“Earlier this year my appendix tried to kill me, and HAAM saved my life.”
Cory Reinisch might not have died from appendicitis when it struck, but it probably felt that way at the time. So, onstage Tuesday at Threadgill’s for an evening of Willie Nelson songs, he summed up his gratefulness to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians with that dramatic phrase, before launching into “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.”
Reinisch, leader of the local band Harvest Thieves, was among hundreds of musicians who performed all around the city Tuesday at bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, bank lobbies, grocery stores, pharmacies and other atypical locations for the 12th annual HAAM Benefit Day.
As always, the action began early at the downtown Whole Foods, with music starting at 6 a.m. — an hour before the store began selling groceries. We stopped by there a little before noon to catch a hot blues set from Carolyn Wonderland & Shelley King and got an update from HAAM director Reenie Collins, who said the organization hoped to meet this year’s goal of $520,000 raised.
We followed Collins over to the plaza in front of Austin City Hall, where rocker Ty Richards and his band performed and mayor Steve Adler read a proclamation honoring HAAM’s work to help make Austin affordable for musicians. “The work that HAAM is doing is critical for us preserving the spirit and soul that’s in our city,” he said.
A quick stop at the IBC Bank lobby on Fifth and San Antonio streets for a few songs by Ray Prim, the current Austin360 Artist of the Month, wrapped up our lunchtime downtown outing. Statesman photographer Jay Janner made another stop at Whole Foods, where music had shifted from inside the store to an outdoor patio and the lively Kupira Marimba ensemble was holding forth.
WATCH: Kupira Marimba at HAAM Benefit Day
After dinner, we ventured back out on the south side of town. Still Austin Whiskey, a new distillery in the up-and-coming Yard district on St. Elmo Road just east of South Congress, offered up fine sets by roots musicians Marcia Ball and Drew Womack as the sun began to go down.
Threadgill’s was our final stop, with more than a dozen singer-songwriters putting their individual spins on songs written or performed by the Red Headed Stranger. A standout was Mike Schoenfeld, who struck just the right lonesome Willie vibe on “It’s Not Supposed to Be That Way,” and added the oft-overlooked but brilliant “Heartland” as a bonus.
He also summed up why HAAM Benefit Day is so important. “This city gets harder and harder for musicians to live in every year,” Schoenfeld said, “and HAAM takes some of that burden off.”