Archive for: February 2014

Throw Down At The Nutty Brown

Cheer Up: Charlie’s Reopens its Doors

Zane Xena performing during the Drag Queen Mortal Combat. Photo by Jessica Duong

Zane Xena performing during the Drag Queen Mortal Combat. Photo by Jessica Duong

Drag queens lip-syncing to Brandy and Monica, live psychedelic music reverberating against a rock wall amphitheater, and a crowd of hundreds of people with a line extending down Red River Street. The grand reopening of Cheer Up Charlie’s was such a success that it’s hard to believe the former location closed only a month prior.


By Alexis Chastain, Jessica Duong, Caroline Khoury, and Joan Vinson

Photo by Jessica Duong

Photo by Jessica Duong

Tamara Hoover and Maggie Lea, partners and co-owners of the bar and venue Cheer Up Charlie’s, sat side-by-side on a retro-style olive-green couch in the artsy and colorful space of Cheer Up’s new location on 900 Red River St. The two seemed to be in high spirits after their successful grand reopening event and spoke to us frankly about the closing of their old location on East Sixth Street.

It was near the end of November 2013 when Hoover and Lea received a call from their landlord that the land where their beloved bar stood for more than three years was sold to make way for a hotel development. They were given 30 days to vacate the premises.

Photo by Jessica Duong

Photo by Jessica Duong

“When we first went in to rent the space, we were told by the landlord that they were intending on developing a hotel,” Hoover admitted. “So we went into it knowing that something would happen to the space eventually because the property was too valuable. Something would happen.”

Cheer Up Charlie’s opened into their first brick-and-mortar location back in April 2010 — formerly a vegan raw and cooked food trailer. As the years passed, Hoover and Lea were told by their landlord that the hotel development was proving more difficult than they had originally thought.

“We were getting excited and starting to feel comfortable in our space there,” Hoover said. “We had always been told ‘don’t worry, you’re fine, you’re going to have plenty of time heads up… at least six months you’ll know in advance when we’re going to do something.’”

Of course that wasn’t the case when the La Corsha Hospitality Group, the company responsible for projects such as Bar Congress and the Driskill Hotel restoration, bought the land to make way for a new bar, which will later have a hotel addition after the trailer eatery space nearby also closes.

At the time of their closing, Cheer Up Charlie’s had already gained popularity as an LGBT-friendly spot with an all-inclusive attitude towards anyone who wanted to be a part of the space. The venue also provided a space for artists, musicians, filmmakers, and even literary connoisseurs to gather and share their work. The news of the closing triggered many sad reactions among the community, which didn’t surprise Hoover or Lea, but the overwhelmingly personal responses did.

“There were a lot of people who had identified very much with what we had created,” Lea said. “There were people who were very heartbroken. I saw a lot of people say like ‘oh I woke up this morning and I saw that Cheer Up Charlie’s was closing and now I’m going to have a bad day over it.’”

Kim Thurman and Aaron Smith, tour guides at the state Capitol, frequented the old Cheer Ups location almost on a daily basis and were at the grand reopening by 5 p.m. — well before the festivities began. When asked how they felt about the closing, the two friends burst into laughter and admitted they were extremely devastated by the news.

“We went into mourning the week we knew that they were closing. It was basically like every night lets go [to Cheer Ups],” Smith said. “And we’ve been counting down the time until they reopened.”

While Cheer Up Charlie’s is seen as a popular LGBT spot, Thurman and Smith commented on how it’s more laid back compared to the gay bars on Fourth Street, like Rain or Oilcan Harry’s, which can be “super dance-y” and make the LGBT clientele “the main thing.”

“It’s a mix. When you’re [at Cheer Ups] it never really comes up, you just know it’s around,” Smith said. “It’s comforting.”

Thurman added that in the wake today’s male-centric news coverage of gay rights, Cheer Ups was a place where she commonly saw lesbian couples hanging out and going on dates.

“Cheer Up Charlie’s was the only place that I would ever see girl couples, which I thought was really cool,” said Thurman. “It was always the guys that everybody had a problem with and nobody was paying attention to the fact that there were girls out there who liked girls. And that’s okay!”

Coincidentally, Cheer Up Charlie’s new space was formerly a lesbian bar named Chances that opened in 1982. Julie and Jeane Nielson, twin sisters and former bartenders for Chance’s, were among the bunch that came out to the grand reopening to remember Chance’s and to celebrate Austin’s queer culture.

“Of course I think Cheer Ups is a younger crowd, but I still would see people my age there,” said Julie. “Anybody’s welcome and I think that’s the similarity.”

“It’s like a reborn Chance’s feel almost. Like I can see us back then, here now,” added Jeanne.

Fortunately, the new Cheer Up Charlie’s continues to cultivate the same all-inclusive attitude Hoover and Lea had created in the original location. Similarly to the last location, the new space features murals and artwork from local artists, books local bands to perform, and hosts a number of interesting attractions such as last Friday’s Drag Queen Mortal Combat and the upcoming Girls With Gunz event, an all-female arm wrestling tournament.

“Regardless of sexual preference, or gender identity, I always wanted a place that I could hang out with people that were so diverse and I could learn so much about the world and what I wanted to do,” Hoover said. “That was the intention. Was to no matter who you were, what you were, how you identified, what your preference was sexually, you were going to be okay here and you were going to find somebody who maybe wasn’t maybe like you who you could maybe create a new friendship with.”

The closing of the old Cheer Ups was a shaky experience for Hoover and Lea, but now with a secure lease and a supportive landlord, they can breath a sigh of relief, knowing that their haven is safe for the many years to come. And though the process of finding a new place and preparing the venue for the reopening happened faster than they thought it would, Hoover says that she didn’t feel the space was complete until the eclectic mix of people that made Cheer Up Charlie’s what it is today filled the building.

“We weren’t expecting that many people. It was wonderful,” Hoover said. “This space is nothing without the people, the smiling faces, the diverse crowds, the different factions of our community. It all arrives here and that’s what makes this good, it makes it fun, it makes it important.”

Final Year of West x West Campus


“Dudeman” photo by Britni Shaw

By Elyana Barrera, Chelsea Bass
Bryce Gibson and Britini Shaw

In the middle of West Campus’s labyrinth of high-rise apartment complexes and just weeks before Austin’s massive South By Southwest Conference, students and young locals gathered for the fifth West By West Campus festival. Showcasing filmmakers and artists, the block party with a do-it-yourself attitude was hosted by cooperative housing groups on Feb. 21-22.

Started in February of 2010, the festival began as a way for underaged bands and concertgoers to celebrate with their own all-ages free shows according to director Tessa Hunt. Now in it’s final year, West By West Campus has grown to include a film festival portion where eight short films submission are chosen and then judged by a panel on day one of the festival.

The heart of the festival, however, remains to be its second day music portion, where 36 bands played at co-ops, starting at noon and ending at 10:30 p.m. Cooperative housing French House, 21st Street Co-op and Pearl Street Co-op were the three venues hosting musical talent including Super Thief, Magna Carda and the Numerators. The vibrant, bohemian interiors of the co-ops, along with do-it-yourself zine-style posters served as an apt backdrop to West By West Campus’s engaged yet cool crowd.

From looking at the abundant amount of people enjoying live music at the festival, it would be impossible to tell that lack of funds almost kept West By West Campus from happening this year. Usually paid for out-of-pocket by founders of the event, the cost of hosting along with permits and port-a-potties, became a problem that needed to be solved. Jennifer Gritti, social media/donations/strategy manager for West By West Campus, saw a solution in starting a “kickstarter.”

“We decided to fund the event through kickstarter so we didn’t have to deal with corporate sponsors,” Gritti said. “Not only did corp. sponsors kills the vibe of the fest last year, they were a bit difficult to work with and didn’t quite share our same vision. As our last hurrah, we wanted to take it to the people, and if they wanted to help, we would give them that option.”

Gritti used Kickstarter, a website that helps raise funds for independently-run projects by many, small donations, to raise the baseline of $3,000 needed to run the West Campus festival.

“Admittedly, we’ve never asked for your help in the past, but this year we’re going to need it,” Gritti posted on the West By West Campus Kickstarter page. The page was able to bring in $3,140 from 168 backers, 109 of which pledged only $5-10. Although the page was set up in the middle of January, the $3,000 goal was not reached until just 15 hours before the cutoff date of Feb. 7. The event also received monetary donations outside of Kickstarter from small local businesses such as Bodega and keg donations from Circle Brewery.

Gritti guessed approximately 1,500 people attended the event throughout the day.

“The turnout this year was great,” Gritti said. “We don’t have any numbers, but the people that wanted to be there were there and thats what really mattered.”

Though the funding for this year’s West By West Campus was reached fairly easily, the founders of the festival do not want it to stray too far from its roots and have still decided that this is its final year. Gritti and Hunt cite preserving the integrity of the festival as the reason founders of the fest have decided to end West By West Campus in its fifth year — they want to see other young adults starting their own festivals and they hope the spirit of West By West Campus can inspire.

Videography by Bryce Gibson. Photos by Britini Shaw and Chelsea Bass. Blog post by Elyana Barrera.

A Performer’s Paradise

Austin Hosts 21st Annual Jugglefest

By Emma Banks, Kirby Camerino, Joanie Ferguson and Kaine Korzekwa

By Emma Banks

Juggling is a craft that has for centuries walked the thin line between art and sport. It combines both technique and artistry, skill and aesthetic. It is here in this precarious limbo that most jugglers live, and for many, their home base has become Austin’s own annual Jugglefest, hosted by the Texas Juggling Society.

Jugglefest celebrated its 21st year on the weekend of February 21-23, bringing in jugglers of all ages from all the over the world. Jugglefest serves to provide an environment for learning, practice and collaboration between artists. It is here that both beginners and experts alike are able to further perfect their craft and build connections with jugglers from all different livelihoods.

“It’s amazing,” audience member Mary Maguire said. “This room is just full of so many different ways to play and interact with things that you wouldn’t even normally consider if you hadn’t seen this sort of event.”

The Festival was held at the Texas School for the Deaf on South Congress Avenue. Friday night boasted the Renegade Show, where just about anyone could perform on an open stage, while Saturday night’s Public Show showcased the best performers of Austin and beyond. Games and lessons were scheduled during each of the three days.

“It’s a room full of jugglers, passing, sharing things with one another, networking and interacting both socially and physically, “ said Jim Maxwell, the University of Texas advisor for the Texas Juggling Society. “There will have scheduled workshops, a couple of demonstrations and of course the big stage show which are unique just to the festival.”

Skill levels ranged drastically from the most beginning stages of the craft to those who juggle at the professional level. Here, the focus is not so much expertise and finesse as it is fostering a love for both the art and the sport of juggling.

“When a person witness magic or juggling, they are in a moment of awe and that very moment is very spectacular,” said Arsene Dupin, professional performer and instructor. “It is not a moment you can see, it is not a moment you can grab, but that’s what the real focus of a juggler is– to give their heart to the heart of the person or witnesses, because laughter is one of the best medicines.”






Gifs by Kirby Camerino

Juggling may not be the most revered or respected art, but many are hopeful that festivals like this one will help to change that. Mary Maguire said her appreciation has grown immensely after watching jugglers practice and perform.

“The main thing that you take away is that there are always more things that you can learn and it’s all not necessarily how well you can do a skill,” Maguire said. “A lot of it is about, what I see in a lot of this is new ways to even consider an object.”

In the meantime, Erin Stephens, a workshop instructor, is more than happy to be getting paid to do what she loves, and she hopes to be one of the many that takes juggling out of its stereotype.

“What I love about being a performer, is a lot of people have a stereotype of what juggling is and they see it as clowny or danger, with knives and things,” Stephens said. “But what we try to really do is break that stereotype. Once people take our workshop they see the realm of possibilities for juggling.”

Print piece by Emma Banks and Kirby Camerino

Austin, Texas Welcomes Year of the Horse

UT student uses sweet tooth to create business


Sam hard at work in the kitchen. Photo by Joanie Ferguson.

By Chelsea Bass, Joanie Ferguson, Rachel Hill and Britini Shaw

There’s a star on the rise. Young entrepreneurial UT sophomore, Sam Cade, has managed to bake and sell hundreds of cakes out of her high-rise apartment, filling a niche many would not expect from a busy college student.

“I started off making them for my friends and then I was doing it for a bunch of people,” Cade said.

The 20-year-old Business Management major says that she could “live off dessert and breakfast food,” and has had a sweet tooth ever since she could remember, which is what sparked her love of making cakes.

Her love of baking was further solidified when she started working at Tart Bakery in Dallas at 16. During her time at the bakery, she performed small cake decorating tasks and took orders, and from there eventually started making cakes for her friends.

“When I got to college, I never expected it to take off as much as it did,” she said of her business, Cade’s Cakes.

Once she started posting pictures of her homemade cakes on Instagram, her popularity skyrocketed. She went from 400 followers to a little over 2,600 in a matter of a year.

Her prices have gradually increased as well. She went from charging $20 per cake, which didn’t turn a profit, to charging anywhere from $50 to $70 per cake.

She says it’s hard balancing school and baking, and admits that her grades have suffered a bit, but, “It’s what I love to do,” Cade said.

Her daily schedule includes waking up at 7 a.m. and baking cakes until her class at noon. When she gets out of class, she goes back to her apartment to decorate the cakes. Then she uses the little time she has left to study.

“I bake a dozen cakes a week, but I also turn down a dozen,” she said.

She manages to squeeze in a healthy social life, but says she often doesn’t sleep after she comes home from a party and bakes until the morning. She uses her own recipes that she cultivated three years prior while in high school.

“My friends surprised me with a Netflix-themed cake for my birthday,” Kathryn Hanson, UT sophomore said. “I was so surprised that it actually tasted good. It looked too good to eat.”

She has business cards, personalized stickers for her cake boxes, and her own website where customers submit cake orders. She also has a food handler’s permit for legal purposes.

A day in the life of Sam Cade

She says she can pretty much make anything, and does, from cakes shaped like liquor bottles for 21st birthdays to fairy castles for a child’s birthday party.

When she graduates, from UT, she plans on attending a 10-month pastry school program at the International Culinary Institute in New York and then opening her own bakery in Dallas. But in the meantime, she seems excited to have expanded her word-of-mouth business.

Though Cade is busier than she might like, those who have seen her cakes probably wouldn’t be surprised to see her with her own show on the Food Network in the coming years.

A sample from Sam Cade’s Instagram

For more information on Cade’s Cakes click the image below to check out her website.

There’s Austin on the Walls

By: Elyana Barrera, Alexis Chastain, Kaine Korzekwa and Joan Vinson


Muralist Stephen Ferguson points toward his painting, which hangs in the dining area of Drifter Jack’s Hostel, to owner Andy Ward and fellow artist Baylor Estes. Photo by Joan Vinson

Local artists paint an experience for travelers who stay at Drifter Jack’s Hostel.

The hostel sits on top of Thai Noodle House, located right across the street from the UT campus, and doubles as a gallery for aspiring artists. Andy Ward, 2011 UT alumnus and owner of Drifter Jack’s, opened the hostel in early October of 2013, right in time for the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Ward himself is an avid traveler and spent the past five years backpacking to over 35 countries.

“I started a hostel based on my love for traveling beyond anything else,” he said. “In hostels you tend to meet more people and you have more genuine experiences and it’s just something I fell in love with and wanted to do here in Austin.”

He said he felt other hostels in the city were missing a family atmosphere and wanted to incorporate that into the hostel. His favorite hostels abroad always had a few murals but he wanted to cover his entire place in them.

“You create a space that is better for social interaction, I guess is one way to put it,” Ward said. “Our hostel is smaller and it offers an environment that’s easier to meet other people in and on top of that we’ve got a hostel that’s filled with murals from different local artists and it brings the real Austin vibe alive here.”

With over 20 artists contributing to the project, each room and hallway patch is true to its character. Ward said most of the artists are members of two collectives in Austin: Third Coast Visions and Raw Paw.

“I have a combination of my favorite rooms,” he added. “We have rooms that are more psychedelic-type art…. And Raw Paw and their art tends to be more abstract and humorous and just off-the-wall and edgy and it’s great. So every room you walk into it’s like walking into a completely different place.”

Baylor Estes is one of the artists whose work is featured on the walls of Drifter Jack’s. Ward said Estes was instrumental in getting other artists on board.

“It just sounded like a lot of fun and Andy is a cool guy,” Estes said. “I guess the possibility of promotion was a factor but I think in general it was just good practice and just a cool space for art to be seen.”

Estes’ mural is on the wall near the check-in desk. It features a cartoon armadillo and cactus.“I think the Austin music scene is pretty well-known around the world but I think a lot of times the visual art is not as well known nationally or in Austin in general,” he said. “I feel in Austin there are a lot of great artists but not too many know about each other here in town.”

Besides Ward suggesting a Western theme, Estes kept to his own style, sketching the piece out before putting it on the wall.

“I don’t think it’s that Austin doesn’t necessarily have a visual arts culture,” Estes said. “I just don’t think it’s very cohesive….Hopefully it’s [conveying] the vibe of Austin itself, which in my experience has been laid back and creative and energetic.”

Another artist, who is in the beginning stages of his project, is Stephen Ferguson. He said working at the hostel has given him more exposure in just a few days than he got in two years of working in his room at home.

“Since I’ve known that Andy opened this place up he said he had a space open for me to paint, which I thought would be really cool because everyone from all over the world comes and stays here so it would be a good opportunity to get my art seen,” Ferguson said.

Hailing from Lake Charles, La., he said he doesn’t get much attention for his art there and enjoys coming to Austin because “it’s a whole different world.” He is hoping to move permanently to Austin in the coming months.

For many of the artists, including Ferguson, this work is something new for them on their journeys to becoming successful artists.

“For me it’s mostly for fun but also because I’ve never done anything permanent that I didn’t take home with me afterward or something so it’s really neat,” he said. “I came here not knowing what I’d do and I just brought several different colors of paint and thought ‘I’ll just see what happens.’ ”

Graphic designer Elyana Barrera

Graphic designer Elyana Barrera. Information retrieved from and

While painting at the hostel, people from Switzerland, Australia, Ireland and England have already been supportive of his work.

“This is really cool,” he said. “I guess I’m chasing my dream. Hopefully I become successful at it…. At the bottom of the painting I’m going to write ‘this is the end’ since right now there’s a lot of that end-of-the-world talk but also because this is the end of the hallway.”

Brandon Wilson painted an entire room while alternating between listening to music and watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

“It was really very spontaneous,” he said. “I was trying to plan ahead and trying to be that guy and trying to think what I was going to do. I really just had to wait until I got into the room, felt inspired and kind of just started free-handing everything. I just drew it up as I went along.”

A self-prescribed caffeine addict, Wilson said he practically locked himself in the room for over a week to get the job done.

“People would come and tell me to take a break because they thought the paint fumes were making me loopy,” he said. “It was really intimidating. I had never done something on such a large scale before so that’s what I was kind of nervous about.”

Many of the artists include their social media information, such as Instagram, at the bottom of their artwork and Wilson said he’s gotten hits from all over the world.

“Art is a very personal experience,” he said. “It’s certainly a personal experience for me so having something like that in a room on public display is definitely something personal and I definitely feel a connection with people who come and visit.”

Graphic designer Elyana Barrera

Graphic designer Elyana Barrera. Information retrieved from,,

People from all walks of life and different parts of the world stay in rooms at Drifter Jack’s. Casey Cameron is from Brisbane, Australia and has been traveling the world for eight months. His adventures have brought him to Drifter Jack’s and Austin for five days.

Having just arrived, Cameron said he likes the hostel and Austin so far but has yet to go exploring.

“I want to eat some BBQ and spend some time on Sixth Street,” he said. “I love the idea of just meeting people and seeing what they’re doing and just going with it. Perhaps someone is going on an adventure you can join.”

That adventure at the intersection of art and travel is just what Ward had in mind when he got the idea to start a hostel and fill it with local art.

“Our duty as a hostel is showing the hostelers what makes Austin such a great place,” Ward said. “It shows off what makes Austin so great, which is the artistic culture, the counter culture, the music, all of that. You can see all of that all over the walls here. I think it offers backpackers a special home base when visiting Austin.”

Print piece by Kaine Korzekwa




Nostalgia on UT’s Campus: Michael Sieben’s “It Will All Happen Again” Exhibit

Hello World

The Breakdown: Bringing Bike-Powered Composting to Austin, One Pedaller at a Time

East-Side Compost Pedaller Stephen Bonett bikes around a neighborhood in East Austin collecting compost from members’s homes.

East-Side Compost Pedaller Stephen Bonett bikes around a neighborhood in East Austin collecting compost from members’s homes. By Emma Banks

By Emma Banks, Caroline Khoury, Alexis Chastain, and Britini Shaw.

Eric Goff and Dustin Fedako are businessmen, but the pair doesn’t play by the same rules as most. Goff believes in existing as a “not-just-for-profit” business, staying true to the Slow Money philosophy that teaches entrepreneurs growth that actually helps the economy and gives back to the community from which it came, instead of simply taking. Enter: East Side Compost Pedallers, a business that just celebrated it’s one-year anniversary and is sharing what it knows about community, waste and good, nutrient-rich soil.

Composting is not a new phenomenon. What’s new are the Pedallers and their philosophy: take a century-old practice and make it cool again. Get those neighbors interested. Sign up your aunt and uncle. Score points for having a bucket full of compost gold. It’s time for us to realize our trash’s potential, and take full advantage of it.

“My favorite reason to compost is that it makes your kitchen less smelly!” Pedaller Stephen Bonett said. “In other words, you can really reduce your waste stream out of your kitchen, so the stuff that goes to the landfill is less, and for me that means that I empty my garbage less, and I like that.”

There are four part-time pedallers, and each goes on pick-up routes two or three times a week, collecting compost in green buckets from members in the neighborhood, weighing it – they have a rewards system, points based on weight – then cleaning out those buckets. But that doesn’t mean the Pedallers’ main pitch isn’t about the environment. (Spoiler alert: it is…and they have a good reason for it too.)

“When food waste breaks down in a landfill, it creates methane, which is 21 times worse for global warming than carbon dioxide,” Goff said. “So you can have a big impact on one of the biggest problems facing our planet today.”

Equally important is localizing the issue of wastefulness, especially with another tier of Austin’s Zero-Waste Plan going into effect in 2017. The new requirement? Every restaurant in the city must start composting. And the Pedallers want to lend a hand.

“We hope to be able to grow and help accommodate all the restaurants that want to sign up for bike-powered composting,” Goff said. “Currently, we serve some restaurants, like Blue Dahlia, Justine’s and East Side Pies, plus homes, apartments, office buildings and schools.”

Their bikes might be a bit funny looking, but pedallers like Bonett take pride in their work and what they’re doing for the East Austin community. The business started with one neighborhood- the central part of Cherrywood- and it now serves about 250 houses.

“I think our biggest impact is the visibility of the project,” Bonett said. “Since people see these crazy bikes going around, they ask a lot of questions, and I think a lot of people get to hear about what composting is and how you do it- it’s easier than you think.”