You've probably heard the old folk tales about the days when Austin was dirt cheap, scruffy, and unpretentious. They're mostly lies. Yes, it's true that back in the day you used to be able to buy a six-pack of Texas Pride for $1.25 at the H-E-B … and yes, the Whip In convenience store on Burton Drive used to sell packages of nitrous oxide … and it's true that hookers – real, skanky, foul-mouthed hookers – used to troll SoCo nightly. However, unless you like beer that tastes like it's been left out in the sun all week (Texas Pride should have been called "Texas Perseverance"), and unless you like waking up with a menagerie of inexplicable bruises (no, you can't run through brick walls, even if you've been huffing), and unless you've been accosted by a female prostitute who looks like a dude who let a 4-year-old apply his/her lipstick, then even in the softest lens of retrospect, it would be hard to call the old days better times. Cheaper times, yes. If you go back far enough, you can probably find a time when you could buy a pound of skunk weed for fitty cent, a bottle of Coke for a penny, or maybe even a paint pony for an eagle feather, but there are down sides to everything. You would probably have had to get the skunk weed from an old hippie who smelled like patchouli and dried urine and had brown teeth and a case of toenail fungus that belonged in a science exhibit. The paint pony would probably come complete with a smallpox laden saddle blanket, and the Coke, while refreshing, would be spiked with actual cocaine, which everyone knows is a gateway drug to being a huge asshole. Old Austin however (that being the Austin you weren't around for) had its pluses. For instance, back in the day there were no douches. This is not to say there weren't self-important, nugget jewelry wearing, beauty salon mullet rocking, T-top Camaro driving douche bags. Yes, there were. But mostly they were called pricks, dickheads, and assholes, and they mostly hung out at places like Confettis or the Roxy on East Riverside. Really, every town needs a disco – if only to act as flypaper for all the fronters trying to work their game. Otherwise, their impact would be more immediately felt. It's bad enough to have a couple of Hummers (the modern-day equivalent of the T-top Firebird) parked across two spaces at the H-E-B, but imagine a whole parking lot full of them. How about a few tables of obnoxious cigar smokers at your local coffeehouse? You get the picture. Fortunately, back in the old days there were plenty of places holding down the other end of the scale – places where pretense got checked at the door. Perhaps the least pretentious of all was the Austin Outhouse. As you can imagine, a bar named after a shitter probably isn't too concerned with the social status of its clientele. That's what made the Austin Outhouse such a special place. It took all comers, not only regarding its clientele but its booking policy as well. On any given night you could see anything from youthful avant punk to leather-skinned Texas songwriters, and through it all, the scenery never changed: wood paneling festooned with old license plates, band stickers and assorted memorabilia, a few neon beer signs, wooden tables, a motley assortment of questionably homeless looking people permanently installed at the bar, a few dogs, and a genuinely wonderful guy named Ed running the place who would occasionally get up on stage and play a mean harmonica. Was it better than anything we have these days? Maybe not, but it was pretty damned good back then – reason enough for a celebration too. This weekend at a similarly unpretentious bar out on Manchaca Road called Giddy Ups, they're hosting a star-studded Austin Outhouse Reunion with a whole bunch of old-timers and a few new ones thrown in as well. People like: Calvin Russell, the Rhythm Rats, Lost John Casner, Gurf Morlix, Lloyd Maines, Ted Roddy, Shelley King, Terri Hendrix, Herman the German, Leti de la Vega, and many others. Proceeds benefit the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and Save the Cactus Cafe. Think about it this way: You may never have a better reason to go to Manchaca Road.
Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.