Music Venues of SXSW: Historic Scoot Inn

Written by Rory Burbeck | March 4, 2014

Adam Mason & Lana Levins of the Historic Scoot Inn

What’s so cool about Scoot Inn is it’s actually the second oldest bar in Texas.

It was originally opened in 1871. It’s been through a number of iterations, and Scoot Inn's current talent buyer (Adam Mason) and general manager (Lana Levins) think this is the best it’s ever been. As Mason said during our interview, "In terms of our production and our staff, we think it’s really the best iteration of the Scoot Inn and we’re really excited to put it out to the world and South By really helps with that - it brings a lot of new eyes."

The staff is clearly excited about being there on Austin's burgeoning east side, and they should be - Scoot Inn is right in the thick of it, fully representing our versatile music industry. A bluegrass band on their stage is as at home as an indie rock band, as a metal band, as a hip hop act.

Adam and Lana sat down with me for an interview towards the end of February - read on for their thoughts on what SXSW means to them and the Historic Scoot Inn.

RB: State your names and occupations. What do you do for the Scoot Inn?

LL: I am Lana Levins, and I am the General Manager.

AM: I’m Adam Mason and I’m the Talent Buyer.

RB: How and why did you get started in the music industry?

AM: I have been a musician since I was a teenager. Went to music school in Boston, and had certain intentions set on being a performer but realized some of my natural predilections led me to being on the back end of it. I’ve always had a passion for live music and so I think it just kind of came naturally. I wanted to be around it and be involved.

LL: For me it’s basically the same thing. I always loved going to shows, I always wanted to be at shows. I was in college and got a job working in a rock club… And just dropped out of college and just kept working in rock clubs. Years later, still doing the same.

RB: How long has Scoot Inn supported SXSW as an official venue?

AM: I think it’s been at least eight years. I remember I came in 2012 before I had any association with it and saw Odd Future and it was a really crazy show - there were people crawling over the roof to get in. It was nuts.

RB: Do you have any memorable stories from past SXSWs here, aside from Odd Future?

LL: Not that we can share. [Laughter]

AM: Last year was my first South By working here - memorably, I saw Riff Raff, and that was a trip because he’s a trip and he put on a pretty fun show. Got to see Clutch - which you don’t get to see too often so that was pretty cool. And like I said, before I worked here seeing that Odd Future show was crazy - Tyler [the Creator] jumped off the roof of the stage into the crowd and it was ridiculous.

LL: Which is really dangerous considering the state of the roof at the time.

AM: Now I would be a little less worried about it, but at the time… oof.

RB: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Scoot Inn this year?

LL: I don’t know. There’s so much - I’m just going to stick with my stock answer which is Paul Wall.

AM: Can’t forget about Paul Wall. And of course we’re excited about the Stars and Straps showcase with Travis Barker and Yelawolf - that’s going to be tons of fun. I was never a huge Blink-182 fan but Travis Barker is a monster of a drummer and a real figure - it’s always excited to have luminary kind of characters on our stage.

RB: What does it mean to you, the city of Austin, and live music in general to have SXSW here in town?

AM: South By is such a cool opportunity for music fans to be able to see such a diverse range of artists. And specific to here, to be able to bring an artist that may not normally play a space this small or special event plays you may not see on tour.

As far as the city of Austin - South By is undoubtedly a big part of the reason why Austin has the reputation of being the Live Music Capital of the World.

LL: South By put Austin on the map. UT was always here and the government was always here, but so many people moved here and heard about Austin because they knew people who had gone to South By.

It’s a great tradition that keeps surprising everybody in what it can do every year. Just to walk around town and to see people or artists that you’ve admired for years walking down the street holding a brisket burrito - it’s amazing!

AM: I think it’s certainly a jumping off point for a lot of growing artists. If a band is ready to blow up, South By is so often the vehicle that pushes them over the edge. I saw it happen with Lucius, who recently sold out the Parish on a club date - I saw them play the High Road Touring showcase at Parish last year when they weren’t who they are now. It’s very cool to see them come back around after getting the juice of South By. That’s really where they broke through. There are so many stories like that.

RB: What was your favorite show you’ve ever seen at Scoot Inn? This doesn’t have to be a South By show - it can be any show you’ve seen here.

AM: I really liked last year when we had Portugal. The Man here with one of my favorite local bands Marmalakes. I love really love Portugal. The Man and to get to see my friends in one of my favorite bands get some of that exposure - it was awesome.

The other one would be Ditch the Fest - it’s the local music alternative to Austin City Limits. All local bands.

LL: It was all kinds of local bands, all different genres, and the whole thing was just so fun. I think one of the things that made it so great was just the crowd.

AM: The second weekend we did it, it was raining…

LL: And no one cared. They were all getting soaking wet just dancing, going crazy. An artist can be great, but what really makes it great is do they get the audience to really feel it? When everyone just goes nuts like that, when people are just stage-diving and everyone walks out covered in mud - you’re just like, “Yes! Success!”

RB: Last question… Albums you cannot live without?

LL: Big Star - Radio City and #1 Record. I definitely can’t live without that.

AM: I’ll put in Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I gotta say Abbey Road.

LL: ELO - Discovery! Can’t live without that one. Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One.

AM: Beastie Boys - Ill Communication... Kind of a formative record for me.

Photo by David Fox