Blues concert venue adds to Austin's rich legacy

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Photo Credit: Elias Huerta

What do a DNA and software company, famous Austin concert venue Antone’s — of Stevie Ray Vaughan fame — and UT Austin all have in common? Spencer Wells holds a place in his heart for all of them.

Wells is the founder and CEO of Insitome, a software and DNA company located in downtown Austin. When he’s not there, chances are he’s on campus co-teaching a human biology course or he’s busy running legendary Austin music venue Antone’s.

Wells is a man with many interests, but most of his interests revolve around the world of genetics and ancestry. So the main question is, what led a geneticist to purchase a blues concert venue downtown? Wells attributed much of the interest toward his patronage of the venue during his time at UT.

“I went to UT for my undergrad,” Wells said. “I was very focused. I graduated early. I didn’t have a lot of time to hang out, but when I did I liked going to shows at Antone’s.”

Antone’s kicked off in 1975, and Wells said when he was frequenting the spot in the ‘80s, the venue had certainly hit its heyday.

“It was really the first club on 6th Street,” Wells said. “It created the modern music scene downtown.”

Wells completed his studies in biology at UT, and continued studies at Harvard, Stanford and Oxford. Over the years, Antone’s had traded hands and shuffled locations multiple times in Austin. Wells said he was living in Washington, D.C., when his brother contacted him, jokingly mentioning that Antone’s sudden availability on the market could be a possible investment.

“At the time that it came up for sale, it had been moved to East Riverside, and I felt very strongly that this was a club that should be downtown,” Wells said. “And I remember thinking, ‘I can probably put together a team that might be able to acquire (Antone’s) and bring it back.’”

Wells said he felt obligated to preserve Antone’s as not only a compass piece of Austin’s history, but as a piece of the history of blues music as well. From all the way in D.C., he successfully worked with a team to acquire the rights to the venue.

“For me, I saw it as trying to hold onto something that’s really important in Austin music history,” Wells said. “You’ve got the combination of this iconic brand and this amazing blues music. It’s a historical document of how we created modern American music.”

After Wells acquired Antone’s, he moved to Austin where he founded the company Insitome. Despite Insitome being his primary mission, Wells said he never lost his passion for academia. Upon returning to Austin, he spoke with UT about a possible adjunct professorship.

“I have a longstanding relationship with UT,” Wells said. “So when I moved down here from D.C, I wanted to have some connection. I asked if I could possibly get an adjunct appointment.”

With an adjunct professorship under his belt, Wells announced the relaunch of Antone’s March 2015.

While Wells said there are several benefits to owning Antone’s, he jokes there is one perk he values above all.

“The best part is being able to get in even when an event is sold out,” Wells said.