Austin #2 – Old Settler’s & More
Friday April 20 – Sunday April 22, 2018
Our time in Austin ended last Monday night as it should have: seeing Bob Schneider at The Saxon Pub. It was yet another wonderfully eccentric show from Bob and his crew, which included the return of keyboard/trumpet/accordion/harmonium player Olly Stack. The ending was reminiscent of one of those chaotic recordings of the late Spike Jones and his wacky orchestra as Bob and band played their closing song, ‘Time To Go,’ in the style of a late night news bulletin, including accident and a sports report. (Of course, most of you would be too young to remember Spike Jones but I did love his version of the opera Carmen). I bumped into Bob after the show and told I thought it was magnificent.
The weekend had been a mix. Old Settler’s was great on Friday and for half of Saturday and the MotoGP at the Circuit of the Americas was enjoyable.
Old Settler’s was at a new site about 45 minutes or so south of Austin near Lockhart, famous for being the home of Black’s BBQ (they are also a festival sponsor and have a stall there). No matter how hard we tried, we never managed to get there or back the same way twice. The new location lacks the charm of the old site, next to the Salt Lick BBQ, but it will no doubt develop in time, with a bit more character and a few trees. There appear to be many gopher holes in the ground and it was a skill to avoid tripping over.
I have always enjoyed the festival because of the excellent line-up which reveals new discoveries to be made and the fact that there are only two stages, meaning not too many decisions need to be made. The fact that it has a smaller crowd of only 5000 or so also makes it really comfortable.
On Friday we enjoyed newcomer Frankie Leonie, Donna The Buffalo (no Donnas and no buffalo) and excellent Jamestown Revival before a stunning show from Calexico who sounded fantastic. Greensky Bluegrass closed the evening on the main stage with their electric jam band reworking of bluegrass (Hendrix was in there).
Then as we left we walked past the Bluebonnet stage and caught a little of Tomar Williams & The FCs, a sensational local soul act in the mould of Leon Bridges but with the bite of Black Joe Lewis. Later, I was inspired to organise an interview with Tomar who turns out to be a veteran of the Austin music scene. I think he is onto a good thing and we’ll hear a lot more of him (though he did not reveal what the band name, the FCs, stood for).
The best laid plans often go astray and so it was with the second day of Old Settler’s on Saturday. Rain had been predicted and it arrived as if on cue late in the afternoon, just in time to stop us from seeing the Carolina Chocolate Drops, I’m With Her and Bob Schneider. We decided to make a strategic retreat and by the time we got to the car we were all soaked. In fact, days later several items remained sodden.
On Sunday Ross and I headed off to the Circuit of The Americas, which also has an amphitheatre for concerts, for the MotoGP. It is also south but closer to town. Getting there was an easy 20 minutes but then it took an hour to get into the car park which must be the biggest I have ever seen. This shows the problems caused by not having any public transport or even shuttle buses to the event.
Luckily, we got a spot close to the car park entrance and with 6 laps to go when Mark Marquez was 6 seconds ahead of the pack we left and exited the car park in 3 minutes! The circuit itself is huge but the general admission ticket gets you some good views but nowhere near as good as Philip Island. I am told that the event is completely self-sufficient and does not have any funding at all from the local Austin government. Perhaps the Victorian government which squanders up to $60 million a year on the Formula 1 race could take note.
On Tuesday, we all headed to New Orleans to get ready for the 49th Jazz & Heritage Festival.