of the wild installations that make this museum what it is—plus, you can enjoy some local brews at the Wonderspaces Bar. Adults can visit for $24, kids for $15 or you can get an annual pass for $99 and visit each new piece.
Milk Bar Bakery, delivery only
Maybe you want an experience without the outing. Thanks to ghost kitchens, the brainchild of Christina Tosi came all the way from The Big Apple to the Lone Star State. The well-celebrated Milk Bar Bakery is now available in Austin through third-party delivery only, meaning you can get the full line of milk bar cookies, bar pie, truffle crumb cakes and its famous layered birthday cakes through UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash and Postmates only. If you haven't had these rich cookies yet, it's time to fire up that delivery app and get to ordering!
Soak up the rest of summer while you can!
- 1 1/12 oz sweet pepper-infused Tito's Handmade Vodka
- 3 oz soda water
- 1 oz grapefruit juice
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1/4 oz simple syrup
The Biden administration is asking cities and states to use pandemic relief funds to pay residents $100 to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reaffirmed prohibitions on pandemic protocols in a new executive order issued on Thursday.
The order emphasizes that "the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates," according to a press release. It outlaws government entities from requiring employees to be vaccinated or individuals to provide proof of vaccination and upholds previous orders restricting government entities' ability to impose pandemic protocols.
Local public health and elected officials have asked all Austinites to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and unvaccinated individuals to avoid nonessential trips last week given the rising number of local confirmed cases and related hospitalizations in recent weeks. But it is not enforceable under Abbott's order.
The seven-day moving average of new hospital admissions in the five-county Austin metro has more than quintupled since the beginning of July and is now 47.4. The threshold for Stage 5 is 50, according to Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines.
Despite these trends, Abbott stands firm in his commitment to avoid new statewide mandates and to prohibit local government entities from issuing any of their own.
"Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19," he said in a statement. "They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses and engage in leisure activities."
Public health officials have attributed the current spike to the more contagious Delta variant and unmitigated spread among unvaccinated individuals. Abbott encouraged Texans to get vaccinated if they haven't already but affirmed that it would never be required by the state in his statement.
An increasing number of Austin-area employers—including Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health, Facebook and the Department of Veterans Affairs—have announced new vaccine requirements in recent days. Austin Mayor Steve Adler asked the city manager to enact a similar requirement on Wednesday, but the city is unable to do so due to an executive order issued by Abbott in April.
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