Austin. Achingly hip and alarmingly cool. Coffee bean fetishists, thrift store hi-glam, nu-age craft ales in gleaming clean structures and retro set wide-eyed fresh faces.
Hot dog and burger bars tower their meats with all kinds of sides, only skyscrapers outside match their stature. Weed’s offered out by bar maids and waiters and I don’t feel young, pretty or thin.
But I guess that’s in part why we came here; it’s the first non-themed city we’ve got to. Nashville, New Orleans; You have an idea where you’re headed by the names of the streets and their freak reputations. We came here for the music. We came here on a hunch. Every place that we been folks signposted us here as an island of liberal alternative… an island in Texas as different from Texas and my Brit’s image of it as it could in any way be.
Venues pepper the city with all kinds of fuzz but there’s fussier bars if you want them. Record stores run their rings ‘round the center of town and we melt like plastic in its cool and heat. Dig out a weekly and flick to the back, run through the reams of the bandnames and dates and pick out what you want. I might have been a bad boyfriend for at least a day while I swapped conversation for band name hat-picking, chasing any I fancied through Bandcamp and Spotify to see what to pack and cram in.
Night one: Werewolf, Blood Pumps and Teenage Cavegirl, all held in a haven of denim and dirt in a spit and dust venue they name Hotel Vegas. Two torn pool tables outnumbered the balls and pool cues were all but extinct. Out back a lost world of clean air and sweet lights opens up where you would least expect it, or you can stay in with the sound and the sweat where I happily got re-bathed in both.
6th Street / Dirty 6th lines up like Nashville with music filled windows all round. But I would say stick to the outtatheways if bands are your calling as live music stops here at 10pm sharp to give way to DJs and dance.
Best bar on 6th? That’s Casino El Camino. Faster Pussycat Gothic and 50s B-movie with some damn fine tequila served and swilled by the bucket. Tura Satana, Chucky and Cramps. I’d say that’s as good as it gets. Then go catch the bats swirling under Congress Avenue Bridge as dusk starts to descend on the day, 1.5 million bats counted all come alive all at once.
Away from the concrete there is beauty to find. We chose Pedernales Falls where the world opens up like a new kind of planet, spreading out from your feet in chains of blue chambers where water pools slick and deep and slips like white silk through carved yellow rock. I walked in awe at the sights for as long as I could.
Back on Earth there’s belly dancing and dinner in a slim looking slice of a restaurant, again with a garden that comes out of nowhere and sprawls out beyond expectations. These unknown outside jewels spring up everywhere. Then we swapped Smashing Pumpkins for electroclash camp at a bar on back side of town. Cheer Up Charlie’s the venue with Barbarian, Fringe Class and Princess Dewclaw the bands; unholy matrimonies of synth heavy nu-wave, Gary Numan, Alan Vega, Kate Bush and house samples in a place where pink slush tequilas and parachutes prevail.
I got keen tips on Denver from members of bands and I thanked them as that’s on our list… at somepoint while we make our way.
If this is an island then we’re heading to sea. Texas is a vast and varied expanse and we’re off to see what comes next.