The packed crowd in Austin’s legendary Continental Club were watching The Whiskey Sisters strut their country rock stuff and clearly loving every minute of it. This is what a weekend in Austin should be like.
Not surprising really when you consider it’s considered by many to be the live music capital of the World. That claim may not be as fanciful as it sounds considering Austin’s pedigree of home town musicians which just happen to include Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Janis Joplin and Nanci Griffith to name but a few.
Taking a stroll along 6th Street or the Warehouse District and you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve been teleported to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, with live music of every genre pumping out of the side by side bars and clubs on both sides of the road.
Live music is clearly at the beating heart of Austin. Not bad for a state capital, which let’s face it, is more often than not a reserved kind of place, perhaps more in keeping with its stature. Austin on the other hand, literally revels in its alternativity. From the proud slogans on t shirts and stickers calling for Austin to “stay weird” to the 1.5 million bats hanging under the Congress Avenue Bridge (which incidentally gobble up most of the summer mosquitoes), you won’t find anything straight laced in this town.
That’s not to say Austin is the wild west. Far from it. Some of America’s wealthiest citizens live here, perched in multimillion dollar mansions in the hills high above the city, where coincidentally there are over 200 wineries. It is America’s second silicon valley, the home of Dell Computers and one of the largest university campuses in the USA. Small wonder then that Formula 1 chose Austin to purpose build a grand prix racetrack.
But there is another side to Austin which perhaps flies under the radar; perhaps because it might seem a little “mainstream” and off message. Nevertheless, Austin has some sensational museums on offer for those of you looking for some culture amongst all this unconventional chatter, including the chance to see the very first photo ever taken in the Harry Ransom Centre.
Then there is the food of course, after all, no city can survive on music alone. Texas cuisine has its smoked meats of course and you could take a shot at eating at Franklins if you want the very best Texas BBQ smoked meat you might ever get to taste.
But you’ll need to be in line by 6am and be prepared to have the “sold out” sign slapped in your face when that day’s food is gone. I kid you not. You might say the same for Hopdoddy where its reputation for freshly made organic hamburgers are worth the wait in line, then again, how good can a hamburger really be?
Instead, you could have a more relaxed experience at the Ironworks BBQ right opposite the Convention Centre. Don’t expect gourmet surroundings but the food is great. A more upscale experience can be found at Max’s Wine Dive, where you can sample various wines before choosing the perfect one with your meal, which by the way, you just might be spoilt for choice for.
With only a couple of days to fall under Austin’s spell, make sure you take in the Austin Overtures Tour which you can pick up at the Visitors Centre. In 90 minutes, you’ll get to see the best bits of Austin in a comfortable bus and be ready to plan out the rest of your stay.
For me though, the best bits in Austin were supplied by the Whiskey Sisters, god bless ’em. I’ll probably just set up home in the Continental Club from here on in.
Getting to Austin
British Airways operates direct flights from £564 return from Heathrow. Seven flights a week.
Main image Austin Visitors Centre (c) Andy Mossack