Film Review: Echotone

Nathan Christ is an independent film-maker. His latest project is called Echotone, chronicling the current state of music in Austin, Tx. Though considered by some to be the indie music capital of the world, by appearances in the city limits are telling a different story.

The film is more than a documentary on a handful of bands who are trying to make a name for themselves in Austin, though several are featured. Some, including Bill Baird’s former band Sound Team and his current project Sunset, have a prominent role in the film, as well as Black Joe Louis and The Honeybears, Ghostland Observatory, and The White White Lights. Also featured are rising acts like Dana Falconberry and Belaire. Christ follows these indie artists on an introspective look at their music, their day job, and their city while also showcasing voices of local residents and construction contractors. Wait, construction contractors?

More than the music itself is the reality of where Austin is as a city, one that is in some ways moving away from a bedrock of its founding and popularity in its local music scene. Throughout the film owners of venues and veterans to the music of the city cite a lack of infrastructure to hold the fledgling music community together. Musicians are not business people, so says one of the music scene’s leaders as he tries to gather support for the city to allow music a voice at city development meetings. Austin is a growing city, with housing and corporate development projects springing up all over the place. In areas where legendary clubs and venues have resided for years, condos are rising across the street. With more well-off tenants and wealthy individuals taking up residence in the area, venues are being shut down. This has a damaging effect on not only the music culture of one of the nation’s largest arts communities, but also a catastrophic effect on the growing city’s economy.

South By Southwest (aka SXSW) is an annual music event that spans 5 days, 80 venues and features over 2,000 bands. In that short week of time, $110 million are put into the local economy. During a recession, being able to have over $100 million infused into your city in less than 7 days is something not to mess up. And yet the event is being threatened with the growth and development taking place.

I found Echotone to be many things: a documentary on what is happening in music, both in how indie bands are trying to make a name for themselves as well as bands trying for that Golden Ticket approach to success, the damaging effects a record label can have on a band’s success and future, what the music scene looks like beyond the stage and the performing acts. It also showcases the work of good samaratans like Nathan Christ, who sacrifice a lot just to serve the better interests of the bands he takes under his wing.

Echotone is premiering at theaters across Texas in August. It will be showing in Abilene at the Historic Paramount Theater on Thursday August 11 at 7:30PM, as a part of Abilene’s Artwalk. Tickets available at the door the day of the show. The Appetizer will be giving away tickets to some of our Facebook fans. To have a chance at the free tickets, like us at our Facebook page.

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Host of the syndicated radio program The Appetizer heard on public radio across Texas and online from our Listen Now link; enjoys conversations, music, food, art, storytelling, and people. Connect with me. Would love to hear from you.

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