USE THIS ONE!!! Why bother with downtown when you have Burnet Road? Start with a beer, pickled egg, sausage, and crackers at Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon. Country troubadour Dale Watson plays there on Thursdays when he's in town. From there, crawl on up to the Poodle Dog Lounge to shoot some pool or feed the old-time jukebox at LaLa's Little Nugget. Karaoke fans can ply their vice at the Common Interest every night, but you haven't lived until you've done karaoke at Buddy's Place on Friday nights alongside emcee supreme Cal Koker. Best of all, none of these places charges a cover.
You've seen it before - floor-to-ceiling windows, relaxed patio environment just steps away from Sixth Street, the crimson lights of the omnipresent neon sign - but have you stepped inside? Mercilessly trendy (Cosmos were so last century) but lacking the pretension of other Austin dives (throw on those sandals), Star Bar is the ideal setting for something that has gone missing from Sixth Street over the years - tranquility.
600 W. Sixth
While the room itself is still no Liberty Lunch, the lack of ambience has not stopped Direct Events from booking some of the hippest international acts touring. Cuban music in particular, one of the hottest musical trends at the turn of the century, has flourished at the venue: Promethean pianist Chucho Valdes, Buena Vista Social Club cowboy Eliades Ochoa, Cuba's answer to the Rolling Stones, Los Van Van, and hornman Jesus Alemany's all-star jazz/funk collective ¡Cubanismo! All have helped make La Zona Rosa the capital of local Latin bump \'n' grind, and considering the enthusiasm of the multiethnic crowds crowding these events, Austin wants más y más.
Before moving to Austin in the late 1980s, we had an Austin Chronicle subscription. One band we'd find mentioned in every Chronicle was Scratch Acid, the prototype that eventually became the Jesus Lizard, one of the most influential, hard, edgy rockers of the Nineties. While dearly departed, Scratch Acid lives on in the hearts of many, as well on the sidewalks of Central Austin; the band's name was lovingly inscribed near Ramsey Park. It is surrounded by the small footprints of people now too old to need a fake ID.
It used to be that for every live music venue that disappeared on Sixth Street, another would appear. That's still the case, except these days, nearly all of them appear on Red River. In a mere four blocks you can now choose from Room 710, Red Eyed Fly, Stubb's, Emo's, Atomic Cafe, Caucus Club, and Club DeVille (Flamingo Cantina around the corner gets an honorary slot). Also, there're dance clubs and various non-live-music havens in between where you can take a breather. And if your friends still insist on going to Sixth Street, you're already there!
Now beginning its sixth year, the Austin Film Society's Tuesday Night Movie series is still going strong. Each season highlights a different theme or filmmaker. Last year's included Douglas Sirk and Shohei Imamura retrospectives, a Brazilian Cinema series, and another devoted to black filmmakers. Summers are reserved for their Free-for-All, when the society dusts off their favorite reels to play in a Tuesday Night Greatest Hits series. Knowledgeable introductions precede each film, providing insightful background for viewers to digest during the screening.
"Hey sweetcheeksh, wanna go back to my plashe and shee my eshings? Yeah, me too. Oops - where'd the shtairs go? Aaaaiiieeee!!! Thud, thud, thud, etc." Don't even try to tell us you haven't seen this happen.
Texas, not California, had the first commercial wineries in the U.S. During prohibition, most ceased grape growing. The art is finally reviving, thanks to people like Ed and Madeleine Manigold of Spicewood Vineyards and Dr. Richard and wife Bunny Becker of Becker Vineyards. Both couples are earnest and fervent believers that Texas can make world-class wines. Spicewood produces only a handful of wines, including a glorious Sauvignon Blanc. Becker has a complete selection in every price range. We are particularly enamored of his Viognier and Claret.
A post-taco spectacle like no other, Thursdays and Saturdays at Pato's is the place to pay tribute to the art of the "empty orchestra" (English for "karaoke"). There's plenty of tribute to the art of beer drinking, too, but that's all part of the modern Americn karaoke experience, now isn't it? Teenage girls belt out Madonna songs, construction workers sing Hank Williams, twentysomethings do screeching versions of Guns N' Roses, and everyone has a rollicking good time.
Our original comparison is still the best: UT's Bass Concert Hall reconfigured as a 300-seat Tuscan-style villa out in the hill country of Bee Caves. Having already imported jazz legends Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, George Benson, McCoy Tyner, and Ahmad Jamal, as well as such internationally renowned acts as Susana Baca, Jose Greco, and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, director/booker Hartt Sterns and his long-tressed partner Iluminada have been busy in the just-over-a-year period the two-story, 5,000-square-foot palace has been open. With the first-floor Celebration Hall available for private gatherings, and every seat in the upstairs room a front-row treat - as well as a busy upcoming fall season (including Pat Metheny and Al DiMeola) - Austin's One World Theatre is just the place for an exotic and romantic getaway.
Yeah, we know that other place has rightfully earned the title of Austin's Home of the Blues, but they haven't been the only game in town for a long time. For well over a decade, Joe's unpretentious, no-frills dive has never charged a cover and has been a much-needed venue for countless up-and-coming blues bands and musicians. The time-honored Texas guitar power trio reigns supreme here. On any given night you can fall by, grab a cheap beer, and check out the latest SRV wannabe blasting out a Texas shuffle or a gritty blues dirge. The vibe is low-down to be sure, but Joe's deserves our respect for giving a cozy home to the blues on Sixth Street.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and so, apparently, does Keith La Rosa, aka Luna, of System-7 Records, who realized some months back that Austin's rave community was sorely lacking in legitimate venues for the 24-hour party people to shake their groove thangs in. Enter Pulse, a massive warehouse-type space with mucho adjoining acreage located six miles out off Hwy. 183 past the new airport. Sure, it's a drive, but unlike the Austin Music Hall, this venue's sole function is in the service of the groove. Bonus points for looking like a feedlot during the daylight hours and thusly confusing The Man.
It's been standing there, just off MLK on Lavaca and 18th Street, since 1871, but most live-music-goers of Austin had no idea the former German opera house even existed before the Golden Arm Symphony packed its stately interior in spring 2000. Since then, South by Southwest used it for a raucous Asylum Street Spankers & Friends showcase, Cat Power sold it out, and the Laura Nyro-inspired musical Soul Picnic encamped there. Better yet, the scruffy DIY crowd has been on its best behavior when attending the thee-ta. Quite. All you junior promoters give a call.
207 W. 18th
Oooh, Mexican Martinis! Have a few sips, and damn! Watch out! Maybe it's the damp Town Lake atmosphere. Or maybe it's all the pretty people. Nope, we're pretty sure it's the drinks. But it's all a little hazy. Just be sure to bring a driver and, as the sign in the bar warns, don't leave your car overnight if you like your stereo. Bottoms up!
The last Saturday of every month we tease our hair, pull on our go-go boots, slick on some white lipstick, and shake it on over to Nasty's for our favorite Sixties dance party. Every month a different local or touring act takes the stage for a series of three 30-minute sets, punctuated by DJ Sue's blend of garage, R&B, surf, and bubblegum tunes. Dig it, kids.
The Fuzz Club
606 Maiden Lane
The band ain't the only thing swingin' at Cedar Street. Not even the two indoor bars that sandwich the spacious courtyard of Cedar Street are enough to house the raging hormones of Austin's randiest singles. If the cloud of cigar smoke emanating from the patio is any indication, men are the favored gender in a dating game fueled by some serious competition. So grab a stogie, think of a line, and get swingin'. Results may vary.
The Band Too Dumb to Die turned 25 last year. That means for a quarter-century Kerry Awn, David Perkoff, Artly Snuff, and company have been skewering Austin's fabled hip factor with irreverent glee. Not a political trend or musical talent misses the Savages' scrutiny, and the addition of the Eddy Sisters a few years ago gave the act some much-needed sex appeal. Talk about still being crazy after all these years.
Three times was a charm for the Austin Celtic Association Celtic Festival, which was rained out the first two years. This year it was moved to the Dog & Duck Pub, where it drew respectable crowds with a diverse offering of Celtic music from Scottish bagpipes to Breton players. The in-town location was more accessible to passersby, who could also wander through tents sponsored by the Celtic Association and Gaelic League and check out a variety of Celtic arts, crafts, and books. Here's to a successful fourth!
If it's 9pm on a Thursday, there are better things to be doing than watching TV. Git yerself on down to the only true honky-tonk in North Austin and catch the hard-core country stylings of Mr. Watson. And hey, with George Clooney gone, you need another ruggedly handsome hunk in your life, don't you?
In the span of about two months, three novels were published that all took place in 19th-century Texas: Stephen Harrigan's masterful reconstruction of the battle at the Alamo, The Gates of the Alamo; Bud Shrake's The Borderland, which picks up, as if on cue, several years after the close of Harrigan's novel; and A Twist at the End, detective novelist Steven Saylor's suspenseful account of Austin's Servant Girl Annihilator murders in the 1880s. The coincidence is a publishing fluke, perhaps, but one that kicked up the dust of old Texas trails and made them come alive.
We weren't there, but we think it went a little like this: "Howdy y'all. Mind if'n I crank up the ballgame a little bit? I like the sound of sweaty male athletics to accompany my fine dinner fare." "Fck you, ya daft cnt!" Pow! Or something like that. British supergroup Primal Scream managed to turn the VIP room of Ruth's Chris Steak House, downtown Austin's finest restaurant, into a WWF Smackdown when "a guy with a cowboy hat and a big belt buckle" refused to turn down the sound on the TV overhanging the band's table. Punches were thrown, bottles were cracked on skulls, but ultimately no charges were pressed, and the following night's show at La Zona Rosa went on as scheduled. Rumors that former My Bloody Valentine wunderkind Kevin Shields continued to debate the pros and cons of digital vs. analog tape looping as magnums of champagne ricocheted inches from his head are unconfirmed but highly probable.
Just try to take your eyes off illusionist Ray Anderson when he's holding the stage at Esther's Pool. It's damn near a physical impossibility. If he doesn't transfix you with some of his "how did he do that" legerdemain, this slyly suave performer will entrance you with his dancer's grace and effortless charm. Whether he's sawing assistant Cindy Wood in half or doing a discofied disappearing act, Anderson's moves are so smooth and his enthusiasm for his artistry so infectious, he's like the Fred Astaire of stage magic. Like that master dancer, Anderson captivates so that you not only can't take your eyes off him, you don't even want to try.
They've got popcorn, leafy trellises overhead, ice-cold beer in buckets, and pinball machines, but that's not all. At C-Huts, an ice house hidden in a block of factories, they'll keep your Koozie behind the bar for you. Just bring in your favorite foam rubber beer holder once, and you'll never have to think about it again. If Cheers had been set in Austin, Norm would have hung out at C-Huts drinking Shiner.
Lady Bird is said to have had a reserved reaction, but the public watches in fascination as this life-sized silicon LBJ lifts his eyebrows, blinks, points a finger, and displays other lifelike nuances, all while telling his homespun yarns. Originally produced for Neiman Marcus by the same folks who make those amazing Disneyland figures, it was donated in '98 to the museum and reprogrammed to do this LBJ raconteur thing. Ever wonder how? Air. All the movements are controlled by an air compressor several floors below. We just wonder if it's hot air, or what? Admission free.
For the past six years, the Georgetown Opry at Williams Elementary School has been offering "Branson Night" on the second Saturday of each month, with entertainment of the type seen in that other U.S. city that claims to be "The Live Music Capital of the World." Comic Dennis Miller has called the real Branson "Vegas for people without teeth," but it's known to this country's older and less cynical folks as a place for safe, old-fashioned entertainment. The Buda Opry at Hays High School has been known to jump on the bandwagon as well. It's the closest you'll get to Branson in Austin since Roasters closed.
In the early/mid-Eighties, you'd have thought Austin was as close to Jamaica as Cuba is to Miami, such was the pungent wave of chanka-chanka wafting through River City. A decade and a half later, Liberty Lunch is rubble and reggae's heyday just a memory - or so you'd have thought until Sixth Street's Flamingo Cantina, one of the last bastions of live original music on shot-bar row, started booking the likes of Boukman Eksperyans, Justin Hinds, Toots & the Maytals, and the king himself, Lee "Scratch" Perry. All of them, packed to rafters seemingly made for reggae - an upstairs balcony, lots of bleacher seats, and good stagefront space - were great. Praise Jah. Welcome home, brethren.
Frustrated by the lack of originality in the local electronica scene these days, promoter Brent Bruning received a dream one night in which a wizened old DJ (possibly A Guy Called Gerald) urged him to "Go wet, young man, go wet." Inspirato, like persperato, can be a liquid affair, and before you could say "Avast ye scurvy candyflippers!" Bruning had launched Aquatica, a floating celebration of electronic music and bad hors d'oeuvres that's now in its third incarnation. Renting city-owned pleasure boats and filling them full of tipsy ravers might seem like a risky proposition to some, but Bruning has pulled this off with style and panache, and even tagged it as a benefit for the Austin Clean Water Action Fund. A fourth Aquatica outing is planned for the fall, and Bruning's companion CD compilation is now Tower's No. 1 local seller.
We revere teachers who are fervent advocates of what they love. Villim occasionally passes from fervent to ecstatic, but always in an infectious way. His knowledge of wine is encyclopedic. Classes cost $100, which is actually a bargain, given that he pours over 40 wines. The four-session class covers the basics of grape types and regional styles. Villim offers classes three to four times per year.
While some folks swear by the bingo card, claiming that getting that fifth in a row is the ultimate rush, others consider David Beebe to be the drawing card for Thursday Happy Hours. Beebe has evolved his latter-day lounge act from his renegade frat rock days in the Schlitz Quarts and then in the enormously popular Banana Blender Surprise. Along the way he's become a cross between a young Paul Ray and Dino Lee, updated for 2000. Not a bad trick.
While it's hard to ignore the great bands the Carousel books on a regular basis to play beneath the huge papier mâché elephant, if you look to the other end of the club, you'll see a glass door through which sits a lovely relic from an age that could be called "B.C." (Before Cellular).
Just what is a freehouse? In England, pubs - public houses - are traditionally affiliated with a brewery. Freehouses are not. That simple. When Michael Parker and company took over the rambling two-story building a few months back, the old joint had suffered the revolving-door syndrome of businesses and badly needed a little TLC. Parker gave it a little British spin, put some good local music on tap, and the place has been attracting new faces.
It's your honey's birthday, and you're looking for something special to do? Why not have a surprise party? Call the folks at Capital Cruises and arrange for a late-night cruise on Town Lake. Gather some friends (up to 70 people), grab some munchies and some CDs, then head down to the dock behind the Hyatt. The boat will pick you up at their slip and take your party out for a lovely evening gazing at the neon Austin skyline.
Smooth, cool jazz, a mandolin quartet sometimes thrown into the mix, the Elephant Room offers all the lively vibe of Austin's music scene, without all the hype. Comfortably tucked away in a low-ceilinged basement just below Congress Avenue, dimly lit with a long bar, a healthy selection of draft beers, plenty of tables, a considerate crowd, and even a small area for dancing, this place offers just the right volume for a night on the town and reassures Mom that, see, you're not too old to hit the bars!
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