SXSW 2014 in Pictures

Szkojani Charlatans

The SXSW experience is a lot of things.

It’s the sounds of music coming out of ten bars, and still being entranced by a busker playing on a street corner. It’s the smell of pizza and tacos and bar-b-que and something sweet right out of the oven as you walk past a row of food trucks. It’s free t-shirts and more can holders than anyone could every need (but you can’t help taking just one more.)

But most of that is impossible to capture on the page of a blog. So I’ll have to settle for sharing pictures.

I’m starting this post today, but I’ll be adding more pictures throughout the week. If you’re here, I hope you’re having a great time. But if you’re not, here’s a glimpse into the insanity that is SXSW.

(Oh, and one more thing…a new mascot is joining A is for Austin. Or rather a few mascots. When I was a kid, I loved trolls. So when a few showed up during a recent trip, I decided to make them a part of my blog for now. So look for Wanda (a pink haired troll) and a few other friends in some of my pictures, at least for awhile.  I hope you like the new addition!)

A line of guitar cases

monster drink truckunique guitar playing styleMable the dog chilling in AustinFree food A SXSW traditionBecause I believe in unicorns too20140309_182636Peruvian Creole Food TruckBuilindg the Vans venueNo badges neededRobot at the Game Expo SXSW 2014

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Wild Child Rocks it on Wordfree Wednesday

Wild Chld video set at The Boneyard in Austin

I think I heard Wild Child for the first time at a show in one of Austin’s clubs. I had no idea who they were when the show started…by the end, I had become a fan!

Since then, I have made it to several other shows, and they were all amazing.

But nothing was as incredible as being invited to participate in the filming of their new videos!  So off we headed to a place called The Boneyard (more about that place in another post!), and the fun began. Unfortunately, we left the good camera behind!  So please forgive us for these camera phone-quality shots. We promise to do better next time!

Wild Child video prep

Classic stage crew poseRehersalwarm up2014-02-01 17.11.042014-02-01 17.11.0020140201_17582320140201_18240420140201_182416-0012014-02-01 18.13.34We were so happy to be a part of Wild Child’s new video event!  Next time, though, we’ll remember the camera!

You can learn more about Wild Child and their upcoming performances on their Facebook page and website. Hope to see y’all at a show!

Breakfast Tacos, Hippie Church meet at Maria’s Taco Express

Maria Taco Express June 2012

I kept hearing people talking about Austin’s “Hippie Church” and imagined some sort of New Age gathering. I had no idea breakfast tacos were involved, and I couldn’t have been more wrong about the vibe.  Ten minutes on a Sunday morning at Maria’s Taco Express and I discovered exactly what they meant.

The music? A mixture of amazing blues and gospel, with a classic rock edge.  The people? Lots of people who were probably around when “hippies” were something new and controversial.  The food?  Big servings of classic homemade Tex-Mex served on a mixture of plastic and wood picnic tables.

And the setting?  Pure Austin unique.  Part dive bar feel, part old west/old Mexico theme (don’t miss the old “village” down the outside wall!), part someone’s backyard patio.

There’s no table service at Maria’s and the line to order is long, but please don’t let that keep you away.  You’d miss the chance to dance to blues with some of Austin’s most unique residents. You’d miss some truly amazing tacos, chicken stew and other Maria’s favorites. And you’d miss sitting in a plastic patio chair and listening to some of the very best gospel and blues for no cost beyond your breakfast.  (Of course, the tip jar beckons, so do contribute generously!)

Space downstairs near the live music is limited, so get there early (the music starts at noon) or be prepared to share a table with some of the other friendly diners (we have, and it’s fun!). There’s more seating upstairs (super hot in summer!) and indoors.

Maria’s is open all week, but so far it’s the Sunday Hippie Church that’s drawn us in again and again.  Once we finally do check it out on another day, I’ll update this review.

Pets are welcome on the patio, although it’s crowded so make sure they’re very well-behaved! Prices are low, so this a great place to go with little kids — there’s lots to choose from without breaking mom and dad’s budget.

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.

Irish pub food and a punk band? Why not? It’s Austin!

Fado Irish Pub Austin TexasWe’re starting to explore some of the downtown restaurants (getting out of our North Austin world!), and the other night that meant a light dinner at Fado Irish Pub on 4th Street.

As we walked nearby, we heard the band…The Video Stars, a punk rock-clad group performing an excellent rendition of “Sweet Child of Mine”. Then we looked at the menu which promised traditional pub fare in their courtyard.

For me, the fact that they offered “boxty“, a tasty potato concoction I seldom see on menus, and the song the band was playing were enough. For Lance, the promise of a corned beef sandwich was enough to draw him in.

And we were not disappointed by any of it. The boxty I chose were crisp and hot, and were accompanied by a red pepper humus dip. Lance’s sandwich came stuffed high with corned beef, with a big pile of chips on the side (that’s fries, not potato chips.) We’ll have to return again to try a full dinner sometime soon…our light meal was a good introduction to their offerings!

The band played a variety of music, although the punk/KISS look was kind of funny when they launched into a Lady Gaga set! The courtyard was breezy, the crowd was a perfect mix of ages, and the service was excellent.

Although we don’t drink, we did see that Fado has an extensive selection of beers, ales, wines, whiskeys and single-malt Scotches, which makes it a good place to head for a few drinks, too.

Fado also has inside dining, although the music is outdoors only. The courtyard/patio is pet friendly, so our pup will probably join us the next time around.

The hot dog reaches its glory at Frank

Frank Hot Dog Austin Texas from Ais4Austin.com

Tips on great places to go in Austin can come from all kinds of places.  My daughter was watching videos on Google Chrome and spotted the story of this downtown Austin restaurant.  We checked the Frank website for vegetarian options (plenty of them!) and whether it was kid-friendly (yes!)— and within minutes, we were out the door and headed for a late lunch.

High fives to our daughter for finding this place!  Quirky atmosphere, super-friendly service, and delicious food all in one place?  Oh yeah!

I ordered the special veggie sausage, my daughter opted for a veggie Chicago-style dog and my husband (the non-veggie among us) chose the classic chili dog. We added an order of waffle fries, and settle back to watch the end of the soccer match (Chelsea won!) and wait for our food.  Sodas, ice water and tea came in chilled Mason jars and our food came quickly after.  More high fives for our daughter…the hot dogs and sausages were delicious, vegetarian and meat alike. The waffle fries were light and crisp and hot.

Before we knew it, this was all that was left…Empty hog dog basket at Frank Hot Dog Austin from Ais4Austin

Frank’s has a large menu, including their own freshly made sausages, all the hot dog toppings and varieties you could imagine, and a great selection of sides.  You can even turn any hot dog or sausage into a corn-battered treat for about a dollar more.  A full beer menu is available, and Frank’s also has a full bar.

At night, Frank’s becomes a music venue, with everything from rock to gospel to comedy. A limited food menu during performances keeps hot-dog craving fans well fed.  We’ll be heading back there for a date night next week, so I’ll up date this post with info on that experience after we go.

Word is that outdoor seating is also in the works, making it easy to enjoy their great food al fresco. I can’t wait!

Oh, and by the way, here’s the video that started our incredible lunch….so happy it was out there!

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.