Tag Archives: live music

SXSW 2012: I LOVE Austin, TX! (Please… don’t move here!)

Most of my friends, family, co-workers (and that dude with the sarcastic personality I see in the mirror every morning) will tell you that I complain about a LOT of things… but, living in Austin, Texas is certainly NOT one of them. I LOVE Austin, TX! (Please… don’t move here!). I especially love Austin during the month of March, when Spring Break comes to town, and South by Southwest (SXSW) showcases the best in indie film, music and interactive from around the world. In my humble opinion, this is the time of year that Austin more than lives up to its rightfully earned title of the Live Music Capital of The World. What? Don’t believe me? Come and listen for yourself.

SXSW 2012 - Of Monsters and Men - Filter Magazine's Showdown at Cedar Street - Austin, TX USA

When I got back to work on Monday morning, a co-worker asked me a simple question… “What was your favorite part of SXSW 2012?”. Then he shoved a microphone in front of my face and told me “Smile! You’re on national television.” Then I yelled out “I LOVE BACON!” and ran screaming from the building. OK, I made that part up; but, I truly had to think about it. If you’re anything like me (if so… I’m sorry!) then your answer would be “… it depends”. Kind of like asking somebody “What is your favorite travel destination?”. I’m not good with statistics; but, probably 8 out of 10 times, you’re going to get a different answer. In case you were wondering… my favorite travel destination is New Zealand (so far). I’ll get to my favorite part of SXSW 2012 before I finish the blog. Promise.

SXSW 2012 - Frost Bank Bldg - Downtown Austin, Texas USA

I have a LOT of friends who live in Austin and say point blank “I don’t do SXSW”. I also have a LOT of friends who live in Austin, do ALL the research, know everything about every band, party, event, and can tell you when, where, why and how to be an intricate part of SXSW Culture. I am neither of these people. I don’t despise SXSW. And I don’t eat, sleep, and breathe SXSW either; But, oh mama! I do like to EXPERIENCE SXSW.

The Lone Star Flag
The Lone Star Flag - Welcome to Texas!

This year, my SXSW 2012 Experience happened by accident. My wife and I were planning a 24hr overnight break from our boys (ages 4 and 2). Hopefully, no explanation necessary; but, if you need one… sometimes folks gotta get away! Even if it’s just for 24hrs. I think you understand. Anyway, I digress. March 17th. That was the day of reckoning. Marked it on the calendar, and then came up with a GENIUS idea to take Friday, March 16th off work. Why? Because, it just seemed like the right thing to do the day before I was going out of town. I’m telling you… I REALLY need to come out from under that rock more often, because I  I quickly realized that the week of March 12-16th was Spring Break here in Austin, TX. Wait a second… the music portion of SXSW starts during this week!  Good thing I accidentally took off work for Friday, March 16th! And Oh snap! March 17th is St Patrick’s Day and I’ll be at La Cantera Resort in the San Antonio – Texas Hill Country with my wife (Anna)! Woo! Hoo!

Texas State Capitol - Austin, Texas USA

It’s unfortunate that I was too stupid to actually take the whole week off work. Nevertheless, I knew my 2012 SXSW Experience was going to be good. I just didn’t know HOW good. After exchanging texts and emails on Facebook with my friend Paul in New York the previous week, he informed me that he and the Dos Equis Team would be in Austin for SXSW interactive. They live in New York. A 20-25min drive downtown was a no brainer for me to spend time with them (again).

Amy's Ice Cream - Austin, Texas - "A True Frozen Dessert Experience!"

I was a little bit overwhelmed by the annihilation of what used to be downtown Austin, Texas; but, I have NEVER had a bad time with my friend Paul, so I put on my big boy SXSW boots and saddled up ready for the rodeo. Not literally. Just figuratively. I was ready to go with the flow and take on whatever the night had in store for us. He calmly says “well… we can grab a drink, bite to eat, walk around, or try to catch some live music somewhere.” You know me! Well… the 7 of you reading this blog really don’t know me; but, I was game for whatever. Then he nonchalantly says… “Oh wait, I forgot… we got tickets to see Jay-Z [at Austin City Limits (ACL) Moody Theater]”. I think I may have dropped a few four letter words at this point.

AMEX Synch Show Presents Jay-Z LIVE from SXSW 2012 in Austin, TX
Jay-Z LIVE at Austin City Limits (ACL) Moody Theater for SXSW 2012

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it maybe 15 or 16 times… “The greatest surprises in life are the adventures never expected”. That’s my sarcastic way of saying “It ain’t a surprise if you already know what’s gonna happen!”, and this was certainly unexpected and definitely a great surprise. Sincere Thanks to my friends Paul, Greg, Stephen and the rest of the crew from Dos Equis for their kindness and generosity. Also, to American Express – AMEX Synch Show for bringing one of (if not THE) greatest hip-hop artists to Austin City Limits (ACL) Moody Theater. I would show you my horrible attempt to capture part of the show; but, what’s the point? AMEX put together a rebroadcast of the show which is definitely worth exploring. Song after song after song. I forgot just how many hits Jay-Z has. Heart of the City, Izzo, 99 Problems, Hard Knock Life, Where I’m From, and Public Service Announcement (just to name a few). THIS is why Jay-Z is such a great artist and global phenomenon.

As if the night couldn’t get any better (or more surprising) we eventually made our way to the infamous 6th Street for a little adrenaline rush with Dada Life – Stockholm, Sweden. You know you’re in for an adventure when a musician’s motto is… “Destroy dance music and have fun. Don’t look back in the past. Always go forward. Don’t think too much. Always follow the money. Do the Dada.” Probably one of the craziest shows I’ve ever seen in my life. Granted, I really don’t get out from under that rock a whole lot; But, when a bunch of people get on stage in banana outfits and jump around while the crowd is going bananas with glow sticks all juiced up on one too many red bull’s, it was clear that at 41… I was too old for this $@#%! But, FUN FUN FUN FUN. Dada Life was a great SXSW Experience. After all, I got to partake in my favorite pastime… PEOPLE WATCHING!

Might I remind you that this was all on a MONDAY night? Lucky for me, I had to be at work on Tuesday morning, so at almost 1am CST, I said goodbye to the Dos Equis Crew on W. 6th Street, thanked them for a wonderful time at SXSW, and called it a night. That gave me Tues, Wed, and Thurs to rest up for my Friday SXSW Experience. Knowing my wife (Anna) is Numero Uno on my list for fun and adventure, I knew she was working all day and could not partake of the festivities. Rats! That meant I had to recruit a “partner in crime”. Insert my good friend Kathryn aka Kate, aka K-Bone, aka “Cinnamon”. Fun, cool, great attitude, fellow music lover, fun, and awesome friend. Did I mention FUN? What’s not to love about Kate?

Me and My SXSW 2012 "Partner in Crime" Kate - Austin, TX

Breakfast is supposed to be the best meal of the day; therefore, Kate and I started out our Friday SXSW Experience at an Austin culinary staple – the original Kerbey Lane Cafe on Kerbey Lane. Go figure. I guess that’s why it’s the original, because the one by my house is on Highway 183. You know you’re at SXSW when a group walks in for breakfast with a film crew entourage. I have no idea who the heck they were, or why the were being filmed. Irrelevant. Besides, nobody except Kate (or maybe Beyonce) was going to distract me from eating my blackberry pancakes and bacon that morning. Dee-licious!

SXSW 2012 - Kerbey Lane Cafe - Austin, Texas USA.
When you've just gotta have a good breakfast!

When I travel and/or go to music festivities, I typically have something in mind that I MUST see/do. Everything outside of that… I’m game. For the Friday SXSW Experience, I wanted to see Iceland’s “Of Monsters and Men” at Filter Magazine’s Showdown at Cedar Street (1pm CST). That pretty much left the whole day open. We arrived just after 11am, and decided to show our love and support for my friends from Dos Equis, by paying homage with a cold and frosty Dos Equis cerveza! Yeah, I know it was only 11am; but, it was happy hour somewhere in the world. Why not Austin, Texas? Right?

SXSW 2012 - Dos Equis - "I don't always drink beer. But when I do..."

For the 7 of you who actually read my blog, you may recall that my wife (Anna) and I are planning a trip to Fjord Norway this year (2012). Ranks right up there with Patagonia (Argentina/Chile), Machu Piccu, Tibet/Nepal, Switzerland, South Pacific (Bora Bora, Fiji) and Africa (Tanzania, Mozambique, S. Africa, Kenya, Botswana) on my 1000 places to see before I die list.  So who the heck knew that I would be watching a Norwegian band on a Friday morning in Austin, Texas while drinking a Mexican beer? Not me. Enter “Team Me” from Norway.

SXSW 2012: "Team Me" from Norway

Unknown to the US… OK, that’s really not fair. Unknown to ME… They won the Norwegian Grammys for best pop group 2011, for their debut album “To the Treetops!”  My day was shaping up nicely, and for the past 3 days now, “Show Me” by “Team Me” has been occupying space on my iPod Playlist as a recurring favorite song. There’s a reason why they are a SXSW 2012 Showcasing Artist.

A pure delight to hear them play LIVE. Great sound. As if my opinion of “Team Me” couldn’t get any better… we somehow ended up talking to the drummer, Bjarne. Just a fantastic person, and true representation of how taking timeout to say hello and have a conversation with a couple of new fans at SXSW in Austin, Texas gains you some supporters for life. I’ve been telling everybody about them. Bjarne probably won’t remember me to save his life; but, I told him I was already planning a trip to Fjord Norway, so would look them up and try to catch a show when we come through Oslo this year (2012). I already said it earlier in the blog; but, I’ll say it again… “The greatest surprises in life are the adventures never expected”. You heard it here… TEAM ME. BRILLIANT!

SXSW 2012 - "TEAM ME" from Norway in Austin, TX

If you’re still reading this blog, about 2hrs ago, I mentioned that my co-worker asked me a simple question… “What was your favorite part of SXSW 2012?”. Without question… listening to the Icelandic indie folk band Of Monsters and Men LIVE at Filter Magazine’s Showdown at Cedar Street. They were beyond great. There’s something to be said when you’ve watched YouTube videos of a band, and listened to live in studio recordings of them, as well as heard a few songs on iTunes, and it STILL doesn’t do them as much justice as seeing them LIVE in Austin, Texas.

"Of Monsters and Men" - Indie Folk band from Reykjavik, Iceland

They surpassed my expectations, and for that, Of Monsters and Men from Reykjavik, Iceland are my favorite part of SXSW 2012. Who would have guessed? If you don’t know them… you WILL know them soon enough.

Yelling “HEY!” with the crowd on songs like “Little Talks” and “Dirty Paws” in an electrifying LIVE setting was fantastic. I also enjoyed the melodic sounds on songs like “Lakehouse” and “King and Lionheart”. Awesome.  Although “Little Talks” is probably their most notable song, I can’t help bursting out a hearty “la-la-laaaa… la-la-la-laaaa!” while singing “Dirty Paws” numerous times throughout the day.

Of Monsters and Men. Just a REALLY great band. And Yes, I’ve already pre-ordered the US debut album “My Head Is an Animal” on iTunes (Expected Release Date Apr 3, 2012). Do yourself a favor… check them out!

SXSW 2012 - "Of Monsters and Men" from Iceland in Austin, TX

I could very well have gone home and been 100% happy with my Friday SXSW Experience; however, Kate set the expectations high by telling me about a one man band from England called Ed Sheeran. Then she described him. Small red haired white guy who can rap and play a guitar like a banshee. I really have no idea what a banshee is… but, somewhere in the world banshees are proud, because Ed Sheeran is the REAL deal.

He was pretty much amazing. Yet another surprise for my SXSW Experience. This was starting to become a habit. A good one.

SXSW 2012: Ed Sheeran @Cedar Street
SXSW 2012: Filter Magazine's Showdown @Cedar Street w/Ed Sheeran

I may have forgotten to mention that our friends Jeannie, Jeff, and Amy joined us at Cedar Street. After a great day (so far) of “Team Me” (Norway), “Of Monsters and Men” (Iceland) and “Ed Sheeran” (England), why stop there? Jeff really wanted to see a North Carolina band “Lost in the Trees”, so we took our happy smiles to Speakeasy on 4th and Congress for some more live SXSW music. I’m not even sure how to describe their sound other than “beautiful”. Something you would hear on Grey’s Anatomy, or as part of a movie soundtrack. Hopefully I won’t offend them by saying I could drink a cup of coffee and read a good book while listening to them. Very different than the Scandinavian filled live show we had just left at Cedar Street.

SXSW 2012 - Amy, Jeannie and Kate - Filter Magazine's Showdown @Cedar Street

Before “Lost in Trees” came on, we were ever so lucky to catch Irish folk singer and Academy Award Winner Glen Hansard (The Swell Season) alongside Jake Clemons on the stage at Speakeasy. A perfect St Patty’s Day Eve treat. “Low Rising” was awesome. As was “The Parting Glass” sung accapella at the end of his set. BRILLIANT! And once again… another great surprise for my Friday SXSW Experience. Seriously… next year I’m takin’ the whole week off. Geez! I’m an idiot!

I could go on for hours writing about how we watched a couple of bands on a parking garage rooftop of an advertising agency in downtown Austin. Along with free bratwurst from The Best Wurst in Austin, Texas and Shiner Bock beer; but, it’s all just too much to put in a single blog. I lost track of all the live music we heard at 96 Bar, Lustre Pearl, and Icenhauers. Nevertheless, by the time the evening made it’s way to a close, Kate and I found ourselves saying goodbye to my friends CHILL and Dina at Blackheart Bar on Rainey Street.

SXSW 2012: Bratwurst, Beer, Bands and Rooftops - Gotta Love it!
SXSW 2012 w/CHILL, Dina & Me on Rainey Street - Austin, TX

As we made the vicious hike across downtown towards my car, it was like an unspoken language of smiles across our faces that silently said… “GREAT DAY! GREAT DAY!”. That thought didn’t last long, because inevitably, how can you end a great day without great food? You can’t. We bee-lined for Austin’s finest food trucks at 3rd & Congress Ave. This wasn’t fast food. It was great food – made quickly. “I’ll have the blackened gulf red snapper poboy… and a bottle of ice cold water… Please!”. Kate had the pulled pork tacos. Dee-lish! As we humbly sat there on our cheap white plastic lawn furniture overlooking downtown Austin, Texas, it was the perfect way to end our Friday SXSW Experience.  All I could think was… SXSW 2012: I LOVE Austin, TX! (Please… don’t move here!). Bring on SXSW 2013! I’m ready!


SXSW - Food Trucks on Congress Ave - Austin, TX
"I'll have the blackened gulf red snapper poboy... Please!"
If you're visiting Austin, TX for SXSW (or any other reason) ...Read this sign!

AUSTIN: Hometown Cravings!

Texas State Capitol Building – Austin, Texas USA – “Don’t Mess With Texas!”

The name of my TRAVEL blog is Austin GlobeTrekker; yet, all I’ve blogged about so far in my one month of existence is the “GlobeTrekker” portion. Time to get LOCAL and talk about AUSTIN! This might very well be one of the most conceited and arrogant statements I’ve made in the past 24-36hrs; however, I must say… I live in a BAD ASS city! Austin, Texas might very well be one of the coolest places to call your home. And I rightfully call Austin my hometown, because even though I was born in Leicester, England, I’ve lived in Austin for over 30% of my life; Texas for over 70%. As much as I love to travel… Texas IS home. Don’t worry… I’m still going to ramble on about other countries too.

Texas State Capitol - Austin, Texas USA

I recently met some folks from Canada during a training session in Round Rock, Texas for my “real” job that I actually get paid to do. You’ll rarely hear me talk about “work” on this blog, because… we’re here to share stories and experiences about TRAVEL. Things I like to do when I’m NOT working. Sure, I’ve been to British Columbia (Vancouver, Whistler) and Alberta (Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper) and met hundreds of Canadians (ok, like 10); But, it’s not so often that you meet them right here in your hometown and hear them say “I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit Austin!”.  That TEXAS PRIDE kicks in, and an uncontrollable Southern grin crosses your face, and all you can think to say is “WELCOME TO TEXAS!”.

The Lone Star Flag
The Lone Star Flag - Welcome to Texas!

Like most tourists (including myself), you do your research and have your rough itinerary of things you want to see in the city your visiting. About halfway through our conversation about the downtown Austin live music scene, the bats under the Congress Bridge, partying at the bars on 6th Street, eating real Texas BBQ (his words, not mine) and indulging in some authentic Mexican food (her words, not mine), I drifted off into a coma and started talking to myself about the things that I like to do in Austin. I started to tell them that if they REALLY want to see some live music… come back in September (16-18) for ACL – Austin City Limits Festival 2011 at Zilker Park. Back in 2009, I had the pleasure of watching one of my legendary favorites – Pearl Jam put on a spectacular show. This year promises to be incredible too. Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Coldplay, and so on and so on. Skipped it last year… but, I digress.

Austin City Limits Festival 2009 - Pearl Jam on the Livestrong Stage

Unfortunately for them, they were staying at The Marriott – La Frontera, in Round Rock, Texas. I had to gingerly explain that this is NOT Austin. Saying you’re “staying in Austin” when you’re really in Round Rock, is kinda like the time one of my managers told us we were “staying in Manhattan, New York” when our hotel was really in Secaucus, New Jersey. True story. Similar… but different. It’s close enough that you can get there. But don’t fool yourself thinking it’s a 10min walk. More like an expensive cab ride. In honor of my new Canadian colleagues, I’ve added a photo of one of my favorite hotels in the world – The Fairmont Banff Springs HotelAlberta, Canada. Once again – Similar… but different to Round Rock, Texas. I’m just sayin’.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel - Alberta, Canada - Canadian Rockies

Naturally, it wasn’t long before I realized… our “Austin Agendas” are just a tad different. In a traveler’s defense… It’s hard to know a place in 2 days. God bless ’em for tryin’ though. For example… The best bars in Austin (in my opinion mind you) are DIVE BARS. I’m embarrassed on the borderline of sheer pride that MOST of the Dive Bars in (and around) Austin, Texas know me and my group of idiot friends we like to call “The Dive Bar Crew”. For the past 10-12yrs, we’ve frequented some spectacular joints like Ginny’s Little Longhorn, Lustre Pearl Bar, Poodle Dog Lounge, Buddy’s, La-La’s, C-Hunt’s, G&S Lounge, Dry Bean Saloon, Horseshoe Lounge, The Hideout, Deep Eddy Cabaret, Shoal Creek Saloon, The Water Tank, Dog & Duck, Posse East, Nasty’s, Crown & Anchor, Shannanigan’s, Draught House, Canary Hut, The PLT (Parmer Lane Tavern) Carousel Lounge, and my favorite dive bar in Austin, Texas… Donn’s Depot – just to name a few! Oh, and if you’ve got the time… and the courage… take a short trip just outside of Austin to an old biker bar in the Texas Hill Country called The Devil’s Backbone . CLASSIC!

"The Dive Bar Crew" at The Devil's Backbone - Texas USA

I then started to get thirsty. Then I just got flat out hungry after drinking all that cheap ice cold beer (in my mind), and could NOT get BOMB TACOS out of my mind! It was driving me crazy! So, I mentioned Lustre Pearl Bar. It’s a really cool laid back Texas style beer garden at 97 Rainey Street over by the Austin Convention Center. BOMB TACOS is a camper. No lying. It’s not a building establishment. It pulls up to the side of the beer garden in the back of Lustre Pearl Bar, and serves a Bad Ass Burrito. LITERALLY. It’s called the “Bad Ass Burrito”. Check the sign and menu. All Tacos – $3. All Burritos – $6. All Quesadillas – $6. And it’s fresh-cooked, TexMex heavenly cuisine when accompanied by an ice-cold cerveza! I recently got my Bomb Taco fix on my birthday party weekend (May 7th) before heading to Europe (May 9th) – Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy. Sometimes… you’ve just gotta have it!

BOMB TACOS - Lustre Pearl Bar - Austin, Texas - "Home of the Bad Ass Burrito!"

Which leads me to another quick story (not really). My friend Sal lives in Munich, Germany. LOVES it there, and I can clearly see why. FANTASTIC city, culture, people, food, beer and overall scene. BUT… Sal told me how he was craving Mexican food like a banshee! Not really sure how a banshee craves food; however, dude was clearly desperate enough to get into an altercation with a Bavarian over the definition of Mexican food. Sal ordered a quesadilla. Dude gave him a burrito. Similar… but different. Sal’s response – “Hey man! I’m FROM Texas… I know Mexican food!”. So I said, “Sorry you didn’t get your Mexican fix! I wish I could package some TexMex and send it over for you.” His response… “Oh, I ate the burrito! And it was damn good too!”. Hmmm… me thinks NOT! He’s been away from Texas too long. They don’t know TexMex food; But… The Bavarians KNOW beer! PROST!

Bavarian Beer Garden - Munich, Germany - May 2011 - PROST!

So, I’m still stuck in this freaky coma of complexity, dreaming about my local palette, and it leads me to ice cream. While we were recently in Venice, Italy, I think I may have had the BEST mint chocolate chip ice cream in the world! Seriously. No exaggeration! OK… maybe a 3.742% exaggeration. Sometimes, food is just about location. location. location. Ice cream in The Rialto Market on a warm sunny May day in Venice, Italy… that’s almost perfection for location. It was sooooo good, that after completing the generously portioned scoop… I wanted to go back and get another one. If you’ve been to Venice before – good luck getting back to where you were in The Rialto if you never knew where the hell you were in the first place.

"The Rialto" - Venezia, Italia! - BEST mint chocolate chip ice cream in the world!

But, back to local. As great as that ice cream was in Venice… there is almost nothing like a true frozen dessert experience at Amy’s Ice Cream here in Austin, Texas. These artisans are like Wizards of Dessert. I remember a few years back when my cousins Roger, Amanda, Polly and Ella came over from England. Music blaring, “Keep Austin Weird” signs around the place, college students on their laptops (pretending to study), and an ice cream server who looked like his beard should have had a hair net on it for health code reasons. BUT, that’s Austin my friends! After getting all kinds of candy bars and fruit crushed up in her ice cream, my cousin Polly was shocked, yet excited like a cast member of GLEE, when they threw her ice cream over the counter for her to catch in a bowl. Like I said… it’s a true frozen dessert experience.

Amy's Ice Cream - Austin, Texas - "A True Frozen Dessert Experience!"
Amy's Ice Cream - Austin, Texas - Cousin Polly catching ice cream from "The Wizards of Dessert"

By now, I’m starting to come out of the coma, and I realize that the Canadians are still talking. Probably something about hockey and asking “why is it so bloody hot down here in Texas!” 103F today. Well, I’ve been drinking beers at dive bars, eating bad ass burritos at Bomb Tacos, and eating Amy’s Ice Cream. It’s like I was in The Matrix. Plugged in… but, more like a robot of “yeah”, “sure!”, “oh definitely”, “you don’t say?”, “uh huh”, “you go girl!”. I’m just ready to go to bed by this point; but in “coma land”, it’s late night 2am in Austin, Texas, so I started thinking about blueberry pancakes at Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd. This place is so good! And it’s a true local Austin diner. Like they say… Everybody Knows – Everybody Goes! I had a ridiculously fantastic strawberry syrup with ice cream pancake at The Pancake Bakery in Amsterdam, The Netherlands a few years ago; but, it still wasn’t the same nostalgic experience as a late night closer, or morning hangover remedy at Magnolia Cafe. Ironically, less than half a mile down the road from my favorite dive bar – Donn’s Depot, and across the street from yet another one of my favorites – Deep Eddy Cabaret.

Magnolia Cafe - Austin, TX - late night with my friends Robyn & Jaime

As I’m now fat, full and drunk… I join reality once again, only to hear the Canadians closing comments: “THANK YOU! So I guess we’ll see you tomorrow night!”. As of right now, I have absolutely no idea what I signed myself up for (or THEM for that matter). I guess we’ll find out tomorrow now, won’t we! If they truly want to hit 6th Street… I’ll take them to WEST 6th Street. Who knows… maybe we can grab a slice of good ol’ late night pizza from Roppolo’s Pizzeria!

Late Night Pizza from Roppolo's Pizzeria - W. 6th St - Austin, TX - my friends Cooksey and Maui Meg

OK… I’m done rambling. Stay Tuned for more adventures of Austin GlobeTrekker. Until then… Join the Conversation!