It’s a dynasty the New England Patriots would envy. Six championships in 18 years? Try 37 in 37.
The Austin Music Awards are in their 37th year, and every single time, Waterloo Records has won for Best Record Store, taking home their latest plaque at Sunday night’s 2019 edition of the Austin Music Industry Awards at Emo’s.
This was my first time seeing any part of the AMAs up close, but for AMA long-timers, I wonder if the Waterloo Dynasty is remarkable or, by now, just old. I mean, if this were sports, Waterloo would’ve been dubbed the Evil Empire decades ago. But every Austinite who loves music and records loves Waterloo, and their reign is deserved. Still, it begs the question: Will Waterloo ever be knocked off for Best Record Store?
Barring a highly coordinated, way-more-trouble-than-it’s-worth campaign by another record shop to stuff the AMIA ballot boxes, it’s hard to see anyone dethroning Waterloo as long as it exists. Owner John Kuntz and his crew have all the advantages: A high-visibility, high-traffic location (trust me, I’m one of the poor souls that has to navigate Lamar every rush hour); their long-standing reputation; an endless series of enticing in-store performances; and a usually diverse slate of free parking-lot shows during South by Southwest.
There are 12 record stores in town, which AMIA hosts Kevin Curtin and Mike Wiebe noted as they announced the nominees (Kuntz, in accepting the award, dutifully encouraged the AMIA audience to support them in toto). But none of the others seem to be in any position to break the streak. End of an Ear, which finished second, probably is indeed Austin’s second-most popular record store (it’s at least the second-most name-recognizable), but it moved out of its South First location a couple of years ago. From a practical and atmospheric standpoint, it landed firmly on its feet with its current space at Ben White and Clawson. But that location isn’t conducive to generating the top-of-mind presence for AMIA voters to dethrone Waterloo.
It would probably take a new Waterloo clone to do it — a large space in Austin’s extended heart, with a vast selection not just of records, but also CDs and DVDs for newcomer Luddites, and lots of high-drawing shows. In the absence of that unlikelihood, the reign will continue — and as such, a salute to Waterloo is in order. It’s earned its spot as Austin’s favorite for nearly four decades.
Just a few other notes from my first experience at the AMIAs, the segment of the Austin Music Awards that honors the business/behind-the-scenes sides of the industry:
- I would’ve liked to have seen at least 15 minutes more from Mobley (top photo), the talented multi-instrumentalist whose one-man show during the after-party lasted only about half an hour. Singing and hopping between keyboards, guitar and drums, Mobley was impressive in my first live look at him, with danceable, anthemic alt-pop numbers such as closer “Solo” and a new tune that’s possibly called “James Crow.” A surprisingly small crowd gathered in front of the stage for Mobley, especially considering he went on not too long after 8 p.m. The AIMAs were a fun time, but count me slightly surprised at how early attendees cleared out of Emo’s on the Sunday night before a holiday (even a second-banana one like President’s Day).
- Dealing in the usual award show host back-and-forth silliness, Curtin and Wiebe — who made their entrance on electric scooters — managed a few memorable one-liners. My favorite: In introducing the competitors for Best Music Photographer (winner: Ismael Quintanilla III), Curtin’s declaration that only photographers for a proctology textbook “have taken more pictures of assholes than our next nominees.”
- The song parodies that house band Berkshire Hounds played to greet the winners deserve a mention for several moments of sheerly inspired silliness. In particular, big ups for greeting Best Equipment Rental winner Rock N Roll Rentals with an obnoxiously searing “Rent meeee!” in a parody of Nirvana’s “Rape Me”; and for serenading Best Local Label winner Nine Mile Records with, “And I would walk 4.5 miles, and I would walk 4.5 more…” (I think you can figure out essentially how the rest went.)
You can see the complete list of Sunday’s winners and nominees here, courtesy of the Austin Chronicle.