Nothing Stays the Same: The Story of The Saxon Pub celebrates the last 30 years of live music in Austin Texas while also examining the challenges faced by musicians and music venues in one of the fastest-growing and most popular cities in the country – all through the lens of the legendary Saxon Pub.
The story begins with an examination of the fertile ground that was Austin, TX circa 1990, and recounts how owners Joe and Judy Ables were able to build a popular and lasting venue where so many others have failed. Top-notch sound, genuine respect for musicians, and slots for 3-5 bands a night, 7 nights a week are some of the factors at play. The Ables’ dedication to the music has created an atmosphere that Saxon musicians can depend on for their creativity and livelihood. Yet as esteem for the Saxon grows, so does the larger music scene and the city itself.
Forces that once drove musicians to town begin to threaten their ability to stay, and now they and the Saxon must find a way to adapt. Looking ahead at rising rents, Ables and company make plans for a new venue not far down the road, but the only thing that’s certain is that it won’t be the same.
The dueling themes of Saxon’s consistency and commitment to its artists existing in a city growing at breakneck speed form a dichotomy that is the heart of the film. Through live performance, interviews, archival footage, and vérité scenes with Saxon musicians, we see – and hear – why this place is so unique and so special to so many.
There is a cycle wherein cheap rents draw artists, who create a scene, which in turn attracts people, money, and development until the artists can no longer afford to stay. There are many ways to treat that – for us, it will be as a call to appreciate and celebrate what we have while we have it.
About the Filmmaker
Jeff Sandmann has produced, shot and directed video for over 25 years, creating corporate videos, coach’s shows, hundreds of commercials, receiving 3 Telly Awards in the process. He’s worked on TV shows such as the docuseries Friday Night Tykes, Netflix’s Dave Chappelle Deep in the Heart of Texas and Ireland’s live music show Other Voices. His work over the past 9 years producing tribute videos for the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame led to a friendship with Saxon Pub owner Joe Ables, and as a musician and music lover, Jeff found in the Saxon a perfect subject for his debut feature-length documentary. Jeff earned a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree from Texas State University, and he spent 21 years working as a Senior Producer for Time Warner Cable Media. He currently runs his own production company, Jumper Productions.