Here’s what some of the artists who have played at the Cactus Cafe have to say.
The Cactus Cafe is not only a singer/songwriter venue known and respected throughout the entire world — it is the chief existing focal point of the long line of Texas tradition in what is now called “roots music.” What other concert hall, museum or institution is more representative of the Texas musical history that includes Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bob Wills, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Cindy Walker, the 13th Floor Elevators and Jerry Jeff Walker? Furthermore, as a showcase place for new talent, the Cactus plays an important role in nurturing the future of the very art of self-expression in Texas.
I’ve been going to see shows at the Cactus since I could walk or talk. It was one of the first clubs to let me sing on its stage, and I feel it has set the standard for every venue I’ve played since. I’ve seen some of the greatest songwriters in the world play at the Cactus and there is no other place they could play that could better help the musician and the crowd meet right where they should. Griff has given Austin and the whole world of music a true gift. I stand by him and I’ll do my part to see that the Cactus stays open.
The Cactus was always there for me in Austin. We could count on a fun night and all the local fans knew where to find me. Griff has always stood behind singer-songwriters, I hope we can save the Cactus. Remember what Townes Van Zandt signed on his poster? “To the Cactus, my home club.”
Artists and audiences both need rooms like the Cactus and it will be a huge loss if it
shuts down. The Cactus Cafe is one of those places where you know you’re going to feel
welcomed and taken care of, a really cozy, intimate listening room that has been
invaluable to me as a solo artist. I’ve seen so many of my favorite artists there, too.
Recently I attended an arena show with my daughter and was reminded even more why rooms like the Cactus are so important. It’s for people who want to be heard right and for people who want to listen to each syllable and nuance of the music, who appreciate dynamics and subtlety. And every seat is good.
It’s got history, too, with all the great artists it has hosted. That mojo sticks around and blesses all the artists coming in; I’ve felt it. It’ll really suck if we lose it.
The Cactus is one of the great music clubs of
the world. I’ve played music all around the US, Canada, and Europe regularly for the
past 30-some years, and while there are many good places to hear musicians, the Cactus
ranks near the top. The strength and value of the Cactus is due to several elements:
the history, the physical properties of the room, the location, the clientele, and the
Let me stress, it’s not like this everywhere. What exists at the Cactus is a creation of the people who work and have worked there, and it has an intrinsic value to the community and the world at large. Griff Luneburg’s management has kept the Cactus as a venue at the forefront of the music world. The room always sounds great and has first-rate sound engineers. Griff has “trained” the audiences to listen: that’s a key element, and it comes from the club manager’s active involvement. The respect for music has paid great dividends in terms of the level of performance. He books top acts, as well as new acts that deserve a place, always with an unerring sense of what’s right for the audience and the club
The success of the venue can’t be told in plain numbers. There is a tradition of music that is being handed down in the club on a regular basis, and while I don’t see the club packed with the students you might see at a heavy metal or hip-hop show, at every show I’ve ever played at the Cactus I’ve seen younger people, students, who come to be close to a unique musical experience. They go away with a firsthand knowledge of an American musical culture that may not exist in a few years if care is not taken with it.
Let’s keep the Cactus alive! We’ll all benefit.
The Cactus Cafe is a rare gem of a venue and a favorite place of mine to play. It’s a space where music and audiences meet without distraction allowing listeners to come alive to the possibility that music matters. This is no small thing. The Cactus pays dividends to the University and community at large that escape the standard bottom-line accounting method.
The Cactus is part of the real deal soul of Austin.
And so is Griff.
There is no better venue anywhere. And there is no better person to run The Cactus. Period.
It would be a crime to shut down The Cactus Cafe.
Reminds me of when NYU shut down the Bottom Line in NYC a few years back. That’s my home town, New York. The Bottom Line was a great room and it hurt when they shut it down. And of course traveling musicians are homeless a lot of the calendar year. The clubs they play in become home for a few hours. It feels like home, like coming home if the joint is a place that you like, that you love playing at. Count the Cactus Cafe among those rooms. Whatever the opposite of a “toilet” is, that’s what the Cactus is.
truth be known
I don’t need a reason
or to drop a name
but I have one and I will
I remember meeting you
you may not remember me right off
butchering a perfectly good joke
I played for a fine crowd
and spent the money as fast as I could
three showed up another night out of the rain
and that made all the difference
I get the money for gasoline
because that’s all I really need
because I get paid to drive
and I have quite a few friends in this town
so I have a place to go
decisions come down the line that mystify me
some come down that inspire me
Griff, I believe we will have a couple more rounds here
and stay a little while longer
if that’s alright
Townes on summer nights so black that they broke like obsidian,
Butch singing no two songs alike,
Dahvid and I singing “Tower Song” for Townes’ birthday,
Watching Joe Ely put on some of the greatest solo shows I’ve ever seen,
Hanging out with Harry Dean Stanton and Griff at the Hole in the Wall after playing a great gig at the Cactus,
The Cactus was born of something rare and precious,
To create an environment where songs are listened to, respected and revered.
I associate the Cactus with Griff Luneberg,
It was his booking that made the Cactus the mecca for songwriting that it became,
I can’t imagine Austin, much less the universe, without this room of songs.
the cactus cafe has living ghosts
& souls of earth music in the walls.
souls as diverse as rick danko to jane siberry
richard thompson to scrappy judd
butch hancock to abra moore
& the list of such immortals could go on for days.
messing with the cactus cafe is like looting the harry ransom center archives
to lose the cactus cafe would be to banish texas art, thought & song
& guadalupe street — the flame of 50 years of austin counterculture —
would never shine quite as brilliant again.
For me, Cactus Cafe is always about returning home. It represents the essence of a city that prides itself on community, culture, music and nature. I will always feel a pinch of nervousness mingled with enthusiasm when I have an impending Cactus show — it’s a sacred space, a place to share my songs, my words, my thoughts, my self. To clarify, I feel like I’m returning home on that stage because the sound is crafted to allow me to be heard — much like a smaller version of Carnegie Hall, that same buttery ease of delivery — and I know the audience is diverse, it’s eager, it’s ready to absorb and reflect on what I want to share. The audience represents a microcosm of the world beyond.
I was high above the Arctic Circle, in the Norwegian town of Tromsø¸ (“The Paris of the North”) when I received 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 Tromsø¸; 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.
Here’s the deal: Music is about community. Nothing more, nothing less. The idea
that the Cactus Cafe might close for a monetary amount that is less than the average
American car costs is an embarrassment, and a cultural mistake. The place has bragging
rights to the history of music in Texas, music in the 20th century, music that touches
souls, and music that has a place in the future of our students and our collective
consciousness. Cut out the fried food, sell off the portraits of the governors in their
private boardroom, but don’t let the Cactus fall by the wayside. Big mistake.
p.s. Griff, you are amazing. Thank you for the last 25 years.
What’s the use of a university without support for the arts? It’s like a birthday
cake with no icing. It’s still a cake, I guess, but it sort of misses the point.