As any Austin music fan knows, one of the greatest resources we have is KUTX. Though just more than a year old, the KUT spin-off devoted to solely to music has already had a substantial effect on our city's musical culture. From mornings spent listening to John Aielli's stream of consciousness on Eklektikos to our daily Austin Music Minute with Laurie Gallardo, the public radio station has gained notoriety for being able to shine a light on those darkened corners of our city's music scene.
MapJam is the kind of crowd-sourced collaboration that plays into Austin's high tech sensibilities, music culture and love of a good time.
But perhaps the most dynamic tool developed to illuminate our musical underbelly is the Austin Music Map. Initially a grant-funded project developed under lead producer Delaney Hall, the Austin Music Map is an interactive approach to documenting local bands, venues, musicians and fans. "It’s all about exploring the hidden spaces of Austin and the diversity of music we have here," explains current MapJam and KUTX producer Haley Howle.
Using the hashtag #austinmusicmap, folks can submit photos, videos, tips and more to put directly onto the website. By clicking on a single dot on the map, fans get a bevy of information including hidden venues and new musical acts, coupled with video and a playlist. "People in this town will play music anywhere," says Howle. "Mexican restaurants, in the woods, in canoes. I’ve heard stories about people playing music in the sewers."
In typical Austin fashion, after the Music Map was launched in 2012, it was time to celebrate with a festival. Last year, the Austin Music Map kicked off the first annual MapJam, a day long event that is part scavenger hunt, part musical extravaganza.
The Music Map and MapJam are the kind of crowd-sourced collaboration that plays into Austin's high tech sensibilities, music culture and love of a good time.
Spread out over East Austin, the 2014 MapJam will be held Saturday, February 15 from noon to midnight. Beginning with the celebrated bluegrass outfit The Carper Family at Hops & Grains Brewery and ending with a dance party blowout led by Bodyrock ATX at Scoot Inn, MapJam features musicians and bands from almost every kind of genre in Austin. "There’s so much to discover," says Howle. "I think that’s important to us too, bringing recognition to those genres."
Rather than follow the traditional festival format of, well, sticking to one place, MapJam is spread out throughout East Austin, allowing participants to map their own day in a kind of "Choose Your Own Adventure" style musical celebration. Detours and distractions are highly encouraged — as they often lead to new discoveries. It's a chance for people to explore the storied neighborhood and get a dose of musical history in the process.
The decision to bring MapJam to the East Side was as much about history as it was about convenience. With its mix of traditional venues, industrial spaces and beautiful parks, East Austin is the perfect backdrop for a musical lineup as diverse as the neighborhood. Curating the hyper-local festival to represent everything from Afrobeat to a brass band was a natural decision for organizers, who see MapJam as an opportunity to showcase the different communities they have identified up since the project launched.
Plus, says Howle, it's natural for people to want to hear different kinds of music. She points out that, if you're like most people, you're probably shuffling through all kinds of different music on your iPod, not just one. "I don’t only listen to blue grass and I don’t always listen to hip hop," she says.
As much as MapJam is about music, it's about space, with organizers choosing mostly untraditional venues to host the musical acts. This year the map spreads from Hops & Grains Brewery to Tillery Park to Delta Millworks and Pan Am Park before ending at the Historic Scoot Inn. Biking or walking is highly encouraged and the venues are all fairly close in proximity. While organizers say it's partly to alleviate traffic and parking issues, they do have ulterior motives. "[If] someone is biking in between venues and bikes by somewhere new and takes a picture, they’ve just shown us next [year's] venue. Or the next place we shoot a video [for KUTX]."
It's this communal collaboration that is at the soul of MapJam and the Austin Music Map. This free, all ages event is as much about music as it is about creativity, thinking outside the proverbial (music) box and jamming out to the eclectic sounds of our friends and neighbors.
MapJam begins on Saturday, February 15 at noon. For a full list of venues and bands (and to see the map!), please go the MapJam website.