A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how I really want to hit the Disc Golf course soon. It’s something I haven’t done before and Texas provides many an opportunity to do so. Well, here’s something else I want to do, but haven’t yet. Hit Marfa!
The dry, West Texas town not too far from Big Bend National Park has obviously become quite the trendy locale in the past few years, and from what I can tell, that trendiness is for good reason, really. It’s often referred to as a sort of artist’s retreat of hideaway; a bohemian enclave deep in the heat of our state, away from the typical artistic areas of the Hill Country or even certain parts of the Gulf Coast. In recent years, the town famously provided the backdrop for the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers film, No Country For Old Men.
Something even more than all of that recently caught my eye and really made me understand what I’ve been missing by not having visited Marfa before. Back in April, Mumford & Sons, along with a few other bands condcted a tour where they were carried by train and performed at various, funky spots along the way. Marfa was one of the stops and word of the show that resulted is that it was one heck of an event.
The concert took place at El Cosmico, a spot that seems to only be possible in the arid environs of the west. Run by Liz Lambert, who is responsible for the always in-demand Hotel San jose in Austin, El Cosmico’s website describes itself as “part vintage trailer, yurt and teepee hotel and campground, part creative lab, greenhouse and amphitheatre – a community space that fosters and agitates artistic and intellectual exchange.”
Sounds pretty cool, right?
Look, I’m sure there are tons of cool bars and foodie spots in Marfa, and I’m sure the lights are cool and all, but I think I’d be fine figuring all of that out once I got my teepee all set up, first…you?
Yes, as was mentioned last week, we made it down to hit some shows for the final full day of music for this year’s South by Southwest. Indeed, a good time was had by all and we’re now ready to actually discuss the goings-on of this past weekend.
Unlike in year’s past, when 6th Street was more or less the epicenter of our SXSW experience, this year, South Congress Avenue was ground-zero. Given that we were focusing on daytime events, and not the official night-time programming, such was an easy decision to make, really. With Threadgill’s, the Yard Dog Gallery, the Continental Club, Homeslice Pizza, and Hotel San Jose among the locales hosting free, live music, it was safe to say that we wouldn’t see much of any other area for the pre-dinner hours of the day.
Just after 1:00pm, A few tunes from Austin’s Stone River Boys inside of the Continental Club got us in the mood to get rolling and hit some shows. After a misguided trip up the road to the Yard Dog Gallery, where we had hoped to catch a 1:30 set from Wilco bassist John Stirratt’s band The Autumn Defense (that set wasn’t scheduled until 2:20pm, even though Stirratt had told me different earlier at Guero’s, where I also happened to run into Jon Langford, he of the legendary Mekons and Waco Brothers).
Feeling as though we had to make up for lost time, we jetted down the avenue to Threadgill’s Riverside Dr. location, where a steady stream of quality acts would be hitting the indoor (and air-conditioned) stage for a series of tapings for the superb site, Music Fog.Com. Luckily, the posse arrived just in-time to secure a semi-circle booth near the back, just before Bonnie Whitmore - with The Masterson’s backing her up - began her set. Playing tunes from Whitmore’s solo-album, Embers to Ashes, the trio inter-played effortlessly, and Whitmore, who has played in the bands of several notable artists recently, continued to display why it is she will be a solo-force for some time, thanks to her vocals that can sonorously go from soft to swelling in a moment’s notice. Later, while still at Threadgills, Eddie Spaghetti of Supersuckers fame revved up the crowd with a mix of new solo-tunes (from recent solo-release Sundowner) and what he deemed “Supersucker classics.” Bawdy and ballsy, Spaghetti swaggered on the small stage the same way he does when he’s commanding a packed club of a thousand sweaty souls.
After recharging in the Fireman’s #4-soaked booth of Threadgills, we headed back up SoCo Ave and squeezed into a beautifully and electrically charged Continental Club for the band that has become one of its de facto house bands, the Mother Truckers. Hubby/wife combo of Josh Zee and Teal Collins led the conquering heroes through a torrid set of tunes that were picked from each of the band’s kick-butt albums. “Size of the Sun” and “Break Up Sex” from their latest release, Van Tour were especially on-point, but the trio of songs from their insane 2008 album Let’s All Go To Bed, “I’m Coming Over,” “Dynamite” and “Streets of Atlanta” were the perfect hybrid of punk and twangy southern rock that has made them such Capitol City faves for the last several years now.
With Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears playing to a beyond-packed parking lot next to the Hotel San Jose, we skipped up the street, back to The Yard Dog Gallery, so we could catch the 5:10pm set of my lunch-mate from earlier in the day, Jon Langford & The Skull Orchard Band. Employing what seemed like a dozen people on-stage, the former founding Mekon was clearly at home, especially since so much of his exemplary folk-art calls the walls of the gallery home. Two dollar drafts of Austin’s Live Oak Amber didn’t hurt either.
As the sun began its descent, the crew looked around for some other shows, but opted to hop in the car and head towards some pizza at Eastside Pies (the Nicola was pretty unreal) and drinks at Opal Devine’s on 6th Street to close out the night.
Thanks to the many wonderful shows we caught during the day, it was nice to know that the pressure of trying to catch a great show that night was off of our slightly burned shoulders.