Rookie error


Okay, first things first. I left the awesome mister TK and his equally awesome girlfriend in San Marco, meeting up with WIckedKarma and his girlfriend. Awesomeness yet to be determined, but early signs are good.

Texas is infinitely flat. ‘Have you noticed,’ said WK, ‘and I’m not being funny here, but have you noticed how the sky in Texas is like… huge?’ And it’s true. The clouds are incredibly high up, creating a stratospheric dome that spans a stretch from horizon to horizon. It makes one feel incredibly small. And the sunsets are spectacular.

We ate at a local studenty café place where I got a pancake.


Austin is a dusty, arty town covered in murals, music, and trees. Lots of trees. There’s a pleasingly ramshackle, ungentrified air to the place that nonetheless doesn’t make it feel run-down. This area of Texas is in a seriously bad drought at the minute, though; four years of almost no rain has really taken its toll on the land. Grass is yellow or gone and the earth is dry and loose. Fountains have been switched off.

For all the desertification, though, Austin remains fecund with culture. I only got to see a little bit from the car window, but it was clear that this a place that is supremely unworried by what other people think. The buildings are covered in signs, graffiti, bright colours… Just out of the café window, I saw at least into double figures of tattoo’d, body-modded, pocked and painted folks drift past in the space of the fifteen or twenty minutes we were there. The path to the toilets was plastered with acts playing in town – more on that later.

My newest hosts drove me to a botanical gardens, and on the way talked to me about the area. The impression I got is that, whilst they’re still proud of the city and what it stands for, there’s a worry about where Austin is going in the future, and whether the hippy vibe that permeates the streets can survive the creeping onset of modernity. Tales of places that Used To Be, and places that have gone, laws enacted and prices inflated jostle alongside awesome contemporaneous anecdotes. A city in flux, perhaps.

The botanical gardens were beautiful, with an interesting history. The park is split into three areas, one section of which was constructed entirely by one Japanese man in traditional eastern fashion, which was cool. Another area was a ‘colonial’ area, which we skipped, and then a third was DINOSAUR ISLAND, which was kind of what you might expect and no less awesome for it. There were lots of huge butterflies, like… Monarchs and Swallowtails the size of my fist. Pretty great. One of my favourite memories (tangent alert) was in Namibia, when I crossed a small bridge over a stream by a lake, alone, with the forest rising up around me. When I stepped on to the third plank, there was a noise like tearing silk, and the air erupted with thousands of tiny, black butterflies that had clustered in the shade below. Their collective swarm blocked out the sun. It was pretty amazing. I’ve always loved watching butterflies since.

Have some pictures.





Later on, after a lovely home-made chili and cornbread, I headed into downtown Austin with the intent to sample some nightlife. New Orleans and San Antonio really instilled the desire in me to see more live music. However, I got kind of unlucky.

Austin’s nightlife is surprisingly varied in terms of the age of the people on the street. It’s not anywhere like as heaving or plain nuts as Bourbon Street, but it’s bustling and there’s an energy in the hot bluster of the air. There’s a constant echo of drumbeats in the air, and whilst there’s none of the decadent swing of the big easy, it’s replaced by an energy with roots firmly in rock and indie. My night, however, was a series of ill timings.

I ducked into a blues bar first, which had an awesome and interesting band playing, but just as I bought my drink they packed up shop. I couldn’t take it outside, so I decided to wait for the next act. They rolled on 20 minutes later, all lanky limbs and sleeveless shirts, and although they were energetic and skilled… it was 12-bar blues. And the trouble with 12-bar blues is that they do tend to all end up sounding the same. I grew bored, slid my empty glass back across the counter, and skipped back onto the street.

I then trundled back to a venue I had seen earlier, EMO’s, where De La Soul were playing. I hummed and hawed and came to the conclusion I was being lame and indecisive, so I paid the $20 cover (ouch) and slipped in.

You know, I’m a fairly mild-mannered person. I don’t usually like loud noises and such, and hip-hop isn’t ordinarily my kind of music. But I tell you what, these guys were the real deal. No songs glorifying gangs, guns, bigotry or bitches – just awesome tunes with awesome rhythms and unlimited energy. I knew nothing about the band and had no idea of the words, the gig was under a low covered ceiling on a hot Texan night, and in less than a minute I was soaked in sweat – but my God, it was a great gig. But alas! I must have misread the sign or something, because I swear it said 11pm-2am. Yet sadly my $20 only got me three or four songs. Once again I had caught the tail end of the performance. Hugely frustrating, yes, but I’m going to put it down to my inexperience with these things.

Nonetheless, this was something I never thought I’d do and I’m really glad I did. I don’t think any of my friends back home would ever predict that I would end up, fist in the air, bouncing along with the rest of the tropical crowd to the tunes of classic hip-hop.

6 Responses to “Rookie error”

  1. 3 Dylan 02/08/2009 at 6:50 pm

    But also

  2. 4 Dylan 02/08/2009 at 6:52 pm


    Hip hop is sometimes good, I told you so (probably) but if I didn’t I’m telling you now.

  3. 5 TK-42-1 02/08/2009 at 10:26 pm

    De La Soul playing in Austin is a pretty rare event. He didnt pay a $20 cover, he paid the $20 ticket price for the show, it just wasnt sold out. He would have lucked out if it wasnt for the fact that he only saw a handful of tracks. They’ve been in a couple of ACL lineups, but seeing an actual somewhat well known gig at a moments notice is pretty awesome.

  4. 6 KIRA 02/08/2009 at 10:57 pm

    That was pretty lucky seeing De La at a moment’s notice. We’ll call it beginner’s luck 😉

    Emo’s is one of my old high school haunts, not really for the venue per se, but for the music. Glad you made it down there.

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