‘Nothing Stays The Same’ Film Highlights Struggles of Local Venues

James Hand performing at The Saxon Pub

Whether it’s the worry specifically about all of the legacy music venues closing down in Austin, TX amid the continued contraction in the “Live Music Capital of the World,” or similar scenarios unfolding all across the United States and the World as the protracted COVID-19 pandemic continues to reap a devastating toll on local stages, a documentary on one of Austin’s most cherished venues offers great insight into the heart and community that makes these venues so important and vital to music.

The 70-minute film Nothing Stays The Same: The Story of the Saxon Pub might be about a specific venue in Austin—and a very important one to the city’s long-standing musical ecosystem. But even if you’ve never been to Austin and don’t know a lot of the names of the artists featured, the film offers a great encapsulation of why it’s so critical to preserve these performance spaces, and the risks behind losing them.

First debuted on the film festival circuit in 2019, and then released to the general public in 2020, the film has received some renewed attention after being released for free to Amazon Prime subscribers and other places, and because it pairs so well with the concerns for local venues in Austin and beyond during the pandemic.

The film focuses on the over 30-year-old Saxon Pub on South Lamar in Austin, which is more of a blues and singer-songwriter spot than a country one, though important names in the Austin country scene are also featured, like the recently-passed James Hand, Joe Ely, and important Texas country character Rusty Wier who played a long-time residency at the location, along with other Austin mainstays such as Guy Forsyth, Bob Schneider, Hector Ward, Patrice Pike, Carolyn Wonderland, and Robynn Shayne also making major appearances.

Nothing Stays The Same directly tackles how rising rents and encroaching developments are creating incursions into the city’s music scene, both through the challenge artists themselves face with cost of living increases, and the challenges the buildings themselves are facing with rising rents, and plans to raze properties for more lucrative developments. The struggles of Saxon Pub owner Joe Ables who opened the establishment in 1990 are chronicled as condo developments choke the establishment on all sides, and the property owner notifies him of plans to sell the location.

The film does a quick, but quality job setting the context of the Austin music scene through a foray into its history, so you understand why an establishment like The Saxon Pub is so critical to Austin music culture, while creating an in-depth view on the Saxon itself—including interviewing some of the venue’s staff and regulars. The film also brings in the perspective of other endangered and important Austin music spots such as The Broken Spoke, The Continental Club, and the now-closed Threadgill’s through interviews with the owners of these establishments, giving you a more complete encapsulation of the challenges facing Austin music beyond the plight of one specific venue.

Along with perhaps turning you onto some good music, showing proper respect to an important Austin night spot, and illustrating the challenges Austin music faces, Nothing Stays The Same also has a happy ending. It won’t be spoiled here, and though it’s not the fate every threatened venue can hope for, it does present one path forward for these important music places, instead of just presenting a problem with no solution.

While many local music venues continue to remain closed, and many music fans miss those intimate music moments, Nothing Stays The Same and director Jeff Sandmann give you an opportunity to live those experiences again vicariously through a well-made film that conveys a passion for local music, while also presenting both the problems and potential solutions of how these vital music institutions can survive.

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Nothing Stays The Same’ is currently streaming for free for Amazon Prime members and other places, and is also available for purchase on Amazon and other major retailers.

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