By Travis Poling
Drifting through downtown Richmond, guitar and fiddle harmonies blended with aromas of barbecue. It was Food Truck Wednesday in Elstro Plaza. One man, Joe Augustin, was hard at work behind the scenes making the music happen.
Known to many as blues guitarist “Achilles Tenderloin,” Augustin, age 40, was the congenial host of the show. Looking out across the sunny park, he welcomed everyone, not as a performer but as music promoter, a job he’s held full-time for almost two years. In November 2021 he created Augustin Live Music Solutions to schedule musicians, promote shows and perform various tasks with which venues may have less experience.
Phil English, guitarist of the Lucky Devils, the musical duo that performed at Food Truck Wednesday on July 5, said working with Augustin is “very easy.” Of all the people English has worked with, Augustin has “one of the greatest, biggest hearts,” and takes “an interest in making things right for the musicians, which is a real feather in his cap,” English said.
Augustin grew up in Richmond and has been working in live music since the late 1990s. As an Earlham College student in 2004, he began hosting open mic events at Charlie’s Coffee Bar & Gallery (now Roscoe’s Coffee Bar & Tap Room) and Doc Handy’s (now E Street Pub). He has performed his original music throughout the Midwest, connecting with musicians from across the country. From these relationships, Augustin attracts performers to Richmond from folk rock to hip hop, from places as dispersed as Dayton, Baltimore and North Carolina.
Richmond Parks and Recreation operates several music venues and contracts regularly with Augustin. “We’d be lost without Joe,” said Hannah Snoddy, Farmer’s Market Coordinator and Community Engagement Facilitator. Snoddy appreciates the value that live music brings. “It makes it more of a community environment, and helps keep customers here longer,” Snoddy said. “They’ll grab a chair, plop down, and just listen. They enjoy the moment.”
As the Lucky Devils performed, around 20 patrons sat in the shade listening to the music. Trevor Oakerson, an attorney working in Richmond, is a Food Truck Wednesdays regular. “It’s nice to see people performing and getting to do things that they enjoy,” he said. “I’m glad that people have that opportunity to come and perform for an audience here.”
Augustin’s passion for bringing musicians and audiences together comes from his commitment to his hometown. “You get to know a very special type of person in this kind of work,” he said, “people who have shared traits and attributes in terms of community-mindedness and generosity, and seeking to find and promote things that are special about the community that they’re living in.” Partnering with local businesses and organizations is an important part of ALMS. When asked why, he paused thoughtfully. “It just fits,” he said.
Jeanna Horn, an employee of the Wayne County Recorder in the nearby county annex building, appreciates the local spirit that Food Truck Wednesdays offer. “I think it’s real nice that we have free events in town that inspire people to come together and support our community,” she said.
Most ALMS shows are in Richmond, though events are also held in Dayton, Muncie and Indianapolis. Occasionally, Augustin will work in cities within a four-hour drive such as Columbus, Ohio, or Detroit. But he is intentional in staying local. “I would rather grow by expanding than grow by relocating and starting over from scratch,” he said.
What Augustin provides “isn’t just a one-size-fits-all service.” He talks with clients to find out what they need. “And so we’re solving that issue together,” he said. Collaboration with institutions and musicians rooted in local communities is the overall purpose of ALMS. Augustin’s goal is to bring musicians and audiences together in what he calls “listening room environments,” venues in which “the focus is on the music itself, as opposed to just having live music in the background for other activities.”
Aaron Nell, multi-instrumentalist of the Lucky Devils, wants to provide something more than background music. “What’s important and good is for people, and particularly younger people, to see live music performed with people playing instruments,” he said. “I think that’s always a good thing in an age when it’s easy to just reproduce things digitally or put a playlist on.”
As for the name, ALMS, “It’s a little bit of a play on words,” Augustin said with a smile. He hopes audience members will consider leaving cash in a tip jar. “It is made somewhat more affordable by encouraging donations from the audience to go directly to the performers.”
Gary Geyer, a retired English teacher at Lincoln High School, comes to Food Truck Wednesdays primarily for the music. “It’s a really beneficial little chunk of Richmond, something that you wouldn’t expect from a city this size, to have every week some really great, original music come to town,” Geyer said. He credits Augustin with the quality acts that perform. “I trust his taste. If he brings them to town, I’ll check them out. I haven’t been disappointed yet.”
Upcoming events organized by ALMS
Weekly events at Elstro Plaza include Tuesday Twilight Markets (4 p.m. to 7 p.m., through September) and the Farmer’s Market every Saturday (9 a.m. to noon, through October). In colder months, musicians play in the Winter Farmer’s Market at the Starr-Gennett Historic Site in the Whitewater Gorge (9 a.m. to noon, April through November).
Also coming up are the second Art Alive event Aug. 13 at Glen Miller Park, Roscoe’s Octoberfest (Sept. 30), Fourth Street Fair (Oct. 6, 7, and 8), and Flavor Notes (7 p.m. to 9 p.m., first Thursday of each month at Roscoe’s).
Details can be found on the Facebook page for ALMS: Augustin Live Music Solutions, facebook.com/augustinconcerts.
A version of this article appeared in the August 23 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.