Black Fret’s fifth annual Black Fret Ball set a few different milestones this past Friday night, not the least of which was surpassing over $1 million in grants to local bands as well as upgrading the event venue to the ACL Live Moody theater. Black Fret co-founders, Colin Kendrick and Matt Ott, have made progress by leaps in bounds since inception by not only growing the charity organization in Austin but also expanding to other cities as well. Moving the Black Fret Ball venue from the Paramount Theater, where it was held last year, to ACL Live could have meant a lot of empty seats. Instead, the crowd was massive and members and attendees flooded the venue in impressive fashion.
The recipients of Black Fret’s grant money were a mixed bag of returning artists and some brand new acts. Groups like the Greyhounds, Los Coast and Jane Ellen Bryant all returned from last year’s ball to claim $20k grants while newcomers Billy King and the Bad Bad Bad, Trouble In The Streets and The Texas KGB all claimed their first grants.
Major sponsors like Dell, Deloitte and NY Life gave the notion that Black Fret has ascended to a high level of recognition within the corporate community as much as the artistic one. While there is a bit of an Oprah-esque vibe to the grant giving, “You get a grant! You get a grant!”, ultimately the impact is profound for the artist – financially and with newfound exposure.
Performances by Donovan Keith, The Texas KGB and Billy King and the Bad Bad Bad were all highlights of the night, as a dual stage setup allowed for a more fluid transition to showcase more music. While there is a lot of love in the room, it was still left to A Giant Dog’s Andrew Cashen to inject some legitimate Rock n Roll spirit by accepting his band’s grant while grandstanding on an amp like a golden god, with music writer Kevin Curtin in tow.
A quarter million dollars was given out the night of the ball which was awe-inspiring, as artist after artist beamed onstage upon receiving their grant amount. As Austin’s cost of living continues to skyrocket, charities like Black Fret are becoming more vital to allowing musicians to remain viable or reach the next level.