|Chuck Kerr designed our spicy homage to Andy Warhol’s famous album cover for The Velvet Underground & Nico.|
Much like Memphis, another river city I love and used to live in, San Antonio has the mindset of a perpetual underdog.
Memphis has a wild, mythic history and an unparalleled music legacy, but most of its residents see the whiskey glass as half empty. As legendary producer Jim Dickinson once said, Nashville is a company town, but Memphis will never be a company town. Nashville is self-satisfied, while Memphis is self-critical.
A similar comparison could be made between Austin and San Antonio. Austin shows that it’s enthralled with itself by encouraging residents to “Keep Austin Weird.” San Antonio demonstrates its capacity for self-mockery by proclaiming “Keep San Antonio Lame.” Given my own propensity for self-loathing, I’m partial to the latter ethos.
Austin’s shadow not only obscures our own view of the San Antonio music scene, it habitually steals away countless national shows that would otherwise come here (Nashville does the same thing to Memphis). But just because something requires a little extra effort to see doesn’t mean it’s not worth paying attention to.
In the case of San Antonio music, this city has a stellar, underappreciated jazz scene, a fertile underground hip-hop community, several wildly creative pop eccentrics and indie-rock mavericks, and, always, an astonishing love for heavy metal in all its forms. It also serves as the spiritual nexus for Tejano and conjunto music.
The Current’s first-annual Music Issue couldn’t hope to capture the range of SA music, but we’ve attempted to put it in some kind of recognizable context. We assessed the careers of Augie Meyers, the master of the Vox Continental, and Spleen, a grunge-era oddity whose sense of cartoonish fun, mixed with a cerebral, performance-art sensibility, makes them the archetype for current artsy iconoclasts such as Hyperbubble and Buttercup.
We also gathered some of the city’s finest contemporary hip-hop artists to discuss the challenges and opportunities that come with an SA homebase. On a more esoteric note, we explored San Antonio’s own Muzak headquarters, and determined how so-called elevator music has redefined itself in recent years. We also included a list of local up-and-coming artists, one writer’s personalized SA mix-tape, and the essential souvenir shirts that need to be in any local metal fan’s closet.
But my favorite part of the issue is the collection of first-person sidebars by various local music figures. Each of these musicians and fans relive the most memorable show they ever witnessed in San Antonio. The results are all over the stylistic map, from a Directions in Music jazz concert to a busking bagpiper, from a Pakistani family group that performs qawwali music to a South Texas accordion virtuoso, from pop’s most infamous vocal fakers to a Cumbia Colombiana legend.
These anecdotes merely scratch the facade of SA music, but they do suggest that there’s genuine substance behind that facade.