Last night we all went to BB King’s and, for a change saw a blues band – the not so snappily named Patrick Dodd Band. Admittedly, the lead singer/guitarist and bassist (who looked like Frank Zappa) were white but at least they played the blues. No versions of ‘Purple Rain’ either; just Bill Withers’ ‘Use Me,’ Steve Ray’s ‘Cold Shot’ and a few others, amongst some originals.
The meal was satisfactory. After all, it is primarily a music venue and BB was never renowned for his culinary skills. Just for a change I had the catfish dinner which I believe cancelled out the ill effects of all the meat I have been eating up until now.
A few drinks in the bar of the hotel and then it was an early night as I had to drive to Jackson, MS, in the morning. Chris had to organise a flight to New York because her train to Chicago had been cancelled. Barry, Marnee, Jeannine and Jon all had to stay another night in Memphis because their flight to New York had been postponed a day due to bad weather. Barry seemed keen to do his laundry and was completely unfazed by the unexpected change.
As I headed the van down I-55 the police and secret service were preparing for President Obama to arrive. A lot of SUVs were stopped along the freeway, presumably checking things out. The radio announced that there would be road closures but would not say which roads. Later, I imagine the center of town would have been in lock down. This is not as bad as you might think because hardly anyone lives or works there. You can arrive in Memphis at peak hour and you will never find a traffic jam, except if the baseball or basketball is on.
It was a three hour 20 minute drive to Jackson airport (Google maps predicted 3h 17m). I was glad to be rid of the van – a Ford E350 12-seater – because it drives like a large ship. The 12th Man, Rodney Rude and Bill Hicks on the iPod kept me awake. Mr Rude’s comedy is disgusting but I laughed a lot.
There was a flight to Dallas-Fort Worth, which I think is the biggest airport in terms of acreage that I have ever seen. It is like a small city. The plane had to taxi for about 10 minutes to get to the terminal. Then a 42 minute flight gate to gate to Austin. How good is it to be back in this town? Very.
Everyone assembled at Jo’s coffee place over the road from the Austin Motel. As Ken said the band is back together, minus Richard, who should be quietly sitting here next to me having a smoke right now.
Ken and Lise spend a couple of nights in San Antonio after a train ride from New Orleans. Rob and Jenny have arrived from Florida where they saw John Prine and Kris Kristofferson and swam with manatees. Sarah has some ‘festival’ mates here from the Peninsula. Margaret is also staying at the Austin Motel while Dan is staying downtown.
Dinner, of course, is at Guero’s – just up the hill. It is an experience I like to have to celebrate arriving here but it is by no means the best Mexican joint in Austin. Tonight, steak night, the potatoes with salsa on them are a little soggy and the Mexican steak does not taste as good as Melbourne steak. But the company is good, the Lone Star beer is excellent and the weather is better than at home.
Dale Watson starts his set at 10.00pm and two hours later he has not taken a break, apart from the pauses when he plugs Lone Star Light for $2 each. Dale holds the bottle up to his cheek and the lights come up to highlight his smile as he does his spiel. I hope he is on commission. Honky tonkin’ – country the best way to begin a stay here. If you ever come to Austin you should try to arrive on a Monday. Apparently, he played until 2.00am non-stop. Dan reckons he got back to his hotel at 4.30am!