ARRIVING TO SAN ANTONIO AND SAM'S
My first impression of Texas was from aeroplane window and it looked much greener than at the Movie Giant. Texans are more relaxed than west coast people and greet when meet regardless do they know you or not. When the sun got down the moist warm air changed suddenly cooler. It was Monday night and the first place I visited in San Antonio was Sam’s Burger Joint. Beside big tasty burgers and other culinary treats, during the years that place has offered live music from Two Tons Of Steel to Wanda Jackson. To dancers there are also Swing Nites held with teachers included. During my one hour stay at Sam’s I met more people than in one year back at home in Finland, among other people the owners Sam's and local singer Ruby Jane Polanco. She used to have a rockabilly-jazz-swing band called Spank Sinatra and planning to put up a new one in the near future.
MIXING AT MIX
Next stop was at Mix. Name is omen. It is mixture of dive bar and extension of living room with pool tables and darts. This place is open every day and when there is not local band playing live music, there is a DJ. DJ Chris Smarty Pants is spinning wax on Sunday and Monday. And Voodoo Vinyl night is held by one of the best female DJ's around - the Heelgrinder. They really do play vinyls and the music varies from garage to rockabilly.
If it gets too crowded or smokey inside there is also patio. You are allowed to smoke inside too. The pitchers of beer are so cheap, you ain't gonna get out of this place sober. No way. Some of the local San Antonio bands that play at Mix regularly are: Sean Castillo and The Hub Caps, The Barn Burners and Little Bit & The Customatics.
Mickey Hawks's Bip Bop Boom done by Barn Burners
San Antonio most famous sights: Ripley's Believe it or not museum, Riverwalk, Alamo and Spanish Missions are all located in downtown. I did a trolley tour and learned a thing or two about history of SA. I also experienced water in Texas with Kymmi in different forms. First we did the river-walk and had lunch at Dick's. The staff makes fun of customers and beside the BBQ I got the famous paper hat but what was written on it is censored.
WHAT IS TUBING?
During the hot summer months the best way to deal with the heat is tubing. New Braunfels an hour drive from SA is popular tourist town that was originally founded by German prince about few hundred years ago. German names are still seen on the billboards and street signs throughout the city. We went tubing to Schlitterbahn water park, but you can also go Tubing to Guadalupe River. Our fun visit at water park was suddenly interrupted because of the storm. People were not allowed to go to water anymore, so we decided to leave and drove back to SA at extremely heavy rain.
Instead of getting depressed we went for awesome dinner to the Mexican marketplace El Mercado in SA. I am a meat eater and I enjoyed a lot the local food, both BBQ and Mexican, breakfast at 50’s style diners and flavored ice tea. El Mercado is collection of small Mexican shops, bakeries and restaurants. After tasty and big Margaritas and main course at MiTierra restaurant, I finally had fried ice cream! Women should also beware of the local police. Kymmi got so distracted by handsome policeman that she lost her phone. We had to turn back to get it. Luckily it was still there.
CUBAN CIGARS AND VINTAGE
For smokers there is at Finck’s cigar shop the biggest walk-in humidor in Texas. For vintage clothes shoppers the place where all the hep cats and kittens in San Antonio go is Top Stitch Vintage. The owner Scott has also booth at Viva Las Vegas weekender every year. And he is married with DJ Heelgrinder who is also great graphic designer and has done among other things the Viva Las Vegas web pages.
MAGIC TIME MACHINE
There is much to see for everyone in SA, no matter what you are into. I am into rockabilly, so on Thursdays there is DJ Jive Bomber playing 40-50’s killer jive, boppers and stroll at Magic Time Machine or rather at the extension of it – at the bar called Mine Shaft. When I ordered my fist drink, I was not sure first did I hear right. I though the short shorts behind the bar said “two dollars”, well she did. After that I sure had a blast.
I also had pleasure to visit the wooden Gruene Hall, oldest dance-hall in Texas. It was built 1878 and is located few hours drive from San Antonio, but worth of trouble. Everyone there was wearing cowboy boots, regardless what else they were wearing.There was cowboy boots and hats with shorts, circle dresses, suits…and two-step is the only dance you gotta know. I was given free dance lessons on the spot thanks to Nathan and entertained by his stepson Damian. Girls tried to get him dance without luck. What comes to live music, there has been a lot of country going on: George Strait & Ace in the Hole, Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Hal Ketchum, Bruce ja Charlie Robison. But while I was there it was Two Tons Of Steel on stage and at the band brakes to my big surprise the DJ played pure rockabilly.
AUSTIN LONESTAR ROUNDUP DAY 1
On Friday I continued to Austin and Lonestar Roundup. It is one of the worlds biggest rod & custom car shows/fairs held in April. In Austin you cannot avoid musicians, there is nothing else but musicians! One of the organizers of the car show is Shaun Young, better known from the band High Noon. He was selling tickets at the door.
We saw hundreds and thousands of cars and people who either own a rod or want to own a rod. At the vendors there was everything you can imagine - from vintage auto parts from back lights to grill’s. As well as a car corral featuring classic vehicles. But when it comes to beers the selection was narrower. At the venue, beer was certainly overpriced. So I changed to Margarita that was not spiked, but cool and tastier than beverages. I also ate first time in my life alligator.
The main venue had outdoor stage and first band was Stone River Boys. Gotta say that their singer had very interesting moves. Next act was Deke Dickerson with Lisa Pankratz at the drums. Outside the stage I had pleasure to meet sax player Alex Hernandez from The Royal Rhythmaires and his lovely wife Jeanette. TRR plays swinging rhythm and blues and their singer has got truly amazing voice. On a way out we even bumped into Nick Curran, who was cruising around with his custom made bicycle.
In the evening it took me some time to get ready so I listened Morry Sochat & The Special 20’s from the open window of our hotel. I hear it well. All the evening gigs are held at SoCo (South Congress street). It is full of police patrols, so hide or disguise your booze when you hit to the street, or drink it before. In Austin where ever you go - there is a band playing. So on a way to Joe’s Coffee we stopped to hear Moonhowlers. Joe's was really crowded. On stage there was now Austin based Jungle Rockers. Earlier they used to be The Ragers from Cleveland. Their talented guitar player Mike Molnar has also done touring with Ronnie Dawson. They musical chemistry is rock’n’roll, old ska and own jungle fever. So far they have 2 EP’s: "Jungle Rockers” and “Cool It Out”, plus full length “Guns and Gold”. I got to talk so much that I gotta confess that did not pay much attention to the band. But I went to see them again later on! And dam they were good!
Next bar was Trophy’s and I really liked the surf sounds of the Thunderchiefs. It includes Joe Emery on bass (former Ugly Beats member), Shaun Young at guitar, Bobby Trimble at drums and Mike Guerrero from the surf trio The Sir Finks. Their tunes of songs: “Wound Up, Shadows “Apache” and the Kinks “You Really Got Me” treated my senses. Cannot say same about the The Jade Idol that was the next on stage. So I stuck outside chatting with Ugly Beats keyboard/organ player Jeanine and all the others who happen to be there, from Caroline Casey to Dave Wolfe. It is kinda chilly outside during night, so bring a light jacket if you visit Austin during April. Luckily Jason the Ugly Beat bass player offered me whiskey from the flask so I got back on track again. Ugly Beat plays their own kind of garage. And it was very entertaining to watch people diggin' the music and dancing around with their 70’s gear. Austin has so many bands it is impossible to list them, but the ones that come to my mind first are: The Modern Don Juans, Miss Lauren Marie and Wayne Hancock.
DAY 2 AT LONESTAR ROUNDUP AND AUSTIN SPEEDSHOP
Next day we girls came fashionably late to the car show, there was playing eight piece jump blues-swing band called Big Daddy Alright. But in the evening we were right on time to see the Paladins at the Austin Speed Shop. There was free booze, so everyone was in a really good mood. It was so long time ago I last time heard Paladins live, so we sang along front of the stage the whole gig. They did all their hits: “Mercy”, “Let’s Buzz”, “Years Since Yesterday”, “Big Mary’s”, “Good Lovin” and “Kiddio”.
JOVITA'S AND GINNY'S LONGHORN
Luckily Caroline Casey was our driver so we got also to see also the The Vaquetones at Mexican restaurant Jovita’s. Got some spiky Margaritas and we stole the guitarist with us after the gig. Then we drove to at Ginny’s Little Longhorn that is small but very popular place among country stars. They play there, they hang there, maybe they live there? That night was no exception as local Dane Sterling was performing. We grabbed beers and were forced to go out cause the place was so crowded.
Austin has many bars that serve only beer, like Ginny’s and Trophy's and I don't usually drink beer. So I had to improvise. Instead of Lone Star, I continued the Mexican way of drinking and got myself Dos Equis with lime. I recommend having a flask as it is allowed to buy a soft drink and add own spirits into it, they just don't sell booze at every bar. The place was full of dressed up cowboys and cowgirls. Including Mark and Jeff, members of Denver based band Ethyl And The Regulars. Later that night I had the best BBQ in Austin at the street kitchen outside the Continental Club while guys were wrestling at the hammock at our hotel patio. Sailor Jerry Rum might have something to do with that.
SUNDAY IN AUSTIN
On 3rd day I had fab breakfast at Magnolia cafe and checked the fancy vintage stores along the SoCo street. There are plenty of those in Austin. In the afternoon we returned to Ginny’s for Chicken Shit Bingo and the same people were all still there!!! They claimed that they had left and returned, but I am not so sure…Anyway, I saw the chicken and nothing came out of it while I was there, so I don’t know who won. I had better look of the country stars all over the walls, in form of pictures. Upcoming gigs included: Roger Wallace, Stepsiders, Jeff Hughes & The Chaparral, The Feral Four, Two Hoots & A Holler, Redd Volkaert, Jim Stringer, Waylon Payne, James Intveld, JWW & The Prospectors, Brad Fordham, Weldon “Handsome” Henson…the list is endless. No fees, just fun. From Ginny’s we went to have some ribs & briskets to Artz Rib House and surprise, there was band playing and line-dancers stepping around. At the Artz there is live music every evening and Texas Bluegrass association Jam on Sundays.
At my last night in Austin and Texas I went to The Continental Club with Little Rachel. There was amazing Heybale and boy they did play long sets of country. Their singer Gary Claxton took his own life January 2011. So I am glad I had chance to hear him. He is greatly missed among fellow musicians, fans and friends. But that nite Continental was shaking, as people were two-stepping all night long. I tried that too. Must confess that even the basic steps are simple, I am not natural talent in two-stepping. But I did not step on anyone's feet either. Guys with the Stetsons bought us drinks and Dave Gonzales from Paladins showed us great photos from his road-trips. Californian barber Almon Loos (Almon Loos & The Hoop And Hollers) was in flames at the dance floor. Like in every bar near the closing time it was getting wild, so we sneaked out like good girls do before the lights went out. I could have stayed longer in Texas. Like Dave Crocket said: “ You may all go the Hell, and I will go to Texas”.