First WAC (Women's Action Coalition), now the Lesbian Avengers - we're almost a real city! Avenging women is a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. And the important part isn't figuring out which rumors about their actions are true, it's just knowing that they're out there.
Whether he's talking about his cat that doubles as a sweater, paying tribute to the "Family Circus" comic strip, playing Possum-Man ("Is he dead?" "No, he's playing possum!"), or reciting an ode with classical allusions about his new girlfriend ("What do you mean you've got a boyfriend...?!!"), Mr. C radiates a comical cooool-catness that keeps his fans in both the comedy clubs and the poetry bars snapping their fingers and drumming the bongoes of their minds. Go, Scottman, go.
One of the last of the independent movie theatres, Dobie is the only commercial, off-campus venue that's still programmed locally rather than by a national theatre chain. Owner/manager Scott Dinger not only schedules a broad range of popular and offbeat fare, but he also maintains a theatre that seeks out ways to innovate the movie-going experience. It begins with the sofa-lined lobby, the rotating local art displays on the walls, and the unique selection of concession stand goodies. Beyond these are more subtle things, like this year's successful creation of Cafe Cinema, a Sunday morning public preview screening with coffee and croissants included in the admission cost. Special festival programming has long had a home at the Dobie: witness the annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Brazen Images Women's Festival, and one-off events like the recent Drive-In series and numerous Austin Film Society screenings. Moreover, the theatre has always been a friend to experimental projects like Dick Price's silent movie presentations with live, original accompaniments, or screening Slacker back when it was just a local project without a distributor or national reputation. For all that Dobie does, we can think of no better term than "cinevative."
It's a straightforward place. At one end of the building is a pool table. At the other is the dance floor and a small stage. In between is the bar, which offers only cold beer and set-ups. In every other available space, tables and chairs are crammed with couples out on a Saturday night. Couples of all ages. Grandparent couples. Parent couples. Even young adult couples on their first Saturday night date. And when the music starts up, these couples swirl across the dance floor weaving another generation into the tradition of taking your sweetheart out on a Saturday night.
In a town awash with frozen alcohol concoctions, our new favorite has to be The 612. A frosty delight rumored to contain vodka, rum, tropical fruit liqueurs, and fruit juices, it's a glorious antidote to the blast furnace we call summer. Very close competitors in this category were the seductive Mango Daquiri at Manuel's, the peach-kissed Bellini at Carraba, and the ambrosial Mango and Herradurra Margarita at Fonda San Miguel.
Although KFIT (AM 1060) plays more gospel, the best gospel program can be heard every Sunday morning from 9-10:30 on KVET (AM 1300): Elmer Akins' Gospel Train, presented every week since 1947. Akins is the real Voice of Austin, and Gospel Train is the oldest continuously running radio show in America. He helps to make waking up on Sunday morning a religious experience.
Although Z-Rock's arrival has caused competition in a radio ghetto too small for competition, Kane's commitment to playing Austin acts is unparalleled. An admitted flag-waving booster, Kane seems to genuinely enjoy her free-form luxury and programs Dangerous Toys and the Skatenigs with equal zest. Best of all, if Kane sees something at the Back Room she likes, you can bet they'll be in the studio for an interview the next show - regardless of their live draw. Local hard rock needs Kane, and you can hear in Kane's voice that she needs local hard rock as well.
Every Tuesday at the Continental Club Admittedly, this is Austin's only Hippie Hour, but the name itself denotes how much this weekly early show by our lady of the soulful blues has become a ritual to certain Austinites. We know people who are there, week in and week out - and wonder what they did with themselves during Price's maternity leave earlier this year. The only happy hour in Austin with its own souvenir cigarette lighters, it's a testament to the loyalty of Price's fans and a lesson for other Austin artists in how to build a following.
Most CD jukeboxes in this town seem to lean toward the hits, but this one is perfectly programmed to suit its location's personality. Among the choices are hot Tejano acts like Selena and Mazz, conjunto favorites, many of the Austin artists who play the venue (what other juke in town has a complete David Rodriguez catalog?), local legends like Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Mexican-American musical pioneers such as Santana. There's bound to be something on this machine to suit just about anyone who visits this popular South Austin neighborhood eatery.
To a musical performer, monitors make all the difference between a great show and a bad one, no matter what the audience may hear. And on the Saxon's warm and comfortable stage, the monitors are clear and crisp, providing just the sort of audio support an artist needs to play and sing at one's best.
Bringing the strong smell of java and bohemia to an increasingly yuppified West End District, Ruta Maya is a central city magnet for those seeking a nightlife outside the musical boozeries. We suspect that Ruta Maya, whose growth has been pleasantly organic, may still be finding its true steam as a music venue, but it already pleasantly smells (and sounds) like Austin spirit to us.
Although the Barton Springs Road restaurant strip verges into the silly ambiance of a young adult theme park, Shady Grove's Thursday music nights do help bring the realm back into the spirit of our city, and may have helped encourage neighbors like Cafe Brazil to add music to the menu. They still have to iron out some sound problems during this summer's maiden voyage, but with an exemplary booking policy that keeps the yups listening to the sounds of our town, these weekly shows on the Grove's outdoor patio deserve a pat on the back.
We are sitting at one of the lime-green tables outside Seis Salsas next to another lime-green table of people who are beginning to feel good. For their next round, they are ordering frozen and not, salted and without. When our drinks come - tall glasses of pastel pink and orange garnished with glistening slices of watermelon and canteloupe - we are smug. Our neighbors look over and exclaim in that too-loud happy hour way, "What do they have?" Agua fresca. Who can resist the urge to tease mere margarita drinkers with watermelon water?
With cheap beer and a great jukebox, Lovejoy's has quickly become the hangout for Emo's clientele looking to avoid live music. It's also become the place that visiting celebrities can go without being bothered - basically because nobody cares that they're there. The exception is already an Austin legend: the unlikely sight of Timothy Leary, Al Jourgenson, and 90210's Jennie Garth all taking up bar space on the same night.
In a city filled with great clubs, there's a notable paucity of true neighborhood bars, which, like it or not, are part of the social glue that binds American communities. And one part of town in dire need of a neighborhood bar - and we mean bar, with a giant TV over a long bar, lots of stools and tables, a first-class jukebox, and no live music except on very special occasions - is South Austin, especially somewhere along the S. Congress/S. First axis. The river ought to keep the UT students, yuppies, and brewpubbers away, because the best bars should always be "local." And if somebody won't open one, maybe the Cedar Door will consider the neighborhood if it ever has to move again.
KTAE-AM 1260 in Taylor has the enviable distinction of playing the most polka music of any station you can pick up in Austin: seven-and-a-half hours every week (11am-noon Monday-Saturday and 1-2pm Sunday). Since 1981, from 8:30-8am on Saturday, Taylor accordionist and Czech Danny Drozd breaks out his squeezebox to play polkas, waltzes, country, swing - whatever the people like to hear. Drozd proudly carries on a family musical legacy and breathes life into an instrument rarely heard on radio.
Located catty corner from the famed Cisco's Bakery, La India Bonita (The Pretty Indian Maiden) is a spruced-up conjunto joint that occupies the building which housed the legendary La Esquina Lounge. With a peppy new green exterior paint job and a walled-in and windowed back porch, La India Bonita is La Esquina with a hard-working face lift. The shift in ownership has made the space characteristically less Mexican American and even more Norteño in some respects, but don't worry, there's just a $2 cover charge (men only; women are not charged) and the high privacy fence makes the back patio dance floor less a yard party and more a bona fide outdoor roofless dance hall. If you can stand the heat and can rustle up a partner, the smooth cement is not a bad place to practice a few polkas or cumbias. The patrons are mostly older neighborhood Chicanos or recent arrivals celebrating the end of a work week. Live music runs the gamut from muscular labor-class conjuntos to professional traveling outfits. The service is somewhat more sober and the bar actually sells Tecate.
Not even a year old but already one of Austin's prime sites for the alternative music crowd, the Electric Lounge suddenly burned down this past February just before SXSW. While owners Jay Hughey and Mark Shuman carried on through the shindig as the Electric Lounge Revival Tent, it took less than three months for the newly refurbished club to reopen in early May. Though the club looks almost exactly the same as it did in its pre-fire days, the stage and seating are now bigger - not to mention the fact that the air conditioning blows twice as hard. We suppose the local bands like the new club twice as much too.
Admittedly, it's not for everyone (Nick Nolte downs one in Cannery Row), but there is something about a Texas-made scoop of Blue Bell vanilla in a glass of locally brewed Sledgehammer Stout that screams, "Nowhere but Austin!" After a few, you'll be screaming, too.
Okay, maybe the neighbors aren't so happy with it, but the presence and clarity of the Backyard's sound system at a civil volume makes this venue's system the clear-cut local leader. Where else can your hear the show and the cicadas chirping at the same time, or carry on a conversation during a set without raising your voice? Proof positive that you don't have to be loud to be heard.
Strange how locals actually enjoy being outside as those two weeks of spring slide into Texas summer. But they do, and two reasons are the free Summer Concert Series at Auditorium Shores and Zilker Hillside, and the Austin Symphony's Summer Music Festival at Symphony Square. Featuring some of the best established local acts as well as the perennial up-and-comers, the Sunday afternoons at Zilker Hillside, Wednesday evenings at Auditorium Shores, and Friday/Saturday weekends at Symphony Square are hot affairs in more ways than one.
Auditorium Shores at the Long Center
South First at Lady Bird Lake
Tiny, impossible to find, and loaded with bargains on Rhones, Burgundies, and the undiscovered wines of France, Austin Wine Merchant is more of a custom wine purveyor than a retail store. Almost every bottle in the store is a winner. And they're not too snooty to keep a supply of good "plonk," decent quality wine in the $8-$10 category. Let John or Kate recommend a bottle or two and you'll never go wrong.
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