There’s no end in sight to this long stretch of social distancing. Austin artists who depend on revenue from live performances are reeling. Meanwhile, music fans are missing the sense of community and togetherness that comes from being in the club.
For now, one of the best ways to support local artists while flying your fan flag at home is to visit your favorite artist’s website and buy their stuff. Yes, that means actually spending money on albums instead of streaming them, but it also means clearing out their merchandise stocks of the cool T-shirts, buttons and other fun items they invest in to promote their music.
Each week we’re highlighting favorite finds from a handful of local artists along with one music business spotlight. If you’re an artist or music business owner, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us about your merch. If you’re a music fan, consider spending $20 that you would drop at the bar on your favorite band’s T-shirt or poster and keep the spirit of Austin’s music scene alive in your living room.
NefrFreshr from Jonathan "Chaka" Mahone: In May 2018, Mahone’s hip-hop duo with wife Ghislaine "Qi Dada" Jean, Riders Against the Storm, rallied the East Austin community to throw a block party birthday bash for Richard Overton, a World War II veteran who at 112 was the oldest man in America. Honored for his military service and celebrated for his supercentenarian status, the cigar-smoking, whiskey-drinking Austinite became a national figure. Comedian Steve Harvey once asked him what the secret to his longevity was, and Overton replied, "Keep living, don’t die."
An accomplished visual artist and clothing designer, Mahone put the pithy and profound quip on a shirt the group sold as a fundraiser to help with Overton’s home health expenses. (Overton died in December 2018.)
Now, with his family’s blessing, Mahone has added a design with the quote to his NefrFreshr collection. "In these incredibly challenging and uncertain times, his simple message rings truer than ever," Mahone said.
The design is available on a unisex T-shirt ($25), a scoop-neck ladies tee or crop top ($30 each) or a hoodie ($45). To add a little inspiration from an elder to your home office, you can also get it on a throw pillow ($30) or coffee mug ($15).
While you’re at Mahone’s shop, be sure to peruse his other bold and colorful designs printed on everything from dresses ($50) to backpacks ($50). We’re particularly fond of the Basquiat, Biggie and Tupac prints, and don’t miss the "Eye East Sunshine" poster, a recreation of a mural honoring East Austin jazz great Kenny Dorham that Mahone was commissioned to paint by the city of Austin in 2019 ($20-$22). (Fresh2Life.com)
Mahone is also raising money for his Dawa fund that helps people of color who are experiencing short-term life crises with a very topical "H-E-B for president" tee ($24) available at bit.ly/HEB4President.
Golden Dawn Arkestra. We’re creeping up on a month in lockdown, you’ve binge-watched till your brain is numb and you’re in dire need of some sort of low-stakes creative inspiration. Your friendly neighborhood costumed jazz crusaders are here to help. Drop by their site to pick up the official Golden Dawn Arkestra coloring book, a collection of intricate, psychedelic designs to exercise your mind ($20). While you’re there, you can also scoop vinyl copies of their albums ($20-$25) and soundtrack your coloring sessions with sprawling, space-age jazz jams to shake open your third eye. (store.goldendawnarkestra.com)
Harry Edohoukwa. "Fire on the Mountain," the debut full-length from local hip-hop artist (and recent Austin360 Artist of the Month) Harry Edohoukwa, is not a party-rap record. The album is a reckoning. A call to prayer. The anguished cry of an artist on his knees, hands to the heavens, searching for truth. Before he released the album, he wrote a long-form text that traces his spiritual journey. It begins with the invocation, "Yesterday I brought God down." A variation of the same phrase, "Today I brought God down," is printed on a new line of long-sleeved tees ($40) available in his online shop for anyone who needs to wear their spirituality literally on their sleeve in these troubled times. He also has a hat ($30) and a long-sleeved tee ($40) with his album logo. (harryedohoukwa.com)
Sailor Poon. You’re stuck at home, but you can still smash the patriarchy. Billie Buck, the lead singer of the brash and bawdy all-female punk crew, is also an ace graphic designer, so the band’s merch game has always been top notch. Stop by their Bandcamp page to snap up a pair of fluorescent, orange-printed "radioactive granny panties" ($20), a bold tee declaring the band the "Pink Floyd of Punk" and a "naughty" logo tee ($20 each) that is far too crude to describe in these genteel pages. (sailor-poon.bandcamp.com/merch)
Music business spotlight: Levitation. The annual celebration of musical adventures and experimental sounds is one of Austin’s last remaining indie festivals. The festival’s roots are in psychedelia, and each year’s event has been accompanied by vibrant, mind-bending art. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, festival organizers are running a fundraiser to contribute to Direct Relief’s efforts to provide personal protective equipment and essential medical items to health workers. They are donating 100% of net proceeds on festival merchandise sold through April 15 to the cause. Relive festival memories with striking screenprinted posters of former festival headliners including the Flaming Lips, Angel Olsen, Dinosaur Jr. and more ($30-$50). You can also scoop cool tees and tanks ($30), hoodies ($50) or tote bags ($15). (shop.levitation-austin.com)