This website has been pretty upfront about the fact that our entire staff is comprised of out-of-towners and transplants. We are a hodgepodge crew whose love of music and infatuation with Austin has led us to this site. In our rush to cover the incredible culture of Austin, we often forget the fact that we are very new. I myself have only been here a few months and it’s my brief stint as an Austinite that makes the film Echotone feel very complicated. At its core, this film questions how the Austin music scene can survive under the weight of the city’s expansion. As a music writer, and an outsider, how do I fit into this?
The title of Echotone is actually a play on the term “Ecotone.” An ecotone is the area of land separating two ecosystems; it is neither one ecosystem nor the other but rather a place of tension between the two. The films uses this analogy to describe the current tension between Austin’s music scene and our growing city’s new urban developments. For example, the apartments next to The Mohawk are new but the tenants often call noise complaints on the Red River venues next door. It’s this tension that dominates much of the film, because the ecosystems are not blending well.
The other main focus of the film is just how awesome Austin music is. Black Joe Lewis, The Black Angels, Sound Team, Ghostland Obervatory and The White White Lights are just a few of the bands they cover. High quality performances pepper the film, giving it the energy and intensity of a concert documentary. The cinematography is incredible, jumping from intimate clips of musicians on stage to breathtaking views atop high rise condos with ease and grace. The soundtrack is an amazing catalogue of some of Austin’s best bands of the past five years. The musicians themselves are often funny and poignant, articulate and passionate about their craft and its future. The film ends on a bit of a question mark, never fully exploring many of the questions it brings up. I would have loved if it went on another 20 minutes, if only to give it the room to flesh out these complicated and pressing issues.
So where do I fit? I see my role as a new member of a growing community. I may not have been lucky enough to have been born here, but life is about playing the cards your dealt. Is it my fault that commercial expansion is making it harder and harder to eke out a living as a musician? Not directly, obviously. However it is my responsibility as someone who benefits from Austin’s amazing culture to help protect that culture. All of us who enjoy the live music capital of the world need to be willing to fight for those that give us such a wonderful and rich city. It is culture that is clashing with inevitable commercial interests and it is up to us to make sure the Austin we know – or are getting to know – and love doesn’t get swallowed up in the process.Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - Livin' In The Jungle