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Austin Powers

01 Apr

On 98.1 KFAT, the emphasis is on country music. And adverts for tractors. And cosmetic dentistry. These guys know how to play to the Texas demographic. Welcome to Austin, which is blessed with clear skies as we approach

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On the ground, an enormous man takes me to the shuttle van, and turns out to be the perfect host to introduce me to the kind of things that make Texas tick.

“Ah’m oh’n ma THIRD wife. Don’t know why – that’s just how it turned out. See those folks of the roadside? They’re sellin’ paper mâché eggs. Y’know, fer Easter. Ahh bought some for ma daughter filled with confetti. Bah the way, look out fer traffic. You don’t wanna be drivin’ in this town when it gets busy.”

Fortunately for me, downtown Austin is fairly compact, so there’s no need for a car. Although from the eleventh floor of my hotel, it seems typically Texan. Huge. Even NewsMutt is impressed.

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As soon as I step out onto Congress Street, I can feel the heat. At 7pm it’s still about 20 degrees, and pretty humid. At first the city seems quiet – but it’s Easter Sunday, so many people will probably be at home. It’s a stark contrast to two weeks earlier, when Austin’s biggest music event – South by Southwest – was in town. Someone even left their guitar behind

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For over fifty years, Nashville has had the unofficial title of Music City USA. The phrase was coined by DJs at radio stations in the 1950s, as the town grew into a major centre for discovering new artists and recording music. But as you turn onto Sixth Street in Austin, it’s not difficult to see how this place is quickly becoming the New Music Mecca.

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For this picture, it would be easy to think that Omar Lopez and his buddy are all about country. But the guitar and fiddle make a mean and unusual combination of Latino and Gypsy Jazz. The small crowd are captivated by Omar’s skills. With just a small distraction behind them,

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“Every night I get to give people a buck!” enthuses the Bronco operator. For five dollars you can endure a stomach churning experience of being in your very own star spangled rodeo. The area around the Bronco itself is well padded, though there’s also a lengthy legal disclaimer to sign before you get on. I give it a miss and head instead to the Chuggin Monkey.

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This is proper Honky Tonk country. A strip of bars where there are rarely any cover charges, and some impressive musicianship. I have no idea what these guys were called, but their lead guitarist rips up rock solos in the same manner as he probably eats breakfast, lunch and dinner combined.

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By 10pm, Sixth Street is starting to buzz a little bit more – though many of the bars are still empty. But it doesn’t stop Austin’s performers, including a great blues quartet.

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With this amount of talent around in just three bars, I may just end up joining in with a song later. Look out…

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Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Travel Stuff, USA 2013

 

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