Home > Uncategorized > Matthew Munoz as new Cactus Cafe manager evokes a hearty “Who’s He?”

Matthew Munoz as new Cactus Cafe manager evokes a hearty “Who’s He?”

Where is Brad Buchholz when we need him?

The insightful Austin American-Statesman reporter distinguished himself and showed true journalistic grit when he wrote often about University of Texas administrator’s shady attempts at “repurposing” the iconic Cactus Café since it was publicly announced last January.

In February Buchholz wrote – “Truth be told: The Cactus feels like home to me, too and it’s not simply a matter of music. The Cactus, at its heart, is about closeness, about intimacy, about sitting so close to the musical campfire that you feel the fire-glow in your bones. The only thing prickly about the place is its name. You go to listen, to feel, to connect.”

He writes in another article – “The character of the Cactus is essentially linked with the people who run it. That means booking manager Griff Luneburg, who began working part-time at the Cactus in 1981 and shaped it into the sensitive listening room we know today… [he] is as important to the Austin singer-songwriter scene as the late Clifford Antone was to Austin blues. Like Antone, Luneburg is about love first, love of music.”

Former Cactus Café manager Griff Luneburg has said Buckhholz truly understands the twisted turn of Cactus events – “He really gets it!” – so I sure wish he could have written the article that appeared in the September 8 edition of the Austin American-Statesman. Buchholz is on an extended leave of absence from the Statesman.

All Bob Kinney photos


Griff Luneburg begins Friday show of Last Cactus Week

Statesman music writer Patrick Caldwell wrote a perfunctory news story on the appointment of the unknown Matthew Munoz being named the new manager of the Café effective September 13. I am sure that Stewart Vanderwilt and Hawk Mendenhall – the top KUT Radio administrators who chose Munoz over Griff – smiled when they read the article since it parroted their talking points.

Both Caldwell’s article and the KUT Radio website describe Munoz as a “record industry veteran.”

But wait. Upon reading Munoz’ employment history, the former rock band drummer only began working in the record industry ten years ago. His work in Los Angeles was junior level and the Houston record company he represented recently in Austin has folded.

Munoz has absolutely no experience in booking artists in quality listening rooms like the Cactus Café – let alone the many Austin music clubs ranging from the Continental Club, Antone’s and the Hole in the Wall to Emo’s, Ginny’s Little Longhorn, Threadgill’s, and Beerland. Ten years of below-top management experience in any profession does not add up to “veteran” status. Does it, Stewart?


The Final Bow on Saturday night at the Cactus

It reminds local music fans of another time Vanderwilt used the word “veteran.” It happened when Vanderwilt brought David Brown to the KUT studios from California in early 2009. The Wall Street reporter for NPR, Brown had a regular spot on the weekday evening NPR newscast.

I recall that Brown’s wife was news director at KUT then and Brown’s move to Austin reunited the couple. Only trouble is that Brown was given the air time of the popular KUT Latin Jazz program — Horizontes.  KUT staff complained that Brown was being paid way too much more than them. Soon afterward, Vanderwilt cut the on-air hours of two KUT veterans, Larry Monroe and Paul Ray. As a result,  the two 60-somethings lost their KUT health insurance. John Aielli, KUT’s 40-year mainstay morning DJ, has had his on-air hours cut in half since Vanderwilt came to KUT in 2000. Despite mistreating these “veteran” DJs, KUT capitalizes on their iconic status and fan appreciation whenever profitable.

A recent letter to the editor in the Austin Chronicle noted that Brown and all other Vanderwilt Era KUT music program hosts have never broke the Top Ten of DJs in the Chronicle’s annual Best of Austin readers’ poll.

In his news release announcing Brown’s hiring and launching of his Texas Music Matters program on KUT, Vanderwilt described Brown as a “veteran journalist.”

A “veteran” of Wall Street chicanery – Yes.

But, Music … especially in Austin – No.

To read more about the “repurposing” of the Cactus Cafe, check the next post on this blog. A full compilation of posts I have made about the Cactus Cafe since last January is on the second page of this web blog.

The Cactus audience before the first show on Tuesday

I see nothing but public relations, marketing and dealing with minor artists already signed to the company you work for in Munoz’ employment history. No senior management responsibilities. No supervision of folks who work for you. No experience in booking music clubs. Nothing but a promise to  somehow market the Cactus better. Can you see preferred stage-side seating for Cactus big donors coming soon?

What may have happened should have all folks thanking the ever-spunky Hayley Gillespie, co-founder of Student Friends of the Cactus Café on the UT campus.

Hayley has been in the forefront of opposition to UT’s very hidden maneuvers throughout 2010 to “repurpose” the Cactus Café and replace Luneburg who grew the music venue into a world-renowned listening room during the past 27 years. She filed numerous freedom of information requests during the spring and summer to expose the internal UT administrative machinations that brought shame to that world class university and, reportedly, harsh criticism from its pissed-off president, William Powers, about this unnecessary rupture of community relations.

The latest Gillespie legal action led to discovery of a truly swarmy history of emails between Cameron Smith, then assistant director of Texas Performing Arts (PAC – Bass Concert Hall etc) with UT administrators Hank Smith, Juan Gonzalez and Soncia Reagins-Lilly written days after the trio announced the “repurposing” of the Cactus Café.

Smith pitched himself to replace Griff and shamefully used students to further his goal. Paving the way for himself, Cameron Smith announced he would be leaving the PAC at the end of August – coincidentally about the time KUT would be announcing the new Cactus manager. Read the emails at – http://blogs.utexas.edu/sfotcc/2010/08/23/cactus-cafe-open-records/


Hayley Gillespie, left, with Tiffany and faculty adviser Dr. Thomas Garza outside a UT press conference about the Cactus that they could not attend in May.

When KUT announced that Munoz is the new Cactus manager on September 13, many Cactus fans wondered “Who is He”? Facebook lit up. Up to his hiring Munoz was not on the circulated public short list of finalists – Griff, Cameron Smith and Paul Minor, booker for the Hole in the Wall.

Did Gillespie’s uncovering of Cameron Smith’s ties to KUT cause Vanderwilt to dump Smith? Seems like Gillespie hit a sensitive spot on the UT administration body yet again. Was Cameron Smith dumped out of long overdue UT/KUT concern for ethics?

In a form email response I received after writing to UT Communications College Dean Roderick Hart about the necessity of not hiring Smith simply because of ethical considerations, he wrote “I am confident that we will hire the best person available for the job and, above all, I can assure you we will hire someone with the highest ethical standards.”  Dean Hart had the “oversight responsibility for hiring the Cactus manager.”

Thank you, Dean Roderick Hart for the first forthright response I have received from UT about the Cactus controversy since the beginning of 2010.

Compare Dean Hart’s words with Vanderwilt’s response to the same email – “Thank you for reaching out regarding the Cactus Cafe. We are committed to its long-term future.

This will be a team effort among many station and Cactus staff and volunteers; along with our Union and campus partners.”

Say What, Stewart?

“Support for the Cactus Café comes from Wendy’s – stop by after the show for a burger. Turn left at the stairs after leaving the Café.”

All Bob Kinney photos


Thanks for giving so much, Griff

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 10, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Excellent post, Bob. KUT management — beginning at the top with Dean Hart — have shown all the scruples of used car salesmen. Thank god for people like Hayley Gillespie, who’ve had the perseverance to dig through the typical KUT smoke and mirrors to find the real truth. Remember, this is a “public” station supported by taxpayer dollars and listener funding (or, more appropriately, corporate funding and the noblesse oblige of the chablis-and-brie set) and they refuse to release their tax returns so the public can see how they’re spending the money — or losing it, as the case may be. Stewart left his last employ after nearly bankrupting an Indiana public radio station with his grandiose plans. Is KUT next?

  2. chris
    September 11, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    great stuff brother Bob

  3. Ida Miller
    September 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    KUT does not want to be a local public radio station. They want to syndicate shows and market them around the country. Thus, David Brown, accountant Hawk, the KGSR guy who came via Philadelphia, and Mathew Munoz. Austin has a room for Griff to fill that resembles the Cactus but lacks the bureaucratic nightmare. There is a vacuum that needs to be filled by a local public station. Can KOOP or KTSW fill the space? Or will there be a new station? Please bring Pacifica radio with you, I would like a new perspective on the news. I am sick of Scott Simon. If the station appears, I will pledge.

  4. Tomoko
    September 16, 2010 at 4:36 am

    Thanks for writing and posting this excellent piece, Bob.

  5. January 8, 2013 at 11:19 am

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