KUT can make a “full save” of the Cactus Cafe by hiring Griff Luneburg

In February 2010, a day after the Texas Union announced plans to close the Cactus Cafe, I started a Facebook Group called “Save The Cactus Cafe (Austin, TX).” That group’s membership soon grew to 25,000. A separate Facebook “Fan Page” now has 9,000 followers. And in the seven months since that announcement, thousands more have committed their time, money, and have written to UT administrators in support of saving the Cactus Cafe.

Thanks to KUT Radio stepping in as the Cafe’s general management and the efforts of thousands, the Cactus Cafe not only remains open but its future looks bright. However, one critical question remains: Who will serve as the Cactus Cafe’s General Manager?

KUT will announce their choice for manager sometime in the middle of this week. Throughout our campaign, Save The Cactus Cafe supporters made an overwhelming and powerful statement that there is no single individual more fundamental to the character of the Cactus Cafe than its longtime manager, Griff Luneburg. The finalists for the General Manager position of the Cactus include Luneburg, Cameron Smith, and Paul Minor. Further information about each candidate is widely available online, and I encourage you to do some research.

But in the interest of expressing the sentiment of the Save The Cactus Cafe campaign’s supporters, Griff Luneburg is largely responsible for making the Cactus Cafe the iconic, world-class venue that it is today. Griff has served as the manager and creative conscience of the Cactus for the past 27 years. He brought patrons literally thousands of legendary live shows and for nearly ten years also co-produced KUT’s “Live at the Cactus” radio show. But do not take my word for it. See what Cactus artists, former student employees, and others have to say about Griff:

“The character of the Cactus is essentially linked with the people who run it. That means booking manager Griff Luneburg, who began working part-time at the Cactus in 1981 and shaped it into the sensitive listening room we know today… [he] is as important to the Austin singer-songwriter scene as the late Clifford Antone was to Austin blues. Like Antone, Luneburg is about love first, love of music.” —Brad Buchholz, Austin American-Statesman (link)

“What exists at the Cactus is a creation of the people who work and have worked there, and it has an intrinsic value to the community and the world at large. Griff Luneburg’s management has kept the Cactus as a venue at the forefront of the music world. The room always sounds great and has first-rate sound engineers. Griff has “trained” the audiences to listen: that’s a key element, and it comes from the club manager’s active involvement. The respect for music has paid great dividends in terms of the level of performance. He books top acts, as well as new acts that deserve a place, always with an unerring sense of what’s right for the audience and the club.” —Peter Case, musician (link)

“The venue’s greatest asset, however, has been its ability to host talented musicians long before they become stars. ‘You are constantly looking for new talent that are on their way up,’ Texas Union director David Puntch said. ‘Griff, one of his major talents was being able to find people like that. That was what he did. That’s why so many famous people came through the Cactus.’ Lyle Lovett, Jason Mraz and Natalie Maines all played at the Cactus before they made it big.” —Shabab Siddiqui, The Daily Texan (link)

“[The Cactus is] a place that UT should be proud to say is a part of the UT culture. And what university can claim to be home to one of the greatest music venues? It didn’t start out as that, but became this due to the hard work of Griff.” —Jay Whitley, student employee 1981-1984

“Working with the Cactus crew, seeing all of the diverse audiences and musicians overseas, seeing Griff work and negotiate contracts, that helped me be better prepared for the challenges that I have since faced.” —Andrea Gastaldo, current U.S. diplomat and former Cactus employee (link)

“…he’s a gentle soul, self-effacing to a fault, forever devoted to the beauty of poetry in song.” —Brad Buchholz, Austin American-Statesman (link)

“We’ve found [a club] that works and we’re going to try to keep it running as long as we can...Griff and his crew are doing a great job.” —Andy Smith, as reported in The Daily Texan (2/9/2004)

Who is better suited to ensure that the Cactus Cafe we know and love lives on under the auspices of KUT than the one who brought us to the dance to begin with? While his past achievements prove he is the best person for the job, Griff is looking ahead. The Cactus’ fall schedule includes student bands (including Marmalakes, who opened for Cactus favorite Alejandro Escovedo this past Saturday) as well as a student-songwriter competition. Student discounts are available for many shows, and the Cactus now accepts credit cards and Bevo Bucks! And this is only a preview of things to come.

If you agree that Griff is the best candidate to preserve the Cactus’ heritage, ensure a smooth transition, and introduce the next generation of music lovers to the magic of the Cactus Cafe, please respectfully show your support by conveying your sentiments to the following individuals:

With your continued support of the Cactus Cafe, our cherished venue will live on for decades to come.

In Music,

Wiley Koepp, Board of Directors
Friends of the Cactus Cafe