One of my favorite things to do for vacation is map out a road trip. It’s not difficult to do and enables a traveler to see twice as many attractions at a fraction of the cost it would take to fly. For example, I just came back from a road trip that took me to Austin, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana and Nashville, Tennessee. Yet, those were not the only sights to be seen. Maybe the best way to do this would be to start from the beginning.
Early morning Thursday, March 13th I said good-bye to my dogs and hopped into the car. Jumping on I-55 I anticipated my first destination. Austin, Texas in time for the tail end of South By Southwest an extensive media centered festival held in Austin every March. Every week has a focus of film, interactive media and music. Not being very interested in the film or interactive portions of this festival my group always tends to go for the last week, which is the music portion of the festival. Still, all this fun was eighteen hours away.
By ten-thirty that morning the Gateway Arch was in sight and I was passing through St. Louis, Missouri. Before that the drive consists of farmland, truck stops and diners. And these things are wonderful. But they all start looking the same after a while and could easily be put into the genre of Americana. The typical scenes you see when watching a road trip movie. The funny thing is though, when you are the person on the road, it’s much better than the movies. There is something about the fresh air in your face and some good tunes on the radio while watching the road in your rear view mirror. It’s unexplainable.
Since the stretch of land that I had to cover to reach Austin was going to take eighteen hours of driving I kept my stops excluded to gas and bathroom breaks. This didn’t bother me so much before St. Louis, but once I pulled into Oklahoma and saw all the cattle I remembered how much I love barbeque and the odds of finding good barbeque in Oklahoma were some of the best on the planet. There were a few places I passed through in Muskogee, Oklahoma but it was only six at night and I didn’t want to waste the daylight hours so I pushed on.
Once the sunset I found a Motel Six and hunkered down for the night. The next day there was only a few hours left to drive and I wanted to get up early. My first stop at SXSW was the Bloodshot Records showcase at the Yard Dog. The Yard Dog is an art gallery on the historic strip in Austin called South Congress, or SoCo. On this particular stretch of street there is the infamous Continental Club, the San Jose Hotel and Guerro’s, who are known far and wide for their wonderful margaritas called Silver Trains. It is customary for some to meet up at Guerro’s, indulge in a Silver Train or two and then wander on down to the Yard Dog for some free music. This year, Bloodshot Records, an independent record label that is celebrating their twentieth anniversary this year. You can learn more about Bloodshot records at their website www.bloodshotrecords.com.
This year they featured their artists Robbie Fulks, Haha Tonka and the Waco Brothers. I am especially a fan of all three groups. Another artist featured that you should check out is Barrence Whitfield who played the Bloodshot SXSW Yard Dog party as well.
If you are thinking of making SXSW a destination on future road trip for yourself here is a bit of advice, do no buy a badge or wristband. These items are for industry people that are there specifically to showcase talent or to look for new talent from different showcases. There are plenty of things to do for free and at a certain time the clubs start letting you pay to get in whether you have a badge or not.
My last night in Austin was spent eating at a restaurant on SoCo called Botticelli’s. The owners are native Chicagoans who hail from Oak Park. Their lasagna is to die for and they even have an Italian Beef sandwich on the menu, which is a delicacy that is primarily found in Chicago alone. Of course, having great beef sandwiches here already I went with a meatball sandwich that seemed to have croissant type bread baked around it. With a little hot pepper this was the perfect start to our night before we headed to the Continental Club.
The Continental Club is a music venue that opened in 1957. It’s legendary and once you walk up to it you know why. It is dingy and dark with motorcycles or classic cars parked in front. Back in the day when Austin was just a little town, the Continental Club was one of the only buildings standing surrounded by nothing. Of course now Austin is a booming and thriving metropolitan arena that dictates fashion, music and food instead of following it’s contemporaries like New York or Los Angeles.
This night local artist and songwriter Alejandro Escovedo put together a benefit concert that would benefit school children in Mexico. At this show I saw Urge Overkill, who were rather disappointing and the Fleshtones. The Fleshtones are a punk rock group from the eighties and hail out of New York. I have never been entertained more than I am when I am watching the Fleshtones. They are older guys now but still jump as high and act as goofy as they did when I was a girl. If you want to check out the Fleshtones you can find info at their Facebook page
Finally the evening was finished off with a wonderful set by Alejandro Escovedo himself and I was ready to head home. The next day was an eight-hour drive to New Orleans and I needed my sleep.