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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🗓 All weekend
Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities
All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park
This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.
6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.
10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park
Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.
Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.
11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway
Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.
As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.
“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”
Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.
“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”
Actually, a purr-fect idea.
Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.
At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”
Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.
“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”
Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.
“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”
Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.
“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”
Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.
“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”
And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.
“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”
Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.
“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”