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Behind The Scenes | Change Agent

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Jack McFadden comes to Austin by way of Brooklyn, where his life was every bit as hip as the borough’s reputation would have you believe. He went on a juice cleanse with a couple of members of The National. He and Michelle Williams frequented the same bar. And he booked shows for bands like Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend in the 100-person venue he owned with friends. But after the birth of his second child, McFadden’s wife heard the siren song of her sisters’ and mother’s company in Austin. “The second baby was the deal breaker,” McFadden laughs.

McFadden is happily settled in Austin since 2011, thanks in large part to having one of the coolest jobs in town: He books bands for Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater, supporting the general manager and director of booking, Colleen Fischer. McFadden is responsible for the majority of the acts that grace the Belmont’s outdoor stage, and he also books shows for ACL Live.

While he’s booking bigger shows now, McFadden has long a soft spot for what he calls the “baby bands.” “To have these relationships with bands, to watch them go from nothing to blowing up is just everything,” he says. “It means more than anything to know that you booked a band and they played in front of 15 people—it’s just so gratifying to see them have success.”

To manage the baby and big bands alike, McFadden spends the majority of his time managing complicated, intricate calendars. Bands want to play shows on tours they’ve already routed, for budget reasons. He has to keep the theater’s schedule in mind, but also the larger schedule of the city itself. And in festival-happy Austin, that isn’t always easy. “We’re managing the calendar for the agents, but also for ourselves,” McFadden explains. “We have to understand how the city breathes and avoid conflicts.”

It’s a lot of work and wrangling for a very short-lived payoff. But that’s actually what McFadden loves most: “It’s very rewarding that way because there’s lots of behind the scenes drama, blood, sweat, and tears that can go into just one sold-out night.”

Jack’s most memorable Austin moment—so far

When ACL Fest rained out in 2013, McFadden found himself suddenly onslaught with offers from bands to play ACL Live that night. “My phone was ringing off the hook and it was every agent for every band that was in town saying, “can you guys do a show over there?’” McFadden says. He wanted to pull it off, but was worried: Booking the venue and prepping for a show there, he explains, is like “steering a yacht. You’ve gotta start turning early!” Despite some initial confusion—Franz Ferdinand thought they had been confirmed to play, but they hadn’t—Atoms for Peace ended up performing that night, and later on, performing an exclusive after show for about 25 people—McFadden included, of course.

Credits

Photography by Leah Overstreet

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