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After spending the last several years on the road touring – working as a band manager, attorney, publishing administrator, and tour manager – I returned to my hometown San Antonio to focus on creating new events here.
This began with 2013’s inaugural Maverick Music Festival. The spirit behind Maverick was to show that San Antonio can have a concert-going public that supports acts that thrive in every other city in this country, yet have historically bypassed San Antonio – instead playing Houston, Dallas, Austin, and even Marfa and El Paso.
While San Antonio certainly hosts many events, we are in short supply of major events with new relevant band programming, excepting the rodeo and Echale. San Antonio has great Fiesta events and various other community gatherings, but the tendency is not to focus on obtaining cutting edge talent.
Rather, promoters for major events in this town tend to fixate on servicing an overly imbibed/consumable driven crowd. The current focus is not only detrimental to concert promotion, but culturally unhealthy for our community and the greater social good. If we want to have great entertainment in this city, I believe that we promoters must be held to a higher standard.
In order to become a first-class music city on the rise (again), we must solicit a level of entertainment young people and those wanting to live in the city center will find most attractive, so that people will stay downtown. This is not about venues, but instead about talent, a vibe, and a scene. Until now, we’ve been the only major city in this country without a major music festival that recognizes emerging talent. It is time for our city to come together to change this fact. It is crucial for development of the urban core, downtown growth, attracting young professionals, and the overall SA2020 vision. A festival of this nature has the potential to galvanize a central fervor and excitement for our city, and downtown in particular, similar to the manner in which the art scene and culinary scenes have emerged and developed successfully.
Likewise, we need the same level of commitment from the community for the music industry. This is not simply entertainment and recreation; it is a more than $26 billion industry, and not unlike many other industries we court from other cities in an effort to get them to settle in San Antonio. It’s time to responsibly do the same here, for events that are accountable to sponsors, the city government, and the public at large.
Breaking into the Industry
I grew up in San Antonio and graduated from Clark High School in 1999. Like many of my peers at the time, I was eager to get out of San Antonio to experience something new and attended college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I studied in the hospitality administration program, with an emphasis toward entertainment production. After leaving Vegas in December of 2001, I moved to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to attend Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. Following law school, I started my own practice focusing primarily on business litigation and entertainment law, while continuing to produce and promote shows in Austin, TX.
Eventually, I started working with a young blues artist in Austin, TX named Gary Clark Jr. At the time, Gary had not ventured too far outside the Austin scene. At some point in 2009-2010, Gary decided he wanted to begin playing more places outside the city, ultimately culminating in a well-publicized appearance on Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival.
This is where the crazy journey began. Following his performance at Crossroads, Warner Bros. Records began to strongly pursue him. Along with Scooter Weintraub and Manjeri Krishna, we dedicated our focus entirely to doing whatever we needed to do to get Gary to expand his audience, while protecting him at the same time. Without going into detail, the negotiation with Warner Bros. Records was arduous, lasting nearly eight months, but finally resulted in a recording deal. As exciting as it was for everyone at the time, this is when the work really started, again.
In the case of San Antonio, leading up to Maverick, Gary played two shows at Sam’s Burger Joint, one show we produced along with the San Antonio Current at Arneson River Theatre, and then headlined the festival. This is noteworthy, because it’s a prime example of what happens when we develop an artist locally who has generated a lot of buzz nationally: our city responds overwhelmingly. The ascension in Gary’s career has been evident ever since and continues to swell to date.
After touring on the road for a few years virtually nonstop, I decided to come back home to San Antonio realizing the live music business is a $26 billion dollar industry, not unlike technology or the medical industries, but which until recently, the leadership in our community has all but ignored.
Looking back to the first Austin City Limits Festival, it’s quite obvious the city leaders of Austin embraced this potential long ago. On the other hand, the San Antonio community, culture, and leadership perhaps viewed this as more of a recreational or diversionary component in our society, rather than an economic force that thrives even in the worst of recessions. Acknowledging this opportunity has never been at the forefront of priorities in our city. Throughout this misunderstanding, there seems to be an inherent inferiority complex that resides: the tendency to import, resort and rely on outside leadership to enhance the makeup of industry in San Antonio.
The problem, however, is that outside entities and organizations, for the most part, do not understand how to promote this particular market effectively. This is further exacerbated by various critics and mediums within our culture who are oblivious to the surrounding macro-climate, unaware of what goes right over their heads on a daily basis, especially as it pertains to national and international touring acts.
Maverick Music Festival
After traveling and working on every continent except Antarctica, I noticed San Antonio was literally the only large city that did not have a proper music festival showcasing premiere as well as developing international talent. I knew it would be a delicate balance in San Antonio: negotiating the predisposition in our market to alienate new music, in order to finally bring an array of bands normally unheard in a live setting, and without a commercial radio format that supports developing, buzzworthy bands.
The idea for the first year was to merge Gary Clark Jr.’s nascent movement toward his now Grammy-award winning status, with the Toadies, who are a Texas (and specifically San Antonio) staple of rock music still appreciated in the San Antonio commercial radio world. Additionally, local sensation Girl In A Coma rounded out the lineup with Henry & the Invisibles. The event was a total success by all accounts. It was organized over the course of one day with local food trucks, vendors, and organized entirely by a team of people who grew up in San Antonio, but who have lived and worked all over the world at some point in time before choosing to return.
Selena Aleman ran all concession services, Garrett Karam handled finances, Matt Wolff took care of production, and Stephanie Guerra a.k.a. Puro Pinche navigated social media. This is where we all met Faith Radle, manager of Girl In A Coma and film producer who had recently returned to San Antonio after living in Los Angeles for the past 10 years. Instantly, we began to see eye-to-eye on the vision of Maverick.
This core group of organizers all grew up in San Antonio and we’re committed to developing the live music industry in San Antonio. Moving forward to the second year, we wanted to continue to gradually grow the event organically, with certain root values from the first year as the foundation.
As far as talent goes, we again wanted to bridge the disconnect between developing acts around the world and traditional mainstays historically received well in the San Antonio market and circulated consistently on commercial radio here. Hence, on one end of the lineup we have bands like Phantogram, Washed Out, and R&B sensation SZA, while on the other end we have the Psychedelic Furs and Candlebox. The vast majority of these buzz bands and developing acts would not come to San Antonio, but for Maverick itself.
We have extended the festival this year to include two additional stages, including the Arneson River Theatre, highlighting some of the best local and regional buzz bands all on one stage, as well as a third stage (Mondo Nation Stage) for additional musical acts. This was an effort to recognize and celebrate the music that San Antonio bands are creating, and to have them included alongside other national acts.
While this is only the second year we are hosting Maverick Music Festival, there’s a symbolic sense of a renaissance transcending the perfunctory event schedule engrained in our city’s calendar, especially in La Villita (San Antonio’s oldest neighborhood).
In our city, there’s a chance and opportunity to create what doesn’t exist – and to take what does and make it better. San Antonio will again emerge on the music promotion front. While San Antonio worked on expanding its infrastructure throughout the 1970s and 1980s in anticipation of growth, Austin resisted this expansion, so as not to draw too much attention to its “little sanctuary.”
In fact, the opposite effect happened. People began flocking in droves to Austin, as its centralized entertainment and bar district continued to flourish. It’s now time to bring more equanimity to our city of San Antonio, the actual city that can support growth. Together with Austin, we can collectively serve as a major hub for arts and entertainment. And with San Marcos as the fastest growing mid-city, by some accounts, we are a growing megalopolis—one of the largest collective markets of its kind in the country, as long as we work together and assume San Antonio’s place at the table. We have the infrastructure, the support, and the best community of people in this country to make this happen effectively.
We hope you will come out and celebrate our efforts to contribute to the live music industry of San Antonio at Maverick Music Festival.
*Featured/top image: La Villita filled with music lovers for Maverick Music Festival in 2013. Photo by Francisco Cortes.