Styx and stones may break bones but the pandemic couldn't stop Austin-based bassist Ricky Phillips from rocking via live stream when everyone began to quarantine.
For the past 18 years that Phillips has called Austin home, he has spent most of his time on the road with rock band Styx, spending sporadic days at home in-between. For the past year though, Phillips has been working from home alongside more than 40% of Americans.
"Have you ever said to yourself, 'I wish I could just make the world stop for two weeks so I can get caught up?' I know I have," Phillips, an Iowa native, told Austonia. "I guess that comes under the heading, 'Be careful what you wish for.'"
When the pandemic brought live music to a halt altogether, Styx began to focus on more direct engagement with their fans. After the Styx tour was canceled and the band began live streaming to their 1 million fans via their "Styx Lounge," Phillips realized his home studio was lacking.
Going from a standard webcam to a professional setup complete with dual cameras provided by ClearOne, one with 4K capabilities and one with programmable motion, was like opening Pandora's box, Phillips said, and has opened up new doors.
"Although I love the updates and the ability to keep a constant workflow, I guess what I'm finding is, I will never be satisfied," Phillips said. "It's something I took for granted before and it's cool to have a real state-of-the-art way of communicating."
Recalling a difficult time years ago when he took over production of late friend Ronnie Montrose's final album, Phillips said even in quarantine, he'll be writing songs until the day he can no longer sit upright. Now working from Austin with an updated setup, Philips has settled into a new day-to-day, which he said has its pros and cons.
"Working at home can be a double-edged sword: when you wake up you are stumbling distance from the studio but so is everyone else in your household," Phillips said. "The creative mind must remain free from distraction and non-creative people will never relate to that. So plan accordingly and if you are in super-hyper-focus mode, definitely put up the 'Enter at Own Peril' sign. Alligators leading to the studio door can also be helpful."
With hope that concerts and festivals will be able to return this summer, Phillips expects Styx to hit the road again in 2021 for the release of their new record. After a year without using any of the usual equipment, there is work to be done before they make a return to touring but they always look forward to seeing new sights in new cities again.
"For us, live performance is the best bit of all," Phillips said. "Performing the fruits of your labor with your brothers in the band, to an appreciative crowd of singing and smiling faces ain't so bad. I love my job… That's what I'm looking forward to, hopefully in the very near future."
On this day in #Styx history: The beginning of our 2015 US Tour in Catoosa, OK! Did you see us live during that tour? Share some of your favorite moments with us below. 📸: Jason Powell pic.twitter.com/Pxj27rr0yo
— Styx (@STYXtheBand) February 26, 2021
Styx has a host of shows planned to start in May and is scheduled to play at the Nutty Brown Amphitheatre on May 15 in Austin. In the meantime, Phillips said Austin first captivated him with its unique charms and remains his safe place.
"This is a great place. Although I travel too much to do much session work or gigs in Austin, what I have done has been truly fantastic," Phillips said. "I love all sides of this city and its abundance of talent and downright good people."
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With major entertainment events slated for October, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is gearing up for a busy month.
Artists and music lovers are set to pack into Zilker Park for The Austin City Limits Music Festival in the coming two weekends. Following that, Formula One will bring racing fans to the Circuit of the Americas.
For those two events, the airport is anticipating high passenger days with 30,000 or more people departing flights.
ABIA recommends arriving at least two and a half hours in advance for domestic flights on those days. For ACL, it's expected on both Sundays of the festival along with the Monday and Tuesday after. The F1-driven high passenger days are expected on Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 23-26.
\u201c#AustinCityLimits visitors, you\u2019re in for a weird and wild ride \ud83e\udd18\u262e\ufe0f \n\nFlying in or out of our airport? We got firm and fun tips for you: https://t.co/RawVRalOXN\u201d— Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) (@Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)) 1664894083
F1, especially, could draw in loads of travelers as the three-day event saw 400,000 attendees last year. ABIA warns that highways leading to the airport may see even higher traffic than usual around the event and that travelers should plan their route accordingly.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, said travel numbers come in 24 hours in advance. So, it's hard to predict if the airport will see travel volumes at the same levels that have happened around previous F1 races or if it'll top ACL's flight traffic.
Still, she says historical knowledge points to a chance for it.
“We've had that Monday after F1 break the record for single busiest in airport history," Grimmett said. "So context clues I would say yes, but I can't confirm that. But the historical background points to that."
In anticipation of the high volume of flyers, the airport received additional TSA officers for security screening through the end of October. To prepare even further, the Department of Aviation and partners hosted a job showcase and hiring fair to address the continued labor shortage the airport has experienced.
Relief from hectic travel days is on the horizon with November likely to see a slowdown.
"I don't anticipate it will be as busy as October just because we don't have as many events going on," Grimmett said. "Thanksgiving is kind of our primary holiday that we see a lot of passengers coming in and out of the airport."