So last Friday, I drove down to Austin, TX to check it out. I’d only been there once before, maybe around 1996, and didn’t see much of it, except for some bookstores and a magazine vendor. It took me a while to make it back, and I’m sorry I waited so long to do it.
I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, so after driving down there, I was dead dog tired. But after an excellent dinner and some jet-fuel coffee, we headed down to Gruene (a little further south from Austin) to see Bob Schneider play at historic Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas. I think I was the only one not wearing cowboy boots – ooops. I had a great seat though, and saw some great music – Bob and his band can, as they put it, rock the house. He’s an Austin native, a prolific songwriter, and was a helluva lot of fun to see. That was followed by some late-nite breakfast at 24 Diner in Austin and then – o thank goodness – bed.
Saturday I checked out Renegade Austin – a big craft show with some of the best hand-made artists around. I bought a few prints, a t-shirt (can’t wait to wear it grocery shopping in Tulsa on a Sunday), and a few other little bits o’ stuff. My friends Christine and Thom from Tulsa had a booth there, so it was nice to have some hometown peeps around. That night a bunch of us went out to eat on South Congress – a hip little part of town with interesting restaurants and shops.
On Sunday, I did a little “internal sightseeing” – I got some real clarity on a writing project I’m working on, so I sat and wrote and had coffee. Yes, maybe I should have gone and looked at more tourist-y stuff, but I don’t think that’s what this particular trip was about. Sometimes you’ve got to go with the inspiration whenever and however it shows up.
Sunday night was probably the best part of the entire trip. It was definitely some of the very best live music I’ve ever seen. I went to the Saxon Pub and saw The Resentments – a curious group of songwriters who never rehearse, but get together and play every Sunday. 3 guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer – the caliber of musicians sitting on that stage was unbelievable. They’re all veterans of the Austin music scene and between them, probably know every musician worth anything in the U.S. They had several guests sit in with them, and played a few songs that not everyone knew, but apparently that’s the norm when seeing the Resentments.
Each of them has a different musical style, but it all comes together so very, very smoothly. They take turns playing each other’s songs – guitarist Jeff Plankenhorn plays a kick-ass slide, guitarist Miles Zuniga has a wicked sense of humor, guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcomb is quite the sultry, lanky guy and turns crooning into high art, and bassist Bruce Hughes brings it all. He has a very fluid style, is interesting to watch, and is a clever and adept songwriter. If I had to name his style, I’d call it Buddhist Funk. The music is centered, but you can’t sit still while listening to it.
As I was soaking it all in, I knew that I was watching something really, really special. What an amazing group of people. What beautiful sounds they made. Those few hours of musical greatness were totally worth the 15 hours spent in the car.
So thanks, Austin, for the Red Zinger tea, your hospitality, your bitchin’ self, your openness and willingness to take a chance on me. It was nice; I feel like I’ve met your mom. Hope we can do it again sometime.