Fifteen years ago this month, Austin’s indoor smoking ban went into effect, immediately changing the nature of music venues in the Live Music Capital. Concerns at the time about how it might endanger the business of local clubs and bars turned out to be unwarranted; instead, music fans soon realized the enormous upside of attending shows without fighting clouds of cigarette haze. Saxon Pub owner Joe Ables recalls that attendance at his venue increased after the ban.
"Smokefree Music Cities," a campaign sponsored by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, has been celebrating that anniversary with a series of livestream videos this month that conclude with two final performances this week. At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29, Suzanna Choffel will perform, followed by a series finale with Marcia Ball at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2.
The performances will air on the ANRF’s YouTube channel. Other Austinites who recorded segments ranging from 13 minutes to 32 minutes this month were Jackie Venson, Matt the Electrician, SaulPaul, Moving Panoramas, Shinyribs, Gina Chavez, Betty Soo and Johnny Goudie. Those segments are still available for viewing on the YouTube playlist for the series, which also features recent performances by musicians in New Orleans (celebrating five smoke-free years in venues) and Atlanta (which went smoke-free earlier this year).
In the Moving Panoramas’ Sept. 14 backyard acoustic set, leader Leslie Sisson put the smoking ban into illuminating context with the here-and-now. "When there was talk that the smoking ban was going to happen in Austin, people were like, ‘It’s going to ruin bars, it’s going to ruin music, nobody’s going to go to shows, bars are going to close down.’ And obviously it didn’t change a thing," she remarked. "Now we know, what really closes bars and venues down are health pandemics."