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This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Friday, October 12, 2018

You Make My Heart Sing

October 8, 2018

Stella Donelly

You Make My Heart Sing

The morning of day two of the ACL festival, I was up bright and early and headed over to the famous Threadgill’s Bar. Threadgill’s is an Austin institution and has been in operation at two locations in Austin for eighty-one years. Sadly it was just announced that the South Austin location, where I was going to check out the ACL radio live broadcast was going to be closing for good within a couple of months.

The iconic South Austin spot Threadgill’s, known for music and chicken fried steaks, is finally shuttering its 301 West Riverside Drive location. Owner Eddie Wilson apparently had tried to keep the restaurant alive for several years amidst increasing rent, property taxes, and insurance costs. It will close sometime after Thanksgiving in November. This sad news mad me all the more thankful that I was able to come and experience the place before it disappeared.

During the heyday of Threadgill’s it hosted some of the most famous bands and musicians ever and it was one of the spots that really helped Janis Joplin get her start. Pretty much everyone who is anyone has played one of Threadgill’s stages. This weekend there were two days of live radio broadcasts from the outdoor stage featuring bands who were also performing at the ACL festival.

I had hoped to attend both days, but slept right through the Friday show, as the shows started at 8 AM. Saturday, though I was on hand for performances from Donna Missal, Stella Donelly, The Texas Gentlemen, Lovelytheband, Cuco and Chvrches. Each band played 3 or 4 songs for the small crowd and radio listening audience to help promote the ACL Fest.

The Texas Gentlemen

It was a really cool experience to see these bands in such an intimate setting when they would be on huge stages over the weekend. I was especially taken by the performance of a young singer/songwriter from Austalia named Stella Donnelly. She was a last minute substitution for a band that had to cancel and I thought she was the best of the lot. Her timely and moving song about a sexual assault, “Boys Will be Boys” was especially moving in light of the current atmosphere in the country.

Stella Donelly

After the show, I still had some time before I was going over to the ACL fest, so I headed out into the country of Lake Travis County to the Austin Zoo, another place that I have wanted to visit, but had never made it. The term zoo is sort of loosely applicable here as the place is much more of an animal rescue and rehab center than a traditional zoo.

Still they have over 300 animals on site with over 100 species represented in a cool and quaint little setting where neglected, abandoned and unwanted animals can live out their days in relative comfort. Many of the animals have been seized from seedy former owners. The animals include lions, tigers, bears, wolves, porcupines, monkeys and lemurs in addition to more traditional farm animals such as goats and pigs

It was a cool little zoo, with obvious care and concern for the animals’ well-being as the top priority. The place was crowded with families and a lot of children and it was really a nice way to spend an afternoon as you could get closer to a lot of the animals than at many more traditional zoos and wildlife centers. I think that I was close to an African Lion than I have ever been, mere inches away through a sturdy fencing of course, but it was pretty cool.

My final stop before the festival was at the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company (ABGB) where my friend Max works. I may have stopped there even if my buddy did not work there as it is the most recognized Brew Pub in the entire US. ABGB has cleaned up at the annual Great American Beer Festival, which is the most prominent beer and brewery competition in the US, winning the prestigious Brewpub of the Year category for an unheard of four straight years (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018). There are literally thousands of brew pubs in the US and winning the award once is an amazing honor. Four times is simply ridiculous.

It is not just the place itself that is award winning, their amazing beer has won to date 6 gold medals and a bronze, including their yummy Rocket 100 American Pilsner which has captured three gold medals. It is a pretty impressive feat for any brewery and it is fun to know someone who is involved in their success. Max is an awesome guy and it really is cool to see him achieving so much success. I stayed for a while, enjoying their delicious brews before I finally had to take off and get to Zilker Park for the festival.

Maybe I’m Amazed

October 7, 2018

Maybe I’m Amazed

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been able to see Paul McCartney every year for the past 5 or 6 years and when I learned that he was going to be headlining the first day of the ACL Festival, I was beyond thrilled. His shows have consistently placed in the top 10 of my annual live music reviews since I started making that list. Last year’s show at the American Airlines arena in Miami came in as the second best show I saw in 2017 and previous shows, whether seeing him headline Lollapalooza, performing at the Desert Trip or solo shows have all been spectacular.

It was McCartney’s first time ever at ACL and judging by the massive turnout to see his set, it was an exceedingly popular choice. I have been to ACL perhaps a dozen times and seen many amazing headliners, but the mass gathered to see McCartney was the largest crowd I had ever seen for a single performer, I am guessing that maybe 75,000 were focused on his show and the crowd stretched through more than half of the total massive grounds.

Thankfully, I had thought ahead and positioned myself as close as I possibly could, choosing to stay at the American Express stage after watching the National along with a lot of other diehard fans, many who had no idea who the National was, but knowing if they had any chance of getting close for McCartney, they had to position themselves early. Thankfully the National availed themselves quite nicely, delivering a great set that no doubt earned them some new fans in the McCartney crowd.

From the classic opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” through two and a half hours and a fantastic thirty-one song set that covered every aspect of the icon’s musical career to the amazing closing strains of “The End” and its iconic lyric, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”, McCartney wowed the crazed crowd.

I would be a little nit-picking to say that at times Paul’s voice was a little thin and raspy and he can’t quite hit the notes on “Live and Let Die” that he once did, but what can you say, the man is 76 and still performing at a remarkably high level. Overall I thought it was yet another amazing show filled with legendary songs that define multiple generations of rock music fans.

Covering everything from his earliest Quarrymen days, with a huge selection of classic Beatles songs, through his Wings catalog, which over time has evolved from woefully underappreciated to being considered classic in itself all the way up to songs from his latest release “Egypt Station”, McCartney’s brilliance and impact on rock music were evident. Even the brand new songs held up pretty well, which is not an easy thing to pull off for most classic musicians.

I was so happy to be there that I stayed to the very end, something I rarely do at ACL because of the traffic issues, opting to walk the three miles back to my downtown hotel rather than wait for hours for the shuttle bus or taxi. It was worth it as it was just an amazingly fantastic experience.

Paul McCartney is touring the US now in support of his new CD and if you get the opportunity you really need to go. I always tell myself this could possibly be my last opportunity to see him live and one of these times that may be true, but until them I am thankful to have had multiple chances to see this legend.