1999 Readers Poll
1999 Critics Picks
Best Bagpiper

Liechti, who plays the Great Highland Pipes expertly and joyously enough to make a brace of haggis frolic drunkenly on th'moors, looks exactly the way we imagine a bagpiper should: flowing white hair and beard, aristocratic nose centering a handsome, ruddy-cheeked face, just so tall, just so wide, just enough paleness to the sturdy legs half-bared by his tartan kilt. This fellow tosses the caber of authenticity right outta the kingdom.

Best Beerhounds

Ever wonder how brew-boy wonders Chip McElroy and Brian Peters keep their Live Oak HefeWeizen from tasting arf? Curious how they impart just the right bite to their Pilz without making it ruff? Or why nothing serves as "hair of the dog" better than a cold Live Oak Pale Ale? We think it's the daily supervision of Pilz & Diggity, who make sure their hardworking dads are never dogging it.

Live Oak Brewing Company
1615 Crozier
Del Valle

Best Cable Access Show

"So, what's this show about?" ask perplexed newbies on the other end of the live call-in line. Rather than explain, hosts Charlie and Cinco tell the caller to just keep watching. Because they know that's the key. The show is about the sublime and the ridiculous, an hour-long package of nifty treats and oddball amazements. Footage of Stanley Kubrick at work mixes with home movies of drunken hillbillies; Orson Welles, Corey Feldman, Bill Hicks, and a woman crushing beer cans with her breasts all have their glorious and/or dubious moments in the spotlight. You never know for certain what may unfold between the planned and the unplanned on The Show With No Name, but its eclectic Sunday-night brew is the perfect way to easeoneself into the rude return of the working week.

Channel Austin
1143 Northwestern

Best Chance At A New Chances

After five years, you'd think we'd stop bitchin' and moanin' about the loss of our venerated club Chances. But face it: Nothing's ever replaced it. Hmmm. Well- Not so fast. Gaby & Mo's has effectively filled a big slot for both cool, casual hang-out cafe and low-key, comfy live music venue in the Manor Road area. And the girl scene? Oooh, so far, it can't be beat. Dunno- it's sure close. It's certainly enough to make women forget that they don't have a real club in town to call their own. Chances are that this new joint - with its friendly, open-armed attitude, terrific lunch and lite-dinner menu options, and total babes behind the counter - might just do the trick.

Best Club-closing Event

During the final set on the final night of this club's existence, the Kiss-Offs had some severe problems with their planned pyrotechnic display. (Vocalist Travis Higdon ended up in the hospital with second-degree burns.) Meanwhile, a self-appointed demolition crew began deconstructing the place. Naturally, the show ended abruptly, and the cops waded in to restore order and make a few arrests. Why does The Man always have to bring us down??? Who the hell's idea was it to cover the walls of a seedy punk club with tantalizingly fragile mirrors, anyway?

Best Corner For Rock

Home to a myriad of art, music, and dance organizations including Sweatbox Recording Studio, Center Dance Studio, and KOOP Radio, this reformed warehouse now provides some of the last affordable practice and art spaces in downtown Austin. Walk by most any evening and sample the sounds of Austin's performers hard at work.

Best Dinner Entertainment

Though they often feature fine weekend performances on their outdoor patio by acts such as Correo Aeréo, we were strangely and indelibly affected by the striking singer-accordionist sporting a sailor's hat who performed Italian-American standards from on high on the inside dining room balcony. To learn this bella cantante was none other than local dance legend McCandless, well, that was more than one mind could comprehend.

Tree House Italian Grill
2201 College Ave.

Best Free Film Series

Getting to see some of the great old classic films on a big screen is a real treat, but when it's free it's even better. In a collaboration between the Austin Film Society and UT, every Tuesday for 13 weeks during the summer rarely screened gems such as An American In Paris, Imitation of Life, and Carmen Jones come to life at the Texas Student Union Theatre. Usually there's an intro by UT film prof Charles Ramirez-Berg about the director or some other unusual aspect of the film. Yes, please bring it back next year!

Austin Film Society
1901 E. 51st

Best Hop For A Good Cause

Can I get a wuh-wuh; can I get a woo woo?! Yeeeeeeeeah - Old-school mamas and new nubians alike come out for this semi-regular fundraiser and excuse to get down for a good cause. Hip-Hop 4 Laydeez has attracted girls from all over and gets the local ones crawling out of the woodwork for these all-gal throwdowns. There's always a DJ (usually a laydee), usually some go-go sisters, and sometimes live music (like from those ambassadors from the Xenaverse, Raunchy Reckless & the Amazons). No matter the venue, there's always a party goin' on. All proceeds go to Texas Abortion Rights Action League's Rosie Jimenez Fund.

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas
PO Box 684602

Best Local Character Without A G-string

In Texas, we dance like we play the mating game - fast! as says Tommy X, our local Obi Wan Kenobi. Retired at 70 from his celebrated Supernatural Family Band, and more barefoot than bareass, he can be found rollicking to the music of the Texana Dames, his wife and daughters' band, as they perform around Austin. Out cavorting most nights at legendary Austin clubs, he's known and loved by honky-tonk denizens and dancers.

Best Low-grooming, Low-intensity, Star-rubbing Event

In NY or L.A., an opportunity to hang with a hip director, watch his personal prints, and drink beer for 10 bucks a movie would be sold out - with plenty of prospective starlets and desperate screenwriters attempting ambushes. Not in Austin. Last year we were problem-free getting into the Alamo Drafthouse. More film society than "society," no one in the crowd needed to fret about what to wear. There was no way anyone there could do any worse than the host! The annual event occurs whenever Mr. T takes a holiday in our fair town.

Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson #701, 512/861-7030
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/861-7040
Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, 320 E. Sixth, 512/861-7020
Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane, 5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060
Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, 14028 Hwy. 183 N., 512/861-7070

Best Mexican Motif Decor In A Nightclub

We can remember when this place was still in its disco-fever daze with lots of lights and not much else for atmosphere. But oh, what a transformation! Bas relief murals of Pancho Villa and pre-Columbian pyramids, large Mayan-inspired columns and gargoyles around the bar, and the really cool, long cylindrical fish tank columns that greet the customer at the front entrance give the impression of being inside a temple of Aztec royalty.

Club Carnaval
2237 E. Riverside #108

Best Overdue Release

1999 marks the first Bells of Joy release in over 30 years, and boy, is it about time. With Second Time Around, Austin's Grammy winners are poised to bring their faith-filled grooves into the next millennium. We bet the Lord in heaven even puts on his dancing shoes when this band strikes up. We challenge the biggest skeptics to take a listen.

Best Place To Go On A 1st Date

Intimate but casual, quiet but not a morgue, inexpensive but not cheap, convenient but not pedestrian, Cafe Mundi is the ideal spot to get acquainted. Cozy in winter, cool in summer, and offering an outdoor patio looking onto the railroad tracks, this little place has it all ... if only we had dates to meet there.

Best Place To Humiliate Out-of-town Guests

The two players at Pete's, each at their own piano on stage, are a hilarious pair. Not just because they poke endless fun at each other, but because they are just as relentless to customers. Don't do anything to stand out, because they have the mikes and they aren't afraid to use them. (One of our redheaded friends once found the entire bar calling him "Opie," and that was a tame night.) Take those out-of-towners to Pete's for a beer if you're out on Sixth, and make sure to tell the players your friends aren't local (as if they can't tell.) The place is a blast for anyone with a sense of humor, but a word of caution: This may not be the place for grandma's virgin ears!

Pete's Dueling Piano Bar
421 E. Sixth

Best Place To Jive With A First Date

It takes courage to set up shop off the beaten track. Cafe Mundi is a little gem tucked away behind the old Mexico Tipico parking lot. The brew is good, the pastries tasty, and their java comes in exquisite coffee ware from around the world. Inside it's a snug, little grotto for creative types, and outside tables are nestled in a crepe myrtle grove. They host literary events, poetry, and a regular bill of live music. Cafe Mundi is the ideal spot to get acquainted with a new love interest. Cozy in winter, cool in summer, and offering an outdoor patio looking onto the railroad tracks, this little place has it all ... if only we had dates to meet there.

Best Place To Network With The Hole In The Wall "elite" And Still Be Home By Noon

The Guadalupe Quack's may be dead, but the Hyde Park location is thriving - mostly off of caffeine-addled musicians, it seems. With Sixteen Deluxe's Carrie Clark behind the counter and a Who's Who of Free-for-All illuminati inside, outside, and on the tree-covered park bench, Quack's has become the Hyde Park equivalent to Flipnotics - a place for musicians to meet sans instruments in the morning (that's 11am-1pm, Musician Standard Time). With all the gossip flying, for just the price of a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll, you too can know what's in next week's "Dancing About Architecture" before even Ken Lieck does.

Quack's 43rd Street Bakery
411 E. 43rd

Best Place To Rave

You can trip, roll, stumble, or run down to the Austin Music Hall on various weekends and witness some of the wildest concerts on the planet. The rave scene is flying high (no pun intended) and there is no end in sight. With its warehouse proportions, the Music Hall is spacious. An upper deck is available at higher cost for you "connected VIPer's," but the bottom floor is where the party is, with three full-size bars, an outside smoking deck, and tons of hammered concert goers. Big beat monsters like Fat Boy Slim, Crystal Method, and other internationally touring house, trance, and techno groups have frequented this venue. Ticket prices vary.

Austin Music Hall
208 Nueces

photo by John Anderson

Best Place To Write Poetry

Some of us have the need to be creative, to pour out our hearts and souls on paper because at times, only words make sense. Second to stuffing yourself in a loft, unplugging the phone, and separating yourself from all that is human (or drinking yourself into a stupor), Mozart's offers one of the area's best atmospheres to write what you feel. Situated on Lake Austin with a cafe and juice bar, it offers a peaceful setting for even the most disgruntled blurb writer - or poet. With two large decks, plenty of seating, and cool breezes flowing off the lake, the troubled writer may actually find a moment of happiness before picking up the pen again and scribbling away into the night.

Mozart's Coffee Roasters
3825 Lake Austin Blvd.

Best Recurring Eeyore's Birthday Character

Like a hardy perennial, Eeyore's birthday comes up the third weekend in April, successfully battling irate neighbors and City Council threats. Similarly, annual party-goer "Silver Man" is dependably out - clad primarily in silver body-paint. Every year we wonder where he lives, and how he gets to Eeyore's without silver-painting his transportation. And how long does it take to get all that silver paint off again? And didn't that lady in Goldfinger die? We may never know, but Silver Man and the drum circle are what make Eeyore's so special.

Best Roving Dance Party

"Two turntables and a microphone" are all the Action team need to get the party started right (okay, a dance floor and a stack of vinyl never hurt). These freelance DJs have rocked the Carousel Lounge, the Ritz Upstairs, and private functions around town. We've grooved to new wave night ("Hiroshima, Mon Amour") as well as many an evening of soul, R&B, and garage. Luckily, the DJs work in pairs: One handles the tables while the other shakes it on the floor - a sight not to be missed. C'mon Action Parties, keep us moving into the next millennium!

Best Single Silent Film Revival

It's hard to pick one standout from such an impressive field of performances, but this show deserves special praise. The sublime score was performed by 10 musicians playing over 25 different instruments. Kamran Hooshmand's unerring selection and arrangement of Middle Eastern songs displayed a perfect understanding of how silent film music has traditionally been used to express mood, situation, and personality. Even minor characters like the Indian Prince, the Mongol Prince, and the Persian Prince had his own theme song, appropriate to each region of origin. Bravo to all for this transcendent evening's entertainment.

Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson #701, 512/861-7030
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/861-7040
Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, 320 E. Sixth, 512/861-7020
Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane, 5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060
Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, 14028 Hwy. 183 N., 512/861-7070

Best Slam Survivors

They survived the slamming shut of the Electric Lounge and the unceremonious bouncing from the Red Eyed Fly and have still kept emoting. '99 Slam Teamers Phil West, Karina McGlynn, Mike Henry, and Vicky Charleston, along with their many slammin' compadres, take their art seriously, and have a string of impressive national placings over the years to show for it. A bit like the bastard stepchildren of theatre and literature mixed together, the spoken word "trend" has proven that it has the legs to stick around as a viable performance genre. Our local group even hosted the National Slam here in Austin last year. Bless their dirty little mouths.

Best Tank Tops On A Coffeeslinger

We're saving this award for the women at Jo's, by the way. Guys in tank tops, no way. Jo's is also a heat phenom - the sun bakes all day on the green stucco and tin coffee shack, and yet the temps are cooler than thou in the bamboo shade. Great mochas and The New York Times.

Jo's Coffee
1300 S. Congress, 512/444-3800
242 W. Second, 512/469-9003

Best Way To End Up On The Floor By 11pm

And you thought 75¢ pitchers were deadly! At the Back Room, the music is loud, the TVs are large, the video games bloody, and the drinks cheaper than water. On Fridays, from 8pm until 9:30pm, everyone in the hall queues up for the cheapest drinks in town - 10¢! Our strategy? First of all, we never drive there. That said, once at the bar here's what we do: Order a cocktail and a shot together, leave the balance of the dollar as tip. Combine the two drinks, then get back in line. Repeat as neccessary, and tip progressively better. Try not to get too sucked into When Animals Attack, don't sit under a speaker, and for godssake, take a cab home!

Saddest Sixth Street Adios

As the venerable downtown paddlewheeler sails into the final weekend at its current location, let's do like John Cage on Ally McBeal and "take a moment." Steamboat did more than its share to help create the myth of Sixth Street, of loud music, packed houses, and good times aplenty. Even amid the street's current frat-boys'-Bourbon-Street incarnation of shot bars, fake IDs, and cover bands, Steamboat held its ground admirably, inspiring intense loyalty from patrons and performers alike and never wavering from its original charge to showcase Austin performers from all over the musical map. So as the Sixth Street juggernaut finally devours one of its originators, weep not, because the Boat will surface again as soon as captain Danny Crooks and his able crew steer into a suitable port."The God I believe in ain't short of cash, mister." - Bono

110 E. Riverside

Critics: Arts & Culture
Critics: Food

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