Interested in a good time, with music and art, food and hand massages, and all for a good cause, and for just a couple of bucks? Then stop by the next monthly $2 Show, and get your fill. Indie Sounds got the history and the scoop on the next one from Austin show founders Lauren Bruno and Clayton Lillard.
Indie Sounds: So, what exactly are $2 Shows?
Lauren Bruno: $2 Shows originated in Los Angeles, when founder Spencer Ludwig starting hosting shows in his backyard. A very grassroots idea, Spencer wanted to throw your not-so-typical teenage party that wasn’t based on drinking or drugs, but community art shows that promoted collaboration and self-promotion, all for an affordable price and meaningful cause.
Coming from a bi-racial lower income family, Spencer was inspired to create a space for people from all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds to join together for one night of the month to appreciate a night of art and music. There are too many venues in the world with too many standards and prerequisites. $2 Shows is meant to be the answer for young artists to debut their work in front of a huge audience, thus speeding up the process for them to gain a larger fan base and to be more successful in the world of art and music.
Aside from helping the local arts community, $2 Shows is also designed to inform the community about other local non-profits and to educate on how to get involved and give back. $2 Shows is open to anything and everything so that people can feel free to share their own personal view of the world and message of themselves. The New York Times called it a "junior version of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.” This new form of social gathering is organic and financially feasible. By word of mouth, Spencer’s audience grew from 15 people to over 500 people per show.
IS: And how did you become involved?
Lauren: After moving to Austin, a friend of mine who knew how involved I was with non-profits referred me to Spencer. Bringing $2 Shows to Austin was never a question of why or why not, but when? As soon as I was able to talk to Spencer, there was no doubt in my mind that teaming up was the right way to go.
I saw an opportunity to be a part of a movement, something that started with one person wanting to do something out of the ordinary to benefit people in need. Creating a domino effect of hundreds of people, me included, who wanted to spread that movement. Austin was in need of an event like $2 Shows.
IS: So what's the history of the shows in Austin, and what is the typical makeup, format?
Clayton Lillard: $2 Shows Austin mirrored $2 Shows LA, starting in our backyard, and by word of mouth, gained enough community support along with the interest from Soundcheck Magazine, to continue to flourish and become a true mark in the Austin community. Soundcheck saw the need for a bigger venue, to increase the community outreach, and they were determined to help us get there. With their help, we started throwing shows at Emo’s, including Emo’s Annex during SXSW, and over the past year have made our way to the United States Art Authority, which is our home for now.
Our shows here in Austin grew from small house shows featuring local musicians, to large venues showcasing roughly 20 artist booths, four bands, comedians, local catering, hair stylings and hand massages by the Paul Mitchell School, and plenty of interactive ways to engage and educate the audience which are growing and changing constantly.
IS: And what are some of the causes that have benefited to date?
Clayton: We have worked with the Austin Children's Shelter, Children's Miracle Network, Lights. Camera. Help, the Jon Pettis Fund and HeartHouse, among others.
IS: Now for some background, what are you two doing in Austin, apart from running these shows?
Lauren: We are both working musicians, and are in a band called PolySky. When we aren’t planning the next $2 Show, we are rehearsing, writing and, on the best days, performing. We both attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and met in our peer-advising group. Our plan next fall is to become certified in Non-Profit Management at ACC.
IS: What's Next for $2 Shows?
Clayton: The next show is on Thursday, February 24th, at the United States Art Authority, with music from Strange Love, Black Jesus, White Dress and End Wave. Plus 18 artist booths, hair and hand massages from Paul Mitchell Schools and catering from Austin 360. A lot of different non-profits will be featured as well.