Obviously, Texas is blesssed with many a worthy destination for a day-trip or weekend excursion. Some of those destinations, however, are locales that seem to be slow on some weekends, and crammed on others. One hot-spot that is always sizzling with activity, almopst regardless of when one chooses to go is Fredericksburg.
The lovely, German, hilly town has more than it’s fair share of calling cards – hello, Beds and Brekafasts – but we’re not here to talk about that. We’re not here to send you there when one of th large wine festivals or city-wide celebrations are taking place. Anyone can do that. We’re just going to look at this coming weekend specifically and point you into the direction of a few understated, but cool, events and a few of the key attractions that makes this place a choice destination almost any weekend on the calendar…
- Friday 6/24: Thomas Michael Riley at Hondo’s on Main ~ The tree-covered, outdoor patio stage and dining area is pretty much the definition of the Hill Country music expecrience. Cold Beer, entrees that involve salty corn chips and chili, and stars lighting the gazebo stage from which the bands play. Shoot, whether it’s before TMR’s set or after, head across the street to The Auslander for some schnitzel and live tunes in a real-deal biergarten.
- Saturday 6/25: Get All you Need or Get Rid of It! ~ On Saturday, at the Holy Ghost Lutheran Fellowship Hall, you can learn more about green living. It’s like a free community garage sale. Whether you’re looking to discard or acquire an item, this is the place to do it! Even if you don’t have something to give, come by and find items you can use.
- Saturday 6/25: Roots Music Night Series - Americana Rock ~ In the evening, pre-order a chicken-fried steak and graba couple of lawn chairs to enjoy this well-produced concert series on the lawn of the Pioneer Museum. Each edition has a theme, ranging from Zydeco to Blues. Celebrating the hard-to-define Americana sound, music fans will be able to enjoy a 7pm performance from buzzed-about girl band, the Trishas.
- Anytime, Any Weekend: Becker Vinyards ~ We typically arent fond of wines that are too sweet, but darn it if the last time we enjoyed a few glasses of vino from the patio of the beautiful, lavender-scented Becker environs wasnt their too-good-to-be-true Reisling. They often have special events, but that’s a bit misleading, really. To paraphrase a line from the Merlot-hating flick, Sideways, every trip to Becker is a special occasion.
- Anytime, Any Weekend: National Museum of the Pacific War ~ Basically attached to the impressive Admiral Nimitz Museum, this relatively new, multi-media gem is a gripping and often-times goosebump-inducing trip through a memory lane filled with incomprehensible pain, agony and triumph. This is still a hidden gem, and is a historical center not to be missed when traveling through the area.
- Anytime, Any Weekend: Lincoln Street ~ We ahd to go back to wine, right? This cozy wine bar is just about the prefect place to sink into a glass of wine, nibble on a cheese plate and maybe even enjoy a cigar. Lincoln Street manages to feel like a neighborhood joint in the middle of a throbbing tourist mecca.
Every few years, Texas Monthly Magazine crowns their favorite BBQ joints throughout the state. The usual suspects typically make the list, sure, but many new names from unknown outposts also find their way onto the list, thanks to the diligent and smoke-scented magazine staff.
Each year, Texas Monthly hosts a party in Austin to honor and showcase the best BBQ our state has to offer, and we’re all invited! On October 30, at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, The Texas Monthly BBQ Festival will take place and fill our souls with mesquite fumes and some of Austin’s best tunes.
Last year, along with the smoking stars of the day, BBQ lovers were treated to sets by two of the Hill Country’s finest songwriters: Ray Wylie Hubbard and Amy Cook. This year’s musical line-up hasn’t been announced just yet, though.
The reason we mention this so early? Last year’s fest sold-out in a very short time. So, get on it, or you’ll be very sorry. And hungry.
What: Texas Monthly BBQ Festival
Where: Austin, TX
When: 10/30/2011 12pm – 5pm
I can only hope that this post doesn’t find you residing in a scenario where you have yet to take part in one of the most holy, quintessentially Texan of all traditions. Tubing the Guadalupe, or Comal for that matter, is an experience that few other states can offer.
Simply put: If you haven’t yet. It’s about time to get to it. Below are some resources available to help you in your quest for the spirit of Texas summers…
Gruene Texas - It’s kind of crazy how one small town can have just about everything you need for a fun day of tubing. River outfitters, great restaurants and, in case you haven’t made the connection yet: The legendary Gruene Hall. Texas’ grandest and oldest dance hall. If tunes are blaring from the open widows that line the walls of this hollowed palace, than it’s time to get on in and grab a cold one.
- For Tubing: Rockin’ R River Rides
- For Shopping: Lone Star Music
- For Dining: The Grist Mill
- For Live Music: Gruene Hall
- For More Drinks and Live Music: Tavern in the Gruene
Also, check out the Comal River for tubing good-times…
- For Tubing: Comal River Tubing
- For Good Times, Brew and Tunes: River Road Ice House
- For Cabin Rentals: River City Resorts
OK, that’s enough to at least get you started. Believe us, it’s almost a deal where you will have a hard time convincing other Texan’s that you’re a real Texan if you can’t say you’ve tubed the river. It’s kind of like saying you haven’t seen Willie Nelson live in-concert, or paid your respects at the Alamo…wait, you have done those things, right??
Obviously, when talking about Memorial Day, we want to remember the real reason for it (check back here on Monday for more of that), but it’s also fair to talk about the fun that can be had, as we all enjoy the freedom that so many brave men and women have sacrficed for over the decades and even centuries our country has been in existence. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, give the below options a look and hit one up…
Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie: On Monday, the beautiful racing park will be turned into an all-purpose fun-time center. Not only will the horses be running, but Harleys will be given away, a chili cook-off will take place and the stakes will be as high as they will be all year for those who are lucky enough.
Fiesta Texas – San Antonio: All kinds of new shows are getting started, including a laser light show. Not to mention the usual family-fun and thrill seeking that’s typically available.
The National Polka Festival – Ennis, TX: For 45 years, this has been the preemminent Polka festival in Texas, if not the entire US. There isnt any way a family could make their way to this party and not find something for everyone.
99.5′s Wolfdance 2011 – Ft. Worth Stockyards: Each year, this Sunday-before Memorial Day party is one of the better showcases for Texas Country music. While we’re scratching our heads on how acts like Casey Donahew and Josh Abbott have somehow earned top-billing over the likes of Wade Bowen, it’s still an all-day affair that gives many of the up-and-coming names (that deserve such a title) a fantastic showcase. In fact, take our advice and get there around 1pm for John David Kent and then catch Rob Baird, John D Hale and Brison Bursey, the leave before you have to hear Johnny Cooper make another lame attempt at working his lame beat-boxing into his set.
On Saturday, the 14th, the city of Plano got straight-up sudsy, thanks to the North Texas Beer Festival, hosted at the Plano Centre. Tons of beer vendors from all over the country sharing samples of their latest and greatest brews.
There were some nagging issues through the course of the afternoon, however. Long lines that ran up and and down the trade-show style rows of beer booths made it impossible to simply grab a cup from a specific brewer that might be in the middle of the aisle. So, rather than being able to easily sample something from Mendocino Brewing, one had to head to the back of a long line that forced you to spend time in-front of vendors and brewers that you may or may not want to get to know better. Also, while there were great craft-brew stars – both regionally and nationally - represented, there weren’t many lesser known breweries there, ready to surprise the throngs that arrived looking for a buzz. Maybe that wasn’t the goal, and perhaps that’s all relative – who knows. Southern Star Brewery, out of Conroe, TX isn’t exactly a household name, but thanks to their stellar Buried Hatchet Stout and Bombshell Blonde, the brewery that makes the finest canned Texas beer is well-known to us around here. In fact, Southern Star’s ProAm Smoked Porter was my favorite brew of the afternoon, with Austin’s Jester King Black Metal Stout ranking a close second.
So, there were a couple of issues, but overall, this was a very cool event and I can only imagine that it went about as well as anyone could expect from a first year’s offering.
As I’ve hinted already, Texas beer lovers were in heaven. St. Arnold had their excellent beers on hand, and Franconia, out of McKinney, wowed with their authentic, German-style lagers. Even Shiner Bock managed to bring something that was surely a surprise to most. Their new Shiner Ruby Redbird blended the classic bock taste with bright hints of ginger and grapefruit to make a refreshing and surprisingly even drink. It was easy to expect something that came off as way too fruity and sweet, but the ginger evened things out pretty well.
For the drinkers looking for out-of-state goodness, there were several options, perhaps most notably was New Belgium Brewery. Offering their brand-new Somersault seasonal (in stores very soon, we were told), Colorado’s hippest brewery is clearly continuing their streak of offering perhaps the country’s best beers for the sunny seasons.
Hey, what else is there to say, but that we’re already looking forward to next year’s fest!
I know that we still might technically be still in the midst of Spring, but the temps are beginning to suggest otherwise. Each year, as our energy bills rise, so to does the list of concerts we all circle on our repsective calendars. Below are a few of the top tours and festivals hitting the state. Some you may know all about by now, and others on this list may be hitting your radar for the first time, perhaps. Regardless, we’re pretty sure you’ll find something for almost any taste in the list below…
Austin Psych Fest (April 29 – May 1) - As much of an oddball grouping as your likely to find all year. This intense, all-weekend bill will be filling the Seaholm Power Plant with all sorts of industrial noise and racous bad/good times. Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez Lopez group, along with A Place to Bury Strangers, No Joy and even Texan-goup This Will Destroy You, lead a sonic assult that will likely leave any attendees few questions as to why their ears are bleeding.
Wilco (Houston May 6, Denton May 7) – Not much to add to the simple fact that Wilco will be hitting a couple of places in our state. Word has it that some sort of release is nearing completion, but even if Jeff Tweedy and crew dont play new tunes, their classics are just that – classic.
Editor’s Pick! Homegrown Festival (Dallas May 14): What began last year as a relatively humble gathering of local bands, some of which had outgrown the city limits a tad, has become a full-fledged destination festival, this year. the name of the all-day shindig rings true, still though. Headliners such as Slobberbone, Neon Indian, Astronautalis, and School of Seven Bells are widely known around the country, but all started here in North Texas. The still-new and beautiful Main St Garden is an ideal location that soon might be too small for this budding festival.
Editor’s Pick! Mogwai (Dallas May 15, Austin May 16, Houston May 17) – Perhaps the band that gave real wings to what so many term as “post-rock”. The Scottish outfit has now been together for over a decade and a half, and after three years, they’ve just released an insanely anthemic studio album album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, which is their best effort since their debut record, 1997′s Young Team. Similar to a band like Austin’s Explosions in the Sky, who clearly adore Stewart Braithwaite and his crew, Mogwai has always looked to create moving soundscapes that escape simple categorization. The former Matador stars, now working with Sub Pop have had this American tour planned for a while, actually. The Granada Theater in Dallas announced this show back in November, giving fans plenty of time to brush up on their air-guitar and shoegazing skills. A Pitchfork review of the new record, while not glowing, summed up a feeling that has seemed to evident in the band’s recent performances by suggesting, “ On Hardcore, Mogwai sound like they’re enjoying being Mogwai again.” I can only imagine that us Texans will enjoy them just fine.
Editor’s Pick! Twilight Singers (May 30 Dallas, May 31 Austin, June 1 Houston) – Another Sub Pop act that has been around for a while will be making their long-awaited way through Texas. This project is a bit differnt, however. Greg Dulli, formerly the leader of Afghan Wigs, made this his secondary group, therefore output from this act was scarce until his main act disbanded in 2001. After that, releases havent exactly been prolific, but they have at least bore the mark of a real band and not merely a one-off side project. Case in point: Twilight Singers latest album, Dynamite Steps. An all-out alt-rock album that features agressive rock, with agresive melodies and a real sense for drama. Afghan who?
Houston Free Press Summerfest (June 4-5) - Talk about a line-up that doesn’t need much further explanation? The annual festival, held in Eleanor Tinsley Park, has really topped their already impressive acts from previous years. Weezer, Big Boi, Cut Copy, Yeasayer, Jason Isbell, and Beirut headline a line-up that has really strong support from Lower Dens, Hayes Carll, The Black Angels and Those Darlins, among many others.
Adele w/ Wanda Jackson (Austin June 12, Dallas June 15) – Hello, Girl Power! The current darling of the UK and the US album charts pairs herself with the Queen of Rock and Roll? Yes please! That’s a serious amount of soul to put onto one stage in one night.
OK, here it is! We’ve been telling you about some of our favorite new Texas-bred music for a while, now, but here we are, ready to let you hear it, all in one nice, tidy podcast!
The first Best of Texas Music Podcast (Catchy name, huh?) featires six groovy tunes by some of our favorite artists that have recently been featured here on The Squawker. No need to make it too terribly complicated. Click on the player below and get to listenting.
Below that is the line-up of this inaugural episode, along with the minute markers each tune begins at…
Best of Texas Music Podcast – Episode 001
- Bumbling Intro from Kelly: ……….0:01
- Monahans - “Seabirds”: …………..1:50
- Descender - “Armor”: ……………..5:15
- Calhoun – “Hey Mystery”:…………..9:38 (Blog post on them coming soon!)
- Kelly’s Needless Comments:………12:31
- Javi Garcia & The Cold Cold Ground - “VooDoo Queen”:……….14:42
- Bonnie Whitmore - “You Gonna Miss Me”:……….19:08
- Here Holy Spain - ”New Bones to Break”:………….23:26
- More Needless Comments to Close Podcast:……26:06
By the time the next episode rolls around, you’ll be able to download it for free from iTunes and all that good stuff. For now, just click on it above and enjoy, please.
If you’re in a band and want your tunes featured here, or you want to suggest a band for me to get onto the podcast, email me at email@example.com.
Oh, man! I love it when I stumble into a veritable gold-mine of sweet, clean video. As with the previous week’s editions of Video Gold, there isn’t much to say, which is kind of the point, I guess. Thanks to Refueled Magazine’s Automatic Buzz Sessions, you’re computer-time is about to get a whole lot more interesting, my friend. You may all remember the Monahans (above video) from a recent post about their fantastically cool project from last year. As for the videos from Austin’s Amy Cook, Tyler’s Eisley and Denton’s Doug Burr, well, those are just flippin’ swell. Enjoy!
Goodness, the kolache-scented roads of the Texas hill country are just insanely ripe with musical talent, aren’t they?
Javi Garcia & The Cold Cold Ground are springing forth and aren’t much interested in happy tales that give listeners the warm fuzzies that a hearty kolache might. Truth be told, I’ll take Garcia’s record, Southern Horror, over roadside snacks, any day of the week.
From the band name, to the macabre, Dia de los Muertos-style album artwork (which was designed by Garcia, naturally), to the stories that are told from the opening notes of the album’s first track, “Comal Country River”, so much of the ambitious double album is a work of art and literature as it is a musical document that deserves greater attention. Yeah, that’s right – this is a double album. And, it’s produced by Garcia, himself, who also just happen to write all of the songs. The EP that is paired with the album to complete the dangerous duo is entitled Madly in Anger, and as with the title of the primary record, the title fits the blues-infused country rock of Garcia to a tee.
Ambition is great and admirable, especially in artists that are still making their way up the proverbial Texas music ladder, but without some real meat on the skeleton bones of simple ambition, all the listener is left with is, well, a shell of an album that never really gets anywhere. Fortunately, it’s glaringly obvious that Garcia’s ambition is backed by an ample amount of authority and substance; his hustle bolstered by some serious muscle.
The ghostly strain of Garcia’s vocals manage to recall the well-known rasp of fellow hill country-dweller Ray Wylie Hubbard, and it’s a perfect fit for his tales of murder, screwed-up family members and bloody dangerous women. Heck, sometimes those subjects are rolled into one devilishly satisfying yarn. As for influences and comparisons, it’s also hard not to notice the grime and grit of Mescolito-era Ryan Bingham, especially as the impact of the soulful “Lose Control” plays on. Of course, there’s enough here to distinguish Garcia apart from established greats and help his cause as he continues to dig his own gothic-country pathway into his dark ambitions.
Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly.
Don’t look now, everyone, but it’s really freaking close to becoming 2011. One way to know that the calendar will soon be turning is the slow cropping end-of-year lists that have been showing themselves in recent days and weeks.
Some become annoyed with such lists after reading a couple, but me on the other hand, I get downright ravenous. I’ll admit to getting a massive kick out of seeing what other bloggers, writers and publications – ones I trust and ones I don’t so much – have to say about the year in music as they see it and if it matches up with my views in any way, shape or form.
I’ll go ahead and admit it: The title to this post is a bit misleading. Sorry. I’m not actually going to divulge my final list of the best this state has produced musically in 2010. I’m sure you’re all waiting anxiously, however (or not!).
Honestly, I don’t have a problem disclosing a few records that I feel certain will make my list of this year’s best Texas records. I don’t see any need to be so secretive, so I wont. However, for those keeping score at home, please know that this is a random, thinking-out-loud kind of deal here, and nothing definitive. If anything, I hope that this post might direct a few of you to some bands or records that you might have missed earlier. Don’t worry, though. I’m entirely too narcissistic to let the year go by without presenting a more formal listing of what I feel are this years best records, so keep an eye out!
A few of the records that come to mind are ones that I’ve discussed in some form, here on The Squawker, even. The recently discussed Thrift Store Cowboys Light-Fighter album, along with the new Possessed By Paul James record and Austin’s American Graveyard are some rootsy acts that should find their way onto plenty of year end lists.
For records that don’t fit into the country realm; Sarah Jaffe’s much celebrated album, fellow North Texas folk artist Doug Burr’s gorgeous O Ye Devastator and the metal-riffic shredding of The Sword and their excellent album, Warp Riders, will also surely cause a cyber-stir come the end of the year.
Oh, by the way, a few Lone Star heavyweights also released albums that were beyond solid: Austin Kingpin Alejandro Escovedo, The Old 97′s and even The Toadies produced records that absolutely stood out.
So, the end of the year should be good for more than mistletoe-induced desperation and turkey-intensive nightmares, no?
Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob