Something is happening here,
and you don‘t know what it is,
Do you?... Mr. Jones.
Bob Dylan, The Ballad of a Thin Man.
I was high above the Arctic Circle, in the Norwegian town of Tromso (The Paris of the North) when I recieved the word that the Cactus Cafe in Austin, on the University campus, was being forced to close. I was playing a great rock and roll room that night in Tromso; I’ve played 10,000 venues all over the world in the past forty years (from Skid Row Canada on up to the David Letterman show)and I would rate the Cactus Cafe in the top 5 music rooms. The insult of closing a culturally important venue was heard round the globe; it reached me in the far north. University presidents and student council groups are never known for their insight, guts and feelings – with regard to decisions which impact deeper levels of a community, and the future of the arts. I’ve seen both sides of the game. I recieved my Master’s Degree in Criminology from the University of California (as referenced on Blood and Candle Smoke) and decided music was a more important calling, for myself ; then worked my way up from the bars. I’ve seen a lot of sleezeballs and thieves in the music game, but nothing that compares with the drone-like, day to day decision making cowardice of the academic tribe. The University system has failed us.(The dead fornicating with the dead – to quote The Bard.) Colleges are turning out robotic accountants and morally warped bank ceo’s and parasite scientists sucking on the fat teat of the grant system. Campuses are strangely remote places where people walk like zombies through the fear vaccum and occasionly slaughter other people (Alabama and Virginia) because the vibe is deathly cold, isolate and fearful. When these things happen the University system reaches out and pretends to be part of the community at large. Only when they need sympathy. They NEED The Cactus Cafe in that vacuum. The University of Texas pays it’s football coach five million dollars, so I’ve heard. Put that into perspective of the Cactus Cafe losing money. Music, literature and art are the honest lifeblood and the deep current which helps heals the greater community. Live music – what’s left of it –is vastly important. AUSTIN Texas,once one of the most important music centers in the world, is turning into a soulless freeway; a clotted adjunct to Interstate 35. I keep thinking of that hole in the wall back in Griff Lundberg’s Cactus Cafe office - worn through by his hard working boots over the last thirty years. They’ll tear that wall out over shrieking body. Shame on the University of Texas and it’s Ballad of a Thin Man President. Something is happening here...and you don‘t know what it is....
Tom Tussell, Tromso Norway.