News flash: it’s hot in Texas in July. Wow. We had had a big heat wave in Philly the week of July 4, which I escaped by going to South Florida (you think I’m kidding….), but what we experienced in Pennsylvania was just typical summer weather in Texas. Mid-90s for the highs are “average” and we got some “average” Texas weather.
The Man sent me down to Texas in July because he thought it would piss me off, but I turned the tables on him. Yeah, because The Man sent me to freakin’ Austin! For those who have experienced Austin, you know what I’m talking about – unbelievable live music scene, fantastic food, and friendly, cool people. I took full advantage and gorged.
And don’t tell The Man, but I prefer the heat to the cold. Austin doesn’t have the humidity that is characteristic of the Gulf coast and Houston. When the sun goes down and the temps fall into the high 70s, it’s quite pleasant to stroll around in shorts and flip flops. And they do know how to run the A/C in Texas – in fact, they do it so well that you can be downright cold when you are inside.
I’ve got a few posts on Austin, and you’ll just need to come back to catch the full suite. First up, general stuff to do around. It’s not every city that has street art that is musically related – many are trying to get on the bandwagon now - but it’s authentic in places like Austin, Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans. Here’s a random guitar sculpture on Congress Street:
I still haven’t made it to the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue, which I meant to do this time, but I’ll get there one of these days. It gives me another reason to come back and correct this wrong. It’s nice to have a famous statue in the former confederacy that isn’t some Rebel general – I don’t blame cities for taking down those traitorous bastards. But who will ever object to Stevie Ray?
We did some other cool stuff, like hang out at our hotel pool. Check it out:
Haha, you caught me – that’s Barton Springs, not our hotel pool. Barton Springs on a hot Saturday is a good place to chill for a few hours, but get there early. We arrived about 9 am (I know, I’m old as the devil and can’t sleep like I used to, so why not get going?) and parking was already a bit of a challenge. By the time we left to get some BBQ for lunch, the joint was PACKED. That being said, it’s a very cool place. Literally. The “pool” is spring fed and the water is … refreshing. Fantastic people watching, too!
The top BBQ we ate was at the venerable Iron Works, had really good Mexican food at Manuel’s, and went trendy at South Austin’s Juniper. Man, do I ever love BBQ and Tex-Mex! Trendy? You can do that in basically any sizeable city in the US now, and for my taste and budget, I’m not so sure I’m going to ride that bus too much. Watching millenials eating avocado toast is boring, but I’m glad that they are spending their money and not socking it away. Someone needs to be working to pay for my social security, after all. Enjoy the toast, my good friends.
There is an interesting strip of shops along South Congress that is worth poking around in for a few hours. Places like Lucy in Disguise, where you can rent or buy great costumes. We saw some really funny ones, like a slice of bacon, a “suit” that featured a flamingo-patterned fabric and short sleeve suit jacket and shorts, and every weird, wacky or crazy costume that you can think of from movie characters to Bigfoot:
You can see a large pipe-smoking monkey wearing a fez:
And if you get thirsty, pick up a Butter Soda or maybe a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Soda:
You can even see some funny street performers, like this dude and his two buddies:
Once you leave South Congress and head back downtown, there is a GREAT record store called Waterloo Records. It has a large collection of CDs, vinyl and DVDs – I mean, it’s like the 90s never ended – and features both used and new material. I bought 7 or 8 CDs for about $40, and they were a combination of new and used. The clientele must come often, because they have a couple of large bins of used CDs that just arrived that week – so you can go through Monday’s new ones, Tuesday’s, etc., before they have been put into the larger bins and mixed in by artist. The bins are at a great height for browsing, too. The store even has a huge section just for Texas music. When I popped in, they were playing Ryan Adams, which was nice and set the tone for a good experience. And while the place had a good crowd, the footprint of the store is large and I never felt cramped. Here are some pics:
Oh, and right across the street is a huge independent bookstore called Book People. It’s also fantastic, and another place where BRP and his money quickly parted ways. And because it’s Austin, there is always something weird, like this random Hawaiian ukulele that you can pick up:
Both stores feature in-store musical performances or author readings, and made me wonder why Philly, a much larger city, doesn’t have similar venues. How about it? Illiteracy? E-A-G-L-E-S? I don’t know.
I’ll tell you what: Philly might not be bigger than Austin for long. Every time I come to Austin, there is a ton of new construction ongoing, and major developments that were previously being constructed are now up and running. This is a city on the move. Unfortunately, that growth brings traffic and other issues, like a burgeoning homeless population and ubiquitous bachelor and bachelorette parties (I’m not sure which is worse, but I’m leaning toward the latter). Still, Austin is fun, fun, fun, and all I’ve done is scratch the surface.
That’s it for the first Austin installment. It’s on to music next, which, after all, is the reason that this blog exists. Austin self-promotes its live music scene to the hilt. It works: there is live music all over the place, a lot of it is FREE. And you know what I think of FREE, right? You always get your money’s worth, that’s for sure. Check back soon for the latest installment, and in the meantime, listen to some Dale Watson or Joe Ely to get in the mood.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.