Bobby "Blue" Bland. B.B. King. Chuck Berry. Aside from the blues, these three have a couple of other things in common. They're all in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ... and they all got their start at the legendary Victory Grill. The Victory Grill is a place where time stopped, but the music continues 60 years later. Opened on VJ day in 1945 for the returning servicemen of WWII (hence the "Victory" in its name), very little has changed about it. The tables are the same, the booths are the same, and the music is the same ... almost. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Victory Grill turned 60 this year – the grand old man of the club scene, and Austin's true home of the blues. Happy birthday to you!
Sweat pours down your face and flies from your limbs. Bodies move to the beat in unconscious rhythm. The brilliant mix of colors and people grind in unison. The dance floor is so packed strangers are bumping into your backside ... On purpose? Who knows? At this point, who cares? Hip-Hop Night at Nasty's: The place to be on Monday evening. Since 1997, DJ Mel (most recently accompanied by DJ Jah Mighty) has been spinning everything from old-school jams to current hits. Sideline suckas beware: Pull up your pants, do the roc-away, and lean back ... whatever. Just get out there, and shake what your mama gave you, because that's what this night is all about.
Where do we begin? This is the movement that inspired the theme of this year's "Best of Austin." As Katrina evacuees headed for Central Texas, our city sprang to action. Folks of all stripes pulled together to carry out one of this town's greatest ever human relief efforts. Our local music community was at the forefront. Please forgive us, as this list is nowhere near complete. Here, we wish to specifically acknowledge the folks below for reaching out to fellow NOLA and Gulf Coast musicians, offering them solace, instruments, and in some cases the space to create. And create they did. We are grateful for this coming together. The list below is but a first note in what we hope will be an ongoing, righteous symphony.
Clothes ... sound ... vibe ... guest list!!! It must be an awesome party when rock stars like the Faint get turned away because the place is at capacity. With an upstairs deck overlooking downtown and free-flowing Red Stripe, FactoryPeople has thrown parties to support charities like the SIMS Foundation, Arthouse, and GENaustin. Seeing stars like Mick Rock, LCD Soundsystem, Junior Senior, and VHS or Beta becomes commonplace, and having a good time is unavoidable. Buy the clothes and stay for the party.
Hosted by Henri Mazza, Videoke is like karaoke except it's in a movie theatre, and you're not singing but acting out scenes from movies. Now, it's been said that first-timers should not participate (practice at www.videoke.org), but the night we went, two Videoke virgins won first place. That's right, they have judges scoring performances and picking the top three finalists. The audience, however, is the ultimate judge. Bring props, dress up, create your own dialogue, and gain a new understanding of the phrase "awkward moment." After witnessing a dildo lightsaber sword fight, we will never see Star Wars the same way again.
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 U.S. Hwy. 183 N., 512/861-7070
Alamo Drafthouse Mueller, 1911 Aldrich #120, 512/572-1425
Retail goddess Cindy Hill and musician Ginger Leigh own and operate Love., a premier gift boutique and live music venue. Yes, you heard it right, Love. blends shopping and live entertainment. Are we in heaven? Yes. Love. is a family and dog-friendly venue that sells great clothes, jewelry, and gifts inside the shop and features an array of local musical talent outside – including Patrice Pike, Rachel Loy, and the indefatigable Ginger Leigh – as part of their ongoing Love. on the Lawn music series. It's the best lovin' love-in in town.
Madam Mam's has been the best place on the Drag for authentic Thai cuisine since 2001 (just try to find a table during the lunch rush), but another great quality that makes Madam Mam's one of the best is its proximity to the KLRU television studio in the UT Communication Building B, where Austin City Limits is taped. (We met Ben Folds!) Visiting musicians often find themselves exploring the Drag and eating at Sapachai "Sap" Apisaksiri and Chatfung's ("Mam's") popular restaurant. Sound check is at 2pm, so chances for a celebrity sighting are good between 3 and 5pm. Yes, you can be paparazzi, too!
Even the karaoke faint of heart can find a place at Beerland's Rockeoke. First observations may leave newcomers wondering if Austin now boasts its own karaoke rehab clinic. A few drinks later, the scene more closely resembles the Mickey Mouse Club gone terribly wrong. All around, people peruse song selections, while an impressive version of, say, Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" rumbles from the stage. Some unfortunate, well-meaning newbie takes the stage and yodels out the first notes of Garth Brooks. While the requisite enthusiastic support and jovial cheers ensue, the emcee, it seems, decides to lay down the law: New country songs are not allowed, but artists like Willie and Johnny are acceptable; don't drop the microphone; songs from musicals, especially Grease, are forbidden; and no B-52's. Ladies & gentlemen, this is Rockeoke. Follow the rules and you may discover the best Karaoke support group in Texas.
The Broken Spoke is many things to many people – dance hall, hangout, bar, restaurant, museum, employer, home away from home – but the institution of Hardcore Country Night last year was the most wildly successful event of recent years. So successful, in fact, that the early evening show is now twice monthly on Tuesdays, with regulars like Pinetop Perkins sitting in. Headed up by the fiddler supreme Alvin Crow and Spoke owner James White, the band features former Nashville stalwarts Pete Mitchell and Neal Flanz playing the coolest, most traditional country music around.
Calling Red's "retro" does it a disservice, for there's nothing self-conscious about it. It's just a soulful little Hispanic nightspot on Fourth Street east of the interstate, attracting local working class patrons, friendly neighbors from nearby, longtime Austinites, and for more than a year now, the latest crop of Austin's indie newbies. The unassuming venue is also a Thursday night hot spot with the coolest sit-down cover band in town, the Nortons, and regular guests like Joanna Ramirez and Mary Welch. Its outdoor stage and beer garden make it a popular (and affordable) performance venue, too.
Nothing goes with grits like gospel, so Threadgill’s south provides both every Sunday at brunch. Each week, different performers, including the Darden Family and Bells of Joy, move diners to give some amens with powerful renditions of church classics. Nonreligious and faithful alike can enjoy some good beats and eats. It’s hard to get full on communion wafers, so when church lets out, head down to Threadgill’s to get some soul food on a whole new metaphysical level.
The first rule of KAOS is: Nobody talks about KAOS. The second rule of KAOS is: There are no rules at KAOS. Playlists full of mostly punk rock cred and obscure one-offs, with random old-timey blues and the sporadic audiofeasts of time-encapsulated speech, their inconsistency is their only consistency. They have real live deejays, too – the kind who might consider Lone Star tallboys and cartons of Lucky Strikes payola bliss. South Austin only. (But they're too cool to care.)
What's that sound, you ask? Above the squeak of leather, the jingle of spurs, and the guffaw of a big-bellied laugh? No, it isn't an S&M-themed Stomp routine; it's the deep country-rock twang of Chain Drive's new live-music Wednesdays. With their $1 wells and domestics, it's an enticing enough night for all of hell's angels, but coupled with live bands like Darling New Neighbors or the Texas Sapphires, you got the dang Country Bear Jamboree! So pull on your boots, tighten your dog collar, and zip up your biker jacket. Whether you're growling at the moon like Ursa Major or gunning your Harley, you'll be a welcome addition to a burly cacophony.
So you've found a counterculture beau or beau-ette at your local comic book store, perusing Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men. The traditional dinner and movie doesn't fit the personality of your relationship, so what are are y'all to do? Easy. Get to Spider House early enough to order your yerba matte mint lattes, fill the last row of the backyard stadium seating for some solid cuddling time, and watch the next episode in the newest space-opera serial. And jinkies! Mal and the gang will whisk you off into nerd heaven.
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