Maybe a couple of months ago now I received an invitation from a woman who runs a site called Austinsongz.com for songwriters. She hosts a “Songwriters Evening” at Mangia Pizza two nights a week and she asked me to attend. Until last night I hadn’t been able to make it due to other commitments. But after she told me about some of the artists that play there, one artist in particular stood out to me: Chris Hawkes. When I saw that he was playing a date after SXSW, I put that on my calendar. I was looking forward to seeing him because I liked his music. He’s a true singer songwriter, acoustic guitar and all. The evening is set up as a song swap between the featured artist and two other invited guests. Chris had Miranda Dawn and Serenity Fisher with him. Miranda lives in Austin, but Serenity is from Ohio and seemed to be passing through Austin in the middle of a tour. Serenity was a very different artist than the other two. She played keys and sang in a very quirky style. Chris announced that she was an award-winning playwright and then it all made sense. She definitely had that show tunes sensibility. It was cute, but not something I would seek out on my own. Miranda Dawn was more in the singer/songwriter vein in a compatible style with Chris Hawkes. It was obvious that they play together on a regular basis. They had some nice harmonies. On her own though, I wasn’t completely won over. I don’t know that I would go out of my way to see a solo show from her. But I definitely was right about Chris. He’s a very talented guitarist and songwriter. While I love the idea of songwriters performing together, supporting each other, and inspiring each other, this workshop seems better suited as just that, a workshop. The music room is set off to the side from the main restaurant and unless you’re there to specifically hear music, you aren’t gonna come in here. Besides me, there were only 7 people who ended up in the room before 8pm (when I left). What’s the draw to come in on a Tuesday night? And how are they attracting an audience? There’s the website, Facebook, and even a banner just outside the restaurant advertising the music room, yet only 7 people. They also do a show on Saturday nights and I’m wondering if there’s more of a crowd. Somebody like Chris Hawkes deserves more of an audience. If this particular setting is more of an opportunity for these songwriters to be creative and try out new ideas on a smaller audience, then it’s a great idea. It’s a comfortable, friendly environment to do this. However, if it’s meant to showcase the artist and build an audience, then it’s definitely not working. I would prefer to see an artist doing their own thing in an established music venue. I would definitely like to see Chris Hawkes on his own performing his music for the evening. I hope to catch a solo show in the future. As for Mangia Pizza, it’s a draw for me since I’m a Chicago native and they serve Chicago Style Pizza. It’s really the only place I’ve been, outside of Chicago, that offers good deep dish pizza. It’s very comparable to true Chicago pizza and god do I miss THAT!! The service, however, was a bit lax. I definitely wasn’t impressed. But I didn’t go for the service, I went for the pizza and the music. But I would never recommend it to anyone else unless they were dying for deep dish pizza.