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Adios, Iconic Cactus Cafe

The Last Five Days of the Iconic Café was a time for the Cactus Music Family to gather together and help fill the room with memories, melancholy and music every night.

Butch Hancock returned to the Café for the twentieth time to present his No Two More Alike shows long on the Cactus calendar. They now mark the end of the Iconic Days of the Cactus.

all Bob Kinney photos


Butch Hancock

Scores of musicians returned to the familiar comfort of the Cactus stage to play with Butch and say Adios with a Heartfelt Thanks to Griff Luneburg who crafted the Cactus beginning almost three decades ago and grew it into the best listening room in Austin and many other cities.

Acknowledgment of all the musicians who played during the Last Five Days is at the end of this post.


Joe Ely

Austin Chronicle writer Raoul Hernandez nicely detailed every show of the last week and included set lists – http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/review?oid=oid%3A1070799


Cactus audience second night

Three moments in the last week stand out with me.

Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore joining Butch onstage for a 75-minute Flatlanders set on the third night. J.T. Van Zandt came on stage during the set to sing the always timely “Ballad of Ira Hays” with Hancock.


Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Friday night Griff opened the show by thanking bar tenders Chris Lueck and Susan Svedeman for their exemplary work at the Cactus – 27 years and 18 years, respectively. It would be the last night all three worked together since Susan had Saturday off.


Griff exposes the Kill the Cactus Leaders

Referring to the twisted saga of University of Texas administrators “rebranding” the Cactus first begun in secret late last year and marked with obfuscation, corporate non-transparency and filings of numerous Open Records (freedom of information) requests by media and Hayley Gillispie, co-founder of Student Friends of the Cactus Café, throughout the spring semester and summer months, Griff then revealed that Chris and Susan actually were behind the whole effort to Kill the Cactus and promptly fired the two.

Minutes later Chris announced he and Susan were on strike so Griff could not fire them … even if we are in Texas.

all Bob Kinney photos

Darcie Deaville and Butch


The Flatlanders

Butch Hancock and Betty Soo singing Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” during the final show on Saturday was sublime. Hancock’s legendary compilation Split & Slide I and II filled the evening with rambling wit, truly odd characters and the occasional pun. Butch followed that with his long-anticipated Split & Slide III – sung for the first time in full.

Butch finished the night with the quite appropriate cover of Townes’ “To Live Is To Fly” – a song Van Zandt often sang on the Cactus stage.

And then …

Last Call for the Cactus Café.

Thanks, Griff for your abiding love of music and steadfast endurance of everything thrown at you this year. KUT Radio simply must do the right thing and retain you as Cactus manager.



Thanks, Chris and Susan for caring for all of us and being who you are.

Thanks to the leaders and all the members of Friends of the Cactus Café and Students Friends of the Cactus Cafe groups for Fighting the Good Fight. Matt and Zach, of Friends of the Cactus Cafe, are pictured below. Hayley Gillespie, who continues to pry truth out of the UT administration through freedom of information requests, was attending an academic conference out of state during the Cactus’ Last Week.


Save the Cactus leaders Matt Portillo and Zach Bidner, left


Butch and son Rory

Thanks to Ikeda Tomoko, a UT graduate, who came back to Austin from Tokyo to attend all the shows (and thanks to Tiffany for introducing us).

Thanks to all the Cactus fans I met up with and others I got to know during the week – often standing in line before the show.

Thanks to all the musicians who enhanced the Cactus’ last Nights with their love and talent by performing during the Last Five Days of the Iconic Cactus Café – Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Pat Manske, Betty Soo, J.T. Van Zandt, Darcie Deaville, Colin Gilmore, Bob Livingston, Eppy the Hill Country Clown, Jimmy Petit, Kevin Carroll and David Garza (hope I’ve included all).


The Final Bow

Farewell from Butch

Good Night, Cactus

all Bob Kinney photos

Butch and Townes point the way in the Cafe’s  final song.

To live is to fly

Low and high,

So shake the dust off of your wings

And the sleep out of your eyes;

Shake the dust off of your wings

And the tears out of your eyes.

Last words sung in the Cactus Café August 14, 2010

The final lines of the Townes’ song –

“To Live Is To Fly”

All of my posts about the saga of the Cactus Cafe “rebranding” throughout 2010 are archived on the second page of this web blog

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