"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Is the Austin Chronicle Still Relevant?

Seriously. It's a fair question. And since the weekly "alternative" is sending readers here, thanks to this article (Stuff Like This Makes Your Face Twitch), why not gin up some discussion on the demise of the once-proud paper, which tends to have more advertising, less writing, and even less relevance with each passing year. Let me ask, fellow Austinites, when was the last time the Austin Chronicle turned you on to a really great local band or filmmaker practicing their craft right here in our city? Well, shouldn't they be?

It's a question worth posing given the wealth of overlooked, under-appreciated artists who call Austin home. Is the Austin Chronicle good for Austin artists?

The fact is both KGSR (though without Jody Denburg not nearly as much) and KLBJ-FM have done a better job of showcasing up-and-coming local talent than the Austin Chronicle. Case in point - Austin's own Deadman, fronted by Lockhart resident/producer/songwriter Steven Collins. If you've heard about Deadman, you certainly didn't hear about them in the Austin Chronicle. You heard about my little blog in the Austin Chronicle, but not about Austin's best live band. Why not?

Is it because they're not good enough or they don't work hard enough to earn critical reviews, an excuse editor Louis Black gave in a column last year about why so many Austin artists don't garner coverage in the Chronicle? Far from it.

Is it because they haven't done anything to stand out from the endless array of other bands in the Live Music Capital of the World? Hardly. If they're big enough to charge $20 a ticket and headline the Granada Theater in Dallas, they should be big enough for the Austin Chronicle. Their shows at the Saxon Pub are generally standing room only, and they currently have the 40th best selling album at Austin's iconic Waterloo Records (Deadman: Live at the Saxon Pub). A lot of people are talking about Deadman, but not the Chronicle, not even so much as a review.

In fact, if you are in town for the ACL Festival, do yourself a favor and catch their after-show party tonight at at the Saxon Pub. It might, just might be the best music you hear all day (key word: "hear"), not because Deadman is a better show than Pete Yorn and all the other ACL headliners, but because catching the soulful 6-piece band at an intimate venue like the Saxon is akin to experiencing Van Morrison or The Band during the height of their musical careers (see video below).

Years ago, I had a couple of buddies who made films in Austin. They were two of the most talented guys I've known. Often their films were rejected by South by Southwest, and they certainly never got any publicity from the Austin Chronicle, even after they got a short film into Sundance. Eventually, they moved out of town and made a feature-length film that also got into Sundance. They secured a studio deal and released another film. Now South by Southwest wants them every year and when they come back to Austin, the Johnny-come-lately Chronicle rolls out the red carpet and brags about their local roots - roots that were completely ignored when they actually lived and worked here.

Apparently, the only way to get the Austin Chronicle to notice you is to leave Austin and have success somewhere else. Doesn't that seem backwards? Does the Chronicle even know who the up-and-coming artists are in this town? Or is the Chronicle just an echo chamber to support those with causes they have in common, regardless of talent?

I know a lot of Austin musicians, singers, sculptors, painters, and filmmakers who could use a little more love from their hometown arts paper.


  1. Hey, way to change the subject, dude!

    One of our readers pointed out yet another error you made in that post: Hillary Clinton did not beat Obama in Travis County. Results, pasted directly from the Secretary of State's office:

    Joe Biden DEM 146 0.07%
    Hillary Clinton DEM 68,303 36.75%
    Christopher J. Dodd DEM 80 0.04%
    John Edwards DEM 739 0.39%
    Barack Obama DEM 116,314 62.58%
    Bill Richardson DEM 256 0.13%

  2. What does this have to do with Lloyd Doggett?

  3. Finally, something we can agree on! A nicely stated case. Frankly, I think that rag has gone down hill since they got rid of that Shakespeare guy!