By James Lanik
For anyone living in San Marcos, it is impossible to deny the breakneck speed at which contractors are building new highrise student housing complexes seemingly on every corner.
Locals have been referring to San Marcos as a “mini-Austin” for years, and as Texas State has continued to expand at a rapid pace, the comparison has proved all too true.
The degree to which student apartments have swallowed the downtown areas of San Marcos is closely mirrored in the way that Austin has faced rapid gentrification around its inner urban districts.
There are many sound arguments for the need for increased student housing, some of which I agree with; however, with such a rampant outward sprawl into the surrounding areas of the city, other areas of local culture get crushed.
San Marcos veterans likely remember the cutely self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of San Marcos”, the Triple Crown. Self-appointed titles like this are often rather presumptuous, but with an impressive record of 6,863 consecutive days of live music, the venue is more than qualified to claim such a title.
That streak was finally broken on December 12, 2015, when the Triple Crown permanently closed its doors after the owner sold the property to a construction contractor. It was to be repurposed for a mixed-use residential complex.
Owners of the venue said that the Crown would reopen at a “bigger and better” location, but over 4 years later, no one has heard anything about construction on the project.
Long term followers of the San Marcos music scene know that the Triple Crown is hardly the only dedicated music venue to vanish at the hands of prospective property buyers with much deeper pockets.
Taxi’s Music Bar off of LBJ drive closed its doors a couple of years back. Superfly’s Music Emporium, while not a dedicated live music spot, hosted many concerts– as well as many KTSW sponsored events– over the years while also remaining San Marcos’s only music store.
Today, its building space is now occupied by an ice cream parlor. Despite this, the spirit of the city’s youthful underground music scene remains alive and kicking with more energy than ever. San Marcos’s coffee shops seem determined to establish themselves as a prime choice of venue. This isn’t coffee house music as you might know it.
If you were to go to The Coffee Bar on the square during daylight, you would be in for a traditional coffee shop experience: Lattes, toddies, cold brews, oh my! However, swinging by on a weekend evening is a completely different beast.
It’s Friday night. The lights are dimmed, tables are cleared out and the cozy Coffee Bar lobby is filled wall to wall with young local music goers. It’s a sea of flannels and Chuck Taylors as far as the eye can see.
The legendary San Marcos band Kairos begin sound checking their strings and synths to rapturous applause from the audience before launching into their infectiously catchy discography.
At this point, the show-goers carrying beer bottles and wine glasses have no time to find safe ground before the center of the crowd begins jumping, pushing and shoving each other in sync to a setlist filled to the brim with local hits such as “In My Hands” or “Burnt Citrus.”
Now, for a newcomer around the block who just happened to show up because a flier for a coffeehouse performance caught their eye.
Anywhere else, it’s safe to assume a coffeehouse band falls somewhere within the genre of diluted, Dave Matthews Band inspired dad-rock. However, down in the 78666, you’re in for a melting pot of different sounds.
Whether it be the punk-infused surf rock of Kairos, the eclectic and dreamy soundscapes of Moon Dunes or the classic rock with a crunchy edge of Rusty Dusty, San Marcos’ downtown coffee houses have established themselves to be just as relevant to the scene as dedicated live music venues like the Triple Crown were.
Our school–and by extension, our city–is in a transition phase as of late. Never before in the university’s history has there been a more concerted effort to shed the “party school” connotation that was previously associated with Texas State, and people have been taking notice.
The city that houses our university has been scrambling to expand to keep up with the influx of new citizens because of the population growth of the university. One unfortunate cost of this expansion has proven to be some of the dedicated music venues we’ve come to know and love.
Live music has been facing a funding problem for many years now as people don’t feel inclined to pay a whole lot of money to go see a band perform. Therefore, it’s no surprise we’ve seen some of these venues collapse.
I do have hope that fan favorites like the Triple Crown will indeed return one day, but until then, venues like the Coffee Bar and Tantra have been eager to take in young up-and-coming musicians in need of a public venue to gig at.
Nightclub staples like The Marc and The Vault aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but those venues almost exclusively favor an EDM focused sound. They don’t offer much opportunity for more rock-oriented acts. So, go support them!
Nothing says San Marcos like grabbing a latte (or two) at the crack of dawn, and crowd surfing at dusk in the same cozy coffeehouse.
Featured image by Armando Ramos.