The future of the Acoustic Medicine Music Series is uncertain, but not for lack of success. When the Current previewed the four-month program in August, its hostess and creator, Melissa Ludwig (from the Melissa Ludwig Band), had a simple goal: elevate a venue to the level of better-known out-of-town music halls while pairing quality regional acoustic acts with local talent. She wanted to forge a creative corridor from San Antonio to Austin in bi-weekly installments. And she did just that.
“The series has opened up a new clientele for us,” says Carlos Padilla, the Olmos Bharmacy’s owner. “One of the goals was to add a new crowd to the good crowd we already have.”
Many of the shows at the Olmos Bharmacy were standing room only and gained plenty of media attention. I played one of my best home turf shows when I opened for Lincoln Durham in October, selling and signing more CDs than ever to my most attentive, energized audience in months.
Despite its success, however, Acoustic Medicine is difficult to produce for Ludwig and her husband, Mitch Connell, who runs sound. They had planned to execute the event in their free time, unpaid, and that’s the way they wanted it from the get-go. “I’m doing this to highlight and to showcase other artists that I think are great,” Ludwig told the Current in August. “We will continue to perform as a band as we always do, but we’re just not going to perform [or get paid] at this series.”
While Connell is a veteran at running sound for the Melissa Ludwig Band, doing so for Acoustic Medicine meant accommodating two unique bands each night in addition to pumping the audio to a live broadcast — previously uncharted territory for Connell — hosted by Dave Maisano’s Radio Free Texas.
“It was all a challenge,” says Ludwig. “Getting sponsors was something I had never tried to do before. We did offer a lot of exposure for the money we were asking, but you still have to go out there and ask people for money.”
Monetary sponsorships meant hiring a graphic designer to brand the series, building a professional website, and investing in advertising, all of which helped lure in warm bodies. It was an ambitious project, but the numbers didn’t always add up. In spite of this, another strong turnout is expected on December 3, when Austin roots-rocker Noëlle Hampton revisits San Antonio as a duo with Andre Moran on electric guitar.
Hampton is a compelling singer-songwriter with a voice that’s at once tender, raw, and road-tested. “I’ve always been influenced by people like James Taylor, Shawn Colvin, Rickie Lee Jones,” says Hampton, whose résumé includes opening spots for Bob Dylan and Wilco, and whose Americana anthems have been featured on ABC’s Men in Trees and Lifetime’s Army Wives. “Those songwriters are built into my system somewhere.”
Hampton plans a new album to follow up Thin Line, her 2008 release. “I have most of the songs [ready],” Hampton said. “Until then, I really want to play in San Antonio, because it’s so close to home. I appreciate Melissa for creating a scenario where we can do it.”
If the series keeps up, it could transform Americana and folk music in San Antonio significantly. Bharmacy owner Padilla wants to help keep the event afloat, and has already discussed with Ludwig about how to scale it down to a more sustainable level. “Melissa and I definitely want to keep up the series,” Padilla said. “We’ve spent a lot of time and energy already, so we might shoot for once a month starting in January. We also have a better perspective now on how to use the money more wisely.”
That means future shows won’t be live-streamed on Radio Free Texas, for instance. And Padilla will start to hunt those sponsorships as Ludwig moves toward a new job and plans for a new album. “Once a month sounded more doable to everyone,” she said, “but we may go to twice a month if the transition goes smoothly.”
Regardless of its scheduling in the coming year, Acoustic Medicine has sent a clear message: both for top-notch out-of-town and local artists, San Antonio is a viable place to play. •
Acoustic Medicine Music Series feat. Noëlle Hampton and Andre Moran with Chris Taylor
8pm Sat, Dec 3