Another thought on Lexington’s music potential

Steve Austin, who directs the new Center for Community Legacy Initiatives at the Blue Grass Community Foundation, formerly headed the “smart growth” group Bluegrass Tomorrow. He is one of those people who tries to think like a hockey player. You know, focus on where the puck is going, not where it is now.

While in Austin, Texas, on the Commerce Lexington trip, he noticed an interview in Austin Monthly magazine with Guy Forsyth, a singer and songwriter. Down in the article, Forsyth was quoted as saying home prices have tripled since he moved to Austin in 1990, pricing him out of many neighborhoods, despite his success.

A generation ago, musicians began coming to Austin because they were being priced out of California. “Austin has peaked, but they don’t know it,” Austin said. “Being the next hot thing has passed for them.”

If young musicians can no longer afford to live in Austin, will they stop going there? Where will they go instead? “Why couldn’t it be Lexington?” he wondered.

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to “Another thought on Lexington’s music potential”

  1.   RickD Says:

    Eblin, give it up. Stevie Ray Vaughn didn’t come from California. Nor Joe Ely, nor Willie Nelson. Nor a hundred other Texas musicians. They came from Texas.

    You mentioned Stubbs BBQ the other day. Look up CB Stubblefield and his restaurant in Lubbock. Look up the Texas music legends that played there because he supported them, WIllie, Stevie Ray, Johnny Cash and many more. Ask yourself where that would happen in Lexington. Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana doesn’t count.

    There are no real museums in Lexington, no art museum, no natural history museum, not even a Kentucky history museum, not a good one. Shakespeare in the park closed down for lack of support. Why is there no support for these kinds of things in Lexington? Don’t really know but there is not sufficient support for culture in Lexington. Maybe there just aren’t enough people. Maybe there aren’t enough people of the right kind.

    Without the money and real support there is no chance for an increase in culture in Lex.

    Texas used to be its own republic and the people there do have big egos. The idea that they have their own music is perfectly natural to them. Kentucky music, don’t think so. Google “texas music” then google “Kentucky Music” You’ll find one has ten times the links of the other. Guess which.

  2.   sdwn Says:

    There is insufficient support for culture in Lexington because of a paralyzing cocktail of fear and laziness. Lexington’s been buttoned down by a blue blazered banking and legal heirarchy for so long that the fear of the kinds of risks places like Austin have embraced have seemed unthinkable here. Are we beginning to struggle free of this cultural straitjacket? Lexington’s population has changed, is far less locally born and bred and is far more heavily influenced by the experiences and ideas of folks who have arrived here from elsewhere. That’s something we need to welcome. Change can be a good thing, especially when it results from the kind of increased community engagement and activism we are now seeing.

    As for Steve Austin’s point, he’s right. Affordability is a huge challenge. In a 1999 article appearing in the Austin Chronicle, Mike Henry, co-owner of The Electric Lounge which had become a casualty of the city’s economic fluctuations was quoted as saying, “In the days of Raul’s, and the Cave Club, and Club Foot, Austin was affordable. It was a musician’s town. I think today, the city stands with one foot in the grave — the grave of not being a musician’s town anymore. Lots of clubs, musicians, and artists of all types have been pretty effectively evicted from downtown, because it’s just too expensive to be there anymore.”

    Noted later in the same article: …anybody who has gone into business recently in Austin has likely witnessed one of the by-products of that growth — the one that helped push the live music venues out of their buildings: skyrocketing property values.

    This is the cautionary tale from Austin.

    As the dad of one of Austin’s “creatives” I can tell you that affordability has become a very serious challenge — enough of one to inspire the establishment of a special task force to try to figure out how to prevent rising rates from sweeping away the music scene. Meanwhile, here in Lexington we have the advantage of being able to learn from Austin’s experiences and current dilemma and to then use the knowledge to try to stay ahead of the problem as Lexington’s downtown and arts and entertainment scenes develop and flourish.

    Finally, RickD, how about a little respect for Tom Eblen? We haven’t had a voice like his in this town for a long, long time. He’s making some very cogent observations, thoughtfully and with intelligence. You’d have to be a block of wood not to know where SRV, etc. come from. But you would have to be a knot in that log not to know that California musicians (along with many from the east coast and Nashville) joined them in droves as Stevie Ray, Joe Ely, Doug Sahm and all the other local greats put Austin on the map as a place where their creativity would be supported both culturally and economically.

  3.   lolliloo Says:

    I feel kind of silly engaging in an argument with you on this blog RickD…so I’m not really considering this an argument as much as I’m informing you…..Let me give you some background about myself tho, so you know where I’m coming from…I am not originally from here…I’m from a town of about 750 ppl…talk about a lack of opportunities….I moved here in 1981 to go to UK and have really never had any desire to leave, but that’s mostly because I was lucky enough to find my way downtown to the places where the “creative class” was gathering. One of my biggest frustrations with Lexington has always been that it’s hard to find the local treasures and the powers that be have never seemed to understand the importance of making that stuff obvious. I think the tide is slowly turning on that as cities across the country are coming to realize how important the creative class is to a community.

    We do have museums…again…they are museums that a city of this size can support…so they may not be what you’re looking for….I’m thinking you should probably settle in a very large city…if you do stay here, don’t forget that Louisville and Cincinnati are only 1 1/2 hours away…not a bad drive for an evening or day trip. Atlanta, Chicago and St. Louis are only 6 hours away…not bad for a weekend away…

    The Headley Whitney Museum is an amazingly quirky and wonderful place. It is officially affiliated with the Smithsonian so it has some world class exhibits….The Headley Whitney specializes in the decorative arts…
    The Lexington History Museum has amazing exhibits..both permanent and temporary….a member of my family was a founder of this museum so I know the hard work that went into both securing the Old Courthouse and finding the funds to support it…it is a huge endeavor…and no one should EVER take it for granted…
    The Kentucky HorsePark has the International Museum of the Horse which also has a thought provoking permanent collection and world class International temporary exhibits….
    The University of Kentucky Art Museum is nothing to sneeze at….go there now to see contemporary prints from Picasso to Warhol… over 4000 works in the permanent collection
    A short drive to Red River Gorge will take you to some of the best rock climbing in the world…go to Miguels Pizza and the variety of license plates on the cars parked there will astound….
    I am also very proud of the fact that Wendell Berry (one of the greatest thinkers of our time) hails from the area…but if you’re talking about musicians…Loretta Lynn…the Judds…Dwight Yokum….Richard Hell…The Everly Brothers…Merle Travis….Bill Monroe…Sam Bush…Boots Randolph…..just to name a few….
    The Dalai Lama names Berea as the “Nirvana of the West”
    I could go on and on and sometimes I do and it really drives my friends crazy. The fact is though….that while Lexington and Kentucky have plenty of faults…there is also a rich culture and history here….it doesn’t mean there aren’t faults…there are plenty….(don’t get me started on recent ideas for downtown development)… my desire is to be one with the people who are working to make this an even better place to live and I get very frustrated with sweeping generalizations that just aren’t true.
    So…there’s a partial list of places to go….
    Check ‘em out and Have Fun!
    oh!…you should also check out McConnell Springs and Raven Run…if you want to join the Biking Community…watch for events planned by the AlleyCats…

  4.   Billy H Says:

    The “cultural straitjacket” Sdwn describes above hits to the heart of the issue. The critical lesson for the leaders returning to Lexington is that the cultural change necessary for success must bubble up from the bottom. I wish 275 average folks from all over Lexington—particularly the suburbs—visited Austin. That would have been “weird.”

  5.   lolliloo Says:

    True so true, Billy H!

    Forgot to mention for RickD’s benefit…88.1 WRFL Radio Free Lexington….well respected all across the U.S. and in the alternative music scene… student run College Radio Station here at UK…..

  6.   sdwn Says:

    What Lexington lacks –and must once again have if this music thing is to be taken seriously by artists and promoters– is a full-service, locally focused, killer music, community radio station.
    We had it once in WRVG.
    To be effective and produce results, audience development and education have to be woven into a station’s programming and must be sustained as ongoing efforts. WUKY has totally dropped the ball and is no longer a genuine “local” radio station. It’s sad but true.
    You may hear that technologies have left traditional radio behind, but that’s really not true. The technology is as viable as ever. What has suffered is the local programming that made the technology useful. The decimation of local radio staffs –not to mention creativity– has been brought to you by the Economy-of-Scale folks at Clear Channel -yet another failed legacy of our nation’s most recent political era.
    To make an ongoing music scene work, you have to have radio support to educate listeners about the artists and provide a steady flow of information on where live music can be heard, where to buy tickets and how much they cost.
    Remember those great in-studio interviews and performances at ‘RVG? Sometimes for an entire afternoon?? A community soon arose around that concept and was getting out in suport of concerts and other music events all around the area — and was left bereft and heartbroken when Georgetown College sold the station.
    Can it happen again? Sure. But guess what it takes? You got it: dollars, invested without the expectation of a short-term return. Doesn’t sound like something the private sector would get very excited about, does it? And you sure can’t look for public dollars for such an operation.
    Maybe Powerball.