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Triple Feature: Traveling for the love of music, Trip 1 posted on March 28th, 2024

Traveling for the love of music, Trip 1

by Brian Wheeler

3 trips. 3 adventures. All three largely music-driven excursions to break up the monotony of winter and to feed our wandering souls. I strongly encourage any music lovers to try to incorporate travel and music. It’s a wonderful and rewarding experience. For my next three blogs, I’m going to share with you my recent sojourns.

Our first of three trips begins in Austin, Texas. Austin has built quite a name for itself in recent years. Known as a music Mecca of the south and rivaled perhaps only by Nashville, Austin has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years. I recently visited Austin to immerse myself in the music, culture, and local fare, as well as to learn more about the community’s ‘keep Austin weird’ mantra. My wife Stacy is always game for a travel adventure and we both love live music, so we set off for the Live Music Capital of the World to see what makes this town tick.

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We arrived in Austin just a couple weeks before South by Southwest, but there was still plenty to do. We secured tickets to see The Dead South, a folk-bluegrass combo that hails from Regina, Saskatchewan. Make no mistake, this is NOT your father’s folk-bluegrass band. With a penchant for dark lyrics and earnest delivery, their shows have a punk/goth ethos akin to Bauhaus, but with mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar, and stage apparel that would put them on the streets of 1800’s Deadwood if you didn’t know better.

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What made this spectacle even more special was the venue. Austin City Limits Live. I’ve watched Austin City Limits as far back as I can remember. This venue is now home to the longest-running music series in television history. That’s cool enough right there. But the artists that have graced these halls along with the performances that have been witnessed make this hallowed ground for a music fan. The oversized photos of musical greats in action was such a sight to behold. The venue itself isn’t very old and was quite reminiscent of the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, with its shallow balconies and spacious floor. I found the crew at the venue to be friendly and quite knowledgeable about music and the history of ACL as well. It was a lovely visit, and I’d encourage anyone who loves music to make the pilgrimage.

So, what makes Austin “weird”? Stacy and I took an ‘off-the-beaten-path’ tour to find out more about the “Keep Austin Weird” mantra. We enjoyed the Karaoke Cab on the way to ACL, singing songs at the top of our lungs with the windows down. Then there’s the Museum of the Weird, the mystical Zilker Botanical garden, you can even play a rousing round of Chicken S*** Bingo, where you lay your bet on which number a hen will leave her ‘mark’ on a bingo board. If she ‘graces’ your number, you win a prize! Weird, indeed!

We also visited the Elisabet Ney Museum on our tour. Elisabet was an accomplished sculptor and created many impressive pieces up until her death in 1907. She was commissioned to create many notable busts, including Stephen F. Austin and Samuel Houston, as well as foreign dignitaries such as Otto von Bismarck and King Ludwig II of Bavaria. She led a fascinating life and was a champion of the local flora and fauna, mandating that the grounds around her studio grew wild as sort of a mini-habitat.

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Many musicians that carved their own niche have made Austin their sanctuary. Willie Nelson moved to Austin in the 70s and has called the Austin area home ever since. Roky Erickson, member of the 13th Floor Elevators and pioneer of Psych Rock, called Austin his home for a good number of years as well. Musician Gary Clark Junior also resides nearby and own’s part of Antone’s, a storied music club in Austin. These are just a few of the many artists that call this weird, wonderful town home.

Speaking of Antone’s, it was a treat to visit its neighboring record store, Big Henry’s. While listening to the Fabulous Thunderbirds perform a soundcheck, we browsed the rare vintage vinyl and show posters next door.

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Having had a taste of the bountiful vinyl-hunting, we continued to slake our thirst for music at some of the area’s offerings: Waterloo records, Antone’s Records, and End of an Ear. We managed to find some tasty tunes at each location.

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“Weird” counterculture may be a hallmark of Austin, but it isn’t the extent of what defines this cool music town. Art, music, the people, and I can’t believe I didn’t mention the FOOD are just a few of the many reasons you should make a visit to this must-experience destination in the heart of Texas.