Bud Kennedy

Here's how Cowtown wants to become a cool town

Mayor Betsy Price thanks singer Abraham Alexander of Fort Worth after his performance in the lobby at her State of the City speech.
Mayor Betsy Price thanks singer Abraham Alexander of Fort Worth after his performance in the lobby at her State of the City speech. bud@star-telegram.com

Mayor Betsy Price already has Fort Worth singing a different tune.

Two months after a city business study called in part for attracting more artists, graphic designers and creative professionals to Fort Worth, they took a co-starring role in her annual State of the City address.

Musicians and filmmakers shared the front row with executives and dealmakers. Videos and music told the story of Fort Worth's emerging appeal for songwriters and digital artists.

“I love the mayor and what she's doing to push for music in Fort Worth,” said Greece-born singer Abraham Alexander, who sang in the videos and in person at the Fort Worth Convention Center ballroom entrance.

“She works all day and then she's out at night encouraging us to be better. It really means a lot.”

Next month, Price is taking Fort Worth music to Austin.

On March 13 and 14, a “Fort Worth Now” stage at the South by Southwest music festival will feature local acts such as Vaden Todd Lewis of Toadies, the Quaker City Night Hawks, Bonnie Bishop and the Texas Gentlemen, and hip-hop's Lou Charle$.

Price will lead a bike ride. Since every SXSW event includes panel discussions, Fort Worth is bringing experts to discuss “Urban Air Taxis and the Future of Ride Sharing” and “How Cities Can Support Hyperscale Data Storage.”

Let's just say Fort Worth has come a long way since the days of Ernest Tubb playing from a pickup bed, or Ornette Coleman getting thrown out of the high school band, or Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys on the radio selling flour.

In her speech to business and government leaders, Price made it a point to say Fort Worth wants to attract a new talent pool of “next generation” workers seeking urban energy, an arts scene and an inspiring, creative culture.

Frankly, I'm not sure I ever heard a city leader say that before.

“I'm inspired by the stories of Fort Worth's talent … who turned their creative work into thriving businesses,” Price said, introducing a video about filmmaker and Spiral Diner co-owner James Johnston (“A Ghost Story”), another front-row guest.

“There are so many ways to be creative here,” Alexander said after the luncheon.

“In a lot of cities, you feel alienated. In Fort Worth, you feel connected.”

Alexander was shown singing “Things to Do,” a Grady Spencer song with the chorus, “bless my soul and take me back to Fort Worth.”

Spencer, a working-class singer and guitarist whose band has become a recurring guest at the venerable Saxon Pub in Austin, was also at a front table.

“This is not a normal Tuesday for me,” he said.

“I loved it. The mayor is making music a point of pride for the city.”

The old tagline called Fort Worth the home of "cowboys and culture.”

The new goal: cowboys and cool.

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