Pt 2. Interview: James White & the Broken Spoke

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George Strait. Photography by the Broken Spoke. 

On May 1, 2019 —For the second year in a row, I interviewed James White at the Broken Spoke sitting at table B2 next to a replica of Willie Nelson’s guitar, Trigger. The same booth where Willie Nelson and his wife, Annie, used to dine in decades past. Coincidentally, one year ago I interviewed him on the exact same day. This was not planned and I just so happen to notice this coincidence whilst uploading the audio files post-interview. Last year, the story was published in a local rock-n-roll zine in ATX and I titled it “James White talks 54 years at the Broken Spoke“. The first interview was a bird’s eye view of the last 54 years. Audio from the interview in 2018 can be found online, too. Mr. White talked to me about his quest, the dream of opening a honky tonk and meeting his wife and falling in love with Annetta. He told me about the volunteers who made the building by hand, one of which was a man so drunk he fell off the roof. The first time they booked Willie Nelson back in 1967. Back when Willie wore short hair, clean shaven and wore either a turtle neck, a vest or a sports coat. White told me about the time Dolly Parton came to film “Wild Texas Nights” in the eighties. He told me about the film “Broken Arrow” featuring Jimmy Stewart and how it inspired him to name the Broken Spoke after it. The time Rowdy almost got shot by a police officer when someone stole his father’s silver saddle that is now kept in a glass case.

“A lot of people, you know, they ask me, why did you go into this kind of business? All the way down to my childhood, my parents would take me to different dance halls in this area, and that’s where I got the love of country music in my veins… When I was in the Army, I didn’t know what I was gonna do when I got out of the Army. So I thought it would be kind of neat to open up a place of my own, similar to the places when I was growing up in Austin. It just became like a quest of mine the day I left the Army. And when I came out under the big ole oak tree out front (on South Lamar), I just kind of visualized a place like no other and when I got it built: I named it the Broken Spoke. The reason I thought up that name, I wanted something original. I wanted something country, I wanted something western. Texas style”. – James White

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Over the decades, Mr. White has become friends with the likes of Willie Nelson, Alvin Crow, George Strait, Garth Brooks and the list goes on and on like a jukebox with endless vinyl’s to play. Thankfully, the Broken Spoke isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, their business is booming right now! This recent kaboom is due to a delightful visit from one of Texas’ most adored and esteemed country western musicians: George Strait.

Last winter, during a daytime walk I noticed an entourage outside of the Broken Spoke and became very curious. True, I see photo shoots and video crews outside the building all the time. People travel from all over to photograph and film this beloved Texas classic. However, this was a larger than usual crew of people. A few nights later, Steven Mark and I trailed in for a few libations. At which point, Mr. White informed my boyfriend and I that the infamous King of Country, the one and only, George Strait was at the Broken Spoke for his latest album Honky Tonk Time Machine.

Universal Records and Spotify came out to film and photograph George Strait at the Spoke, as well as interview Mr. White. On the one hand, I was stunned that George Strait came back to the Broken Spoke for a photoshoot — the sheer idea George Strait was in my hometown at a local bar right around the corner was mystifying. I’ve never seen him in person. Strait is a cowboy I’ve heard singing to me all my life through radios, stereos and televisions. All my life, his face has been all over Texas and the south, and yet, he has no bloody clue who I am. And yet, here Mr. White is just hanging out casually with a long time friend. So, on the other hand—I was not stunned or shocked—it’s just another sunny day in the colorful story of Mr. White, his family and life at the Broken Spoke.

“You can find a chisel, I can find a stone. Folks will be reading these words, long after we’re gone. Baby, write this down, take a little note, to remind you in case you didn’t know. Tell yourself I love you and I don’t want you to go, write this down. Take my words, read ’em every day, keep ’em close by, don’t you let ’em fade away. So you’ll remember what I forgot to say, write this down.” – George Strait

Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, James White booked George Strait for seven years. At the time, Strait was a part of band near San Marcos called Ace in the Hole. Once he became more and more famous, the booking fees outgrew the Broken Spoke. Decades later, true to Texas form, Mr. Strait never forgot his roots and came back to the honky tonk dance hall in Austin. George Strait also brought his wife, Norma, and his driver, Leroy. Weeks later, Broken Spoke was featured on the front cover of George Strait’s latest album “Honky Tonk Time Machine”. The album was released on Feb. 11, 2019. Later on, when George Strait performed at the 2019 Academy of Country Music Awards in April. The backdrop featured a photo of the Broken Spoke and by the graphic effects, it almost looked as if they were playing outside the building. The bright colors of the Texas flag blowing in the wind against the woodwork, the wagon wheels and the honky tonk dance hall. This is outstanding publicity for the Broken Spoke! Ever since, more visitors, from all over are flocking to the Broken Spoke. Which is fantastic news because the city of Austin treasures the local hotspots and it’s comforting to know business is alive and well at the Spoke. I liked hearing James White tell the story about when he finally informed George Strait about the ladies bathroom Annetta adorned with his cowboy pictures. Apparently, Strait was very flattered and had a real good sense of humor about it. I was told he even gave Annetta a kiss on the cheek!

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With only five cases of beer to sell, James White opened the Broken Spoke in 1964. After he was released from the U.S. Army at the age of 25 – Mr. White decided to pursue the quest, his dream, of opening a honky tonk in Austin, Texas to feature live country music and a dance hall. In the beginning, Broken Spoke was a local roadhouse where beer cost .25 cents a bottle and customers could get ice and a soft drink for .30 cents to chase down their liquor. Back in those days, before the peak of craft cocktails, people could bring their own liquor bottles to the bar in Texas. Now in 2019, over 55 years later, Broken Spoke has become a worldwide famous dance hall with a full bar and restaurant. By the late 80’s the Broken Spoke started to gain more and more fame. Featured in Texas Highways magazine, The Food Network, The New York Times, Nat Geo Traveler, CBS News, Texas Monthly, The Smithsonian and more; Broken Spoke is a historical landmark. The Broken Spoke is owned and operated by James and Annetta White. The two met at a dance hall in 1961 when she caught his eye and have been married 52 years. Annetta and her husband have worked together for decades to keep the Broken Spoke running successfully. Amongst her many contributions to the Broken Spoke, I discovered that Annetta is the one responsible for the George Strait photographs covering the women’s bathroom, giving the ladies room some cowboy vibes. For which, I am grateful.

“I ain’t got a dime, but what I got is mine. I ain’t rich, but Lord I’m free. Amarillo by mornin’. Amarillo’s where I’ll be”. – George Strait

Days prior to meeting Mr. White for a second interview, I felt anxious. Over the last 14 years, I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews. But I still got intimidated before interviewing James White. Even though the first interview went very well and the story was appreciated – even though I had no reason to feel anxiety because Mr. White and his entire family have been so friendly to me. Secretly, I still felt intimidated like, “What in the world am I going to ask this man that another writer hasn’t already inquired about? Is my story going to be any good at all? Where do I even start the second interview? How do I condense so much history into a few pages?” Instead of delving into my self-doubt as a Texan, I chose to chase the story. And I am glad I did.

Mr. James White is one of the kindest and most down-to-earth individuals I’ve ever interviewed. Out of all the celebrities, artists and entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed over the last 14 years – the White family will always linger fondly in my memory for making me feel welcomed. Not everyone I interview is so kind or humble, and the kindness is forever permeated into my brain. In a way, the Broken Spoke now feels like it’s become part of my own Texas history, too. I can understand wholeheartedly why people have coined the Broken Spoke as “the country western version of Cheers“.

During the second interview, late that morning, there was some commotion in the background. People looking for a key to the walk-in freezer. Beer shipments had arrived and the freezer was locked. Throughout the interview, you can hear people coming and going, including one of his daughters, Terri White. She teaches dance lessons at the Broken Spoke. Terri was kind enough to bring me some fried okra she’d just cooked in the kitchen. Walking over to table B2, she asked me if I wanted a bite, I said yes and took only one piece, as to not feel greedy. I guess she read my mind, because she reached into the basket and placed a handful of okra onto the table and left me with a napkin. It made me smile and I thanked her, again. It was a very sweet moment and reminded me that one of the many reasons why I’m grateful to be a Texas girl: southern hospitality and the love of sharing food and drinks together.

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Artwork by Kevin Geil.

Mr. White has another daughter, Ginny White Peacock. There is a fundraiser for Ginny on May 17, 2019 starting at 8 P.M. CST. Last year, I met her at the previous interview, and she was also very lovely and polite to me. She talked to me about the buildings electrical oddities and asked about my artwork. Recently, after many serious, life-changing health concerns that caused Ginny to lose both her feet and legs, below the knee, and nine fingers—as well as undergo a lot of painful surgeries she’s still recovering from—the Broken Spoke is hosting a silent and live auction to raise money for Ginny to obtain prosthetic legs. A wife and mother to two young boys, the fundraiser is a chance “to celebrate and come together to raise money so Ginny can get back on her feet”. Two Tons of Steel, Derailers, The Wagoneers w/ Monte Warden and other special guests will play music for the benefit. The auction entails over 100 items and collectibles. Including an autographed Limited Edition George Strait guitar (and an autographed cowboy hat) donated by George Strait & Tom Foote. A round of golf foursome with celebrity Ray Benson at Barton Creek Country Club. Ginny’s artwork will also be featured at the benefit. Please come on out to support the White family! If unable to attend the event, there is also a GoFundMe campaign where donations can be made to help Ginny on her road to robot legs.

Music and drinks aren’t all the Broken Spoke has to offer. Their barbecue is quite delicious and they are notorious for their chicken fried steak. On occasion, Mr. White still chops wood for the kitchen. Out at his ranch, there are some gullies and ravines that he uses a tractor to find wood for the fire. Live oak, Spanish oak and Heritage oak are the kinds of firewood he and his crew brings to the Broken Spoke to smoke meats. “It helps zap the taste in there and it’s sort of a flame-kissed smoked process”, stated White. The Spoke has had a BBQ pit from day one and way back in the day, James White and Bobby Flay used to cook together.

It would take several books to document all the history of the Broken Spoke. There is simply no way to condense it all for a literary journalism piece for the web. I hope to compile all my recordings into a short story and get it published elsewhere. Meantime, if you’d like to hear James White talk about the time Garth Brooks played a surprise show at the Broken Spoke in 2017. Booking George Strait back in the 70’s and how White was contacted for the cover of his latest album. Please stay tuned for the interview to go live!

“It’s a heart thing you feel good about. At the end of the day, I take more pictures now than I ever took in my life before now. Hell, no one wanted my picture in 1964 but now everyone does and I’ll make up for lost time. There were fun times in the 1960’s and everything was new. I just had so much fun here at the Spoke. But I think the one (press) thing we did with Texas Highways stood out the most. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. Now we’re on every roadside park in Texas at the rest stops. I mean you come in and there’s a picture of the Broken Spoke and the Cadillac outside. And then on the left there at the state Capitol, it’s right there you know. You got music, you got Texas and then you got the Broken Spoke. It’s a very good compliment to us. Since then we’ve been voted the Best Country Dance Hall in the nation, home of the best chicken fried steak in town, a lot of metropolitan awards. We’ve won a lot of awards. I’m in the Texas Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian. I’m in the Country Music Hall of Fame… I never expected it. All I really wanted was a honky tonk dance hall. So I got what I wanted, but then I got a lot more. Which is fine, it’s fun, a hell a lot more fun to have people brag about you than bitch about you. It’s always more fun to get compliments”. – James White

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Interview: Ian Moore talks psychedelic rock, the magic after midnight and decades of touring

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Photography by Daniel Work. Imagery provided by Western Publicity. 

Presently, Ian Moore is touring the Northeast of the U.S. and sharing his music to promote the release of his new album Toronto. A month prior, Moore cruised through Austin, Texas in Aug. 2018 to celebrate his 50th birthday at the iconic Antone’s. Moore is originally from Austin and he’s got a lot of Texas soul within his music. His birthday celebration deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas lasted two nights. Eric Tessmer was the opening act each night. These two artists are both deeply talented at playing guitar, songwriting and vocals. At times, their music, energy and style felt electric and transcendental, which is one of the many reasons why they call it psychedelic rock. 

Before the ATX birthday shows that were filled to brim with many of Moore and Tessmer’s beloved fans, friends and family inside Antone’s: I interviewed Ian Moore over the phone. Another Rank & Revue (R&R) writer interviewed him years ago, but this time it was my turn to interview him. At random, my editor sent over a pitch to me from his publicist at Western Publicity to see if I wanted to conduct the interview. Once I read Moore’s bio, even though I had not heard of him before: I knew I wanted to book it. Clearly, the man has talent to venture on national tours with the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top and Bob Dylan. 

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Photography: Nicolette Mallow

“Ian Moore, the Seattle-based, Austin, TX-born guitar player, singer and songwriter makes the proverbial renaissance man look lazy. Coming on the heels of Strange Days, his most successful record since his eponymous debut. Despite a never-ending cycle of touring, Moore offers a new record of bright, blazing rock-n-roll that combines his legendary guitar prowess with radio-friendly songs that showcase his elastic, soul-inflected vocals. As always, Ian has his eyes on the challenges faced by musicians of every stripe, having experienced the spectrum of artist successes and tribulations over a nearly 30-year career. “It’s a very different climate right now. When we hit a city, it doesn’t matter that I have 14 records, radio hits, etc. The only thing that matters is if we can really show up and leave the people feeling they saw something amazing. Its keeps me hungry, and I like the challenge,” says Moore… You might have been surprised to hear Moore’s songs popping up on major network shows on prime time television this past year; several selections were prominently being featured as performances on both American Idol and The Voice (“Satisfied” and “Blue Sky”). He also founded the artist’s healthcare alliance SMASH (Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare) and has joined the board of NARAS for the Pacific Northwest as governor and head of the advocacy committee. Moore’s story is often told and probably familiar to most critics; his initial record on Capricorn propelled him to national tours with the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top and Bob Dylan, acting in the acclaimed indie feature “Sling Blade,” and having Ice Cube direct the video for his track “Harlem.” Moore deviated from his initial blues-oriented guitar sound on subsequent records, touching on graceful pop songs and the psychedelic as well as British pub rock and deep Americana. The Toronto record and its 6 tracks represents those influences in such a way that they have informed his songwriting, but is likely more recognizable as a strong collection of the kind of guitar rock his core fan base would respond to immediately”. 

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In advance to the interview, I was reading the information Ian Moore’s publicist sent me and researching other interviews of the past. I Google’d him to read about his older albums like Capricorn. Within the photos from then and now, I noticed that Moore had super long brunette hair in the 90’s and looked like a total rock star. Even though time has passed, he’s still strikingly handsome and very talented. I enjoyed listening to his musical style change from Capricorn to Toronto. I read a lot of lyrics. Watching his SXSW 2017 performance at Continental Club last spring in ATX: I could see Moore is in love with the guitar and the music. Texans are often known for being passionate and intense, especially the artists and athletes. 

As I read more and more, I realized that I was out of the loop, especially since I am an Austinite. Ian Moore has been around for three decades and I was shocked I’d never seen one of his shows. As a Texas girl and artista, I consider myself familiar with the local art scene. Obviously I was not up to track. Like many people, it seems the more I know, the less I know. There’s simply no way to keep track of all the great talent out there, and that’s sort of a beautiful thing: always discovering new artists and new music. I didn’t really know what angle to take the story. All of the music was new to me—I enjoyed many different songs from different albums—and I didn’t have much time to prepare for this last minute interview. Even though the story wouldn’t run on R&R until September. So, I figured since every other media outlet was going to be asking about Toronto and Antone’s—I decided to just get to know the artist, like any other stranger, and sort of assess what we called at SCAD, a character profile, a mini version of the artists career.

On the dot, all the way from Texas, I called Ian Moore on the number his publicist provided me with. Moore was sanding an old tour vehicle outdoors in Seattle. 

Nicolette Mallow: Growing up in Austin, did you always have a childhood fondness for music? I read you switched from guitar to violin. 

Ian Moore: Yes! One of the first times I kicked in the womb was at Vulcan Gas Company. Even though neither of my parents were musicians, they were both music enthusiasts. I started playing violin as a child and switched to guitar as a teenager. When I was 16 years old, unfortunately, I cut some tendons. Still makes me a little sad to think about because that ended my violin career… When I first started playing music in Austin, I had a real hard time starting a band. My peers were into other music. They were more into the punk rock culture, but I didn’t care much for it. I was more into soul music, blues and psychedelic rock – garage rock – 50’s music. Then I found a drummer from high school and we started making music. We were the first band to ever play at Black Cat Lounge. This was a biker bar and we brought in youth and kids from all walks of life to a new scene. It was cool because this was before Emo’s and there were limited music venue’s at this time. By ages 19-20, I started touring. But yeah, it’s my 50th Birthday and Austin is my hometown. My history is as deep as any musician there. Guitar lessons. Stages. Memories. Riding bikes to Antone’s on Guadalupe. I had to celebrate in Austin. 

NM: Your album Capricorn launched tours with Rolling Stones, ZZ Top & Bob Dylan. That’s really impressive! How long after the release of your first record did these tours come about. And do you recall the names of the tours?

IM: Capricorn. At the time, being a blues-influence guitar player was kind of unknown territory. There was no cool roots, rock scene. I had a difficult time finding people to put the record out. It was very hard to find a placement. The label who signed this deal had managed Otis Redding. Before that, one deal after another fell a part and took a while to find a place to put my record(s). After Capricorn was released, the radio success and decent tour numbers got past the agents. Once the agents caught notice, I began touring. I think, but am not certain, the tour name with Rolling Stones was The Blue Lounge Tour and I think with ZZ Top it was the Recycler Tour. But I’m not certain, it’s sort of a blur… My band was the biggest band of our generation in ATX for a good 10 years, 2000-3000 people a night at our shows. 

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Imagery from IanMoore.com. 

NM: In regard to your newly release album Toronto, I read the lyrics for the songs “Satellite” and “Rock n Roll”. Tell me about the bright side and the dangers of living your life in the magic of midnight.

IM: The magic of midnight and the brutal reality of harsh dawn; we are all eternal dreamers. We are prone to think the next place, town, song or etc.—we think it’s gonna be the next thing to connect us. We can continue to dream and be dreamers, but it’s intense and a lot of people cannot sustain it. A lot of people lose themselves. I’ve been doing KXP radio and I talked about pitfalls of touring and how to survive. Being focused on the music helps. You can tell where the motivation is. If you want to party—and you’re focused on the physical attention—you will wear yourself out. It’s crucial to focus on the music to sustain sanity. It’s very rewarding and spiritually fulfilling. Just gotta keep focused on the prize. Don’t lose yourself in the illusion of midnight, thinking that something greater is right around the corner… My music has been a continued manifestation of what I wanted to do. When I was young, learning how to play and sing, I did a lot of wandering. Leaving scenes and drifting into the ether, a wanderer with temporary companions. It’s been an interesting journey. Even though my most successful record (thus far) was my 1st album: I think I’ve gotten quite a bit better and become more interesting. I never chased the fame. However, I’ve become an underground artist.

NM: I read your quote about the challenge of keeping the crowd enticed and how the music culture has changed. How do you sustain such energy while touring, so that you can always give the crowd the experience they’re seeking?

IM: This is the hardest time to survive with music, it’s so challenging. But I have a deep passion for music. I do it all, simply because I love music. Music is most deeply motivated for me, the actual music, not the attention and the success, that is peripheral for me. No matter what, I always want to get better and write a better song and feel like if I could just concentrate harder, it will manifest… When I am all beat up and tired and miss my family: the music keeps me going. That’s the thing, I can be completely exhausted and always dig in to find that passion. 

NM: The transition to Seattle from ATX, over the decades, based upon your observations—what changed most within the local scene between the two cities? 

IM: A lot of what I do is between Austin and Seattle. I live in both towns. We had nothing here (in Washington) when I arrived awhile back. There’s been a lot more drastic changes in Seattle. Obviously, all cities are enduring major changes right now, any cool city with artists. They’re all being priced out. However, Austin is one of the best for artists, right now. At least in ATX you have some people working for you and trying to make it better. ATX is weathering the storm best.

NM: Do you have any favorite or newfound cities in Europe that you look forward to touring this year?

IM: Europe: I love Spain and Italy. Amsterdam. Denmark. London… I’d like to play in Portugal. It’s so cool playing in different places, but what’s cooler is playing well in the places you play.

To view upcoming tour dates, listen to music and read about Moore’s songwriting workshop in Canyon Lake, Texas: please visit his website at www.IanMoore.com

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Note: This article was originally published on Rank & Revue

 Austin Film Festival receives $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

AFF

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Austin, TX National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $80 million in grants as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018.  Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $15,000 to Austin Film Festival for the On Story® Project. The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.

“The variety and quality of these projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as Austin Film Festival in Austin, Texas, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.” 

Austin Film Festival & Writers Conference (AFF) was the first organization of its kind to champion the writer’s role in film and television, and has remained vigilant in its dedication to storytelling throughout its 25-year history. The organization programs a slate of year-round offerings, including panels, workshops, and film screenings, all rooted in the art and craft of narrative storytelling. Held each October, its annual Festival and Conference is renowned to be the largest screenwriters event in the world, boasting over 200 panels and panelists gathered to discuss their expertise, latest works, and the inner-workings of the industry.

AFF’s annual Festival and Conference is a unique experience, challenging standard panel and film Q&A conventions by delivering intimate, instructional, and inspiring content to its audience. The AFF and On Story teams work year-round to create a program rich with insight. Speakers have hands-on experience and the battle scars to prove it. Panels, workshops, and interviews are tactile, ranging from detailed explorations of a script’s journey from conception to completion, to discussions that feature an entire writers room staff. Each session strives to pull back the curtain on the creative process, offering an inside look at some of the most influential and inspirational projects of our time.

Since its inaugural year in 1993, AFF has recorded and preserved these distinctive events. The vast material captured at the Festival and year-round events is then curated into productions offered for free online and through public radio and television; preserved and archived at The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University; and edited into a multi-book series in partnership with The University of Texas Press. These elements make up the foundation for the On Story brand and content.

An extension of AFF’s programs, mission, and messaging, On Story offers inspiring and instructional curations from the entertainment industry’s leading writers, directors, and creatives. The process of selecting specific episodes and content to feature in On Story is meticulous. At the close of each Festival year, the On Story team conducts a robust review process. These detailed deliberations help inform the content selection for the upcoming On Story season. Along with catering to both trends in the industry and the more timeless storytelling topics, the producers consider diversity of both speakers and mediums represented; the impact of the project’s educational value; and how the human experience is highlighted through the art and craft of storytelling.

On Story’s productions – 20 half-hour television episodes; 32 one-hour-long radio episodes; and 30-50 one-hour-long podcast episodes, all selected from a pool of over 200 recorded sessions from the prior year, as well as the book series, archive, and website – exude the same vibrance as when they’re being recorded, but are more wide and democratic in scope. The productions include industry luminaries such as Mark Frost (Twin Peaks), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), Issa Rae (Insecure), John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood), Keenen Ivory Wayans (In Living Color), and Alan Yang (Master of None). The Project as a whole has developed organically as a way to expand AFF’s reach, giving unprecedented access to audiences who have the desire to learn more about the art, craft, and business of film, television, and new media. As it does for AFF’s attendees, who often return year after year, On Story has proven to be an integrative resource to a nationwide classroom of students who, in turn, possess the potential to become writers, filmmakers, and media creators themselves. 

“The content captured at the Festival directly reflects its reputation for being an intimate, instructive, and inspirational experience,” said AFF Executive Director, Barbara Morgan. “We couldn’t be more thrilled for this incredible opportunity given by the NEA to help us provide these resources to the general public, free to anyone with an interest in storytelling through film, television and new media.”

For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.

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ABOUT AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL
Austin Film Festival (AFF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the art, craft and business of writers and filmmakers and recognizing their contributions to film, television and new media. AFF champions the work of aspiring and established writers and filmmakers by providing unique cultural events and services, enhancing public awareness and participation, and encouraging dynamic and long-lasting community partnerships. AFF is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department and the Texas Commission on the Arts. All attendees and events are based on permitting schedules and are subject to change and/or cancellation without notice. Badges and passes are available for purchase online at
 www.austinfilmfestival.com or by phone at 1-800-310-FEST.

Note: Official Press Release was provided to Nicolette Mallow by Sunshine Sachs. 

Interview: James White talks 54 years at the Broken Spoke

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Broken Spoke marquis. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

With only five cases of beer to sell, James White opened the Broken Spoke in 1964. After he was released from the U.S. Army at the age of 25 – Mr. White decided to pursue the quest, his dream, of opening a honky tonk in Austin, Texas to feature live country music and a dance hall. In the beginning, Broken Spoke was a local roadhouse where beer cost .25 cents a bottle and customers could get ice and a soft drink for .30 cents to chase down their liquor. Back in those days, before the peak of craft cocktails, people could bring their own liquor bottles to the bar in Texas. Now in 2018, over 54 years later, Broken Spoke has become a worldwide famous dance hall with a full bar and restaurant. By the late 80’s the Broken Spoke started to gain more and more fame. Featured in Texas Highways magazine, The Food Network, The New York Times, CBS News, Texas Monthly, the Smithsonian and more; Broken Spoke is a historical landmark. The Spoke has showcased talent like Willie Nelson, George Strait, Garth Brooks, the Derailers, Dale Watson, Alvin Crow, Weldon Henson and the list keeps going for decades. Many artists, icons and celebrities from all over have entered the front doors including Dolly Parton, Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino. Hundreds of old and modern photographs catalog the years within Broken Spoke’s Hall of Fame.

The Broken Spoke is owned and operated by James and Annetta White (his wife). The two met at a dance hall in 1961 when she caught his eye and have been married 51 years. Annetta and her husband have worked together for decades to keep the Spoke running successfully. Amongst her many contributions to the Broken Spoke, I discovered that Annetta is the one responsible for the George Strait photographs covering the women’s bathroom, giving the ladies room some cowboy vibes. 

A lot of people ask me where I met my wife. Well, I met her at a honky tonk. There was an old dance hall in Oak Hill called the Sportsman Inn and I looked out on the dance floor and saw a pretty blonde lady dancing with a red dress on. It was a fast dance and she caught my attention. She caught me eye and I thought I’d ask that girl to dance. That’s where it all started right there.” – James White

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Photo collage of Broken Spoke photographs featuring Willie Nelson, James White, Dolly Parton, Clint Eastwood, Garth Brooks and Annetta White.

Walking into the Broken Spoke is like stepping back in time. Once you enter this classic Texas dance hall and see all of the antique photos from decades past, an intense feeling of nostalgia rushes over and fills the air. It looks exactly as it did when the doors opened in 1964. There is so much eye candy to choose from: a horse saddle, photographs, flags, neon lights, posters, woodwork and of course the dance hall. A replica of Willie Nelson’s guitar Trigger can be found at the Broken Spoke, too. As a Texas girl that’s driven by the Broken Spoke since the 1990’s and enjoyed libations as an adult, I was really excited to finally learn more about this dance hall and the reputable James White.

In May 2018, James White consented to an interview with me. I met him at the Broken Spoke on a weekday around lunch. He and I sat at table B2, which I came to found out is the same table where Willie Nelson and his wife Annie would frequent when they were regular visitors at the Spoke. I went to Lake Travis High School with Willie Nelson’s nephew, Trevor, so it was even more thrilling to be sitting in country western history.

Wearing a UT button-up shirt, a red baseball cap, gold watch and horseshoe ring made of diamonds, James White took me back to the beginning and covered as much history about the Broken Spoke as we could in one hour. Unlike most interviews, White naturally guided the majority of the dialogue exchange. I was simply a listener to keep the story on course, interjecting with questions along the way if things got off track. Before the interview began, White asked me if he could start at the beginning and then jump around in time wherever I wanted to. By listening, I could tell he had told this Texas story many times and it never gets old to tell, or to hear. [He insisted that I record the interview and I posted the audio online in a two-part segment via YouTube.]

James White: A lot of people, you know, they ask me, why did you go into this kind of business? All the way down to my childhood, my parents would take me to different dance halls in this area, and that’s where I got the love of country music in my veins… When I was in the Army, I didn’t know what I was gonna do when I got out of the Army. So I thought it would be kind of neat to open up a place of my own, similar to the places when I was growing up in Austin. It just became like a quest of mine the day I left the Army. And when I came out under the big ole oak tree out front (on South Lamar), I just kind of visualized a place like no other and when I got it built: I named it the Broken Spoke. The reason I thought up that name, I wanted something original. I wanted something country, I wanted something western. Texas style. In my mind, I had a list of different names in my head. When I got to thinking about Broken Spoke I was thinking about wagon wheels and they were kind of rolling around in my brain. And then I remembered this old Jimmy Stewart movie called “Broken Arrow” and I said hell, I’ll just find me a couple wagon wheels, I’ll knock a spoke out and I put one on each side of the door coming in and I named it the Broken Spoke. And I never looked back.

Volunteers made the Spoke by hand. A lot of heavy drinkers pitched in to build the Broken Spoke and one drunk man even fell off the roof. White had to open the doors a little early after running out of money, hence the modest five cases of beer. People even told White the business wouldn’t last six months, but he proved them wrong. It was about 20 years of hard work before the Broken Spoke became famous. Mr. White said it was many years of 16 hour days tending bar, seven days a week. The Broken Spoke is his life’s work and there is a ton of heart and soul poured into this building. 

Music, dance and cold drinks are the focus of this honky tonk, but there is also a strong sense of community and love. The Spoke has been described as “the country western version of Cheers” and it’s become part of Texas history within the arts. Many local Austinites or younger generations don’t know the intricate history of the Broken Spoke. I certainly didn’t and I’ve been here off-and-on since the 1990’s. So, after White’s introduction as to what inspired him to build and create the Broken Spoke. I asked him to tell me more about table B2: Willie Nelson’s table. Willie is one of the most notorious artists to perform at the Broken Spoke and it all starts back in the 1960’s. 

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A replica of Willie Nelson’s guitar “Trigger” and Table B2. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

JW: I first booked Willie Nelson in 1967. I booked Willie Nelson and The Record Men for $800. He had short hair, he was clean shaven and wore either a turtle neck, a vest or a sports coat. But he’s still the Willie Nelson you see today. His people love to see the one picture of Willie hanging on the wall, and he’s got a copy in his office too: the photo of he and I on stage at Broken Spoke when I first booked him back in the 60’s. He and I have always been friends. Willie has friends all over the world but he always remembers the Broken Spoke. He always comes back every chance he gets… Anyway, when Willie had a tax problem in 1990 and owed $16.5 million: my wife and I were sitting around and we got mad because we heard the IRS took all his pictures and they took all of his awards off the wall and put them up for auction. I didn’t think it was right to take his pictures, gold records, platinum records—and so we thought we’d take a collection and give it to Willie because they’d taken everything he owned. So I got a gallon pickle jar and put it on the bar and put a sign on it “Where there’s a Willie there’s a way”. Willie heard about it and called me up from Hawaii and thanked me. Meanwhile we had a fundraiser for Willie and I sent the money over to Hawaii by way of his daughter, Lana Nelson. His family said Willie talked about the fundraiser all day long and was very excited about it. He called me again and said “thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m gonna come home for Christmas, and I’m going to bring my band, I’m going to eat some chicken fried steak, drink a cold beer, and I wanna do a little picking (at the Broken Spoke) and I’ll bring some friends with me”. And that’s when a lot of local country artists who knew Willie wanted to get involved. Some nights you never forget. He never asked for money, I did it from the heart. And he thanked me from the heart and he came out and played all night. That was in 1990… So we raised some money and I gave him every letter I received from Associated Press, they ran the story all over the world. We started getting money from Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Birmingham jail and Indian reservations… I never got one bad letter about Willie. All of them were complimentary and even if the donation was $1, Willie autographed every check as a thank you.

After he told me about the fundraiser, James White proceeded to share a song he wrote with Gary P. Nunn called “Where there’s a Willie, there’s a way”. Their song can be heard sung a cappella by Mr. White in Part One of the interview around the 18:00 minute mark. It’s rather clever and has a Willie Nelson-esque melody to it.

Suddenly, as I intended to shift gears from Willie Nelson to Dolly Parton. Her music serendipitously came on the jukebox and you can Dolly’s voice in the background. A series of her songs played at that perfect moment like the classic “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You.” Echoing in the background, it was a most befitting and true country, western moment in Texas. Back in 1987, Dolly Parton came out to the Broken Spoke to film “Wild Texas Nights” and James White even got to utter a few lines in the filming. There is a charming photo of Dolly Parton on display at Broken Spoke that many people love to photograph.

Bouncing around in time, James White talked to me about the booking process, musicians, family and the architecture of the Broken Spoke. It’s an older building that has a lot of character and endearing oddities. However, White mentions that perhaps if he built it today there would’ve been some changes, like installing larger bathrooms. Nevertheless, there is something beautiful about keeping history locked in a time capsule. Especially in a city like Austin where it’s losing a lot of its originality with the modern times. Broken Spoke has withstood all the changes in Austin and still stands strong with many more memories of live music and dancing to come. 

Over the years, there is one character that all regulars know about and that would be Rowdy. He never leaves the Broken Spoke and has never performed on stage. He doesn’t speak either but Rowdy sits at one of the tables with his sunglasses, bandana, blue jeans and he’s quite the ladies man. Sometimes people like to dance with him, too. Wait, did I mention Rowdy is a dummy?

JW: Rowdy’s skull has a crack now because people keep dropping him on something, or some drunk wants to dance with him or move him around. His knuckles are broken off right here. One time I used to write a newsletter. I talk about Rowdy like he’s a real person, like a living thing. People ask me where I got him and I tell ’em I picked Rowdy up hitchhiking out on 620. So I gave him a ride to the Broken Spoke and now he don’t want to leave and is here at the bar 24/7. When I pulled up to stoplights back then people would look at him, and I’d never do nothing I’d just stare straight ahead, but I knew they was looking at him. Rowdy is a funny guy. When they stole my dad’s silver saddle—the only thing funny in the whole thing (was Rowdy). After it took 14 days to get the saddle back. The first cop on the scene crawled in the same window as the burglars did and he came in and he said, “I almost shot Rowdy!” And I said “I wish you would have because he’d look cool with some powder burns”. But yeah Rowdy just sat there and didn’t say nothing and let them steal the saddle. So anyway when Rowdy broke his knuckles off, we were going to glue them back on. I’m writing about it in this newsletter (for the Broken Spoke) like he’s a person. And I wrote “hell, Rowdy broke off a few of his fingers and they fell onto the floor and the waitress swept it up and thought it was a dill pickle and threw it in the dumpster. When I heard about it I had to send the waitress out to retrieve his fingers out of the dumpster so we could glue them back on”. Soon after this waitress’ sister in a different city said “What kind of place are you working where people are breaking fingers off and gluing them on?” She thought it was a real story. 

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Rowdy reading the newspaper at Broken Spoke. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

At the end of our interview, I asked James White if out of all the press coverage and all the years of memories, did anything stand out most? It was a tough question to answer and he drifted in time a bit, but eventually it all came back full circle to Texas Highways.

JW: It’s a heart thing you feel good about. At the end of the day, I take more pictures now than I ever took in my life before now. Hell, no one wanted my picture in 1964 but now everyone does and I’ll make up for lost time. There were fun times in the 1960’s and everything was new. I just had so much fun here at the Spoke. But I think the one (press) thing we did with Texas Highways stood out the most. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. Now we’re on every roadside park in Texas at the rest stops. I mean you come in and there’s a picture of the Broken Spoke and the Cadillac outside. And then on the left there at the state Capitol, it’s right there you know. You got music, you got Texas and then you got the Broken Spoke. It’s a very good compliment to us. Since then we’ve been voted the Best Country Dance Hall in the nation, home of the best chicken fried steak in town, a lot of metropolitan awards. We’ve won a lot of awards. I’m in the Texas Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian. I’m in the Country Music Hall of Fame… I never expected it. All I really wanted was a honky tonk dance hall. So I got what I wanted, but then I got a lot more. Which is fine, it’s fun, a hell a lot more fun to have people brag about you than bitch about you. It’s always more fun to get compliments.

To hear more about Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, the beer drinkers that built the Broken Spoke for free and much more, please check out the interviews in full on YouTubehttps://www.brokenspokeaustintx.net

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Dale Watson sets the record straight

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Photography provided for the Press by DaleWatson.com.

Rumors flew around Austin like a wildfire in high winds the last few weeks about Dale Watson leaving ATX for Memphis. And Watson is adamant to set the record straight after a recent interview gone askew. When I read his quote on social media to clarify the truth: I was relieved to read that Dale Watson will still be in Austin, Texas and Memphis, traveling the country, and the world, touring and playing music with His Lone Stars. So, rest easy, Texas, we haven’t lost one of most beloved musicians.

Dale Watson is a very well-known name in Texas, Tennessee and various parts of the world. Born in Alabama and raised in Pasadena, Texas — Watson moved to Austin in the early 1990’s and has made it his home ever since. Personally I’ve known of his name and heard about his music long before I ever saw him perform seeing as I’ve lived in ATX off-and-on since the 90’s. My Latina mother (and Texan) once told me that she had a crush on him back in the day and enjoys dancing to his country music. Even the legendary Willie Nelson spoke highly of Dale Watson and stated “I’m one of Dale’s biggest fans”.

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Watson has performed all over the world and is currently touring in Europe. However, in the near future he will be spending a little more time in Memphis and a little less time in Texas. Two homes, two cities he loves and still focused on sharing his music with his treasured fans around the world.

“O.K. friends , let me set the record straight, if you don’t mind. I love Austin. Austin is my home. I love Texas and will ALWAYS live in Texas. That said, I bought a house in Memphis as an investment and in the process fell in love with the town. It reminds me of Austin of the 80’s, the good and the bad. I play over 300 shows a year, meaning Austin and on the road world wide. To afford to live in Austin, I literally have to tour. As one guy posted I’m old and should retire, but I love what I do and quite honestly can’t afford retirement either. What musician can? These things are facts I’m volunteering now but I recently granted an interview locally. They had seen an article about my moving Ameripolitan Awards to Memphis and buying a house there. The interview was heavily edited. This happens often but the things left out were important to me. Things like, my love of Austin. My roots are in Texas and the fact that, at some point I will have to sell my house in Austin and move to the outskirts, but I will always have a house in Texas. I will hang on to being an Austinite as long as I can. Monday’s at the Continental Club, a Friday or Saturday at the Broken Spoke, and Chicken $#!+ Bingo at C’Boys on Sunday’s. As for the media, they suck. If any media repeats this post, then print the whole thing, because you suck at editing and paraphrasing. So, after all is said and done, I hope I see ya at my regular gigs in Austin friends. I hope you come to my AirBnb and recording studio in Memphis. And I hope you all vote when it comes to your mayor and city council. Peace.”    – Dale Watson

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Secretly when I read the media coverage Watson is referring to, it seemed to me that pieces were missing to the interview. To play thousands of shows in Texas, you must really love the city of Austin and The Lone Star State, therefore it struck me as odd to read a short story that Dale Watson was just going to up and leave TX without going into more details. True, the city is growing overcrowded and is becoming more expensive as the love for the almighty dollar bulldozes the love for local artists. But, thankfully the rumors weren’t true and we can look forward to many more Dale Watson shows. Also, I’ve visited Memphis a few times and I can definitely see the appeal. Memphis gives Texas a run for its money in regards to BBQ, live music and the beauty of the hill country.

Over the past 20 years, Austin has become attached to Dale Watson and His Lone Stars. I am certain many Texans all over the state will also be relieved to hear Watson is here for the long haul, even if we must share him with the city of Memphis, too. Stay tuned to his website and social media to find local shows in your area to support local artists and keep the art scene alive and well in ATX!

Screen-Shot-2018-03-11-at-7.59.45-PM-2 For more information please visit www.dalewatson.com.

Dale Watson, keeper of the true country music flame, this Austin-based honky-tonker carries on in the tradition of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson with his “Ameripolitan” brand of American roots music. Dubbed “the silver pompadoured, baritone beltin’, Lone Star beer drinkin’, honky-tonk hellraiser” by The Austin Chronicle, Watson sat in with Jimmy Kimmel’s house band as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) from SXSW 2015. He also emceed the first ever SXSW “Ameripolitan” showcase featuring the best of Honky-tonk, Outlaw Country, Rockabilly and Texas Swing music. Since the release of El Rancho Azul in 2013, Watson’s profile has risen considerably via appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS), Austin City Limits and The Sun Sessions(PBS) and as a guest on NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me. A veteran touring artist and consummate entertainer, he is on the road more than 300 days a year. He also put his money where his heart is and took over ownership of two struggling Texas honky-tonks, the Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin (home of Chicken $#!+ Bingo) and The Big T Roadhouse in St. Hedwigs (outside San Antonio).  If not on the road, he and His Lone Stars perform at one of them each Sunday. Dale has flown the flag for classic honky-tonk for over two decades. He’s christened his brand of American roots “Ameripolitan” to differentiate it from current crop of Nashville-based pop country. The Alabama-born, Texas-raised Watson may be the hardest working entertainer today and is rapidly approaching legendary status.  He is a country music maverick, a true outlaw who stands alongside Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and George Strait as one of the finest country singers and songwriters from the Lone Star State.”     http://www.dalewatson.com

Note: This story was originally published on Rank & Revue, SXSW 2018 issue

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Photography provided for the Press by DaleWatson.com.

The Filigree Theatre presented Anna Ziegler’s play “A Delicate Ship” at The Santa Cruz Theater in ATX

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Photo of set from “A Delicate Ship” at The Santa Cruz Theater performed by The Filigree Theatre. Photography: Nicolette Mallow.

The Filigree Theatre premiered Anna Ziegler’s poetic play A Delicate Ship in Austin, Texas on Feb. 15, 2018. A theatrical performance that marked the second production of The Filigree’s inaugural season, their first play was Betrayal by Harold Pinter. A Delicate Ship and Betrayal were both hosted by The Santa Cruz Theater. Champagne and cookies were served after each performance. The cast of A Delicate Ship consisted of David Moxham (Sam), Laura Ray (Sarah) and Nicholaus Weindel (Nate). Directed by Elizabeth V. Newman (Artistic Director) and Produced by Stephanie Moore (Co-Managing Director) the play premiered until closing night on Feb. 25, 2018. 

What is the synopsis of A Delicate Ship and what does this story entail? “It’s Christmas Eve, and Sarah and Sam are celebrating like New Yorkers: flirting over wine and debating the nature of existential suffering. Then there is knock on the door, and Sarah’s childhood friend Nate stands at the threshold. And suddenly suffering becomes a whole lot less sexy. A kaleidoscopic look at one night in New York City that changes the lives of three people forever.” 

Weeks ago that was the exact synopsis I read on the Press Release sent to me by a publicist I’ve worked with many times, and immediately I was intrigued and knew I wanted to attend. Theatrical performances are like taking a mental and emotional journey in time whilst sitting still in the audience. It’s like pulling back the curtain to someone else’s life and being an invisible guest. As beautiful as film and cinema may be and as much as I adore all the arts: theatre arts and theatrical performances hold a beloved place in my heart, like music, because it feels as if I am experiencing a daydream that I can immerse myself into, like diving into an Olympic pool and imagining I am a mermaid out at sea. Like a daydream, theater arts lets me float away in imagination. I can watch the play and forget about my life and my characters for a few hours at a time. Generally I read a play in its entirety before attending a performance to know the exact story, dialogue and characters. But this time I read nothing but the Press Release and did not delve into the minute details. I wanted to walk into A Delicate Ship with an open mind.

Immediately upon entry into the theatre I saw blue windows, blue lights, a brown leather sofa, a guitar, a birdcage, The New York Times newspaper, other trinkets and home decor like books and a modest at-home bar. The stage was set in someone’s NYC apartment and it looked like a cold December night by the wool and flannel jackets hung by the door. The venue space at The Santa Cruz Theatre is very intimate in size and it makes for an evocative, memorable and vivid experience with the audience and the actors on stage so close in proximity the eye contact can feel magnetic. 

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A Delicate Ship was my second experience to see a performance by The Filigree Theatre. The first play was so delightful that I came back for more. This time I attended on the opening night as a member of the Press and I had the pleasure to interview Elizabeth V. Newman: Co-Founder, Artistic Director & Co-Managing Director of The Filigree Theatre and A Delicate Ship. 

Nicolette Mallow: The set on stage was beautiful! I loved the integration of music, spotlights, blue lights and windows… Does the theatre intend to keep expanding light and sound into plays? I feel like Betrayal was a lot more subtle in regards to sound and lighting effects. I adored the colors and sound effects in A Delicate Ship

Elizabeth V. Newman: Thank you! As a director, I really love working with my designers to build each distinct world for every show, which are totally dependent on what the needs of the particular show are; i.e. which elements are in the forefront and which underscore more subtly. Chris Conard is our set and lighting designer (also on the advisory committee of Filigree) and Eliot Fisher is sound. We all collaborated previously on the Austin Premiere (and the the Filigree pre-season Los Angeles Premiere) of Any Night by Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn. The challenge of Any Night was to create a world that was evocative of a ‘fever dream’ so I worked with both designers to create a more wild, impressionistic, surreal/nightmarish. (Eliot was nominated for B Iden Payne for Sound, Chris for Lighting for the pre-LA premiere/Austin premiere of that show)… The next performance (Betrayal) for me was all about restraint and repression and about things simmering underneath a very polished, clean, hard surface. For Betrayal I wanted very straightforward, simple, white, almost clinical lighting. I wanted the production to be all about Pinter’s words and the silences between. The only sound was era specific music (English, 1960’s/70’s) between scenes to evoke the era and emotions bubbling up under the surface.  

Eliot and I discussed sound for A Delicate Ship and talked about how it was, in a way, the inverted universe of Any Night. For Any Night, each distinct location in the play had a sound-scape with amazing interstitials of a car crash and glass breaking – we hear the aftermath, in a dreamy/impressionistic way – of a major accident.  In A Delicate Ship, the sound sneaks up on you. Eliot used some sounds from some of the pre-show music and slowed them down beyond recognition and added other elements into the mix to create the design –  to ‘feel’ the nostalgia inherent in A Delicate Ship – familiar but unrecognizable. In terms of the set and lighting for A Delicate Ship – the environment of that Christmas Eve is intentionally naturalistic: cozy, warm and then, lighting-wise, we are pulled out of this Christmas Eve present moment and thrust into a memory space (blue light) as the characters need to reflect upon Christmas Eve. The goal was to provide a visual analog to the ‘woosh’ feeling that the character, Sarah, describes overcoming her at times.Our next show, Trio, by Sheila Cowley, which will be going up at the end of April, is set in an old garage that is inhabited by magical, child-like  beings so the tone and the ‘world of the play’ will be a universe unto itself and the set, lighting and sound design will come from bringing that kind of a world to life.

Mallow: How does The Filigree Theatre go about choosing their selected plays of performance? I’ve seen two performances now, both very different and delightful. They seem to revolve around love, sex, family, the human psyche and time/memory. And they require very few characters, three to four people at most. Thoughts? 

Newman: Thank you! Our Season structure is “Past (part of the theatre cannon) – Present (playwrights living and working today) – Future (new works/world premieres)” with each season revolving around a theme. For our inaugural season the official theme is: Trios/Triangles – but there are ‘secret’ hidden themes that have emerged for Season 1, namely memory, deception, passion/time. Trio will have six actors on stage: two ‘trios’ – one of characters who are actors trying to rehearse children theatre and one of the ‘trio beings’ who are akin to elves or sprits. Right now we are in the process of setting the season/choosing the theme for Season 2. I personally like to direct smaller casts a bit like chamber music: it is ’chamber theatre’. For me, when there are only two or three or four bodies on stage, each look, gesture, silence is meaningful and powerful. We have Stage One, our staged workshop reading series, to have an opportunity to get to know different writers (playwrights/screenwriters – help them develop their work – build a relationship – grow projects). In terms of selecting a play, I reach out to resources: NY based Playwright Eleanor Burgess, our Literary Advisor; Alex Timbers, our Artistic Advisor; New Play Exchange and of course actors, writers, or artists who have a sensibility that is simpatico with my own and with Filigree’s. 

Mallow: What is the auditions process and how many actors/actresses do you have on board right now?

Newman: We had double auditions for Betrayal and A Delicate Ship last May (because we knew we were going to Los Angeles with Any Night for the summer and had to set auditions before we went) it was a kind of big round robin casting two plays at once.  We saw such great talent – and I’ve subsequently worked with some of the actors who auditioned for us last May in our Stage One readings and other short plays I’ve directed in festivals. We recently had auditions for Trio. In May, we will have our Season Two auditions (why cast only two shows at once when you can cast three, right?) We are intentionally not a actors rep. company – there are some great companies who are doing that already. For us, the season structure/theme is the guide and for us, and our priority is it that casting be based role by role as required by the individual plays and that play selection not be based on what fits our standing acting company. That being said, I love revisiting collaboration with actors and designers as we develop a short-hand and common references and I get to see the wonderful range and talent of the folks I’m working with. 

Mallow: From a lot of reading and studying articles about depression, and losing friends to suicide and looking back on their behavior prior to their death… I could tell Nate’s character was suicidal from the get go. I have written stories about unstable characters and I was wondering… Was it difficult or cathartic for both directors and actors to portray such delicate signs of dark depression? Does repeating such intense words night after night ever become heavy on the heart?

Newman: A Delicate Ship definitely deals with some pretty serious topics. In the work that we did to prepare for the show, the cast and I delved into how the ramp up to, and ultimately the playing out of the tragic event affect not only the character of Nate but also Sarah and Sam. I’m very proud of my cast for giving it their all each run and not shying away from the difficult material. They are pros and have the courage and stamina to go there each and every time. In some ways, I would imagine it is tough for Sarah (Laura Ray) and Sam (David Moxham) as it is for Nate (Nicholaus Weindel) as they have to relive the discovery and the repercussions of what transpires night after night;  Nate is convinced that he is going to get his happy ending right up to the horrible moment that, he feels, it is yanked right out from under him. Up to that moment he is living what is, in his mind, a sort of big climax of a romantic comedy or a Nicholas Sparks story/plot. 

Mallow: Why do you think the characters were playing a battle of the wits and playing passive aggressive mind games, taking intellectual jabs at each other to hurt one another, as opposed to directly getting to the root of the matter right from the get go? Christmas Eve nostalgia? Fear? Pride? Inexperience to deal with uncomfortable situations since they are all fairly young? 

Newman: That is such a good question. I feel like Anna’s characters are so nuanced and complex and well-drawn that they function as fully formed humans who are sometimes making choices or using tactics that they are fully aware of and sometimes going at their goals sideways, and at times without any self-awareness. At times each of the characters are reacting from a primal place: self-preservation, fear, anger, lust, longing. Sometimes they act from their ‘best selves’ and sometimes from their ‘worst’. Our job as an ensemble of actors/director is to pick apart these different moments and tease out how aware each character is of their own actions/words and their effect on each other.

Mallow: Memory is a topic that comes up a lot because we all take walks down memory lane every day… but, why does Sarah’s character often block out good memories: sex with Nate, talking marriage with Sam… generally we block out only the bad but her character seems to disassociate a lot even from joy. Why is that?

Newman: One thing that Laura (playing Sarah) and I discussed quite a bit was the process of mourning and grief and how the loss of Sarah’s father (just weeks before sex with Nate) and not even a year before this Christmas Eve has become intertwined with her experience and history with Nate. We discussed how the sexual encounter may well have meant wildly different things to each of them and that the memory and association with it may have each taken on a different hue with time and distance from it.  We joked that really Nate may be ‘The One’ for Sarah if he weren’t such an ‘emotional vampire’ and how that contradiction and conflict might play out for and within Sarah. Similarly, I feel like Sarah’s time with Sam becomes pierced through with the loss of Nate which overshadows any of the happiness Sam and Sarah had.

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Artwork provided by The Filigree Theatre.

For more information about The Filigree Theatre please visit https://www.filigreetheatre.com. The Santa Cruz Theater is located at 1805 East 7th Street, Austin, TX 78702. 

About The Filigree Theatre: 

“Co-Founded by Elizabeth V. Newman (Artistic Director/Co-Managing Director) and Stephanie Moore (Co-Managing Director), The Filigree Theatre is committed to producing high-level, professional theatre in the city of Austin and to collaborating with local artists working across creative disciplines including fine arts, dance, film and music.

The company’s name, ‘Filigree’, meaning “the complex intertwining of delicate threats of gold and silver,” was derived from the Latin words for thread (filum) and seed (granum), which serves as the basis for the company’s dual mission: to serve both as a ‘thread’ by connecting Austin to theatre communities in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and London, as well as a ‘seed’by incubating, supporting and celebrating emerging theatre makers in Austin.  The Filigree Theatre is likewise dedicated to forging connections with diverse audiences across the region.

Newman and Moore have structured each season of The Filigree Theatre to be comprised of three shows connecting the “Past” (honoring the theatre cannon) “Present” (playwrights living and working today) and “Future” (world-premieres and new works) that are tied together with a common theme that runs throughout.  For The Filigree Theatre’s 2017-18 inaugural season, the theme is “Trios” and the three productions are (Past) Betrayal by Harold Pinter (Sept. 28-Oct. 8); (Present) A Delicate Ship by Anna Ziegler (Austin Premiere; Feb. 15-25); and (Future) Trio by Sheila Cowley (World Premiere; Apr. 26-May 6).”

“The Long Road Home” military series by National Geographic Channel is showcased worldwide

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Recently in honor of Veteran’s Day I attended a screening in Texas for a National Geographic Channel military series on TV called The Long Road Home. Nat Geo and the Texas Film Commission delivered a sneak peek into this Texas-filmed series based on Martha Raddatz’s bestselling novel The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family. The first episode premiered on November 7, 2017 and the show is now featured worldwide in over 171 locations and 45 languages each week on Tuesday’s via National Geographic Channel. The Long Road Home is presently the largest active set in the U.S. built on Fort Hood Army Base. Creator and showrunner of this TV show is screenwriter and documentary filmmaker Mikko Alanne.  

“On April 4, 2004, the First Cavalry Division from Fort Hood was ferociously ambushed in Sadr City, Baghdad—a day that later came to be known as Black Sunday. Based on Martha Raddatz’s best-selling book, The Long Road Home chronicles their heroic fight for survival, as well as their families’ agonizing wait on the home front back in Texas. The cast includes two-time Emmy-nominated actor Michael Kelly as Lt. Col. Gary Volesky; Emmy-nominated actor Jason Ritter as Capt. Troy Denomy; Kate Bosworth as Capt. Denomy’s wife, Gina; Sarah Wayne Callies as LeAnn Volesky, wife of Lt. Col. Volesky; Noel Fisher as Pfc. Tomas Young; and Jeremy Sisto as Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger.”

The Long Road Home tells a story of the ultimate sacrifice made at war. The series gives a voice and a proper acknowledgment to the Veterans that have served and their families that supported them. I absolutely loved the episode we were showcased and as I sat there watching the screening of The Long Road Home on a Sunday evening. I felt a wild and extensive mixture of emotions, light and dark. Mikko Alanne does a fantastic job of intertwining beauty and humor into a darker story. Right when you want to look away from Baghdad, the series keeps you hooked with light-hearted moments back in Texas. Alanne is also a master of flashbacks and retrospective storytelling. Viewers are watching the episodes with ease, without confusions as to the different times with different characters, past and present. I was also impressed by how the set is so accurate in detail that even the military personnel that helped advise Mikko Alanne on set described it to be almost a mirror reflection of Baghdad. One of the Veterans of the U.S. Army that helped Alanne in the production process, as well as attend the Q&A in Austin, is Eric Bourquin.

“While on the set he and other 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers endured in Iraq, Eric Bourquin managed to get the emotional healing he had sought for years. ‘There’s no way I could just take a stroll through memory lane [in Iraq] if i wanted to,” he said after a panel discussion about the show at the Defense Information School. “But I was so fortunate that I was able to do that and walk through it’. The Army assisted the film crew at Fort Hood, where producers claimed they built the largest working film set in North America on a 12-acre site. More than 80 buildings were erected at the Elijah urban training site at Fort Hood, Texas, where the division is headquartered, to resemble homes and streets in Sadr City. For Bourquin, who worked as a production consultant for the show, the fabricated town gave him tangible closure”. – U.S. Army

At the end of the screening I was able to ask Eric Bourquin a question and it was definitely an intense moment for me. I respected his honesty and bravery to retell this story and to heal from it. [A recording of the Q&A can be found on YouTube.] For me, even though I never served in the military, it was hard to ignore my personal feelings at a Press event like this being a military brat myself that grew up with nearly all Veterans and men of the military: Air Force, Army, Marines, Green Berets and so on. As a member of the military family, this was an intense but heartfelt episode for me because I’ve experienced and seen what the military and wartimes can do to a person, good and bad. I’ve seen the affects of PTSD and trauma. It hurts the Veterans and their families to see loved ones struggling. Even if the Veterans are most affected of all. Thus, any safe place of healing is highly commendable and needed. Ultimately I respect the vision of what The Long Road Home is hoping to accomplish because that is really what Veterans and their families really need: to be heard, seen and to heal so that they may readjust back to normal everyday life and recover from the past. 

I highly recommend this TV series for all Veterans and members of the military family. Even if you’re not a Veteran, active duty or part of the military family. This show can be appreciated by all civilians because it’s deeply important for those uninvolved or unrelated to the military to gain enlightenment and second-hand exposure as to what military personnel have to endure overseas at war whilst away from home. We all need to see and to empathize with the difficulty Veterans face (and their families) when returning back. We need to see their long road home to recovery and healing. I really valued this series as an artist and a member of the military family, because when a member of the military is deployed and goes to war, it affects the families, too. 

Stay tuned for tonights episode of The Long Road Home titled  “In The Valley of Death” at 10/9 PM Central on Nov. 21. For more information please visit their website on National Geographic Channel at http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/the-long-road-home/.

 

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Greta Gerwig breaks speciality box office records with her Directorial debut ‘Lady Bird’

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Greta Gerwig. Imagery provided by Sunshine Sachs/Photography by Jack Plunkett.

Last month I was commissioned by an editor in Hollywood to interview Greta Gerwig on the red carpet prior to the screening of her film Lady Bird at the Austin Film Festival in Texas on October 26, 2017. The interview was published by The Hollywood Reporter. I loved the film and it was a pleasure to interview Greta Gerwig. She was a smart, kind & articulate artist to interview. Therefore I was not surprised when I read this week that Lady Bird broke box office records. 

“Lady Bird opened to limited audiences its first weekend, showing in four locations (making it a specialty box office release).” According to Jezebel “it blew past typical ticket sales for smaller box office openings of its kind, grossing $375,612 in fourtheaters, with a theater average of $93,903. That makes it the best speciality box office opening of 2017. For context, look at the numbers of comparable first weekend openings this year: Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled earned an average $64,160 per theater in four locations the first weekend and The Big Sick grossed roughly $82,800 per theater it’s opening weekend in five locations. And, as IndieWire points out, since Katheryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty grossed roughly $83,430 per theater in five locations back in 2012, that makes Lady Bird the best ever limited debut for a movie directed by a woman. Since Lady Bird has already exceeded box office expectations, it will be interesting to see how well it does when it opens in more theaters during the next few months. And considering the rave reviews and ticket sales, I wouldn’t be surprised if the film lands several nominations around Oscar time, including Gerwig for best director.” 

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Known to most as an actress, Greta Gerwig has been part of the film industry in a multitude of roles both on-camera and behind the scenes during the last 10 years: acting, writing, producing and directing. Within her recent film Lady Bird, Gerwig showcased her directorial debut as the exclusive writer and director.  When I asked her at the red carpet when she knew she was ready to direct a solo project Gerwig stated“It was a very long process of writing the script but once I finished writing. I felt like it was the moment I had been working toward for 10 years and I’d always wanted to direct. And I thought, this is the moment, this is when you do it. I don’t know that you ever quite feel ready, but I think I felt like, enough is enough. You’ve got enough training. Go for it.” 

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Gerwig’s movie has traveled to festivals all around the world, receiving accolades and high praises along the way. Lady Bird is a comedy about a young girl in Sacramento named Christine. She refers to herself as Lady Bird. It’s also a semi-autobiographical story about Greta Gerwig. The story revolves around Lady Bird’s senior year at a Catholic high school, figuring out how to leave home to pursue her life dreams in NYC because (she thinks) she hates California, only to realize how beautiful it is upon leaving. Lady Bird is a charming, evocative and beautifully stitched together film with hilariously clever dialogue. Gerwig really captures the melancholy, vibrant spirit of youth and the bond between mother and daughter. 

To read more about Lady Bird and to watch the trailers, please visit the official Facebook page of the film at https://www.facebook.com/ladybirdmovie/

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Jimmy Chin: A Photographer’s Eye View

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Jimmy Chin. Photography provided by REVO. 

WideWorld sent US writer Nicolette Mallow to Washington D.C., to interview 37- year-old National Geographic photographer and explorer Jimmy Chin at The Madison Hotel. Chin is also a sponsored athlete for The North Face. Throughout his career, he has shot climbers thousands of feet up in the air, glued to ice-capped mountains, with storm clouds billowing in the distance, and, as WideWorld discovers. Jimmy Chin’s ability to capture shadows and light, sunrises and sunsets and nature at its most breathtaking is nothing short of incredible. The interview took place prior to a banquet held in his honor at Nat Geo headquarters to showcase Chin’s career, life stories and photography. 

Nicolette Mallow: What was it about your first trips to the mountains that inspired your career?

Jimmy Chin: Well I always loved being outside. We had a ravine behind our house and I was always tromping around in the woods. When I showed up in Glacier National Park it was just like my ravine on steroids! I just knew then that I wanted to live a life in the mountains. Although the trails were very beautiful I didn’t ever want to stay on the trail. I wanted to explore.

NM: How exactly did you turn all this from a hobby into a lifestyle and a career?

JC: You know, there is a lot of pressure when you’re in college from peers and the professors and your parents to get an internship or to have this goal of becoming a lawyer, a businessman, or a doctor; I think it’s hard for anybody to aspire to them when the title sounds great but you don’t really understand what the day-to-day life of an attorney is. And I had no real connection to any of it. It just seemed like all these abstract ideas and it just seemed really boring to me. For some reason I was struck by the idea that you only live once and that you shouldn’t waste your time being something for other people or being something that other people wanted you to be. It didn’t seem fair. I struggled with that a little bit for sure. Education was hugely important for my parents. They were both librarians at a university and they had come from China and they had made a life for themselves here.

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NM: What got you into photography?

JC: I always loved looking at photography, but I think that everyone does. I am a very visually stimulated person. But while I was visually oriented, I never thought of it as a career. I never took photo classes in school.

NM: So you’re self-taught?

JC: Oh yeah. Still teaching myself. Still learning. But, overall, photography felt really natural and probably one of the easiest things for me to learn or pick up. So in that sense I feel like, perhaps it was meant to happen.

NM: In one article you describe dangling above endangered antelope in Tibet, but what did it feel like when you guys found them?

JC: In some ways it was like we were chasing mythical creatures. It’s so funny because it was like being a kid, again, and trying to follow these animals across the Chang Tang plateau and hoping to find this supposed birthing ground. George Shallow, one of the greatest live mammal biologists and conservationists, couldn’t find these animals or their birthing grounds after two to three expeditions. My crew and I knew this was going to be extremely difficult. We’d been traveling for weeks and weeks and there was nothing. We lost them, once, and then we found them, again. When we finally found them and I saw the first baby chiru: it was a mind-bending experience.

NM: Is there any expedition in particular which you are most proud of in terms of your finished images?

JC: I think shooting Everest and skiing Everest. I was always trying to get this photo that no one has ever seen before and there were a couple photos in there that don’t necessarily have the best light or the best compositions ever but they’re just… Well, there is an image of Kit and Robert DesLauriers skiing down a slope over 28,000 feet. Two people on their skis, on the southeast ridge of Everest. And I just love that photo as there is also a storm cloud coming up in the distance.

NM: Throughout all the places you’ve seen, where is some of the most beautiful light to capture?

JC: Sunset when you’re up really, really high above base camp in the Himalayas holds perfect, mesmerizing light. Any mountain range up high where you can see the horizon line is amazing. After the sun has set and it gets that kind of blue mixed with pink –I love those colours; like pastels in the sky.

NM: In 2004 you had a close shave with death when you were on Everest and the avalanche came down and threw you guys back over 30 feet. Have you had any experiences as intense as that one since?

JC: Not as intense. I think as you get older you start to understand and become much more aware of all the different ways to die. I’m a lot more conservative these days, but there’s always the fluke accident. As a climber you have to take a certain stance in how you look at the world. When you do what I do, you must accept, “When you’re time comes, it comes.” I have to think like that otherwise I wouldn’t get out of bed!

To see a selection of Jimmy Chin’s images, see our gallery below. For more, visit: www.jimmychin.com

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Note: This interview was originally published in Wide World Magazine in 2010. Wide World is an adventure travel magazine based in London, United Kingdom. 

The magic of Euphoria Music Festival lingers

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The 2017 Euphoria Music Festival came to an end and yet the magical feeling of experiencing music with over 50,000 people in Austin, Texas lingers vividly in memory. I can still hear the crowd chanting at Chromeo, and I can relive the hypnotizing light show alongside Moby’s DJ set in my mind. Perhaps this is one of Euphoria’s most lovable and endearing traits: the music festival exerts a natural high of happiness and contentment that stays with you in silence even after it’s all over. For a few hours, everyone that passed the gates entered an intimate and intense world of music, dance, art installations and light shows. There were three stages on the map: Euphoria, Elements and the Dragonfly. The first two stages are the larger set-ups, but the Dragonfly stage is a beauty, waterfront to the Colorado River. A map of the grounds can be found on the official Euphoria app that was released in April. 

Upon entrance to Carson Creek Ranch, the eyes are filled with bold and bright colors, canopies, giant tents, kites, butterflies, swing sets, hammocks, bubbles and an artisans alley. The festival even has a volleyball court, wedding chapel and a giant Tree of Life. There is a sign below the Tree of Life that reads: Write down wishes, hopes, dreams, etc. and set ’em Free. It was very moving to see the thousands of notes left on the tree. Watching the festival with digital eyes that changed moods and colors as the sky shifted from day to night — at the Elements stage there was a steep, tall fox (or wolf) overlooking the crowd. Several times I got lost staring into its round eyes as the music played. 

Founded by Mitch Morales, the 2017 festival included headliners like Chromeo, Knife Party, Moby (DJ set), Oliver Heldens, Post Malone, The Disco Biscuits, Wiz Khalifa, Zeds Dead and many other artists; bringing the sum total of the line-up to 70. As the region’s largest independent music festival, Euphoria attracts over 50,000 fans each year, all while maintaining the qualities that land it on many annual Top 10 lists. Conveniently located just minutes from Downtown Austin, the multi-stage music and camping festival returned to Carson Creek Ranch on the banks of the Colorado River and offered world-class visuals, unique stage designs, artist workshops, interactive experiential installations, enhanced camping options and much more.”

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Euphoria showcases the professionalism, style and acute qualities equal to a global event like Austin City Limits, Burning Man or Lollapalooza. Festival goers can see the time, love and energy invested into the decoration and preparation for the festival. However, unlike the ACL Music Festival that draws 450,000 people—Euphoria is much smaller in attendance and exposure. This independent festival deep in the heart of Texas provides a more intimate experience. Using the power of music to bring everyone together, Euphoria is a festival made for the community. The Euphoria Music Festival feels personalized and charming. The size of Euphoria provides a natural, easy going way of drawing people together. Even if you are attending alone as a member of the Press, like me. That is one of the nice aspects of a festival is various walks of life coming together for the love of music. 

Ultimately, the magic of Euphoria re-awakened my love for music festivals. It brought back the fun and joy of a festival that I used to feel when I was younger. As a local Austinite, I’ve been blessed to attend live shows and music festivals since before I could drive a car. I was one of the lucky people from Austin to experience the live music scene before it morphed into what it’s become today. (True, the music scene has improved with better venues, more esteemed artists and a boost in the economy, but it also came at a cost for the locals.) Years ago I was so sentimental about live music, I saved all of my ticket stubs that are now in a box. Honestly I don’t know how many times I wore a costume or got dolled up for a live show, like the night when I was the absinthe fairy covered in metallic glitter with green wings for Galactic’s Halloween show at Stubb’s. Countless days and nights, my friends and I would gather in masses to rock out, dance and let loose. Alas, after too many festivals and concerts for my stamina-—after one too many expensive tickets, late nights that lead to hangovers and dating too many musicians—the magic began to fade out. Secretly I started to become a little jaded: been there, done that and bought many, many t-shirts. The thrill of live music had begun to alter from love to stress. My heart no longer felt that spark like it once did when I was younger and I really only attend concerts these days at specific venues and no more festivals. Fortunately, Euphoria brought that nostalgic, familiar adrenaline rush back into my heart and it reminded me why I used to love festivals so much. Euphoria made my heart feel lighter and made me feel younger. Frankly I did not know what to expect at Euphoria. And to much delight, Euphoria Music Festival captured the intimacy of the art scene that used to be in ATX. I hope as the festival grows more and more each year that Euphoria will never lose its unique charm.  

I highly encourage music enthusiasts to mark Euphoria Music Festival on their bucket list. A strong indicator as to whether or not a musical event was a success is greatly determined by if the audience transcended time. Meaning, while the band is playing, the DJ is spinning or the musicians are on stage, those in attendance lose track of time. We forget our worries, stresses and anxieties for a while. We are present in the moment and feeling alive in the rhythm of the music. Euphoria Music Festival can and will take you to a transcendental place. 

To view the 2017 recap videos or purchase official merchandise of Euphoria Music Festival please visit www.euphoriafest.com. #FindYourEuphoria