Austin FC teases future local musical performances in home games
AUSTIN (KXAN) – As more than 20,000 spectators marched to Q2 Stadium for Austin FC’s inaugural home game on June 19, Austin-based singer-songwriter Aaron Stephens spoke prepared for his greatest performance to date. Stationed on the pitch a short walk from Matthew McConaughey, he performed a funky guitar rendition of the national anthem – without pressure, he said.
“I was so excited. There’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of,” he said. “Honestly, Matthew McConaughey was like, there, and like, I was just a little nervous too, you know, because you really want to play this song well, it’s a very important song.
But when it comes to tackling one of the country’s most notable songs, Stephens said he wanted to give the national anthem his own twist, while paying homage to a fellow Texan.
“I think I saw Gary Clark Jr. play, play slide, but it was a little different from the way I did it. So I was like, I think I’m going to, you know, try the slide version, ”he said. “I like the way he did it with that sound. I feel like it’s very Texas blues.
Stephens and fellow singer-songwriter and guitarist Jackie Venson made history in the league as the first performers to perform in the home opener. Venson’s manager Louie Carr was familiar with Stephens’ work and pleaded for him to join Venson in the opening day performances.
Sitting at the piano, Venson performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the black national anthem, before heading to the Antone nightclub on E. 5th Street for two nights of sold-out performances.
Performance was just one big part of Austin FC’s very first home game on June 10, said James Ruth, the team’s vice president of marketing.
“When we saw the program come out, and when we realized our home opener was on June, I mean, it was something that honored us. We were honored to have the opportunity to make something that was such an event for Austin also an opportunity to mark that kind of milestone at this important time, ”said Ruth.“ And being able to work with someone like Jackie to make sure that we honoring the day, while having our first home game, was an exciting opportunity. “
In the weeks and months leading up to Austin FC’s home opener, the league detailed its efforts to include elements of Austin’s cultural heritage and influence in this historic season. Local artist Chris Rogers’ “Whispers of the Heart” mural will honor fans for a few months, before other Austin creatives unveil the next iterations.
The team also took to staple Austin restaurants to feed fans, including Easy Tiger, Pluckers Wing Bar, and Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ.
“I think for us our biggest opportunity is to be a flag bearer for Austin,” said Ruth. “You know, I think in a lot of ways that it transcends football – it transcends being a sports team.”
And for Austin FC fans familiar with the city’s iconic music scene, Ruth said they can expect to spot familiar faces in upcoming home games. True to the tradition launched on Saturday, June 27, the home game against the Columbus Crew will begin with a performance of the national anthem of Latin-folk singer from Austin, Gina Chavez.
“We’re really excited to have her take center stage and, you know, may it be an item for every Austinite that comes to this stadium to see and be curious about who’s going to take the guitar for the next iteration of the National. Anthem, ”he said.
While Austin FC is a football team, Ruth added that he also saw an opportunity to marry all the essentials – food, music, art, cultural heritage and people – that make Austin the city that locals know and love.
“It’s an opportunity, but it’s also a responsibility,” he said, adding: “I think we want to be a cultural institution here as much as a sports team.”