Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Weird Adventures in Austin Continue

November 20, 2012

The original challenge on this blog last week was for me to find out if Austin truly is the live music capital of the world, as it calls itself. I had no idea that over the full three next nights of my stay here I would not find out anything about that fact due to Austin ALSO being what it likes to call, a “weird” place, with a city motto of: “Keep Austin Weird.” I can now conclude on that part with a definite YES.

Austin is weird all right. But I’m hoping to establish over the next two nights whether it is the live music capital of the world. The weird bit got in the way on all three nights, although last night I finally, finally began having indications that this COULD be the live music capital of the world.

Weird? Well, the thing is this: Although I had basically resigned myself to the fact on Friday that I had missed the most likely open mic for me to do – a thing at a coffee house from 5 PM to 7 PM, because it was too early, I did nevertheless have an errand to run also. That errand was for myself and it had to do with going to the airport to pick up my passport, which I had left on my flight from Dallas to Austin on the Wednesday night, and which had finally been found.

Standing in the lobby of my hotel in downtown Austin, the reception desk people called the taxi dispatcher and ordered me a cab. After 20 minutes, and no cab, the reception called again. Each time they had been assured a cab would be sent – after all, this was a dispatcher for a cab company. They called a third time after another 20 minute wait. No cab, in fact, ever came in response to the call. That said, I did get a cab when one dropped off another person at the hotel. So I did get my passport.

That seemed a little weird, and what seemed weirder was that the reception people thought I was weird for thinking that was weird. It seemed it was normal in Austin. Okay, fine. So the next night, Saturday, I found the most wonderful looking open mic, at the Cigar Room in Lakeway, a suburb of Austin.

The deal was that the musician who got the best crowd reaction to his or her music actually would win $150!!! It is a weekly thing, and if there are four musicians or more, the prize money is there to be won. I was really, really excited about the challenge, and keen to try my crowd-pleaser songs (What’s Up!, Mad World and Father and Son seemed right.)

So I went to the hotel lobby and booked a cab.

Yes, you got it. You understand. No cab. Same deal as the night before. Exactly the same deal. Same story. Now I knew that Austin was definitely the crappiest cab capital of the world, no doubt. But again, the reception person in the hotel seemed to think I was the weird one, expecting a cab to arrive once it had been ordered. Was I in the Addams Family show, I wondered?

Anyway, the open mic was located 20 miles outside the city, it started at 9 PM, and it was already after 8 PM by the time I had spent an hour waiting for the cab. I decided to kill the idea, thinking that if I ended up in Lakeway with no cab at the end of the night I’d NEVER get back. Oh, I forgot to mention that during that hour wait I did also go out in front of the road and try flagging down a few of the empty cabs that passed by on the road out front…none of them stopped. I think they might have been scared of my guitar case on my back, but I’m not sure I understand. It was weird. I gave up.

So I asked where there was a good Mexican restaurant. And as I walked there to where the reception people had recommended, I passed by the coffee house that runs the open mic on Friday night that was too early for me (as I was at the race track at that time). I decided to ask them about their open mic. I then told them about my taxi cab story.

“Hey, we called a cab last night for a man here, and it didn’t come either,” said one of the women.

Okay. Austin is weird.

So anyway…. last night I finally decided to defy all cabs in Austin and walk into the downtown area to attend an open mic at the 311 Club located at 311 East 6th Street. From my hotel across the river it was only a 15 minute walk at the most, and I wanted to finally see Austin and see if there really was live music all over the place. To say nothing of my desire to play in the open mic.

So I navigate my way across the river and as I get to the center of the town I hear music everywhere and I begin to get excited. I am so looking forward to doing my own music at the 311 Club – which had several listings on the Internet for its open mic every Sunday night – that I don’t stop to listen to any of the bands.

I get to the 311 Club to find it all closed down and looking like it is out of business. Yes, well, that was kind of weird too. So no open mic.

Oh, and just before that I had run into Lisa, the MC of the Flipnotics open mic from Thursday as she drove up 6th on her pedicab. She offered me a free lift, but I said I could walk. Small city, Austin, I thought. And I was reminded of the only good night I had thus far had in this musical city.

But I decided just to walk down 6th and see if I could find any action, and taste the live music sounds. In fact, it started feeling a little like Istanbul, which I consider the live music capital of the world, with all the various kinds of music pouring out of the bar facades and a kind of wall of sound hitting you in the face in the street.

A few doors down from the 311 Club a guy outside a bar called Agave sees my guitar and asks if I want to go in and jam. I look inside, and there is a man at a mic singing a karaoke.

“With my guitar?” I ask.

“Yeah, just ask the man on the mic.”

That was it, I go into the long, dark bar with around 10 women standing at the bar and only one or two guys, and I get a beer, listen to the karaoke and ask the guy who was singing if I can plug in and play and sing.

“Yeah, go ahead!”

So I do. And then a couple of women want to use my guitar and play – it’s the birthday of one of them – and then I do another song. So we have a karaoke that has become an open mic in the most relaxed manner I have ever seen outside Istanbul. And I begin saying to myself, “This COULD be the live music capital of the world.”

But whatever it was, and weird is certainly part of it, I liked it. More adventures to follow!


  1. I live in Austin. Only a year now. I love the music and comedy and arts here. It is a strange place though. I could tell you some great places to go, and make sure to eat at the food trucks. 😉

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