Post tubing, we returned to our suite at the Austin Radisson to sleep off the delirium of the afternoon. We awakened in the early evening, and headed up to 6th street, Austin’s nightlife epicentre – at least for tourists. 6th had about as many bars and clubs as I have remaining hair follicles – that is to say, there weren’t thousands, but there were still a lot – more than enough to entertain you (ok, that metaphor doesn’t work).
We ended up at a place called Pete’s Duelling Piano Bar, which, as the name implies, was a bar that featured open mic spoken-word poetry. Just kidding, it was a bar that had two duelling pianists, playing customers’ song requests. The highlight was a bidding war that happened about an hour into the pianists’ set, when a drunken lady requested – wait for it – Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.” I don’t know why drunken women love this song, but they do. The song is, essentially, the vodka & cranberry juice of jukebox requests: it’s a safe and obvious choice, it goes down easy, and it gets you up and partying pretty quickly. Much like Vodka & Cran, I used to enjoy this song as a saccharine, guilty pleasure, but it’s just been overplayed and overdone, and I want nothing more to do with it.
Luckily, we had a saviour, in the form of a well-fed, sport-coated feller, who was having none of it. The woman had paid $10 for her Journey song to be played, but Grouchy Von Sportcoat, bless his heart, gave the pianist $20 to stop playing the song, immediately. It was a heroically dick-ish move. Our table cheered, as did most other dudes at the bar. But then, of course, the inevitable happened, and another guy swooped in, like a knight in shining armour (his shining armour consisting of a beet-red face, pleated khakis, and a Blackberry holster), and gave the pianist $40 to continue the song. We were pretty bummed, as I’m sure were the world’s millions of starving children, who had better ideas for how to spend 40 dollars.
After Pete’s, we headed back down to South Congress street and hit up the Continental, on the advice of one of the tubists we had met that afternoon, who was a bartender there. The Continental is one of the, if not ‘the’, great live music venues in Austin, which is kind of a big deal. Playing that night was the Dale Watson band, an Alt. Country Bluegrass act, and they were superb. Dale is a gracefully-aging Rockabilly legend, with the requisite wifebeater shirt, greying pompadour, and tons of ‘ink’. He’s one of those elder statesmen of coolness that you hope you, yourself, will be one day, but know you never will. That’s ok, though.
Halfway through his set, Dale introduced the band’s stand-up bass player as Mike Judge. The name sounded familiar, and then I realized it – Mike Judge, genius comedy writer and creator of “Beavis and Butthead,” “King of The Hill,” and the cult hit film, “Office Space,” was playing bass for Dale Watson. It’s not enough for Mike Judge to be a young and wealthy comedy legend, he now has to play bass – and play it well. That sort of info makes you take stock of your own life accomplishments, or lack thereof. Regardless, I was too excited to be in his presence to really care about such navel gazing, as the picture below indicates.
The owner of the Continental, a nice guy and another hipster elder statesman, was a hotrod collector as well. Being, as I am, a certifiable car nut, we got to chatting about his collection, which included a gorgeous, rusted-out ’49 mercury parked outside the club. Seeing my enthusiasm about cars, he recommended we check out the Austin Speed Shop on our way out of the city the next day, and so we did. We woke up the next morning, checked out of the hotel, and made our way to the Speed Shop.
It was basically like your typical, local independent garage, if your local garage did ground-up restorations of hot rods, from the 1920′s up to the 1970′s, with paint jobs more intricate than what’s found in the Sistine Chapel, and more metal fabrication than is found in some skyscrapers. The cars were simply incredible, and we were pretty excited that they let us walk around to check them out. I couldn’t get any decent photos of the cars in the shop, but if you check out their site, you can see their work. Pretty incredible stuff. Below is a link to their actual shop and their ongoing project cars, including a car being built for Jesse James. Whatever you think of the man, he has good taste in iron:
Anyhow, that was it for Austin, and Texas, pretty much. Following our visit at the Shop, we hopped in our decidedly non-hot rod rental Chevy, and headed back to Houston, and then finally home to Canada. We came, we saw, we ate BBQ, we two-stepped, we fired guns, we floated, we met some great locals, and we departed the Lone Star State with a true appreciation for the surprising cultural variety inherent in the whitest Nation-within-a-Nation we’d ever visited. Yeee-haaawww, indeed.