Downtown Austin’s ‘Hot Summer Nights’ resumes as hopeful boost to local music business


AUSTIN (KXAN) — After more than a year of COVID-19 cancellations, musicians are slowly starting to get back to work.

The Red River Cultural District’s ‘Hot Summer Nights’ festival resumed in downtown Austin this weekend. Eleven music venues inside the cultural district participated in the four-day event.

“Usually in the music industry the heat of the hot summer and the dead of the cold winter are when tours aren’t happening and jobs are hard to find,” said Cody Cowan, Red River Cultural District Executive Director.

Hot Summer Nights at Swan Dive KXAN/ Tim Holcomb

Cody Cowan made the difficult but important decision to resume the festival this year. He says his fellow artist and venue workers have suffered a 60% revenue loss this month due to event cancellations.

“We were going to move forward with the festival. We were nervous because no one can get everyone on the same page in terms of comfort level,” said Cowan. “I think we were really pleased that the musicians, workers and partners were breathing a sigh of relief that we were able to throw this, this weekend.”

Over 100 musicians are walking away with money in their pockets.

“It’s been really healing. It’s good to see everyone ‘smeyezing’ because we did require masks inside,” said Ashley Pickell, Swan Dive Venue Manager.

At Swan Dive, there’s a balancing act between trying to protect people’s safety and giving them a reason to celebrate.

Swan Dive employees prepare for day-2 of ‘Hot Summer Nights’ KXAN/Kaitlyn Karmout

“Vaccinations are important. If you are vaccinated, then you should be able to hopefully live your life,” said Jacob Cheely, Co-Owner of Swan Dive.

The cultural district partnered with city leaders to hold two vaccine clinics during the event, and the individual businesses are doing their best to encourage masks.

Music venues are able to hold events in Austin that don’t require special permits, because they have annual sound permits, according to the City of Austin. Just this week, the City of Austin denied permits for bat festival and the sunshine run.

Hot Summer Nights will continue through Sunday. The nonprofit also put together a “Hot Summer Nights Mixtape” featuring 19 local Austin artists.

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