Dear Terry Lickona and Austin City Limits,
To begin with, thanks as always for everything Austin City Limits has done over its historic and unprecedented run to help chronicle many of Austin’s musical legends, as well as highlighting important artists from around the country and world, both from the country and roots music community, and beyond.
Over the years, I’ve been very conservative about who I take the time to lobby for to make an appearance on the program. I can only imagine how many people are pulling at your sleeve and making very compelling arguments as to who should get the next opportunity to take the Austin City Limits stage for a taping. It was very heartening to see Ray Wylie Hubbard and Dale Watson finally get their due, not to mention newer artists such as Charley Crockett and the Turnpike Troubadours who definitely deserved their ACL berths.
But this is one of those moments where I feel like a glaring omission has presented itself in the list of ACL alumnus, and I feel that it’s my duty to make you aware of it, while weighing both the gravity of the honor, and the rarity of the opportunities you have to bestow.
Whenever I think of the quintessential Austin honky tonk band, I think of Mike and the Moonpies. A true Austin original and homegrown Austin band, they were forged in the city’s honky tonks playing those 3 to 5-hour sets for the two-step crowd, as well as residencies at some of the city’s most iconic spots like Hole in the Wall and The White Horse. For years, Mike and the Moonpies paid their dues in a way that has made Austin the musical destination that it is.
But what’s happening with the band right now has a become decidedly national and international in scope, and it deserves to be preserved for posterity on the hallowed Austin City Limits stage. Mike Harmeier is the perfect frontman with his mix of country humility and cocksure self-awareness, not to mention being one of the best songwriters in the business at the moment.
Steel guitar player Zach Moulton might be the very best at the discipline, both live and in the studio, and in regards to both taste and technique. It was bass player Omar Oyoque joining the band in 2018 that took Mike and the Moonpies to the next level, making them perennials at the very top of Saving Country Music’s “Best Live Acts” list every year with the energy and enthusiasm he brings to the position.
Catlin Rutherford is the perfect fulcrum and lead player for the rest of the band to pivot around, holding everything together as madness ensues on stage. And drummer Taylor Englert delivers that extra bolt of energy to make watching Mike and the Moonpies perform live downright euphoric.
This is the best live band in country music at the moment, and perhaps one of the best bands to see live irrespective of genre, with a big stable of songs to back it all up. Mike and the Moonpies are the kind of band that Austin and it’s musical institutions should be proud to proffer forward as being emblematic of the kind of incredible talent and wild appeal that the Austin music scene boasts and cultivates.
Mike and the Moonpies are not on some big label, and do not have eye-popping sales or chart numbers, at least not yet. But perhaps this is yet another reason they need to be highlighted. They’ve already played The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, got their hands in the Hall of Fame at Billy Bob’s in Ft. Worth, and have played massive stages across the country at some of independent country and Americana’s biggest festivals. Now it feels like it’s time for Austin’s hometown heroes to get an opportunity on the most important and iconic stage in town.
Mike and the Moonpies recently released a live album, and on that album they covered Gary P. Nunn’s legendary “London Homesick Blues,” which I don’t need to tell you served as the Austin City Limits theme song for so many years. Mike and the Moonpies are the direct link to all those legendary Austin honky tonk bands, from Willie’s Family Band featured on the pilot episode of ACL, to Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver, and everyone in between. They’re the extension of that distinct Austin legacy. All the more reason to give them this deserved distinction that they’ve earned every bit of.
Thanks for your consideration,
—Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos