Nostalgia can be a tricky thing. As NPR critic Ann Powers noted in a recent Facebook post about Sturgill Simpson’s widely shared Merle Haggard manifesto, “the calcifying effects of nostalgia are real.” To redirect an old axiom, those who wallow in history may be doomed to miss out on the future.
And yet it’s hard not to love “Old School Austin Groove,” a video posted on Facebook today by local company Beef and Pie Productions. Initially introduced last year as a companion to a documentary about local character Crazy Carl, the song features Shawn Sahm — whose late father Doug Sahm is practically the poster boy of 20th-century Austin nostalgia — and Shinyribs leader Kevin Russell.
An easygoing, country-rockin’ tune, “Old School Austin Groove” revisits the heyday of long-gone local institutions such as the Armadillo, the Split Rail and the Austex Lounge. Live studio footage of Sahm, Russell and the Shinyribs rhythm section is interspersed with Ken Hoge photos from “the good old days.” Toward the end, longtime locals hold posterboard signs in front of the places where Soap Creek Saloon, the One Knite, Vulcan Gas Company and other haunts once stood.
“Times have changed but not that much,” Shawn Sahm sings near the end. That might be laying on the nostalgia a little too thick, as we gaze upon the ever-towering 2016 Austin skyline. But Russell brings it all back home with a simple sentiment that transcends looking back and reaches toward the future: “Be you, be true, and be cool/ Like that old-school Austin groove.”