Camping at the Cactus

UT gets the goods this week

The Woody Guthrie tribute – Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway – goes down Friday
The Woody Guthrie tribute – Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway – goes down Friday

I’m a regular at the Cactus Café, but this week I’m spending so much time there I’m considering pitching a tent on campus. Monday night things got off spectacularly with a surprise show for Griff Luneberg, the man who’s run the place for the past 27 years.

Billed as "the best of open mic," it wasn’t the usual list of prospects looking for a gig, but a gathering of Austin's best loved singer-songwriters paying tribute to Luneburg and thanking him for his support over the years. The list of those who got on stage for a song or two is long, but highlights came from Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Bruce Robison, and Jon Dee Graham. The place was packed, the buzz among musicians who hadn’t seen each other in a while was infectious, and love for Luneberg seem to overwhelm him at times. Kudos to the show’s organizers, Graham Weber and Matt the Electrician, for a rare night celebrating Austin musicians and someone whose support is equally rare.

The rest of the week at the Cactus promises to be almost as spectacular. Tonight, Virginia’s Scott Miller brings his brand of keenly observed Americana to the stage. Friday night, the celebration of the music of folk godfather Woody Guthrie, entitled Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway will be performed upstairs in the Texas Union Ballroom. More a theatrical review than a concert, Jimmy Lafave, Slaid Cleaves, Eliza Gilkyson, Kevin Welch, Michael Fracasso, Ray Bonneville, and narrator Joel Rafael bring Guthrie’s songs, stories, and spirit to life in a way that’s inspired and inspiring.

KGSR invades the Ballroom on Saturday for their Christmas party, and with Geezerville faves Tift Merritt, the BoDeans, and Alejandro Escovedo appearing, it’s a don’t-miss. If anyone has a clue about the "special guest" they’re promising, drop me a note.

If that isn’t enough, Sunday night Bloodshot Records’ Justin Townes Earle, Steve’s son, hits the Cactus stage. With a new disc under his arm, set for release around South by Southwest, it will be interesting to see how his mix of hillbilly and edgy country-folk, which is decidedly not like his father’s, has expanded beyond what was on this year's fab debut. After all that, I’ll either need a nap or take the advice of Warren Zevon, and “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

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Cactus Cafe, Woody Guthrie

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