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Musician who lost studio in fire gives back

Friends raising money for couple, while they fundraise for others

Peter Mongillo

When musician Jonas Wilson and girlfriend Jen Gacy were given five minutes to evacuate their Bastrop home on Sept. 4, they rounded up their pets and grabbed two guitars and an amp. Even as they hurried away, Gacy without her shoes, Wilson didn't quite believe his house would be engulfed by flames. By the end of the day, though, they had lost everything.

Wilson remembers the scene as they left the house. The ground had an almost glowing, amber hue. A pink haze seemed to surround everything, and the nearby smoke had turned black.

"As we were pulling away, I saw some of the trees exploding," Wilson says. "We were a little confused as we were trying to get out because we kept hearing what we thought was thunder, but I think it was the trees exploding."

Later that night, Wilson's brother, a police officer, told them that the house had burned, along with Wilson's recording studio adjacent to their home. Aside from the guitars he was able to grab on the way out and a drive containing work of bands he was in the process of recording, Wilson lost all of his instruments and recording equipment.

Wilson, 29, had relocated Blue Train Studio to his Bastrop home last year after 10 years in Austin. He's been a member of the music community since he was 14, and over the years has played in several bands, including Goudie, Endochine, Alpha Rev, Lomita and the Motts. Currently, he and Gacy are members of the White White Lights.

As a recording engineer, he's worked with several area artists, including Robert Ellis, the Strange Boys and Mr. Lewis and the Funeral 5 . The studio accounted for about half of his income, with the other half coming from teaching at the Austin School of Music.

Because of the recent move and a tight financial situation, Wilson didn't insure the studio. "I just hadn't gotten around to it. I was trying to save a little money," he says.

Wilson and Gacy are staying with family in Austin as they try to get back on their feet. Wilson continues to teach music lessons and is applying for a small business loan with the help of FEMA, which he says has been challenging considering all his financial records were lost in the fire.

"I've been in a mountain of paperwork for the past month," he says. "I'm just figuring out how to move forward. We don't know what we're going to do as far as rebuilding."

Wilson adds that it's overwhelming to think about what he needs to start over with the studio. Aside from equipment , he says that one of the biggest problems is finding a space.

"It's hard for me to sum up what I really need in terms of getting back to work," he says. "I think we all just feel like we're kind of still drifting right now. You don't have a place that's yours, you don't have any stuff that's yours — even clothes that you wear, they're not clothes that you know," he says.

Family and friends have set up a disaster relief fund for Wilson and Gacy using the fundraising site ChipIn (jonasandjen.chipin.com ).

Wilson says that the outpouring of support from the music community has been incredible.

He's also been working as a board member of the newly formed Disastronauts Foundation (disastronautsfoundation.org ) to help other musicians and artists affected by the wildfires. As a board member, he doesn't benefit from any money the group raises — including proceeds from tonight's benefit at the Mohawk featuring Black Books, Residual Kid and others. "It's a group helping people in that area close to home for me," he says.

Disastronauts founder Stephen Ceresia, a recording engineer and producer who has lived in Bastrop for 17 years, says the organization, which has applied for nonprofit status, is designed to provide long-term aid to creative artists that have lost their means of making money.

"A lot of times with natural disasters, there's a real intense kind of awareness and other news items come along," Ceresia says. "We kind of knew that with the amount of damage and home loss, we really needed to put something together that would be a little bit more lasting."

pmongillo@statesman.com

Disastronauts Benefit