Pecan Street Festival v2.0

Old Pecan Street Festival Fall 2012After our over-heated experience at the Pecan Street Festival last time, we decided to try it again on a cooler day. But this time, our objective was different. Sure, we would check out the stands and booths, and the scheduled acts. And there were foods to taste — it wouldn’t an Austin event without the great food!

But what we were really there to see were the street musicians who use the Festival to display their talents to a larger audience than a typical evening on 6th Street provides. And we were not disappointed.

As we walked along, we saw singers and guitar players. People drumming on plastic pails and on wooden bars over gourds. We heard incredible a Capella groups with amazingly tight harmony, and we heard a young emo/punk group shouting out their pain.

There was jazz and rock, classic melodies and new creations. And what’s most amazing about it all, is that none of these acts were planned by the festival promoters.  They were not on the programs, and sadly, I wasn’t able to get the names of most of them (if anyone can fill in the blanks for the musicians in my photos, please do!)  But each of these acts, and the combination of all of them in one place, made the Old Pecan Street Festival something extra special.

Sure Austin has ACL (this weekend, as a matter of fact).  And then there’s SXSW. But without a single dollar for a ticket, or a fight for a parking space, a festival like this is one of the best ways to hear great Austin music, block after block.

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Austin vibe lives at Threadgills

Threadgills Austin TX on Lamar Mother's Day brunch

One of the first truly Austin-unique restaurants we ate at here (which means NOT the Outback were we ate the first night, too move-weary to sort out anything except a familiar chain name!) was Threadgills.

The story has it that this is the place where rock icon Janis Joplin was discovered, and where stars of country, rock and bluegrass continue to flock when they’re in town.

I have no idea if any of that is true. but I do know that this unassuming eatery on Lamar (and its slightly fancier version near The Long Center downtown) is one of the best all-around, anytime places to eat in Austin.

Threadgills is not fancy or pretentious.  It’s not dressed up or tiny portions of perfectly cooked but unrecognizable food.  It’s good home cooking, in generous platefuls.  It’s a Sunday brunch that fits into a family budget.  It’s good old-fashioned food with choices for everyone, from meat-eaters to vegans, and tots to grandparents.  And best of all, it’s all topped off with the kind of bluegrass, gospel and country music I used to only hear at festivals and special events.  But these people are there every week, playing while I eat!

Now how cool is that!  Dang!  Just seriously, dang!

The downtown location has patio dining and a seated outdoor music venue.  The Lamar location is strictly indoors.  Both are affordable and yummy.

 

Pecan Street Festival brings together music, art, and Austin weirdness

Pecan Street Festival 2012  on A is 4 Austin

I should have known better.  It was over 90 degrees and extreme heat and I do NOT get along well.  But away we went to the Spring Pecan Day Festival in downtown Austin.

I expected t roast and melt.  And to be honest, it was even hotter than I thought it would be.  And melt I did. Big time.

But despite the heat, this festival, held annually on 6th Street/Pecan Street (and companion to the Autumn Pecan Street Festival) was also more than I thought it would be.

First of all, it was big.  REALLY big.  It went on and on with block after block of artists’ booths, food, music and just-for-the-heck-of-it stuff for sale. And most of it was truly good.  We saw everything from hand puppets to wall-sized collages in the art booths.  There was even a petting zoo! And the food was far beyond the usual funnel cakes and corn dogs (although both of those were there, too.)  Topping my list for weirdest fair food was the alligator stand, while the homemade ice cold fresh lemonade takes the prize for “Most in Demand and Gratefully Purchased”.

Music venues all along the fair area were open for business with amazing sounds at every turn, too.  We took shelter in the Stage on 6th for a bit to get out of the sun, and were treated to fantastic classic country sounds…amazingly, even our dog and our daughter were welcome there (we’re still not quite used to the rules in Austin, so that was a surprise — in Miami, kids and pets are verbotten in bars

The highlight of the Festival for us was the discovery of a new (well, new to us) band called Les Rav.  Their music was a wonderful mix of Celtic, rock, New Age, chamber, progressive and Indy, with something special on top of all of that.  They are definitely worth a follow.

The Pecan Street Festival is a family friendly event and dogs are welcome (on leash).  If you head out to the Spring or Autumn events, I would recommend taking a good supply of water for you and your pets.  It gets hot, and bottled water is pricy.  Bring cash for food and drink — very few took cards and ATM fees were high.

Ribs and Blues at Artz Rib House

Artz Rib House

Cool blues (and bluegrass), hot ribs and a down-home welcoming feeling that encourages conversation among tables — that’s what you’ll find at Artz Rib House in Austin.

This is not the place to go if you want a sophisticated ambiance…you won’t find any of that here.  But you will find big plates of home-style bar-b-que, tangy baked beans and a slice of white bread to sop up every drop of the sauce that dares to drip off your ribs.

If you have a vegetarian or two among your party, don’t worry.  Artz also offers a delicious grilled vegetable kabob and a tasty veggie burger amid their meatier menu offerings.

The night we visited, the Sieker Band, a local bluegrass group was playing. The small venue meant everyone had a clear view of the band — a big plus in my book. Check the website for schedules…the live music sometimes ends earlier than you might expect.