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Peek-A-Boo News

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fire at Sweatbox Studios

Sweatbox, KOOPEarly Friday morning (ie. late Thursday night) there was a fire in the dilapidated downtown building that houses Sweatbox Studio, the KOOP community radio station and numerous rehearsal spaces.

According to news reports, the fire was caused by "the improper disposal of smoking materials." Thankfully no one was hurt, but most of the damage was sustained by Sweatbox on the second floor (watch news video).

KOOP radio, which occupies the building's third floor, is currently off the air but claims to be broadcasting again by Wednesday, January 11th. As a non-commercial, listener-supported radio station, their need for donations has obviously sharply increased. Information about becoming a KOOP member and making a donation can be found here.

Both Sweatbox and KOOP have contributed greatly to the Austin music community over the years. KOOP has shared the airwaves at 91.7 FM with UT's KVRX student radio station for at least 12 or 13 years now, bringing us shows with a focus on independent music like "Ear Candy" and "Stronger than Dirt," plus more eclectic programming like "The Lounge Show" and "Graveside Service."

In its 12 years of existence, Sweatbox has been the birthplace of many beloved Austin garage and punk records. Countless bands have recorded there, including The Lord High Fixers, The Motards, The Moonie Suzuki, The Make-Up, The Makers and too many more to name. Peek-A-Boo artists Black Lipstick and Knife in the Water recorded nearly all of their albums at Sweatbox with proprietor Mike Vasquez at the board.

I have not yet spoken with Mike, but I assume all of the master tapes were destroyed, and more importantly, I wonder about the condition of Mike's large collection of vintage instruments and recording gear. With reports of half a million dollars in damage to the building and over $100,000 in damage to its contents, I fear the worst. This could sadly be the end of another Austin institution.

» Sweatbox article from The Austin American Statesman (July 8, 2004)
» Join KOOP

UPDATE (Jan. 7): I dropped by Sweatbox today and discovered that most of the fire damage was contained in one room across the hall from the studio. There was significant smoke damage to the halls and rehearsal rooms (my clothes smelled like a campfire without even touching anything), but the fire did not enter the studio or radio station. Studio engineer Bryan Nelson reports here that while all of the doors and windows were kicked in to let smoke escape, none of the studio's gear was damaged.

UPDATE (Jan. 22): KOOP and Sweatbox will have to relocate. There is a benefit to raise funds for KOOP at Beerland on Friday, February 10th with The Ugly Beats and Nervous Exits, plus DJs Jennifer (Ear Candy) & Scott (Stronger Than Dirt).
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