Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Take Me Back to Austin (March Rambles + Music Notes)

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Late-March rambling... Landing on a sunny Sunday in Pasadena, nestled in the hills. Good Goodwills and Hawaiian beer at Roy's for Aloha Hour.

Then up to the high desert for work. Hiking 49 Palms Oasis after a day of meetings. Dinner at Pappy & Harriet's - a slice of LA tucked amid rocks and infinite sky. Then back down to the sea, winding through the hills back into the haze. French food with Erik (a bit of a Trinidad DC rendezvous in LA) before hopping a red-eye back Wednesday night.

After 36 hours in DC (filled with kindergarten choir concerts and flat bike tires and paper signing) - touching down in Austin on Friday evening, there was a smell, a feeling, an electricity in the air. Grace picked me up at the airport, infinitely hospitable, and whisked us off to El Chilito for tacos. I tried hard to eat nothing but for the rest of the trip...


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Then music:

Cornell Hurd Band - Driskell Hotel - 3/25/2016

After tacos we parked downtown and as I marveled at the new (the Moody! the Willie Nelson statute!) we made our way to the majestic marble of the Driskell's bar. Still full of kitsch but now also full of button-downs and polos and tech money. Cornell was playing his lounge act - none of the bawdy, darkly funny songs we were hoping for.. So we picked up and headed to:

James Hand - Continental Club - 3/25/2016

Now this was more like it. The Continental, same as it ever was, dark and deep. James Hand played that mix of Western Swing and 50's Country for hours and the dancers spun. Old, young, hip, square - it didn't matter. The music flowed on. And on. The third set ended well after 1a and we rolled along. Smiling.

Why Not Satellite / Wild Seeds - Carousel Club - 3/26/2016

After a day of BBQ in Tim's backyard on Saturday, it was off to the Carousel. Still frozen in time. Circus murals on the walls. A giant pink elephant at the back of the stage. A relaxed open space where you could wander in and grab a booth and see old friends and buy a drink or not. No one cared. There was space to just.. be. Grace's friends swapping stories about SXSW adventures. Then the music. Both bands were 80's Austin mainstays, but new to me..

Why Not Satellite came first. Jangly, gorgeous guitar sound - loud, driving, but melodic - not unlike, say R.E.M. Great lyrics that flew by - demanding further listening. But what grabbed me were the covers. First - Venus in Furs - which made me sit up straight and pay attention. And then, at the end of the set, a re-imagined version of the Beach Boy's In My Room.

Then the Wild Seeds. They were louder. Faster. Tighter. But with lots of room in their sound. The lead singer had a thin spotlight on him and the rest of the room melted away. Even from the back. The covers again jumped out - Cinnamon Girl and Cortez the Killer. I scribbled notes in the back and smiled.

Conjuntos Los Pinkys - White Horse - 3/27/2016

Sunday afternoon, after a dip in Barton Springs, I walked down to the White Horse where Los Pinkys played for the 214th Sunday in a row.. It was dancing music. Social music. Long accordion-based songs and a big dance floor, folks circling, spinning, laughing, talking. It sounded like a mix of polka and tejano with a dash of zydeco mixed in.

Sitting out back with food truck tacos and friends I hadn't seen in nearly 10 years - picking up where we left off. And speaking of covers they slipped effortlessly into Doug Sahm's She's About a Mover and nearly everything I love about Texas music clicked neatly into place.

Peterson Brothers - Continental Club - 3/28/2016

Monday night. Time for one more show. Back at the Continental to see the Peterson Brothers play to a rapidly swelling happy hour crowd. Deep blues, Texas style. Playful.

The brothers are young (late teens / early twenties) and still in love with the music. And each other. The highlight, easily, was when they paused and played Amazing Grace - the first song they learned to play together.

This post has been in draft forever.. So much more to say. Stolen moments. Long lunches at Foodheads. The thrift stores on Burnet. Waterloo Records. Topo Chico. Baby Great Horned Owls at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The smells. Turning corners and finding old nooks intact. But the snapshots will do for now.

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Coming up next - thoughts on Ferrante (almost done!), and NYC (this weekend!), and more music (Sturgill Simpson!) and more books and bikes and life...

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