On a quiet Saturday afternoon, a group of quietly-frazzled students buzz around KVRX’s studio with cameras and sound equipment in tow. The University of Texas at Austin college radio staff prepare for a brief concert in the station’s library.
Story by Elise Barbin
Photos by Kristin Evans
This particular weekend featured a studio appearance by Marissa Paternoster, Jarrett Dougherty and King Mike of the band Screaming Females before their evening set at Sidewinder. While the library sessions often give bands a chance to play acoustic variations of their songs, Screaming Females came with their full set-up and played so loud that singer Paternoster’s headphones briefly fell off her head. Dust fell from the library’s ceiling tiles.
The New Jersey-based band played an energetic four-song set with stand-out performances of “Burning Car” and “Criminal Image” from their 2015 album “Rose Mountain.” After playing, the band exchanged pleasantries and small talk with the crowd, and then loaded out their own equipment.
Gabriel Ovalle, KVRX’s video director, says this Tiny Desk Concert-inspired project has been a vision of his since before college. This vision was not realized until Cymbal, a music app, reached out to the studio during South by Southwest Festival last year to produce a few pop-up showcases. When one of the locations fell through, KVRX’s Public Relations Director Roxanne Zech suggested they use the studio as a venue instead. The show went so well that Zech spent all summer working to make Library Sessions a regular KVRX program.
Since last spring, there have been eight Library Sessions featuring the bands PWR BTTM, Nothing, Pinegrove, Lemuria, The Frights, Porches and most recently, Screaming Females. The small performances allow attendees special access to the alternative artists, unlike the scenes the downtown venues and festivals they come into town for. During Austin City Limits, Zech managed to coordinate a Library Sessions appearance by Julien Baker. After her performance, the KVRX crew surprised Baker with vegan cupcakes in honor of her 21st birthday.
Zech chooses to book bands that she knows her station loves. “It’s really great to have the DJs at KVRX excited about a session and I try to do it for our community,” Zech says.
Unlike Local Live, the radio station’s weekly taped concert sessions featuring mostly Texas bands, the Library Sessions allow KVRX to book bigger acts. The intimate setting gives the touring bands a chance to perform stripped down versions of their songs. “With less noise we can hear the details in everyone’s parts more clearly, and it makes it all very intimate and cozy and nice,” team production manager Livvy Bennet says. Although Bennet says she prefers larger performances that bring a more physical energy, she views the Library Sessions as a personal acoustic reprieve “after too many nights in a noisy club.”
Ovalle, a senior in Radio-Television-Film, says during his remaining time at UT he wants to make sure his project is sustainable. “Since it’s my last semester in Austin, my goal is to get as many people involved as I can so it can continue without me,” Ovalle says.
In addition to her work on the technical aspects of the project, Bennet has also found a tight-knit community in Library Sessions. “It’s a very sweet microcosm of people who love all these varying types of music,” Bennet says. ”I’ve never felt so welcome anywhere on campus."
With a crew dedicated to building a legacy, it’s clear that the Library Sessions are just getting started.