NOTHING STAYS THE SAME: THE STORY OF THE SAXON PUB -- A Compelling Case for the Impact of Live Music
Review by Sean Boelman
Almost anyone who has ever visited Austin, Texas has been entranced by the unique culture that defines the city, and there is no one piece more integral to its identity than its music. Jeff Sandmann’s new documentary Nothing Stays the Same: The Story of the Saxon Pub examines this aspect of Austin culture in a way that is brief but entertaining.
The Austin music scene is largely built around smaller venues that give local up-and-coming talents a chance to be discovered, and this documentary is about one of the most famous yet intimate: the Saxon Pub. This film is both a celebration of the accomplishments of the Saxon Pub, its owners, and it’s patrons and an ode to creativity in general and the people who work to foster it.
At a mere hour and ten minutes in length, the movie doesn’t have a whole lot of depth to its argument, so it is admittedly more for Austinites, particularly those who frequent the eponymous venue or have nostalgia for its glory. Still, it has an almost tourist-like appeal for the general audience in that it will make one want to take a trip to the live music capital of the world.
In another sense, the film functions as a cautionary tale about the dangers of American capitalism. Even though the city of Austin is very much reliant on the arts as an essential component of its tourism, the way in which the economy and changes in cost-of-living have affected musicians pose a great threat to an entire city’s livelihood.
As such, the portions of the movie that explore the Saxon Pub as it tries to stay afloat despite increasing financial challenges are the most compelling. Interviews with employees, like the venue’s sound technician, shine a light on the personal impact that this place has on the people for whom it is a part of their lives.
That said, the main draw of the film will be the performances that it features. As one would expect, the movie focuses on indie musicians with whom many viewers will likely be unaware. The styles of music showcased vary greatly, but the one thing that unites them all is that they radiate a feeling of authenticity and individuality.
Sandmann shot the documentary in a very traditional way, blending fly-on-the-wall footage with interviews and the available archive materials, but it is an effective way of telling this story. Thanks to his methods, viewers will feel completely immersed in the world of the Saxon Pub, as if they are taking part in the Austin music scene themselves.
Nothing Stays the Same: The Story of the Saxon Pub is an interesting film about one of the most iconic gems of a culturally-rich city. In a time when so many are stuck in their homes, this is a great reminder of what to look forward to once this is over.
Nothing Stays the Same: The Story of the Saxon Pub hits VOD on July 14.