In the Zona

The air was steamy on that summer evening five years ago, and the setting in the warehouse district of Austin, Texas, was perfect for what was to come. The ambience benefited from flowing margaritas.

The grinding growl of Lucinda Williams sprang from the outdoor stage five years ago at La Zona Rosa, just one of the many great live music venues in that college town. I knew after Williams’ set that I was in the right place at the right time to experience something unique that would push her career to a new level. Williams played for a bunch of editors and writers who were buzzed from the alternative-country experience, and that buzz ended up being read on weekly newspaper pages.

I’ve also seen dozens of bands there and elsewhere that showed promise, launched and then fizzled. There are pop stars in every city that have the talent to produce viable music for commercial consumption, but it just doesn’t happen. How hard could it be? Jeez, have you listened to the radio lately? Some bands sound as though they’re writing the soundtrack for the apocalypse, while others are playing to a kindergarten audience.

But if it were that easy, why are we all not doing it? The answer to that question can be found in this week’s cover story (See “A slow Deathray” by Jackson Griffith, page 20).