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The New Austin Songwriters Group Locale and Another Boppin’ Night at the Speakeasy in Austin

October 26, 2016
bradspurgeon

Threadgill's Austin

Threadgill’s Austin

My last night in Austin before flying off to Mexico City – where I’m writing these words – was another great night at the open mics: I went to two of them, and they were diametrically opposed in terms of vibe. And I loved both.

The Austin Songwriters Group has moved from its warehouse/clubhouse kind of place on the outskirts of town where I visited last year to a legendary saloon-like location called Threadgill’s. This is a room with a long musical history, in fact, and when you see the style of the room, the neat stage, and the general setup for listening to music, you can understand why.
Panorama of Threadgill’s

And when I say legendary, and music… the story behind this place is that the original spot opened up in 1933 as a Gulf gas station, but the owner loved music. He got a beer licence, and it became a favorite winding down spot for performing musicians. Eventually he held a Wednesday open night, and there was a real cross of generations mixing the country musicians and the new 60s flower children. People like Janis Joplin, honed their style there, not to mention appearances by Jerry Lee Lewis and Captain Beefheart!
sixth at Threadgill’s

Next, it was bought by the owner of the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters and celebrates in photos on the walls a spot under the name of Armadillo World Headquarters – for musicians to perform. I won’t lose anymore steam telling the story – no doubt inaccurately – so I refer you to the Threadgill’s site under the history section for the full story.
first at Threadgill’s

The Austin Songwriters Group had to move here from their previous place, and I can’t imagine it a loss – although at the other place they could stay later. This open mic starts early, with sign up at 6:30 PM and the open mic starting at 7 PM and finishing precisely at 9:45 PM. That’s what I call early.
Paris terrorist song at Threadgill’s

But it DOES allow for musicians who are still hungry for music to go to any of several other open mics in Austin, and my choice on Monday was the Speakeasy, a not-to-far-walk over the bridge to Congress Street, where I have played in previous years, but never in the real Speakeasy joint on the rooftop café. It’s windy up there! And apparently cold in the winter.
Shredder at Speakeasy

In any event, after the laid back singer songwriter night at Threadgill’s it suddenly went into overdrive weird at the Speakeasy, with just about every kind of performer imaginable playing on the neat little stage amongst the potted plants.
First at Speakeasy

Unfortunately I had my flight to catch fairly early the next morning, so I ended up being able to play only one song. Otherwise, I’d have loved to have stayed until the end, which is apparently around 2 AM.
harmony at speakeasy

Check out the videos and go if you’re ever in Austin.
Keeping south Austin weird at Threadgill’s

fourth at Threadgill’s

Fifth at Threadgill’s

Update of Thumbnail Guide to Austin Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music

October 25, 2016
bradspurgeon

Guitar baggage claim in Austin Bergstrom International Airport

Guitar baggage claim in Austin Bergstrom International Airport

I have updated my Thumbnail Guide to Austin Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. I have not actually added any new venues, but I have updated ones that have either moved to a new day and location, or I have finally attended at the usual location, after they had temporarily moved to a new place on my last visits.

The big discovery was the new location (and day) for the Austin Songwriters Group’s open mic, on Monday’s at the legendary Threadgill’s off South Congress by the river in the center of town. I still have yet to do my blog write up about that one, as well as my visit to Speakeasy last night after the ASG event. (Two in one night.) But as I had a few minutes free in the airport before I fly to Atlanta and then Mexico City, I decided to update the guide.

So take a visit to my Thumbnail Guide to Austin Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

So check it out!

Cool Time at Austin Songwriter Group Open Mic and Song Circle

October 24, 2015
bradspurgeon

piano and sign at Austin Songwriters Group open mic

piano and sign at Austin Songwriters Group open mic

AUSTIN, Texas – I’ve tried on at least two previous occasions to make my way to the Austin Songwriters Group Friday night open mic and song circle, but never made it. Got lost one year and just didn’t find it. It’s located near a McDonald’s off the highway outside Austin near the airport. It is located in its own permanent headquarters, in the Mockingbird Café, next to a catfish restaurant. It has existed for decades. And it is absolutely super cool, and last night I had an experience like none before in open mics – which seems pretty rare today for me….

The group has seminars, songwriting workshops and other events. And Friday night is the open night where you can show up with your guitar and take part in the open mic and the song circle afterwards. The open mic has a format that I have never seen before, but which is apparently used in several other venues in Austin. What happens is that the musicians that take part sing two songs, but they go up on stage in groups of three or four, sitting down in front of three or four mics, and each musician sings a song before it passes on to the next musician, going through the line twice.

This is a very interesting method, as it means that for the spectators, you have a lively rotation of one singer after another doing just one song, so you don’t just sit through a set of one person at a time. In the two nights in a row here so far at open mics, I have been impressed with the level of the songwriting skills in Austin. I myself somehow managed to forget the lyrics of a song each night so far, and last night was the most embarrassing, since it was one of my own songs that I sing regularly, but have not sung for a long time – “Memories.”

After the open mic the group pulled together the chairs into a circle and I was told it was time for the song circle. What is that? Well, a little bit like a bluegrass circle, but in this case it is not bluegrass. Everyone gathered in a circle and one after the other people sang their songs, and the rest of the circle joined in playing lead or whatever, joining in a kind of jam. A fabulous, organized idea.

Unfortunately, I had not eaten a meal after going directly from the racetrack to the open mic, and so I decided to leave after they played a few songs. It was horribly difficult, as the circle might go on most of the night, I was told. But after all, I am in Austin to do another job.

In any case, it was a refreshing, cool, different slant on the open mic and jam. But what else would you expect from the Austin Songwriters Group?

Lost In Austin

November 17, 2013
bradspurgeon

Lost'in Austin

Lost’in Austin

AUSTIN, Texas – There has been a gap on this blog not because I’ve been up to nothing lately, but because I’ve been up to too much! Travelling from Paris to Austin, Texas, attending the U.S. Grand Prix for the last three days in preparation for watching tomorrow’s race, catching up with a friend who moved to Austin, catching up on a massive number of stories to be written for my job, eating a goat’s meat burger and other Austin food… the list goes on and on. But for the moment, the only open mic news to report is my failure to make it to the open mic I set out to attend last night, because we got lost.

This is not the first time I have got lost trying to find an open mic in some obscure place like Austin, Texas 😉 but it is always still disappointing. I’d found out about this open mic on Friday night presented by the Austin Songwriters Group at a place called the Mockingbird Café. I’d discovered the announcement through a Facebook page that announces open mics in Austin, called the “Austin Open Mic Music Network.

Unfortunately, however, in driving to this place using the GPS in the car of my friend, we came to an area of what looked like closed businesses and warehouses way out in the middle of nowhere. So we decided that the address was a mistake of the google maps. We looked up the Mockingbird Café on google and found a completely different address. So went to that one, only to find ourselves in the middle of nowhere again – or almost – but at some kind of half-dead mall. We decided to go into what was the only business that appeared still open, a Mexican restaurant, to ask if they had any idea where the Mockingbird Café was located.

At the bar I asked someone who looked like a manager and I also asked a customer. The manager kind of guy had never heard of the Mockingbird, and the customer told me that she had lived in the area for 10 years and had never heard of it either. Then a waitress spoke up: “This here restaurant used to be called the Mockingbird Café,” she said.

So we had our answer: The Internet had likely failed us for the second time that night, as we had found an old reference on the web to what used to exist, and we went there and found it gone.

It was clearly time to give up, and forget what looked like it could be a great open mic. Maybe I’ll be able to update at a future date once I find out where the joint is!

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