Last week, the Austin City Council rejected an appeal from residents seeking to reduce the ability of their neighbor, South Congress Avenue restaurant Home Slice Pizza, to host outdoor live music events. The appeal, which sought to bring Home Slice's allowance of six live music events per year down to two, brought out people on both sides of the issue, including a contingent donning "78704 Live Music" T-shirts.
Also advocating on the side of Home Slice was Austin Music People, or AMP, whose representatives worked with the City Music Division on a strategy to persuade the council to keep the permits intact. Leading the effort was AMP executive director Jennifer Houlihan, who took over the position in April from former director Paul Oveisi, who moved to New York last year. Before her position at AMP, Houlihan worked as the director of development at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.
The biggest issue for which Houlihan is preparing is the impending debate over the city's sound ordinance, an increasingly contentious issue as new downtown developments are hit with noise from downtown's bustling entertainment district.
In February, the City Council approved a resolution changing the name of an existing "Downtown Venue Relocation Program" to the "Music Assistance Program," and allocated $40,000 to pay for a case study on Cedar Street Courtyard, which has received a high number of sound complaints over the past two years. The city's music division is preparing to present the findings of that study to the council.
"We want to make sure the music community partners with new development so that sound issues are addressed looking at both the receiver and the source," Houlihan says. "We don't think that 100 percent of the burden should be on the developers, but neither do we think 100 percent of it should be on the small business owner who's had a club for 15 years and a development pops up next door."
Since its formation in March 2011, AMP has maintained a fairly low profile.
Among its accomplishments so far has been a compromise with the city over evening and weekend parking fees in the Red River District (meters now shut down at midnight Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays). The group is also working to make sure that local music is represented as part of the Formula One festivities in November.
Houlihan says that she hopes the council will also revisit the idea of a music heritage district on Red River Street, which was put on hold during the recent election.
"We serve musicians, but we also serve techs, club owners, graphic designers, fans, bartenders, servers, door guys — anybody who is interested in keeping Austin the live music capital of the world is someone we want to partner with," she says.
Down and dirty. Near the end of their set Thursday night at a very full Emo's East, Dirty Projectors began playing "Useful Chamber," a song from their 2009 album "Bitte Orca" that in many ways epitomizes what people have come to love about the band's sound — a strange mixture of wandering sounds that intersect for moments of pop bliss.
Lead singer and guitarist Dave Longstreth changes the way the band plays the song each time, or at least he makes it seem that way. Last week's version stopped and started in unpredictable ways as it led to its high point, which finds Longstreth hammering on his guitar as he belts out the meaningless chorus.
On Dirty Projectors' latest, "Swing Lo Magellan," Longstreth moves away from the erratic compositions that define much of "Bitte Orca" toward more focused and melodic songwriting. Even on the sweetest and most traditional-sounding of those songs, however, the band's strange heart continues to beat.
On "Swing Lo Magellan," the set's opener, Longstreth and the rest of the group lurked in the shadows with the song's mellow folk. It's one of the more restrained new songs, but that restraint didn't last long; "Offspring Are Blank" popped with chaotic blips of hard rock. "About to Die" showcased the band's use of quick, rolling beats and percussion, and "See What She Seeing," offered a psychedelic take on old-time pop.
Part of the joy in seeing the band perform are the harmonies and other vocal tricks they are able to pull off in a live setting. At times, it's hard to believe that Amber Coffman and the other members of the band are actually singing; their range of notes and tone can sound more like a synthesizer than a human voice.
One of the more unexpected turns of the night came when the band played another new one, "Impregnable Question," during the encore. The song, backed with minimal drumming and a gentle piano, mostly abandons Dirty Projectors' sound for a sweet ballad that recalls something out of Paul McCartney's songbook. "I need you, and you're always on my mind," Longstreth sang. The crowd swayed along. Even without the discordant sounds and vocal acrobatics, it was a welcome moment.
In brief: In addition to its first-ever evacuation because of stormy weather last weekend, C3 Presents' Lollapalooza festival is headed to Israel in 2013. The event will join Lollas in Chile and Brazil as the third international version of the fest ... Glen Campbell's "Goodbye Tour" is coming back Sept. 9 to Austin. Tickets are on sale now for the Long Center for the Performing Arts show ... Fun Fun Fun Fest will once again hold its Aqua Olympics Aug. 19 at Fiesta Gardens. The event will include paddleboard jousting, tug-o-war across the lake, live music and more ... Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker will play a private show Aug. 29 in Tampa, Fla., a benefit show for Got Your 6, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to "bridging the civilian-military divide," according to the Tampa Bay Times. The Republican National Convention takes place in Tampa from Aug. 27 to Aug. 30. ... Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday for a Nov. 5 show by Regina Spektor at Bass Concert Hall.
Contact Peter Mongillo at firstname.lastname@example.org; 445-3696