Starting June 1, outdoor shows at Club DeVille and the Mohawk will start at 8 or 9 p.m. and finish by 11 p.m. on weekdays (Sunday to Wednesday) and midnight on weekend (Thursday to Saturday).
Indoor shows at the Mohawk will likely stay on the typical everything starts at 10 p.m. and ends at 2 a.m. schedule.
“Technically, on Red River past Seventh, from about Elysium down, outdoor shows have always had to end at this time,” Transmission talent buyer Graham Williams said Thursday. (Stubb’s, for example, has always followed this policy.)
“With the Ready Ice building across the street, it never seemed like a big deal (to go later),” Williams said. “But with people starting to move into the apartments across the street in the fall, now seems a good time to start moving to earlier times.”
Earlier show times have long been debated in the Austin music scene.
Williams also says they may start booking local bands to play indoors from midnight to 2 a.m. on nights that feature outdoor shows.
Some think the shift in last call to 2 a.m. in 1974 permanently changed the way live music worked in Austin.
“I didn’t live here then,” Texas Music Office director Casey Monahan says. “But from the long times I’ve spoken with, the change in time from midnight to 2 a.m. really altered how people enjoyed music in Austin. It changed the club clientele because people who had to wake up early for work couldn’t stay up late, leaving the clubs filled with either students or people who didn’t have regular 8-to-5 jobs.”
Drinking ages in Texas have also wobbled over the years. In 1973, the drinking age dropped from 21 to 18, just in time for the cosmic cowboy explosion. In 1981, it moved from 18 to 19. In 1986, it moved back to 21.
“Those two changes (the midnight to 2 switch and the 21-drinking age) are highly underrated in affecting the health of theAustin live music industry,” Monahan said.
Monahan also thinks the changes might have made the music scene a little less collegial. “If club-goers wanted to stay up, they went to go play at people’s houses,” he says. “It wasn’t so centered around venues.”
Williams says the change has been popular with national booking agents. “They’re ecstatic,” he says. “For my entire life of booking, agents have been pushing us to do shows earlier, but Austin is so stuck in the idea that it has to be a late town.”
Dead Oceans Records owner Phil Waldorf, who also spent time booking Emo’s with Williams, agrees with this assessment. Most booking agents subscribe to the idea that the earlier a headliner goes on, the more people will be at the show.
“Booking agents always complained about late start times in Austin,” Waldorf said. “We always had to sell them on the fact that it’s a late town. Austin might be the latest market in the country.”
In New York, for example, shows of the type the Mohawk books are typically over by midnight. The house turns over and a D.J. plays for those who want to drink until 4 a.m. at the latest.
Williams acknowledges the transition period may be tough: “There are going to be shows in the beginning that people show up late for. The first show under the new policy is the Bellrays (who play Monday, June 2) and I know people are going to show up late for that one. But the show starts at 8 and the Bellrays go on at 10.” (An opening act will play between 8 and 10 p.m.)
Williams says the policy will also apply to Bourbon Rocks, the Sixth Street bar Transmission is currently renovating and turning into a 1,000 capacity outdoor venue, which is the same size as Emo’s big room and La Zona Rosa. Transmission also books shows at Red 7 and occasionally at Lambert’s.