Greg Beets and Richard WhymarkNov 5, 2023
A Curious Mix of People
The Underground Scene of '90s Austin
University of Texas Press 2023
Ask anyone outside of Austin what they know about the city and chances are the first thing they'll mention is the music. While the Armadillo Era has been well-chronicled, there is no book about Austin music in the 90s. In their new book, A Curious Mix of People: The Underground Scene of '90s Austin (University of Texas Press, 2023), veterans of the sccene Greg Beets and Richard Whymark have put together an oral history of the decade. Beets and Whymark are not trying to cover all of the music made in Austin during the 1990s; they're most interested in the underground/punk community in which they participated. While a few of those bands got big (e.g., Spoon), the music remained mostly local, DIY. It was driven by live shows, though local media (radio, TV, print), record stores, and a few labels were also important to the story. Beets and Whymark devote chapters to those elements, but almost half of the chapters are based around a particular club. Organizing the book around physical spaces is not only appropriate for telling the story of the music, it is nice framing for the larger story of Austin. As the authors note, the city was still a relatively sleepy place in the early 1990s, with vacant blocks downtown and loads of small clubs that opened and closed simply because music-minded people wanted a place to play. By 1999, longtime venues like the Electric Lounge and Liberty Lunch were bulldozed to make way for development and tech companies.
Rebekah Buchanan is a Professor of English and Director of English Education at Western Illinois University. Her research focuses on feminism, activism, and literacy practices in youth culture, specifically through zines and music.