Where I Live: A Carved-out Local Music Scene

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PunkSoda and Thigpen during a full band performance at The Pedicab in San Antonio.

PunkSoda and Thigpen during a full band performance at The Pedicab in San Antonio.

Miles' Head Shot (stylized)Being a musician and writer, I was naturally drawn to Austin. So months after graduating from Taft High School, I relocated without hesitation.

I’ve lived nine out of the last 13 years there. During which my brother Jason and I started Mixed Use Media as a vehicle and environment to release our artwork.

We partnered with Jeff Barajas, an architect and buddy of mine from high school as well as artist/musician Justin Thigpen. Our main focus was music and video performance.

This is Mixed Use Media performing as a duo for the first time at Collision 2013 in Austin.

This is Mixed Use Media performing as a duo for the first time at Collision 2013 in Austin.

We dove right in by booking a few shows before we had finalized a live set. Right away we were introduced to scams and shady practices like pay-to-play, promoters not involved or even present, skimpy payouts, getting booked with unrelated lineups, no sound person.

Because we were a little bit older than most other bands starting out, we could easily discern who to avoid and who was going to help us climb the invisible ladder of the music industry. Looking back, as we went through some of these growing pains, we were also becoming better performers, writing better songs and having fun.

It’s hard to gauge how quickly or slowly things are developing in the moment. It takes reflection to measure if it’s “working”, but after about a year of experiments, we were becoming a real band. It took approximately four years to go from our first live performance to a “Sold Out” C3 Presents debut EP release show.

During 2012 we performed at long sought after venues like Whitewater Amphitheater, Stubb’s and The Parish. We opened for world touring acts like MSTRKRFT (Toronto), Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (UK), The Pinker Tones (Spain), Friends (NYC) and shared the stage with many local favorites such as DJ Digg, Night Drive, Zeale, The Sour Notes.

(Clockwise from top left) Mixed Use Media performing at Mohawk in Austin during Free Week 2013 (photo by @progressivehipster), performing at Luminaria 2012 in San Antonio (photo taken and posted on Instagram by @JacobUnderwater) in Austin, TX (photo by Jeremy Davis), an d performing at Luminaria 2012 in San Antonio (photo taken and posted on twitter by @sssebastian).

(Clockwise from top left) Mixed Use Media performing at Mohawk in Austin during Free Week 2013 (photo by @progressivehipster), performing at Luminaria 2012 in San Antonio (photo taken and posted on Instagram by @JacobUnderwater) in Austin, TX (photo by Jeremy Davis), an d performing at Luminaria 2012 in San Antonio (photo taken and posted on twitter by @sssebastian).

All those successes took place in Austin, though. We performed in San Antonio many times and had a blast. We would even make more money here, but there was always something missing, something left desired from the SA market.

We performed at The Pedicab (RIP) even before they had their own stage & PA. We performed at Josabi’s, TenEleven, the Limelight, 502 Bar, Jacks. I DJed an event called Lennon Lives at Boneshakers. We performed at Luminaria 2012, where we were on the ‘Bud Light Stage’ with a 10K lumen projector, nice sound system, hundreds of people. It was awesome & unforgettable.

There was an invisible ladder we were climbing and as much as it pains me to say it, performing in San Antonio seemed to not get us the exposure that was crucial to our trajectory. It helped, but it wasn’t ‘make-or-break’. As Mixed Use Media goes back to the drawing board and writes new music, I find myself developing solo material, blogging and plotting a re-invasion of San Antonio.

PunkSoda and Thigpen during a full band performance at The Pedicab in San Antonio.

PunkSoda and Thigpen during a full band performance at The Pedicab in San Antonio.

The first part of my childhood was spent on the Westside of SA, and the latter half, including high school, was on the far Northwest side of town between Bandera and Culebra Roads. That was my experience of SA: houses and strip malls with the occasional field trip downtown or to my grandparents’ house on the Westside.  The only thing bike-able in those neighborhoods were other houses. Park space existed remotely, and anything unique about that giant collection of homes got lost in its dizzying maze.

Needless to say, the saying “Keep San Antonio Lame” was real to me.

My girlfriend and long time friend from the NW side, Kristin Sramek, made a hobby out of researching real estate. As she searched for a home to rent or possibly buy, she came to know the neighborhoods, their houses and all the details, inside and out. My deep interest in history and urban decay led me on a quest to do my own research on San Antonio. It seemed over the generations, the inner city became stagnant due to changes in business and people moving to the suburbs.

The surrounding area has many attractions. Image from Google Maps.

The surrounding area has many attractions. Image from Google Maps.

Having grown up in suburbia, that lifestyle was exactly what we wanted to avoid. We wanted to move back into the city and got lucky by stumbling upon a house in Mahncke Park.

Surrounded by the core identity of San Antonio, Mahncke Park is a bike ride or short drive from many things puro San Antonio: The Witte Museum, San Antonio Zoo and Brackenridge Park, The Botanical Gardens and San Antonio Country Club, University of the Incarnate Word, The Pearl Brewery, The McNay Art Museum, Fort Sam Houston, even an H-E-B Central Market. To say we’re spoiled by what the neighborhood offers is an understatement.

Though we are close to the city’s center, the area is remarkably quiet. Rush hour is more frustrating because of Broadway Street’s 30 mph speed limit than crowded roadways.

On our second day in the neighborhood, we were greeted with a block party focused a couple houses down with a live band.

Recently, on the Fourth of July, the country club had a large scale, professional fireworks display that rivaled any other in the city. All my neighbors were outside on their lawns. Kristin and I stood and watched with childish awe as someone turned on, “What a Wonderful World.”

We’re surrounded by new construction, old homes being renovated, mixed-use developments going up; the change is palpable. During my absence the city began a transformation. Once emptied buildings and historical facilities became repurposed and explored by a new generation and all parts of downtown are being repopulated. But this transformation doesn’t stop with development.

I can see The Broadway towering above my neighbor's houses going for a walk. Photo by Miles Terracina.

The Broadway residential towers loom above my neighbor’s houses, seen from Allensworth Street. Photo by Miles Terracina.

Explosive demand and interest in San Antonio music is expanding to a national stage. Artists are finding national recognition (and here) based on their successes here in San Antonio. More groups are touring (here) and performing outside the city limits and promoters are booking high-profile talent in all corners of the city. Homegrown music events like the Maverick Music Festival are getting national attention. All this momentum is a huge opportunity I cannot miss.

Moving back, I find myself with a new love for my hometown and perhaps a new perception, one that isn’t so lame after all. In the near future, I’ll take a behind the scenes look into this exciting chapter of San Antonio music.

 

Miles Terracina is chief lyricist and beat programmer for the electronic music and arts group Mixed Use Media. He has been a live music performer in central Texas for several years and also blogs, DJ’s and performs solo as PunkSoda. Follow Miles on Twitter @punksoda, Soundcloud, and Facebook.

 

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Click here for a full list of our “Where I Live” series.

 

One thought on “Where I Live: A Carved-out Local Music Scene

  1. Nice post! (Although it was a bit unclear when exactly you moved back to SA, as well as whether your band moved with you.) I hope you continue to invest in the SA music scene. I think what this city really needs is a quality, regularly-booked venue in the vicinity of downtown that has dependable management, a nice aesthetic, a solid reputation for treating bands right, and a booker who can draw in good out of town groups and put together bills that actually make sense. Good shows occur here, but they’re infrequent, and they’re never at the same place, it seems. There are some nice spaces for sale or lease along Josephine street, and someone should make it happen. . . .

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