Colorful remnants of SouthPop linger on South Lamar

The work of the artist dubbed “Daddy-O” is so steeped in Texas culture and iconography – the old and the new, rural and urban, classy and cheesy – that “40 Years of Blood, Sweat and Beers” seems to encompass everything in the whole damn state…. (it) exudes Texas-osity, the way one oozes beery sweat after a three-night bender in Terlingua.

Robert Faires’ description of a 2009 “retrospectacle” of the work of Bob “Daddy-O” Wade at the former South Austin Museum of Popular Culture on South Lamar, Austin Chronicle

It’s hard to miss the parking lot when driving down South Lamar, and the museum sign beckoned us to explore. But, alas, the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, founded in 2004, no longer calls 1516 South Lamar home. Hemmed in from expansion by its neighbor Planet K, in 2019 SouthPop packed up, moved the contents of its interior collection and reopened behind Threadgill’s Old No. 1 on North Lamar as the Austin Museum of Popular Culture.

But, an even bigger alas. The pandemic raised its ugly head and tolled the bell on Threadgill’s, an iconic Austin institution for almost 40 years. So the Austin Museum of Popular Culture is now homeless.

The website for the museum I’ve never visited reads: “The Austin Museum of Popular Culture collects, conserves, and exhibits vintage posters and live music ephemera from the 1960s through today to educate future generations on the rich and unique culture that makes Austin the Live Music Capital of the World. AusPop seeks to enrich a growing and changing community by becoming the premier source in Texas for art and artifacts of local music history from the 1960s to the present and its impact on local, national, and international culture.”

In the meantime, the nonprofit is working with the Austin Public Library on an exhibition when the Central Library reopens. And AusPop’s website is well worth exploring, inviting you to step back into Austin’s music scene of the 1970s at the Armadillo World Headquarters via “Once Upon a Time in Austin.”

Armadillo World Headquarters, Jim Franklin poster, 1970, Collection of Austin Museum of Popular Culture

And there is the old parking lot, a shrine to Austin’s pop culture. A place where fans still stop to leave flowers and light candles below photos of their favorite patron “saints.” Not sure what qualifies as an historic landmark in Austin, but seems it’s already past time for aggressive preservation of things that made Austin weird – before the phrase itself was hijacked, trademarked, reproduced everywhere and robbed of its original quirkiness.

The parking lot on South Lamar certainly should qualify as contributing to Austin’s distinctive flavor. Wander around it before continually creeping Condolandia* erases it from the cityscape.

*Confession: This blogger lives in a condo and, even worse, is new to Austin.

Note added on April 13, 2021: That stage is just waiting for a return performance of Bottlecap Mountain.

Note added on November 12, 2021: 50th Anniversary of Armadillo World Headquarters presented by the Austin Museum of Popular Culture at The Pershing, 2415 East 5th Street, noon to 5 p.m., November 19 through 21.

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