Thursday night, the long-running concert series Austin City Limits hosted a special telethon fundraiser, ACL Stands With Austin, benefitting music and service industry workers hit hardest by the cancellation of South by Southwest and other live music events because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The two-hour special featured performances from an array of Austin-based musicians, including Spoon’s Britt Daniel, who shared an acoustic rendition of “The Agony of Laffitte,” which he recorded at home while adhering to proper social-distancing rules.
Daniel’s decision to play “The Agony of Laffitte” certainly seems like a pointed one at a time of great music industry turmoil, especially for the many artists who rely on touring to make ends meet and often don’t make much money from streaming. The song was a non-album single released in 1999, after Spoon’s major-label debut, A Series of Sneaks, flopped commercially and the band felt like they’d been misled and ignored by the Elektra A&R rep who’d signed them, Ron Laffitte. Not long after the album’s arrival, Laffitte left Elektra and the label dropped the band.
The song is coolly critical of industry deceit and duplicity, but there’s also a mournful quality to it as Daniel sings, “It’s like I knew two of you, man/The one before and after we shook hands/Taking the calls but in all forgetting what’s been said.”
Along with Daniel, the ACL Stands With Austin benefit featured performances from other Austinites and Texas acts like Shakey Graves and the Texas Gentlemen, as well as musicians from elsewhere like Lisa Loeb and the Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon. The event raised money for the Austin Community Foundation’s Stand With Austin fund, and people can still donate to the cause at the Austin Community Foundation’s website.
Along with hosting the benefit, Austin City Limits has opened up its archives and made more than 40 episodes from the last three seasons available to stream for free.