2014 was a turbulent year for music. While it offered something for everyone, it was also a year of transitions and new beginnings. Businesses invested and expanded, organizations grew, internal conflicts arose between venues and promoters, and audiences found new destinations for the arts and entertainment. San Antonio’s artists and performers received national attention, and as a city, we opened a world-class center for the performing arts.
San Antonio took to the national stage in 2014 as the Hawks (of Holy Rosary) toured with Dr. Dog and performed at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City after releasing an album on Texas Is Funny Records.
Weeks on the road were followed by a warm welcome home to a Puro Pinche Pop-Up Show, featuring the band in a surprise non-venue location downtown. Crizzly, a DJ from Boerne, performed at both Lollapalooza and Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas this year, an accomplishment with which few performers in the nation are credited.
The San Antonio metal band Upon A Burning Body recorded a cover of “Turn Down For What” with rapper-turned-actor Ice-T earlier this year, and two San Antonians – Deja Hall and Bryana Salaz – were on the NBC show “The Voice.”
Conversations about San Antonio “lacking a major music festival” began to arise, even though 2014 saw the River City Rock Fest, Maverick Music Festival, Moonamp Music Festival, the Current’s Lone Star Summer Concert Series, and the two-day Luminaria.
The second-annual Maverick Fest grew to more than 10,000 in attendance over two days shortly after SXSW. The lineup included Washed Out, the Welsh band the Joy Formidable, and Run The Jewels, whose 2014 album was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the Top 10 Albums of the year.
The River City Rock Fest was an all-day concert full of commercial radio rock bands such as Kid Rock and the Deftones. Jeremiah Cook, founder of TX Music Water, established a production company and held the inaugural concert of the Moonamp Music Festival at the Sunken Gardens.
Luminaria, while not specifically a music event, expanded to two days and consisted of a heavy music component.
Échale, a monthly event held at the Pearl Brewery, had a great 2014, bringing bands including French-Chilean rap artist Ana Tijoux (her song, “1977, ” was made famous by appearing on “Breaking Bad”), and a block party with Los Rakas to the Pearl’s amphitheater.
Mid-sized venues including the 502 Bar, Limelight, and Club Rio maintained a consistent draw by booking up-and-coming, notable performers such as Dark Rooms, Alvvays, and the Small Black and legacy acts including the Misfits and Paul Oakenfold.
Angel Castorena, the owner of the Korova, said 2014 was “a year of so many firsts, reunions, and more.”
Piñata Protest sold out the Korova’s fifth Anniversary event, and earlier this month, a Sin13 reunion show also brought the club to capacity.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the surreal feeling of the Alamo City Comic Con after-party with Vanilla Ice, surrounded by ACCC celebs… and of course the (Teenage Mutant) Ninja Turtles joining (Vanilla Ice) on stage,” Castorena said. ACCC celebrities including Kevin Eastman, the creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Scott Wilson of “The Walking Dead,” were in attendance that night.
Dorćol Distillery and Bottom Bracket Social Club are two small capacity bars that grew in 2014 to become an integral part of San Antonio’s informal bar circuit for local musicians. SATX Music, a local promoter and event organizer, headed up programming for Dorćol and BBSC and now books performances there on a weekly basis.
If you’d told me before the start of this year that when 2014 ended, San Antonio would not have a Boneshakers, Nightrocker, White Rabbit, or Backstage Live, I wouldn’t have believed you. 2014 saw a series of venues closing either temporarily or permanently. Boneshakers made plans in 2013 to close at the beginning of this year, and now the property next to the Hays Street Bridge sits waiting for a new tenant.
Nightrocker, the small capacity rock club located on San Pedro Avenue, closed in February, with the owner intending to reopen at a different location one day.
A divorce between the owners of Backstage Live led to creation of 210 Kapone’s, which opened on East Houston down the street and immediately began hosting nationally touring acts. Months later, Backstage Live rebranded as Alamo City Music Hall, with a new sound system, lights, and a partnership with Score More Shows. Score More is an Austin-based promoter that organizes and books some of the most cutting-edge hip hop across Texas. The partnership is important because of the steady business Score More will bring to Alamo City Music Hall. San Antonio’s large Latino population is a big consumer of hip-hop and dance music.
In August, the owners of the White Rabbit struck a deal to sell the venue to developer/restaurateur Chad Carey, owner of the Monterey, Hot Joy, and Barbaro. The quiet, unilateral nature of the deal prompted Twin Productions to relocate all its booked events and file a lawsuit against the former owners.
Ownership and management of venues have an impact on musicians and fans. Entire genres and audiences could be forced to find a new home with management changing formats.
On Dec. 27, the White Rabbit closed its doors for the last time. The White Rabbit was the center of the music world in San Antonio for some, not only because of the long list of commercial radio artists who played there, but because its legacy can be found in local musicians who got their start as a “Rabbit band.” The White Rabbit wasn’t just some dive bar on St. Mary’s. It was synonymous with local music in San Antonio, and a special place for many.
Perhaps the crown jewel of San Antonio’s latest venue editions is the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. From the design to the craftsmanship, the Tobin is a civic achievement and a gorgeous place, proving the city has what it takes to support higher ticket performances. The two surviving members of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, each played two solo shows for lucky audiences of just less than 2,000 people. McCartney alone could pack a 50,000-plus stadium. Other inaugural events brought thousands downtown for performances by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jason Mraz, Nina Diaz, and the San Antonio Symphony.
(Read More: Review: McCartney Makes His Mark at the Tobin Center).
After facing the wrecking ball, the Aztec Theater reopened in 2006 and has since exchanged owners, management, and programming formats. In 2013, PHH Entertainment Ventures, a partnership between the Sam’s Burger Joint co-owners, let the theater from Baron Theodore Bracht, who bought the Aztec in 1998. PHH announced House of Blues would become involved with programming this year with the expectation of attracting more people downtown for concerts. ARTS SA and C3 Presents brought some spectacular talent to the Aztec Theater in 2014, from contemporary jazz trio The Bad Plus to indie rock band Broken Bells.
As 2015 comes into view, San Antonio’s musicians and industry leaders are poised to make a big splash in the new year. There is no lack of talent in San Antonio, and organizers will look to capitalize on the investments the city and businesses have made in the arts.
The question the local music industry wants answered is, “Are You Ready To Rock?”
*Top/featured image: The Mexican Institute of Sound headlined Westfest at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in celebration of completed improvements to the Westside. Photo by Miles Terracina.