Category: Sports & Entertainment
By Elisa Garcia, Sung Jai Lee, Lauryn Overhultz, Jasleen Shokar, Mary Layne Strieber
New Orleans-inspired jazz band, La Grosse Tete performs at Capital City Comedy Club on February 11. Photo taken by Sung Jai Lee
When people refer to Austin as ‘the Live Music Capital of the World,’ the music that comes to mind is mostly guitar-based country or rock ‘n’ roll. Although the home of Willie Nelson is not known for its jazz, Austin’s jazz scene has opportunities to enjoy the genre with some of the country’s richest history.
According to a 2015 article from Al Jazeera, jazz emerged a century ago from the combination of African rhythms and Western musical structure, played on military marching band instruments — rock ‘n’ roll was only a slight reinvention.
However, the jazz that originated during this time is different from the jazz people have come to know and love today. Sungil Gadgil, the director of the Austin Saxophone Ensemble, explained how jazz music evolved over time. After the 1920s, jazz spread across the U.S. and different artists developed divergent styles of the blues.
The jazz music of the early 1900s was centered around dance music, according to Gadgil.
“It’s music of entertainment and it’s music of the moment,” he said. “It’s a lot of wartime music going on, a lot of the Roaring ‘20s, there’s a lot of money, there’s a lot of illicit alcohol, a lot of partying going on and jazz is accompanying that life at that time.”
After the 1920s, jazz artists began to borrow from swing dance. As swing dance culture began to become popular, Dixieland emerged, which is also known as traditional jazz.
Infographic made by Sung Jai Lee
Not only has the musical style of jazz changed over time, the places where jazz thrives have changed as well.
As a result of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in 2005, New Orleans’ jazz scene saw a migration of musicians from New York and Chicago who played slightly different forms of jazz, according to Al Jazeera.
One place that can serve as an example of how Hurricane Katrina changed New Orleans’ music is Frenchmen Street, according to Al Jazeera. After Katrina washed everything away, Frenchmen Street became the new music district. However, jazz is not made in local neighborhoods anymore. Instead, it is a modern reflection of original jazz.
Frenchmen Street wasn’t the only place that took time to recover. John Boutté, a vocalist and trumpeter based in New Orleans, returned after the storm to a city without music.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Boutté said he took gigs “as soon as they said the doors were open.”
“The sounds after the catastrophe – the helicopters, the buzz saws, the sirens, the pile drivers, the hammers, shit falling down around you – the sounds were not pleasant,” Boutté said. “There were no natural sounds. We didn’t have any crickets. We didn’t have any birds. As musicians, we had to counter that with positive sounds.”
According to Dave Stoddard, president of the Austin Traditional Jazz Society, jazz musicians were forced to move into different areas after the storm. Many chose to migrate to Texas. Instead of heading back to New Orleans after the city began to rebuild, they stayed and helped grow the jazz scene in San Antonio and Austin.
Photos taken by Elisa Garcia and Sung Jai Lee
ATJS Photographer Tom Straus said he believes Texas still has room to grow its jazz scene.
“Traditional jazz is not very big in Texas,” Straus said. “One of the reasons it’s not too big in Texas is because it’s Texas. Natives listen to country-western and bluegrass, because that’s what they were raised on.”
Yet, Austin had a major renaissance of traditional jazz in the early 2000s, according to Stoddard.
Stoddard said traditional jazz is also known as ‘White New Orleans’ or ‘Dixieland.’ The earliest band to showcase this form of jazz was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, which was founded in New Orleans in 1916 and issued the first commercial jazz record in 1917.
“Now, we have quite a lot of jazz,” Stoddard said. “You can hear some form of traditional jazz almost every night of the week somewhere in the greater Austin area.”
Today, Austin has a range of jazz venues such as The Skylark Lounge, Elephant Room, The Continental Club, Antone’s and C-Boy’s Heart & Soul.
“People in Austin are interested in a variety of music forms,” Stoddard said. “If they’ll come listen to us, they’ll very often like what they hear.”
By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec
Bright dresses and choreographed dance moves captured the stage at the Austin Earth Day Festival on Saturday.
The Mueller Lake Park event highlighted multiple social dance styles, including flamenco, ballet folklórico, square dancing and tango.
Oaxaca: Arte en Movimiento, was one of the dance groups at the event. It presented a traditional Mexican dance from Oaxaca. Edgar Yepez dance instructor at Oaxaca, said the dance represents Mexican heritage.
“It’s a Mexican tradition,” Yepez said. “It’s a Mexican folklore.”
Arte en Movimento’s goal is to be a growing space for culture and art, while promoting diversity, opportunity and cultural expression. Yepez said they’ve been around for a year and have seen their program grow tremendously from four participants to 40. He credits the growth to style of dance.
“The main difference in the style of dance is Guelaguetza,” Yepez said. “No one is doing Guelaguetza in Austin. That’s the main difference between other kinds of dance.”
Oaxaca showcases the vibrant social dance culture in the city.
But Austin isn’t always as kind to professional dance. Austin’s professional dance culture has the same issues as other major cities. According to Caroline Clark, who is working on her Ph.D. about Austin dance, said the only dancers who make a salary are ballet dancers. There’s also limited space. But she added that “that’s true everywhere.”
While professional dance has its troubles in the city, Clark said the most important thing about Austin’s dance culture is its growth.
Origins of Dance Cultures
Infographic Created By: Kaylee Nemec
“The most important thing to know about Austin dance is that as Austin’s population grows, the diversity of dance forms that one can do here increases,” Clark said. “There are many kinds of dance here, from African forms to Hispanic forms to European folk forms to Asian forms. And, don’t forget the big Native American powwow that takes place every November. And, the very influential Texas dance hall tradition.”
Some of the biggest reasons for social dance’s popularity in Austin is it’s fun atmosphere. Mickey Jacobs, a senior tango instructor at Esquina Tango Cultural Society of Austin, said people attend tango classes at Esquina for the relaxed environment.
“We laugh a lot,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very open, and welcoming community. That’s really what esquina is known for and that’s what brings people back. It’s not intimidating … We make it easy to take that first step.”
Jacobs said Esquina offers a wide variety of classes. The main focus is Argentine tango, which places emphasis on the dance partners’ connection. Jacob’s performed a tango routine with fellow instructor Orazzio Loayza at Saturday’s festival, which displayed the dance’s heavy reliance on a duo’s embrace, and it additionally showed the technical side of the dance.
“It’s a couples dance first and foremost so learning to have the conversation, if you will, between the follower and the leader, but instead of a verbal conversation, it’s a conversation with your body,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very sensual dance. It’s all about responding to each other’s body movement … It all goes back to an embrace. The dance position is called the abrazo, which means embrace, and that’s where everything originates.”
Jacobs added that Esquina isn’t the only place in Austin teaching tango. She said the tango culture in Austin, much like the city’s overall dance community, is alive and well.
“There’s a very vibrant community,” Jacobs said. “There are a few 100 people, who regularly dance tango. There are definitely people around town, who are great, that serve people all around Austin … There are good teachers throughout the city, and a very vibrant active community.”
Photos and Cutlines By: Kaylee Nemec
Photos and Cutlines By: Nick Castillo
Videos filmed and produced by: Sara Eunice Martinez
Whether you consider yourself an ‘Austinite,’ or you spent some time visiting Austin, you can always find something new and fun to do in the Capitol of Texas. The city boasts of a plethora of sites to see. Maybe you want to grab a bite at popular food trucks or take memorable pictures at some of Austin’s major landmarks. Seek adventure with not only family and friends, but with an experienced pathfinder to guide you along your new adventure.
Ride with Texas Bike Tours, a company that can match you up with a tour guide to follow along with on your own bike! Listen to the pathfinders explain Austin history as you bike along the new boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake and continue strolling through downtown, gaining knowledge about Austin’s “weird” culture.
Tourists enjoy the engaged and interactive nature of the bike tours.
“I’ve been on bus tours in Europe, but to be out, and to see people and smell things was just super cool,” said Tracey Maloney, Texas Bike Tours customer.
The company also personalizes each tour to the interests of the group, so every tour is unique and just how you want it. Enjoy a fun and personalized adventure in Austin’s city limits and continue to explore more of Austin’s historic or newly created sites with unforgettable bike tours.
Still looking for more creative ways to see the city? Here are some other ways to tour Austin:
- Keep Austin Weird by pedaling on the newest mobile unit — a pub on wheels! This bar on wheels explores a variety of popular drinking establishments based on tour routes around the Capitol, the market district, the warehouse district and Barton Springs.
- If you like to have fun exploring and also enjoy a good team challenge, then this part-city tour part-energetic competition is for you. This tour stops at major landmarks while playing games and gathering items, and ends with tallying up of scores for the scavenger hunt awards ceremony.
- Want to rest your feet, but still take a tour? Glide your way around the Capitol and major downtown areas on Austin’s Segway Tours, which provide the history of the city and fun sites to stop and take photos. Just be sure to keep your balance and avoid the potholes.
- If you want to still rest your feet but get a killer arm workout, you can paddle your way through downtown via Lady Bird Lake with this kayaking tour. Learn some local history and interesting facts with this tour while floating on downtown Austin’s beautiful body of water.
In true Austin fashion, the city keeps its tours weird, so get out and explore!
Photos courtesy of Texas Bike Tours
By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec
Music blared, drinks flowed freely and hair filled the Mohawk on Feb. 20.
Nearly 1,000 people packed the downtown Austin venue for the 10th annual Come and Shave It beard competition.
The Come and Shave It event, which is organized by the Austin Facial Hair Club, is one of largest beard competitions in the country. The 2016 event attracted more than 220 competitors from all around the United States and the world.
Kevin Becker, from East Haven, Connecticut, finished in third place in the beard under a foot category and said he came to the event because of its magnitude in the beard community.
“I just started competing last year and I heard this was a very big competition so me and a couple other guys from Connecticut, we all came down,” Becker said. “It’s been great.”
Both the Austin Facial Hair Club and the Come and Shave It event have grown in their first 10 years. The club started with four members and now has 50 dedicated members. The original event was started by Misprint magazine, a now defunct publication, and was held at Club de Ville, which is now Cheer Up Charlies. The event quickly outgrew its old venue and moved to the larger Mohawk.
Bryan Nelson, president of the Austin club and one of the original four founders, said the event originally began as a spoof but grew in popularity. He said the city quickly embraced the event.
“I think Austin has always been a beardy place,” Nelson said. “It’s always been a more of relaxed lifestyle in Austin. You can go into a restaurant and see them in a T-shirt and jeans or something like that. The beard culture itself is pretty strong. Normally guys get pretty proud of their beard. It’s kind of fun to celebrate them.”
Brett Strauss, commissioner of the Facial Hair League, which helps clubs organize beard competitions, said the key to the Come and Shave It event is its dedication to philanthropy. Strauss said most of the beard clubs are set up around raising money for non-profit causes. “If it was just about the beards, I don’t think there would so much commitment and so many people traveling the way they do,” Strauss said.
Nelson said that both the club and the Come and Shave It event have helped multiple charities over the past 10 years. He said they’ve helped with Wounded Warriors, SXSW Cares and the Austin Animal Center, among others.
“We just try to help out community where we can,” Nelson said. “We try to keep it real in Austin. We’re not registered as non-profit but we operate like a non-profit … We just try to have fun and ‘Keep Austin Beard.’”
The charity aspect of the event is important, but the fun keeps the event going. Strauss said he enjoys going to the Austin event because it’s one of the biggest competitions of the year. He also said the time he spends at beard competitions remind him of his college days.
“For me it’s like going back to college for the weekend,” Strauss said. “My mother-in-law watches my kids. I take my wife. We head out of town. And we go and hang out with some wonderful people and drink beer and have fun. It’s just like going back to college. I really enjoy spending time with these people.”
The Austin club and event has helped the beard community grow and “Kept Austin Beard” for the past 10 years and they’re being rewarded for it. Austin will host the World Beard and Mustache Championships in 2017, which Nelson is excited about.
“It’s been years in the making,” Nelson said.
Graphic Maps by: Kaylee Nemec
How Beards are Judged: A Q&A with Facial Hair League commissioner Brett Strauss
Understanding how a beard competition works is confusing. To help shave the nitty-gritty, Facial Hair League commissioner Brett Strauss discussed how competitions work.
Strauss, a former beard competition judge, discussed a variety of beard competition topics to help get a better understanding of how judging works, what judges look for and much more.
Q: How does judging work?
A: “It’s kind of like Olympic style judging, where each competitor is given a score between seven and 10 on the half-point: 7.5, 8, 8.5. You’re picking the first, second and third out of your final group for each category and you submit it and everything is calculated.”
Q: How does fan-voting work?
A: “The fan-voting is something we call ‘fantasy facial hair,’ which is like fantasy football where instead of picking players that’ll play the best, you’ll pick competitors. You’re going to pick the ones that you think are going to win first, second and third in each category. The closer you are to matching the judges themselves, the more points you get.”
Q: How many beard categories are there?
A: “I would say there are probably around 24 standard categories and there a probably just as many unique categories. The standard categories can include mustache, natural mustache, freestyle mustache, chops, beards, many different categories. Then you have the unique categories, which are things like some clubs will do world’s worst beard. Some people will do Texas red beard, salt-and-pepper for the gray and white beards. So there are some fun ones out there.”
Q: Which categories have the most competitors?
A: “Most competitions, you’re going to get 50 percent of your competitors competing in two categories. It really depends on how the clubs set them up. Usually, it’s, if you’ve got an under-12 inch full beard natural – that’s a very large group of people that have 12-inch or shorter beards. That’s probably going to be your largest group. Then, I’d say the second largest would be the 12-inch or over 12-inch full beard.”
Q: What do judges look for when judging?
A: “It depends. If you’re going for a full-beard natural then basically what you’re saying is it’s someone that does not do any type of cutting, shaving, cleaning up. It’s kind of an unruly set of people. These are people that don’t shave the cheek. They don’t shave under their neck. They just kind of let it absolutely go. So in that case, you’re actually looking for people that are more unkempt. You’re looking for length. Obviously, you want the beard to healthy. Volume helps as well. If you’re looking at another category like styled, or best-groomed beard, then you’re doing the exact opposite. You’re actually looking for people that have perfect beard shapes and have cleaned the cheek up. They have perfect straight lines that are matching.”
Photos by: Kaylee Nemec
Moovly created By: Sara Eunice Martinez
Film By: Sara Eunice Martinez
By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec
Austin roller derby scene emerges in 2001, leads to sport’s revival
Hundreds of people stand outside a southeast Austin business complex on Feb 13. Inside lays ‘The Blood Shed’ – an old warehouse building modified into a roller derby arena, where the Texas Rollergirls prepare to kick off their 14th season.
Fans cram into ‘The Blood Shed’ – standing or sitting on the concrete floor, searching for a spot to see the action, music blares, an enthusiastic emcee named ‘Chip Queso’ pumps the crowd up, and all while the Hotrod Honeys ‘bout against the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers.
Julie Hunter, owner of Medusa Skates in Austin and roller derby player for TXRD – a banked roller derby league – said the players feed off the atmosphere surrounding the games.
“When we have a ton of people it feels great,” Hunter said. “I’m really camera shy, but when I get out there I’m like ‘fuck yeah. This is awesome.’ I love it. I eat it up.”
Roller derby began in Chicago in 1935, but Austin led to the sports’ revival in 2001.
Austin has emerged as a major roller derby scene with multiple leagues including the Texas Rollergirls, who participate in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, and the TXRD – a league that participates in banked roller derby.
“It’s a really big scene,” Hunter said. “This is where the revival of roller derby got started back.”
Since the scene’s development it has added junior leagues, recreational leagues and even high schools have added the sport. There are even men’s leagues developing in Austin.
Film By: Sara Eunice Martinez
The game itself is fast, vicious and sometimes dangerous. The players say it’s a mix of football and speed skating. Two teams play in a game called a ‘bout,’ which consists of two 30 minute halves. Each team has five players on the track – one jammer, one pivot and three blockers, who help their jammer through the pack and try to prevent the other team’s jammer from scoring. The jammer scores after they make it through the opponent’s blockers and are credited points for each pass made within a two-minute period called a ‘jam’ during each half.
Jessica Duran, who goes by Virgo Vengeful and plays for the Hell Marys in the Texas Rollergirls league, said she’s seen the Austin competition increase during her 10 years of participating in the sport.
“The skill level has gotten higher and higher,” Duran said. “Everyone is getting better every year. So every year, I think I learn something new and I also really challenge my brain. As far as the game goes, the strategy is super important to the sport and learning how to tune into it.”
Duran added that the Austin scene is empowering because of the physical nature of the sport and the ability to speak your mind within leagues.
“It’s very empowering, definitely,” Duran said. “It’s a lot of very opinionated females, which is great. We might butt heads, but it’s also empowering that you can speak your mind and you’re encouraged to be you. You’re a female who cares? When someone says ‘you hit like a girl.’ ‘Yeah, I do hit like a girl. I hit very hard. You wish you could hit like that.'”
“We very much empower every girl that comes in from juniors all the way up to our rec program to our premier programs.”
Miyah Calhoon, who plays for the Honkey Tonk Heartbreakers in the Texas Rollergirls league and goes by Fender Bender, said seeing the growth of the sport down to the youth level has been special.
“It warms my heart, it really does.” Calhoon said. “To see the growth – there’s this empowerment aspect to it too … To see juniors skating today, it really does warm my heart.”
The fans cheer as the final whistle blows on Feb. 13. The Hotrod Honeys claim their first win of the season – a 293-108 clobbering of the Honkey Tonk Heartbreakers.
Both teams share high-fives despite the battle each fought. They all share in the same fun the Austin roller derby scene has created.
“It really feels like a family,” said Diane Sanson, who participates in the Texas Rollergirls recreational league. “They’re like distant relatives that are way above you, but they’re still encouraging you and telling you ‘you will get there.’ Telling you how to get there. It is more of a family. We help each other out. It’s not discouraging even if your team loses.”
Photos by: Kaylee Nemec