Sunday, January 31, 2010

Save the Cactus Cafe - somebody please!

The Austin music scene is in shock after hearing the news that the University of Texas is planning on closing the Cactus Cafe due to a cost-cutting decision made by the Board of Directors. Normally the Cactus (and "Informal Classes," another program they are closing) are self-sufficient, but in this recession they have been costing the University ~$120K per year to run. In other news, UT football coach Mack Brown became the highest-paid coach in college football history as of last month - bringing in over $5 million per year. Yes, you can point out that he is not paid from the same fund. It's not going to make any of us feel any better or be any less mad about this. [source 1][source 2]

The Cactus is one of the best listening venues in the country. It holds 150 people... 150 people intently paying attention to the music. It's quite a phenomenon. I was trying to make a list of people we've seen there just since 2001 when we moved to this area. It's not complete by any means:
Johnny A, Eliza Gilkyson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jimmy LaFave, Infamous Stringdusters, Michael Fracasso (with Patty Griffin and Charlie Sexton), Eric Johnson (2X), Adrian Legg, The Greencards, South Austin Jug Band, Teddy Thompson (2X), Beth Orton, Marty Stuart, Glen Phillips, Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers, Sara & Sean Watkins (ex-Nickel Creek), Sarah Jarosz, Alasdair Fraser, Brobdingnagian Bards, Chris Thile & Mike Marshall (2X), Band of Heathens, Marshall Ford Swing Band, Sonny Landreth (with Cindy Cashdollar and Redd Volkaert), Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers), Alejandro Escovedo...

We've got wonderful memories from there. The Cafe goes back 25 years. Townes van Zandt and Lucinda Williams were regulars there. Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen would play there for free on weeknights before they could bring in a cover charge. Townes Van Zandt played there more than 100 times, according to Griff Luneberg (the man in charge of all things Cactus Cafe - except for ordering it closed) Here's a nice writeup in the paper from 2004, with some historical background.

Interested in following this?
[website: Save the Cactus]
[Facebook group]

We normally didn't shoot video at the Cactus so as to not violate house rules, but when Sarah Jarosz took the stage for guest spots it seemed to be given a nod of OK.

Sarah with Sara and Sean Watkins (My Morphine, Gillian Welch cover)

Sarah with The Punch Brothers (Blue Night, Bill Monroe cover)



i'm surprised shady lane hasn't said anything about this..i know she has been there on many occasions..she always fills me in on the haps after she goes..sad news..maybe we can convince ole mac to donate a years worth of money to keep it going?

Blueberry said...

I think I read that Mack's raise every year will be $100K. Foregoing one raise would do it. I work for UT. They have told us they can't afford raises for regular support staff. That's OK, but don't shut down the Cactus.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I hope the community rallies around to help save it. Cultural places like this are beyond price in their value.

Blueberry said...

The Facebook group picked up 3000 people within a few hours (and there are multiple groups and a fan page), so I think there will be good community support but don't if that will make any difference.

This decision, and the one on Mack Brown's salary are examples of an institute of higher learning sending a message out that if something is very profitable you invest in that -- and if something is a priceless treasure because of its history, reputation for quality, uniqueness in the community, fulfills an artistic gap, but is not bringing in the bucks - you kick it to the curb.

Is that what a University should do when it sets an example? We overlook a corporation doing that because corporations are soulless and only care about the bottom line. That not the right example for a University to set if it hopes to teach.

If they can't save it in that location, I just hope that it can actually be moved and preserved somewhere else.

ojoart said...

Thank you for getting the news out. The Cactus is one of Austin's best cultural spots. All my friends are posting on Facebook and joining the group. Let us know what else we can do. Ojoart