No Direction Home

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 11, 2019

“…As Fresh as the Bright Blue Sky.”

October 7, 2019


Barton Hills Choir

The Amazons


“…As Fresh as the Bright Blue Sky.”

The Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival is one of my all-time favorite music festivals of all that we attend and I try to make a point to get to Austin each fall to attend. The combination of incredible organization, value, tremendous diversity in the line-up and of course the amazing location all contribute to my feeling that this is one of the very best music festivals, certainly of its size and scale that is held each year. 


It is not small by any stretch as I am guessing some 100,000 music fans each day descend on Zilker Park during each of the two weekends that the festival is held. This year, Kathy opted out of going, but I cannot help myself and the opportunity to see some of the nearly 100 music acts perform on one of eight stages where musical groups from genres including rock, indie, country, folk, electronic and hip hop perform for fans. The concerts continue from 10 AM to 10 PM on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during the festival with various stages spread out in the park. In addition to the music performances, there are food and drinks, an art market, a kids area for families, and other activities for attendees.


Once again I got VIP passes, as I think they are really the only way to go with a festival of this size. For the extra fee you get private bathrooms, air-conditioned lounges, free food and drinks over the course of the weekend, private viewing areas on the main stages and all sorts of specialty vendors set up in the VIP grove where you can get specialty drinks and food from some of Austin’s finest restaurants in addition to the regular bars and meal service.


Guns n' Roses

Before the event even started, I was up early and at Antone’s, a famous blues club in downtown Austin to attend the early morning live broadcast by ACL radio featuring a few of the acts that would be performing on the big stages throughout the weekend. I went to this event last year when it was held at now closed Armadillo World Headquarters and it was terrific. 

Rob Baird 

Erin Rae

This year I caught performances from two talented singer-songwriters, Erin Rae and Rob Baird and they were both fantastic. The small early morning crowd at such a small and intimate venue makes for a great way to start a very long day of music as I was basically watching live music for the better part of 14 hours. In fact, I had to duck out a little early to get over to Zilker Park to check out what has become one of my favorite annual traditions, watching the Barton Hills Choir open the festival.

The Barton Hills Choir is a fantastic choir made up of elementary school students from nearby Barton Hills Elementary School that has opened the festivities at ACL for a number of years, often performing musical selections from the acts that headline the festival and sometimes joined on stage by prominent musicians. They are just a joy to watch and it has for the past few years been among my favorite parts of this festival. This year they performed songs from both the Cure and Guns n’ Roses.


Alesia Lani

That was only the beginning of a long day of music that had me catching full or partial sets from the likes of the Amazons, Asleep at the Wheel, Alesia Lani, Fidlar, King Princess, The Raconteurs and the main headliners, Guns n’ Roses. Of those acts I enjoyed the Amazons the best. I was totally unfamiliar with them and to me they were the discovery of the day as they played an awesome early in the day set. I look forward to seeing them again in the future.

The Amazons

The Raconteurs 

In addition to the music, there was a new feature this year as a small side stage featured interviews with local and national figures and I managed to catch a great interview with Austin BBQ legend Aaron Franklin of the famous and delicious Franklin BBQ which is for my money the best BBQ I have ever been to and I go to a lot of them across the country. Franklin was informative, funny and very down to earth and I had a chance to hang out and talk with him afterwards, which was pretty cool. Ironically I did not visit Franklin BBQ on this trip to Austin, opting to try a few other famous BBQ joints instead.

With Aaron Frankilin

I also got a chance to meet in person my friend Michelle and her husband Erik. I have known her from probably 20 years, but only as an on-line persona as we know each other from the Counting Crows message boards. They were at the festival from their home in Oregon on what was the five year anniversary of their first date (also at ACL). 

With Erik and Michelle

Guns n' Roses

The main event was the headlining set by the reunited Guns n’ Roses, who I had not seen perform live since 1991. The band reformed a couple of years ago after a long hiatus and this show was a part of their “Not in This Lifetime” world tour. They were pretty fantastic as lead singer Axel Rose was much fitter than when I saw him playing with AC/DC a few years ago and the band sounded as good as ever. It was a raucous crowd, many of whom had pulled out their faded GNR t-shirts from some bygone era. It was a terrific capper to an amazing first day of music.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

“Old Miss Virgy tended bar at this shack out in the hills…” -Todd Snider- The Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern

October 5, 2019


“Old Miss Virgy tended bar at this shack out in the hills…”
-Todd Snider- The Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern

I think I have been traveling to Austin for about the past 15 years or so to attend the ACL (Austin City Limits) Music Festival. I love the festival and I really love the city of Austin, it is one of my favorite places in America to visit and there is just so much happening there and an overall great vibe in the capital city of Texas. The many visits have offered the opportunity to experience a lot of what Austin has to offer, so in the past few years I have taken to spending some of the time of my visit exploring the outskirts of the city and this year I arrived ready to spend some more time in the famed Texas Hill Country.


This year upon my arrival in Austin, I was on my way directly from the airport to the nearby small town of Lockhart. Known as the BBQ capital of Texas, which basically means the BBQ capital of the US, Texas style barbeque is what the town is known for as some of the best bbq joints in America can be found there. Having to decide on which of the famous places was tough, but really you could not go wrong and I ended up selecting Black’s BBQ.


Black’s BBQ is the oldest major BBQ restaurant and has been run by the same family continuously since opening in 1932. They have expanded and now have multiple locations, including in Austin but the original is in downtown Lockart, a block up from the town square and the beautiful historic Caldwell County Courthouse. The food was terrific as advertised and the town is a great little side trip only about 30 miles south of Austin in Texas Hill Country.

I spent some time walking around downtown Lockhart, then headed to the small, quaint Lockhart State Park where I took a short hike. The park features a golf course, swimming pool as well as a smaller but nice natural area with hiking trails where I took a leisurely stroll through the woods before hitting the road and heading to nearby San Marcos, Texas where there were a couple of places I wanted to see.


San Marcos had been listed as one of the ten best small cities in America and it is easy to see why. The San Marcos and Blanco Rivers flow through town and much of the city is focused on riverside activities. The city is also home to Texas State University, giving it a hip college town vibe like a smaller more manageable version of Austin.

One of the places that I really wanted to see was the famous Cheatham Street Warehouse. The famous music hall/ dive bar was built in 1910 as a railway warehouse and in 1974 was transformed into the bar and music venue that it remains today.  The Honky Tonk is known for giving the musical careers of both George Straight who played there while attending college in San Marcos and the legendary Stevie Ray Vaugh who once had a regular Tuesday night gig there before rocketing to superstardom.

Virtually everyone who is anyone on the Texas music scene has played at the Cheatham Street Warehouse which has hosted such acts as Willie Nelson, Ernest Tubb, Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, Charlie Sexton, Gary P. Nunn, Asleep at the Wheel as well as many, many up-and-coming Texas artists such as James McMurtry, Hayes Carll, Sunny Sweeney, Randy Rogers Band, and Todd Snider.


I also wanted to take n some of the craft beer scene in the area and ended up having a beer at three area breweries, stopping by AquaBrew, the Middleton Brewery and what was my favorite, Roughhouse Brewing. Roughhouse is actually probably located closer to Wimberly, Texas than to San Marcos and is located on a beautiful ranch and is an incredible and beautiful setting for the brewery that just opened in January of this year.


As awesome as the location is, the beer is even better and you can tell the love and quality that the family that owns and runs this brewery. It is well worth a trip from Austin and I cannot wait to return. I know Jester King gets all the well-deserved accolades as the best Farm House style beer in Central Texas, but Roughhouse is a tremendous new contender and well worth checking out.


While I was having a beer at Roughhouse, I realized that another legendary Texas roadhouse bar, the Devil’s Backbone Tavern was only a short drive up the Devil’s Backbone Highway from where I was. Celebrated in one of my favorite songs, Todd Snider’s, “The Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern”, I had to check out the place where Snider once played every Friday night and where the long passed Miss Virgy served up cold beers.

It was just about what I expected and as described in the song, a dive bar roadhouse that was full of a rowdy, fun and very friendly crowd of Texas patrons on hand for a fun Thursday afternoon. The two bartenders were both new and did not seem to know the history of the place, but the t-shirts they sell have a quote from the song on them so of course I had to have one.

I wish I could have stayed longer but I had already planned on taking on a Texas high school football game back in Austin that night between the hometown Austin High School and their opponents from Del Valle, Texas. Having read “Friday Night Lights” and always ready to enjoy a football game. The game was held at House Field a 6000 seat capacity high school football stadium of the type only found in Texas. It was not full, but there were probably 4000 on hand to watch the home team take a beating. The game itself was standard high school football, in fact the quality seemed a little less than what I see in Key West, but the band, halftime show and theatrics were well beyond anything I had seen on the high school level.

The halftime lasted 40 minutes as bands and drill teams from both schools performed full, intense and huge performances that made one almost forget that there was even a football game going on. It was crazy but well worth seeing and I am glad that I got to experience Texas high school football.