Townes Van Zandt, Jason Mraz, Black Francis of The Pixies. What links these diverse artists?
All three – and countless others – have played the stage of Austin's 150-seat Cactus Cafe, a nationally renowned, 30-year-old music venue with a storied past and a stature that is hard to overstate. Tucked into a corner on the University of Texas campus, it has long been a favorite among musicians and fans alike for its sacred listening-room experience and general air of intimacy. Which is why it came as a shock in 2010, when the university suddenly announced that it was closing the Cactus Cafe.
What followed was a months-long rebellion that drew campus and community into heated debates about art vs. commerce, the generation gap, and even the value of college football. University administrators first blamed the closure on economic concerns. Then, in a calculated attempt to defuse tension, they shifted gears and argued that closure was due to student desires for a different kind of cafe. Their new mantra was, in effect, "the kids did it," a contention that many of those same "kids" challenged vigorously. Relying heavily on the voices of participants, "Cactus Burning: Austin, Texas and the Battle for the Iconic Cactus Cafe" honors the citizen-activists who joined the Cactus' cause, while serving as an essential primer for everyone struggling to preserve their own local heritage.