Four local bands performed for more than 200 people on Tuesday night for the first San Antonio Sound Garden Musical Showcase and Member Mixer. By the end of the night, the audience, many of whom were musicians themselves, spilled out onto the open patio at Paramour Bar where music, conversations and laughter floated out into the fresh, post-rain air.
If SA Sound Garden can raise enough funds in the next year, the nonprofit will open a fully-functioning coworking space for local musicians, music producers, managers, and others in the industry at 723 N. Alamo – complete with office spaces and conference rooms – by January 2017, said Edwin Stephens, local musician and founder and president of SA Sound Garden. The space would be the first of its kind in San Antonio, a city with a music scene in desperate need of community support, he said.
The Musical Showcase, Stephens said, was used to jumpstart interest and support for the project that relies solely on member donations and community contributions for its programming. The nonprofit already offers a monthly musical forum, Las Raices, which provides a platform for local artists and musicians to develop strategies to bolster the city’s music economy.
With more support the group could expand their programming and resources to make San Antonio a more sustainable home base for artists and musicians to develop their skills.
“This is basically a carbon copy of the events that we’re going to be rolling out for our supporter members,” Stephens told the Rivard Report between musical performances. “For anybody who is a member of San Antonio Sound Garden, who has bought into the vision of San Antonio having a better music economy, having a better music industry, and is willing to put skin in the game from now forward, we’re going to provide four showcases like this a year.”
Tuesday night’s performance was just a taste of what’s to come, he said.
The future of San Antonio’s music scene has a new bright spot, judging by the large number of patrons at the private event. People of all ages and backgrounds were present to show their support. The project has already caught the attention of Rep. Diego Bernal (D-123) and U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), who both lauded the new grassroots organization.
“I think this is a very important moment in San Antonio music,” said Bernal, who is a musician. “The talent pool here is super, super deep, so why wouldn’t we want to give (SA Sound Garden) a chance? I think developing it would allow the rest of the world to discover (the talent) we already know is here.”
San Antonio is full of musical and artistic talent, but the local music economy as-is can’t sustain musicians and musical entrepreneurs, Stephens said. Many of them either quit or leave to cities more well-equipped to develop their talents and exposure. Castro sees SA Sound Garden as a way to solve to that problem.
“We’ve seen that story happen too many times,” Castro said. “Over the years, San Antonio has lost so much talent because we’re not here developing our own, and so what I see with this project is a chance to really help the artists, the musicians of San Antonio develop their craft and really take off.”
The musicians who performed Tuesday night were perfect examples of the breadth of that local talent. The evening kicked off with solo folk-rock artist Brandon Cunningham, a San Antonio native who recently returned from a stint in Chicago to pursue his music. He has noticed growth in the local music scene.
“Especially with things like the Sound Garden, in general there are more people that are excited about San Antonio and it really feels like cool things are happening here. Maybe more people will start to pay attention,” he said. “(The music scene) is definitely improving, but I still feel like there’s a lot of work to be done.”
After Cunningham, sets by local musicians Deer Vibes and Alyson Alonzo provided the soundtrack for the gathering as patrons sipped on cocktails and complimentary beer from Alamo Beer Company in the cool evening air. Stephens’ band, fishermen, engaged the audience with a special “interactive performance” where they chose to forgo microphones and electrical equipment and perform in the middle of the crowd. Each of the performers on will soon record at SA Sound Garden’s news space once the 1,500 sq. ft. recording and production studio is completed later this month, Stephens said.
With San Antonio Sound Garden’s mission of community collaboration laid out through Tuesday’s event, Stephens hopes that more will be inspired to contribute to their cause.
“It’s an opportunity for the community to buy in, support and take ownership over the local music industry,” he said. “When they support us, they’re investing in people who are moving and shaking the music industry … and as that music economy gets stronger we’re producing better artists with better opportunities, and that enriches the culture of the city.”