New York-based, Austin-bred concert promoter Todd Patrick (known to the business as Todd P) has been to enough South by Southwests.
They were sorta cool at first. Then the mission lost purpose and an idealist occurrence yielded to a neon industry conference defined by traffic, followers, lazy performances, etc. Todd P hijacked momentum where possible, programming perpetual thorn-in-the-side day parties with righteous vigor. Eventually, his underground Ms. Bea’s parties during SXSW drew building names (Ponytail, Titus Andronicus, Vivian Girls in ’09) and became a counterculture calendar staple. But with SXSW getting uptight and becoming increasingly vigilant toward circumstantial competitors—The Austin Chronicle allegedly naming names to APD via detailed lists, for instance—Todd P set his sights south.
On Saturday, Todd P’s long-in-the-works outdoor festival, MtyMx, plants its flag in one of Mexico’s largest, safest and most developed cities, Monterrey. Planned with Mexican promoters Yo Garage, the fest is strategically nestled around a dead space for American music tours; the industry converges for SXSW, and in the immediate aftermath bands are stuck in Texas and surrounding states, competing for Monday night patrons in Little Rock or Lafayette. The selling point for fans is that MtyMx takes emerging American indie rock, pairs with native talent and offers an affordable, scenic, set-staggered three-day festival.
Austin Vida corresponded with Todd P via email about the festival’s fruition, prejudiced Americans, Monterrey’s indie rock scene and why Andrew W.K. is on the bill.
Editor’s note: This interview was conducted prior to reports of increased violence along northern border between realigning Gulf-region drug cartels. Todd P remains convinced safe passage to Monterrey, through Nuevo Laredo, is a given and no plans of festival cancellation are on the table. “There’s nothing new going on. It’s safer there than it is in Texas. News is exaggerated,” he says.
How did the collaboration with Yo Garage come to fruition?
Todd P: I met Ricardo and Leila from Yo Garage last year when I drove down to Monterrey after SXSW. We had barely met before, but they graciously put my friends and I up for several days and showed us their city. They run a great DIY indie space down there call El Garage, which served as our home base for the vacation. We started talking about collaboration almost immediately.
Tell me about the festival venue.
Todd P: Autocinema Las Torres is a drive-in movie theater on the side of a small foothill mountain at the beginning of the Sierra Madre Orientales. It looks out to new gleaming highrises one direction; in another direction you can see a shantytown climbing up another small mountain, and towering over all is La Silla, the signature mountain of Monterrey. The space is about the size of 10 football fields.
It’s clear from timing and talent and shuttling fans out of Austin that there’s an attempt to dig into SXSW breed of music fans that show up downtown with no credentials or motives other than to see free blog bait. What made you fall out of love with doing events during SXSW?
Todd P: I’ve only ever cared about involvement in SXSW to the point that it represented such an otherwise impossible gathering of bands in one place, all willing to play for basically free. It occurred to me that the gathering of bands in one place is something that’s true just after that fest ends as much as it’s true while it’s happening. All those bands have to drive somewhere the next day, so why not gather the best of the bunch and have them drive to Monterrey for something special? It beats playing in Lubbock on a Sunday night!
My take on Monterrey is that it’s Mexico’s answer to Dallas: full of technocrats, lots of big tech industry, Americanized and full of places like Chili’s, home to the most expensive private university in Mexico, full of wealth, a stronghold for Mexico’s center-right ruling party, the PAN. What attracted you to city besides fact it’s, you know, safe?
Todd P: Location, location, location… and the fact that a lot of those middle-class educated folks that Monterrey has to offer are indie rock fans. Also, Garage definitely the most forwardo-thinking club in Mexico, so we had the perfect partner on the ground.
As a follow-up, given the make up of Monterrey’s 20-somethings (specifically the kind that can afford recreational music festivals), what sort of local turn out do you expect?
Todd P: We’re expecting between 1,000 and 2,000 people per day, with about 80 percent of that being Mexican fans.
What’s the Monterrey music scene like?
Todd P: It’s diverse and booming. There are a lot of new bands and a lot of different kinds of parties happening every weekend. It’s tight-knit,but there’re always new generations of scenesters with every new school year at all the universities.
There’s a meaty chunk of Mexican bands. Who put you onto them? Are they legitimate draws in Mexico? Who are you looking forward to seeing the most?
Todd P: Ricardo and Leila curated the Mexican and other Spanish language bands. I’m personally excited to see Los Llamarada, Ratas Del Vaticano, Los Planetas and Alexico.
Andrew W.K. sticks out on the bill. He’s great, but clearly a departure from trendy names like Neon Indian and Das Racist. How did his inclusion come up? Is W.K. big south of the border?
Todd P: Andrew WK is just an all-around great guy who was kind enough to respond to our emails and trust us that travelling to Mexico to play in field on a 75-band bill was a good idea. I’m psyched he’s involved; he’s a perfect example of visual and performance art mixed with rock performance. His whole career is conceptual art, in my opinion. He’s as much a uniquely famous personality South of the border as he is up here.
What has the public relations battle in convincing upwardly mobile white people to travel to Mexico been like?
Todd P: It’s been easier than we expected, though not without detractors. We expected only a trickle of interest from the States, but it’s been a steady stream. Even the predicable naysayers have been in the minority. I’m actually pleased those folks came out of the woodwork and revealed their ignorance. I think it’s been a wake up call for more thoughtful, knowledgeable U.S. folks who didn’t know just how pigheaded some of those ugly Americans can be, even when they come from the relatively educated, cultured class that listens to indie rock music. The idea behind this festival is to challenge conventional wisdoms about the border and about Mexico. It doesn’t hurt to see those caricatures out of display, in all their ugliness. I’m just happy to see my countymen having this conversation about the border.
At the risk of recalling press releases for their traditionally blind enthusiasm towards recurring happenstances that are, truthfully, lacking in angle and scoop, I’ll go there: Saturday’s “Toma Mi Corazon” is a vital community staple, an admirable cause and should—you know—totally be checked out.
“Corazon” is an annual silent auction fundraiser held in La Peña’s downtown Congress gallery space. This year’s event takes place on Saturday, Feb. 6. We’re talking generous hosts, live music, refreshments and art. Now in its 18th year, the marquee gathering from the tax-exempt nonprofit is just as vibrant as always. It’s a noble endeavor; just ask La Peña’s artistic director, David Gutierrez.
“La Peña is an interdisciplinary cultural and educational organization dedicated to the enhancement of art in all its forms,” Gutierrez said, “[We] support artistic development, provide exposure to emerging local visual artists, musicians, poets and other performing artists, and offer Austin residents the full spectrum of traditional and contemporary Latino art.”
But, as Vince Young would charmingly project in his Houston accent, Saturday is about the kids. In short, La Peña invites all comers (artists, children, patrons) to beautify wooden hearts; they’re auctioned off, and all proceeds filter back towards La Peña’s educational, arts-focused programming. The gallery itself is trendy, welcoming and familiar. In terms of hearts, artists collaborate, sure, but more satisfying are the groups of hearts from elementary schools done as class projects. And again, these gestures are paid forward.
“We often go into the community to give people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to have their work displayed in a gallery setting. For example, every year we have an exhibit of children’s artwork from Sanchez Elementary,” Gutierrez said, “Also, this past December we exhibited the art of senior citizens from area nursing homes and senior activity centers. The children and seniors wouldn’t normally have opportunities like that and it often gives them the encouragement to continue doing art.”
If nothing else, attending “Corazon” will 100 percent get you out of seeing that insufferable coming attraction “Valentine’s Day” that not only makes “Love Actually” seem like “Annie Hall” but is being marketed in homophobic fashion as Bradley Cooper’s character is gay, yet he’s shown in trailers flirting with stewardesses and lovingly gazing at Julia Roberts. On a generally related note, Valentine’s Day (the holiday) is 100 percent a fabricated, corporate cash grab, but what’s vastly more annoying are people that decry the day on that basis because—bottom line, bro—the holiday begets romance.
And more than a windfall for romance, “Toma Mi Corazon” is an invaluable, cheap date proposition perfectly timed to remove burden of Valentine’s Day a week later, as thoughtful notion of engaging in this affair, just outta the blue, absolves duty of using the Hallmark holiday as a vehicle for projecting sweetness/thoughtfulness. The bubbling, pending pressure goes away and opens up next weekend for more straightforward, comfortable, direct pleasures.
The cause is righteous, the music joyfully ethnic, the art sincere and enduring, the timing seasonal and romantic. But remember, it’s about the kids.
All photos taken by Mari Hernandez for Austin Vida at last year’s “Toma Mi Corazon.” This year’s event takes place on Sat., Feb. 6.
Some moves are obvious to insulting extremes. Some trains of thought are so linear and clear it’s miraculous others haven’t ridden them before.
Take Mi Casa Cantina on Sixth Street: Texas has lots of Mexican-Americans; its capital city even more Mexican-Americans who enjoy congregating downtown for an occasional cocktail, in addition to a dense population of 18 to 24 year olds who likewise enjoy congregating downtown. Stumbling, fumbling patrons in the early morning love to eat food; the police-barricaded, nightly Sixth Street party district offers expensive restaurants and greasy street vendors and limited mid-level, accessible alternatives beyond the Wendy’s east of I-35 and assorted, seedy burger joints.
Last July, Cantina founder Joseph Keresztury took ripe preconditions, his family’s established business model, and planted his flag downtown.
“The only food items on our menu are tamales,” Keresztury wrote via email. “Mi Casa has the goal of continuing to bring something different to Austin’s historic Sixth Street and fill the niche that has been missing of Latin, Hispanic, salsa, Tejano or any other type of music missing from the world’s live music capital.”
Indeed the dive has live ambitions. But first and foremost, tamales.
During the ’90s, Keresztury’s mother opened a daycare center under the moniker “Mi Casa” in their hometown of San Antonio. When your traditional holiday fundraisers rolled around, they made and sold homemade tamales. The people wanted more, and the sustainable notion of living and dying by the tamale became family practice.
“It didn’t take long to turn Mi Casa Tamales into a full restaurant and shortly later she added a full bar and outdoor patio which continues to feature live music every weekend to this day with some of the bigger shows bringing in over 2,000 people,” Keresztury said.
On the strength of homemade, signature tamales, a burgeoning live music flagship was forged and in 2008 Keresztury opened up a small, satellite retail store outside San Antonio. Again, a big hit.
“That is when I decided to open a bigger business and move it to Austin, which would be based on what my mother had already begun to build in San Antonio with her cantina and music scene,” he said.
Hot Mexican specialty items from a trusted brand are no-brainers, but carving out a live music niche on Sixth Street is historically a recipe for full collapse. Even the most successful venues in town want nothing to do with the rowdy area. Just ask Hard Rock Cafe.
Sixth is for turning 21, freak-dancing to Lil Jon standards over loud woofers, and carb-loading after last call. There’s a laundry list of defunct venues that either relocated, reformatted and resurfaced with a traditional pub crawl model—or simply folded. Live music floods to West Sixth or the gentrified hipster stretches of East 35 or Red River; Sixth wants drink specials and cheap thrills. Think to last decade’s quick rises and falls: The Vibe? Bourbon Rocks? Mercury Lounge? Bueller?
“I am well aware of the difficulties of owners past and the many failed businesses who attempted to build something beyond the traditional bar scene,” wrote Keresztury. “We are feeling the pressures on a daily basis. The only chance Mi Casa Cantina has to survive is to get the support and following of those who are fans and followers of Latin music and the live music scene all together.
“Without these people coming out to our venue, Mi Casa will be sure to be another failed venture or venture that eventually reverted back to the traditional bar scene.”
To their credit, Sixth lacks a distinguished harbor for Latin music and its umbrella subgenres. As a corollary, Keresztury’s active and calculated approach to booking shows is gaining traction: By turning to social media and, more importantly, local promoters with connections (Bemba Entertainment, Dart Music International), the goal of building an involved, passionate base of is being handled with meticulous attention to detail.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Austin Vida is likewise lending its name to future events and parties, including a Nacional Records listening party on Feb. 2.
The ducks are in a row and the cantina’s relaxed, homey vibes and spot-on product (the pork tamales win on, well, being stuffed with delicious pork) may be the gamechangers.
Photos provided by Mi Casa Cantina. Mi Casa is located at 503 E. Sixth Street. Check out their website: tamalestore.com
Upcoming shows at Mi Casa Cantina
|Date / Cover||Artists / Time|
|Thurs, Jan 28 (free)||Kiko Villamizar & Huerta Culture (10p)|
|Fri, Jan 29 (free)||Boca Abajo (10p)|
|Sat, Jan 30 (free)||Bubba Hernandez (10p)|
|Tues, Feb 2 (free)||Nacional Records listening party (8p)|
It’s January of 2009 and I’m in Mexico City, watching the Titans and Ravens in the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs.
There’s no scrambling to find a signal, no congregating at a fringe bar with other football fans like those Coke commercials wherein a Notre Dame backer wakes up in the middle of the night to seek out a Japanese transmission, meets a man in USC’s rival regalia at a foreign bar and they bond over circumstance. Ravens at Titans is broadcast on standard national channel, TV Azteca. After all, it’s 2009 and the NFL is hugely popular.
Has been for a while. My cousins raised in the ‘70s pull for the Steelers, my cousins raised in the ‘80s support the 49ers, my ‘90s cousins love the Cowboys, the millennial babies are with Peyton Manning. I have an uncle who played semi-pro pigskin in Mexico and cousins who played high school and club football in the homeland. I have a cousin who used vacation time last month to fly to Miami just to see her Steelers in an ultimately meaningless game.
Go to any weekly, community market or terrifying bootlegger haven in the city, you’ll find the finest fake jerseys this side of China, old school fake Starter jackets, offbrand NFL team logos painted on everything from kitchen tiles to soccer balls.
Alright so back to the action. If I recall correctly, the homefield, top-seeded Titans had every opportunity to put away an upstart Ravens team with a rookie quarterback but a run-first, manage-the-game offense failed to capitalize on turnovers and produce points. Titans go down in a low-scoring, tense affair. Point is, we have a nail-biter at halftime. Mexico’s network coverage recaps the first half for about three minutes, spends the next ten weighing the pros and cons of potential cities for incoming rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez. It’s the playoffs, the draft isn’t until April, it doesn’t matter: they’re talking Sanchez.
The Bears have quarterback needs and Chicago has a huge Mexican population. What’s the impact of Sanchez in Chicago? What about San Francisco? Sanchez is a Calfornia kid, after all.
Within the year, Sanchez would be drafted by a team in the country’s largest, most critical media market, be named the starter by opening day, struggle to find his footing in the league, rally late in December to lead his Jets (alright, to not screw up things while the Jets defense shuts down the AFC’s biggest arms) all the way to Sunday’s conference championship.
The task is basically impossible; most of us projected lumps for the kid.
courtesy of NFL
The task is twice as impressive when considering the extra burden Sanchez volunteered to take on: not hiding from his last name. No other athlete with foreign roots playing an American game since Yao Ming has been in such a magnified position. National hero abroad, baffling local affiliates with the random outbursts of nationalism and foreign flag waving of aligned onlookers that begets auxiliary pressure at every corner, hateful resentment in the worst manifestations.
Yet Yao is an athletic transplant while Sanchez’s family spent most of the 20th Century in the States. Sanchez doesn’t even pretend to speak fluent Spanish. In a position to opt out of this cultural pressure-cooker like J.P. Losman (isn’t he Jewish?) and Tony Romo (dude’s Italian, right?), he chose to sport Mexico’s national colors publicly on his mouthguard in umistakable fashion.
Dude quarterbacked the fictional-sounding, Mission Viejo Diablos in high school. In college he did ESPN spreads with tacos and his big, beautiful, stereotypical family. Nerdy New Yorkers are chanting “Viva Sanchez!” and wearing borderline offensive, wholly celebratory and thus acceptable and in fact kinda awesome sombreros and mustaches. Mark Sanchez is such a Mexican.
And yeah, the puff pieces were inspiring. Sanchez became a willing, if hesitant, advocate for an entire culture, and boy did they love him back. The issue is we’re only at the beginning and the ethnic hero leading by example angle is fading, ceding to trivial tidbits like the fact Sanchez’s father is a fireman and New York City firefighters enjoy watching the Jets.
We’re only at the beginning and the time to do Gillette commercials or live a bland centrist existence has come and gone. Sanchez means too much. He’s conquered the West Coast and sits in a position to work the two biggest hubs of American humanity, leave dents for the better. Sanchez needs to take stands on meaningful, tangible problems that go beyond the NFL’s partnership with the United Way; remember sports needs more Jim Browns, less Michael Jordans. You may have read the whimsical feature I hyperlinked above, go back and check the comments:
“Mark is an American. His ancestry is Mexican. I am so tired of hyphenating Americans, no wonder we are so divided as a people.”
“My only problem with most Mexicans (as I haven’t seen this from other Latino countries) is that they put their flag freakin’ everywhere. I don’t get it.”
“AH HOW DUM WHO THE HELL CARES I CAN’T WAITE TO SEE THIS MEICAN #### FALL ON HIM DUMASS FACE AGINST MY OHIO STATE BUCKEYES! GO BUCK’S! BABY AND #### USC!”
As if the sociology 101 contrarian arguments need thawing and reheating: by embracing your corresponding, marginalized and embattled race during tough times, one’s success begets confidence and hope. To proudly tune in. To play quarterback. Picked up my mother from the airport over the weekend from her annual holidays with the family in Mexico. She proudly relayed a country’s national hopes of a Jets-Cowboys Super Bowl, a duel of Hispanic quarterbacks.
Romo’s Cowboys promptly fell to Minnesota and realistically, Sanchez’s Jets should get properly crushed this weekend. As a football fan, I’m actually hoping for a swift exit for these party-crashing Jets so everyone is assured a pedigree-laden, all-star finale between the Indianapolis Colts and either the Vikings or Saints.
Still, the streets would have erupted with glee over the occasion. Negro Modelo would have poured from every dive bar in every North American barrio. The food on Super Sunday would have been extra spicy.
Maybe next year.
I was on the cusp of typing this out in Spanglish, as a nod to the hilarious, sharp, quick-paced run of Petra’s Pecado enjoying another warm reception at the Salvage Vanguard Theater. Besides a series of egregious grammatical errors, employing the work’s bilingual back-and-forth backbone would ultimately diminish its core principal of inclusion through common emotive tones.
Before the tangent spirals out of control, let me backtrack.
Petra’s Pecado, a dark comedy about the Virgin Mary angelically, physically guiding a South Texas community through tough times, is in its fifth Teatro Vivo run through December 20. Vivo co-founder Rupert Reyes scribed the work in 1994 and it’s enjoyed praise everywhere it surfaces, ranking hardware and readings in enlightened cities like San Francisco.
“We’ve had tourists bus into town across the state to see [Petra’s Pecado],” Reyes said. “We’re committed to being inventive, inclusive; it’s important that bilingual audiences relate and applaud enthusiastically, that they have insight during the experience.”
Back to the goal of unity: Despite a near 50/50 split of regional English and Spanish as its dialogue, and despite Teatro Vivo’s outright dedication and proven record programming “quality bilingual theater,” funny is funny.
“Oddly enough our biggest supporters are non-Latino,” Reyes said. “The audience reaction is universal.”
Themes that run deep at the heart of production.
It’s a cold, rainy Sunday night and finding the ensemble’s church rehearsal space is just not happening. I call Reyes for further details, he halts mid-scene to diagram the exit. No luck. After 30 minutes of circling the correct right turn, I arrive with two fatherly and concerned voicemails waiting, greeted like an old friend on Posada night.
With food drive donations lining church walls, it’s cramped as the talented young actors involved run polished scenes. Opening night looms. Petra Dominguez, the protagonist of Reyes’ trilogy (Petra’s Pecado, Petra’s Cuento, and Petra’s Sueño), is a wife and mother who runs a tortilla factory. Pecado follows a cluster of senior citizens in Las Flores, Texas (still not entirely sure if this place exists) seemingly impervious to being directed… asked to put on a play. Each has sordid demons. Each honestly, painfully confronted.
There’s also music.
Brandon Polanco, the show’s 22 year-old choreographer, adds an adventurous element to this run. He has the pedigree—European studies, artistic directing Beauty and the Beast at Zach Scott—and whipped up musical segues this fall. The South Texas, tortilla-hawking heroine (no, really) now sings Beatles standards.
“We’re using a lot of first time actors,” Polanco said. “It’s allowed us to have a very organic flow. I’ve asked them to bring their unique style and take us on a journey.”
Polanco speaks in whimsical buzz words (“episodic,” “translations of movement,” “dual images”) but is dead serious and passionate enough to merit admiration. I roll my eyes at the brief use of a suddenly ubiquitous Arcade Fire song, am stopped in tracks after an uncomfortable, delicate moment wherein a battered woman sings in Spanish like it’s for keeps.
The creative community affair matters and wins on its musical gamble.
Reyes, himself a tall, grey-haired man, plays husband Raphael (“He’s the trusting, loving husband who’d follow his wife into a burning building”), a stabilizing force that carries through his directing duties. He’s eager to spread praise but his work stands alone as vital, tested (hey, another Iraq war for timeliness), intricate.
“It’s about old people gaining their self-esteem,” Reyes said. “There’s abuse; a character lost his son in Iraq; there’s alcoholism. But, you know, it’s a comedy.”
Photos provided by Reyes. Petra’s Pecado is now running at Salvage Vanguard Theater until December 20.
The exhausted stamp of acceptance from anyone that’s had to miss the big game. There are comparable occurrences applicable to every pastime; life standing in the way of otherwise unwinding days off. Out of town uncles to tend to. Requisite shopping. Working late.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo is at the office late again, briefly bummed he won’t be in front of a flatscreen, consuming Florida and Alabama and a Conference championship. Number one against number two for keeps.
“It’s gonna be a good one.”
Rather, Acevedo will spend Saturday wearing a dress at the Long Center performing sans rehearsal. He’s Mother Ginger in the state’s longest-running production of The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky over Tebow.
“It’s spontaneous,” Acevedo said, “They take me backstage, put me in costume and I’ll ham it up.”
In other words, the boss is plating zingers for alpha colleagues at the station. “Yeah, it’ll be a dress but I think the guys are seeing that we got a crazy chief willing to do anything.”
Since becoming Austin’s first Hispanic police chief, the Californian cop has been there for his adopted town. In-depth engagements with cable access libertarians? Sure. Cross-referenced databases that may or may not be used to predict criminal activity “Minority Report” style? I’ll hash it out with the ACLU. Dance competitions for charity? I’ll do it in uniform for pizazz.
“I don’t say no to the community,” Acevedo said. “Not to anything advancing the fabric of trust. It has to start with the APD chief. We did ‘Dancing with the Austin Stars’ and we raised over $600,000 for the child protection center and now there’s videos online of me doing the cha cha.”
Thus, transparency for an entity that could be more, um, “effective.” His recognition.
“The number one thing a police department can do to strengthen a relationship is transparency. Just look at media accessibility; we’ve moved from an eclipse to a full moon. We’re breeding trust… And there’s no sense in being transparent if people are just seeing poor performance. The community has to hold us accountable, it’s building a department all of us can be proud of.”
Fundamental but lofty strides for an executive likewise realizing the opportunities and obligations inherent in the post. Marginalized members in authority offices carry the additional responsibility of leading and advancing, giving back and honoring origins.
“My first responsibility is making sure the second [Hispanic police chief] doesn’t take 84 years,” Acevedo said, “it’s incumbent to insure you’re outstanding and the door doesn’t close. I take this very seriously.”
For the community staple that now prints programs in Spanish during its annual December run. “I love ‘The Nutcracker’ but we could never afford to see these things growing up.”
Which is why he’ll be wearing a dress Saturday.
Nutcracker Austin link: www.balletaustin.org/atb/nutcracker.php