Friday, March 27, 2009

Jazz Hands for Jazz Fest!!

It's Jazz Fest Time!!

The cubes are out and its time to start your planning! Well that is if you're anything like me, you've already been to the website and started daydreaming about which day is your favorite ....the taste of that first bite of cochon-de-lait po-boy....the anticipation of how the Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka is going to enhance the dance party during Big Sam's Funky Nation...and the sensation of the sweat/dust film that you adorn for the day. All of which I crave until I cross the gates for the first time!! I wonder if anyone watches me as I hand over my ticket to get scanned....I'm in my element....huge grin as I glance at the grandstands which quickly turns to a serious scan over the highlighted cubes that I've brought for the day. What are these cubes?? They're the schedule, your map for the entire days festivities. Who ya gonna see? Where are they playing? How do all of these play into your food selections??? It can be overwhelming....but no need to fear, I'm going to provide my sacred list of tricks for you to employ so that you have a Fest-astic time out there while you're groovin' on the grounds.

After my first glance, both of the Saturdays look to be tops for my musical taste. Keep in mind though, that Jazz fest isn't technically all that's a mix of music for all ages and music you shouldn't leave any cube uncovered, there are a lot of 'em!

First things first, PARKING. This is a royal pain in the Fairgrounds neighborhood, mainly because there is no parking other than on the street. So unless you know someone who lives in the hood, here's whatcha do. If you're staying in a hotel downtown, some have shuttles to the fest. If you're a local or driving down there, this has never failed for me. Drive on over to the Bulldog on Canal Street and there are Jazz Fest buses parked in front. I believe its a buck or two each way, but WELL WELL worth it. Grab a daiquiri on your way to the Bulldog, hop on the bus, and follow everyone as they drift towards the gate. This works in your favor on the way home...sobering walk to the bus stop, sobering ride to the Bulldog, then you can enjoy either a sobering meal or carry on some more with delicious beers at the pub.

Here are the rest of my tricks of the trade:
  • Bring a hat and sunscreen...if you want to survive.
  • Wear something that you don't care if it gets wet/dirty
  • Can Grenade - How else are ya gonna clap for your favorite bands and keep the beers cold at the same time?
  • Crawfish bread, cochon de lait po-boy, crawfish sack/oyster patty/crawfish beignet having a lil jazz fest in your mouth
  • The iced-tea tastes delicious with rum...and so do the snoballs.
  • How do you get the rum in? Pour it in an inconspicious bottle, put the lid back on, superglue it. Water bottles = rum/vodka/and the like, Nestea = Sweet Tea Vodka, Coke = Jack Daniels/Captain Morgan Tattoo....make sure to bring cans of the mixers.
  • Check the cubes and work out your game plan before you go
  • The white chocolate bread pudding is divine....
  • For the Cheapskate with a disregard for the law: The Fairgrounds has A LOT of jumpable perimeter fence by the stables, or places where you can sneak beers over the fence to a buddy!
  • Try a kids ticket ($5), they look the same, but beep differently when scanned (some ticket takers don't care)
  • DON'T put your booze in your collapsible chair bag! They always check those: just put it in your pocket in your pants, they NEVER check there
  • You can bring in one bottle of water (not including the secret one in your pocket), but DON'T break the seal or security may make you throw it out
  • Try to get near a flag to make a good landmark for friends to meet up, or bring your own!
  • Go to the far side from the thoroughfare at the big stages(Acura and Gentilly) when looking for a spot - less traffic means lighter crowd.
  • When in doubt for a showtime slot, check out the Fais-do-do stage: always a good time and close to the food!
  • If rain is possible, ladies, think about wearing rain booties. They're fun, fashionable, and remember horses do their business (shit) all over this place, so it'll save you when crossing a poop puddle!
  • Make nice with your neighbors, they will be ones watching your space if you bugger off!
  • Bike it there! The Fairgrounds is notorious for poor parking (it's in the middle of neighborhoods (some not so appealing at night).
The party doesn't have to stop once the last band is finished their set on the Acura Stage, the rest of the city plays host to a plethora of concerts at night. These are usually pretty big bands who either perform at the fest or just want to be in the city to enjoy the party. Check out to see what's going on. My picks are Ghostland Observatory at the House of Blues April 30th and any of the Superfly at Jazzfest shows. With artists such as the Black Keys, Deathcab for Cutie, Galactic, Matt Costa and Ra Ra'd be crazy not to go. Tickets are available on the website...shows are at the Contemporary Arts Center and are very well organized.

This is all I've got for ya folks...see ya out at the fest!!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

What's better than a SXSW Platinum badge? Two music-loving diamonds in the rough!!

This weekend's invasion of Austin and SXSW-crashing by the man friend and I was quite a success!! I am going share my insider tips of the trade, even though they were completely
accidental...everything just happened upon us! We saw the best bands, drank the best drinks, ate the best food, and we did it ridiculously cheap. I'll give you the play-by-play...introduce you to some newly coined terms...and teach you some lessons. Keep in mind that these learnings can be leveraged for use at other festivals and the like.

Friday, March 20th

We start the day by getting our game plan together, looking at the bike routes, and hitting Highway 290 all the way to Austin...listening to the tunes of Yo La Tengo (no they weren't playing at the fest...but we're getting excited about Pitchfork Fest over the summer).

We rolled into the north side of the city to the 29th Street park entrance to the bike trail. This trail follows Shoal Creek all the way to Towne Lake. Parking lot, check...signs along the path leading us in the right direction, check...hip waders to traverse the creek with my bike, damn I forgot those! Good thing I was a tom boy when I was stone steppin' abilities definitely came into play. Fifteen minutes later, we were cruisin' down 4th Street in the midst of the festival. After the bikes were well secured, we wandered into Cedar Street for the Filter Magazine's free daytime party...we didn't recognize any bands on the list until later in the afternoon so we got our wristband and walked around to find sustenance and cold beer. We hiked up Congress to Hickory Street for their $3 pints, unlimited salad/baked potato/sundae bar, and delicious philly cheesesteak!

Tip #1: Individually wrapped cornbreads from the salad bar fit well into a backpack for drunken noshing.
Tip #2: Bring a doesn't get checked....ANYWHERE. And personal water bottles for that matter...

We paid our tab just in time to mosey back to Cedar Street for the Late of the Pier and Razorlight shows. LOTP was a British electro group and creepily entertaining to watch. The lead singer gets bonus points for his mid-song fight with the bouncer and return to the mic/guitar promptly after taking some swings. Razorlight also put on a good show...but after a couple of stiff drinks we knew it was time to finally check into our hotel.

Late of the Pier


Tip #3: Go to a Specs Liquor Store (before 9pm) and pick up your clear liquor of choice, a couple of bottles of your mixer, and a bottle of water. Drink some of the mixer, pour in your desired amount of booze, drink the water, then pour the rest of the booze in the water bottle. This should be adequate for getting two people tipsy.

Tip #4: Park by Shoal Creek/10th Street and walk or bike to the's easy!!

After our trip to Specs and such, we parked by Shoal Creek and made the short walk back to Cedar Street for Canada's Bedouin Soundclash, Peter Bjorn & John, and Grizzly Bear. We had great views from our free sidewalk location...sippin' on some Coke Zero (w/ Cruzan rum) and eating taco's from the Casa Del was magical. Bedouin put on a terrific show...they had horns and brought me back to my ska days.

Then the old SXSW officials started cracking down on the growing sidewalk audience. The cops even laughed at how they couldn't do anything, but we moved out of the way and onto the street. What made me more pissed than anything was seeing those of us who really wanted to hear the band being pushed into the street and people in the douchebadge line who couldn't care less saying things like "Ha...look at all these people without badges" accompanied by a smirk no less. This is when we started using the term, Douchebadge = one who has money for a badge but unworthy of actually putting it to use. This jerk was stuck on the street with the rest of us, but in a line. Which leads me to the next tip...

Tip #5: Badges are useless unless they are free and platinum...and don't even think about buying a wristband, it's a waste of your money. SXSW is a caste system...higher rankings get first priority. It's not worth it.

Peter Bjorn and John didn't play a single thing from their last album and only a few of the new songs are actually decent. Some of the new stuff is a lot darker...and not as enjoyable. The bottle of rum was gone by this point so we ventured back to our hotel to eat the cornbread reserves and rest up for day two.

Day one was definitely a success! We saw a couple of celebs....the people watching was just unreal!

Saturday, March 21st

This day wasn't even going to happen. We had tickets to see Andrew Bird at the Houston HOB that night, but after seeing that Explosions in the Sky were playing a free show, we had make the gametime call to stay for another night. (Thank you Nikole for watching Mallory at the last minute!)

With a slight looming hangover, I had to get my head (and stomach) right for another full day of musical madness! This required a visit to Kerbey Lane Cafe before even thinking about heading to downtown. We dined on huge pancakes (their's are quite possibly the best I've ever had), omelets (mine was roasted chicken with verde salsa, the MF had his stuffed with cheese, homefries, and other good things)...but the two bloody mary's saved my life. KLC makes theirs with a spicy infused vodka that gets your game face back on. It was time to park the car and bike it back down to get in line for Rachael Ray's party at Maggie Mae's!

Tip #6: Eat at Kerbey Lane Cafe on Kerbey Lane...its wonderful! I want to go to there...again....soon.


Our plans were put to a halt when we saw the line for the buzzworthy event was wrapped way way way way around the block. Hell no! The Blind Pig is the pub next door, it has an open rooftop which is next to the open rooftop at Maggie Mae's and there wasn't much of anything going on brainer! We envisioned hours of sitting above 6th Street watching the SXSVesters (these are cool cats with black vests...the coolest of which do not even need a shirt under the vest. It's usually accompanied by some sort of stylish hat. Indie fashion icons before my eyes!), drink some beers in the sun, and listen to the bands as they play next door. This didn't play so well in our favor once bands started jamming on our rooftop. So much for eavesdropping...we needed another plan. With four hours of liquid courage in me and upon hearing one of the MF's favorite bands start their set, I looked at him and said..."alright, lets jump the fence". With a huge grin on his face (and I'm sure he was shocked and proud of me for actually breaking the rules...not to mention on the second story of a building) he handed me his bag and jumped in to the 30 Minute Mealer's bash...all the while, having his foot on my finger while making the climb. Thankfully it wasn't broken! An old man looked me in the eye and told me to "please be careful", then I made the hop to the other side. Our two friends were also had a war wound, a pulled leg muscle, but that's just the price you pay to sneak into a free party to watch The Hold Steady! They put on a rockin' set!! The crowd was dancing, singing along, drinking really was magical and we were right by the stage. Rachael Ray came out to thank everyone at the end...and we left through the front door. It felt great to be a rebel!!

Tip #7: Have NO shame in being resourceful! Use your surroundings and the weaknesses of others to do whatcha gotta do. Any wall can be climbed if no one is looking, any door man can be bought for at least $20, and no one looks at the picture on the badge.

Tip #8: Don't park your bike on a motorized gate...I lost a brake. It's a bad decision...don't do it.

Our drunken bike ride from Maggie Mae's to the free shows on Lady Bird Lake took no time at all...and just as the rest of the weekend occurred, we accidentally ended up in all of the right places at the right time. Perhaps the music gods were with us...and we were definitely worthy of it. We parked our bikes at the bike valet, which I've never heard of, but am I huge fan of now. Bike valets should be present at more places, because it was a very efficient and safe way to store your bike.

Tip #9: Keep your water bottle inside of your bag. They don't check, and if they don't see it, then you don't need to empty it out.

We were STARVING! With all of the fence hopping, we didn't get the free yumm-O grub from RR's we spotted a BBQ trailer and made a B-line towards it. The trailer was made out of wood, so it had to be legit, right? After obtaining an order of BBQ nachos ( read that correctly), a pulled pork sammich, and two overpriced daiquiris, we headed to the stage...and walked directly in front. Done and done! With only one act before Explosions in the Sky took the stage, we were holding our ground till showtime!

Eryka Badu and her new beatmakers, The Cannabinoids, opened for EITS and they were pretty good. Eryka Badu was late due to some stalker boo'd...and sang a couple of songs. Nothing to really write was, meh.

Then, magic happened. The humble and brilliant members of Explosions in the Sky walked on stage. They looked completely shocked at how many people were there (I still have no idea how large the crowd was...but I would say thousands!)...they took their instruments and made their beautiful music right before my eyes. The set list, the Austin skyline in the background, the weather, the intensity with which they performed, the expressions on everyone's faces, the person I was able to experience it with....were all nothing less than perfect. Then, perfection was surpassed....during the last song, while listening to EITS...there were actually explosions in the sky! I'm referring to the awe-inspiring surprise fireworks display across the lake from the stage. There were no words to was the most stunning thing I've ever experienced and I didn't want it to end. I've looked forward to seeing them for so long...and to see them for free, up-close, in Austin, and with a fireworks's still unbelievable. I'm so glad that we stayed to be a part of that.

After the bike ride back to the car, the only thing I could do was listen to more Explosions, eat some ice cream and put myself to bed. I was overwhelmed and spent from the most spontaneous and enjoyable days on record. I can't wait for 2010!!

Tip #10: The Arboretum area isn't far from downtown and is much cheaper. Besides, you don't have to deal with all of that traffic on I-35! But if you do have a place to stay downtown...I highly recommend that instead, of course. Also, Courtyard by Marriott has a pretty tasty continental breakfast, and it's free on the weekends. MMMmmm...waffles shaped like Texas.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Yelp! This hotel sucks!!

I am a Yelper and today someone had the fun idea of posting a thread for the funniest yelps.

This one wins, hands down....or maybe up, above your head.

Worst Hotel EVER

Guess who is going to SXSW...

Yours truly...well I'm going to crash SXSW. Perhaps one day I will be cool enough to get my hands on a press wristband, but pass or no pass I have to go...and I am. I've done my research and found free day shows that do not require the highly coveted wristband, RSVP'd for parties, and looked into the tricks of the veterans to this yearly mecca for geeks and hipsters. I fall somewhere in the middle of the two...okay fine, closer to the geek end of the spectrum...but I'm okay with that.

I haven't done a music report in a while so here are some artists that I'm loving and who are performing this year. Caution, this could cause you to go into music overload. I'm completely expecting this to be a monkeys wedding.

  • School of Seven Bells
  • Ida Maria - I thoroughly enjoy her song "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked".
  • M. Ward - I've been a fan since I first listened to Chinese Translation from his last album, Post War. He took a brief break from the solo scene and teamed up with Zooey Deschanel to form the duo, She & Him. Now he's back on his own, with a little background vocal help from Zooey D, with Hold Time.
  • Winter Gloves - This video is remarkable.
  • Delta Spirit - I saw these guys open for Dr. Dog in Houston and at ACL. They're getting a lot of recognition! During the song Trashcan, they actually play one.
  • Human Highway
  • Meiko - She opened for Josh Radin and I thought she was adorable. I loved her lyrics and she has a great voice.
  • Ladyhawke - She's from New's better than Old Zealand.
  • Heartless Bastards
  • The Avett Brothers - They're from North Carolina and keep true to their roots. I love the song If It's The Beaches. Looking forward to catching them at Jazz Fest too.
  • Peter Bjorn & John - No description needed...they had us at "Young Folks" a couple of years ago.
  • Glasvegas - They have a chick drummer and their from Scotland!
  • Cold War Kids - Free show!!
  • Army Navy - Nope, nothing to do with the military.
  • Grizzy Bear - They are amazing and the new album leaked early...and it rocks. Their video on is like indie acapella.
  • Two Hours Traffic - So I like some poppy happens on occasion.
  • Aqualung - I will always have a special place in my heart for him.
  • N.A.S.A. - Nope, not the space shuttle stands for North America South America and it represents the nation of electronica.
  • Datarock
  • Passion Pit - I LOVE THIS SONG!!!
  • Women - Not a single one in the band...
  • Matt & Kim - The ENTIRE album is fun!! Daylight is their first single.
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
  • The Soft Pack
  • Handsome Furs
  • Bedouin Soundclash
  • Loney Dear
  • The Bird & the Bee - Their last album is poppy and I loved it. The new single is buzz worthy.
  • Au Revoir Simone - Nope...not from France. They're from Brooklyn and they make beautiful music.
  • Explosions in the Sky - FREE SHOW!!!
  • The Octopus Project - They have a therapin, and they're not afraid to use it!
  • Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights - Saw them open for O.A.R. last year and they outperformed the main act.
  • The Little Ones
  • Ra Ra Riot - I absolutely adore this band!!! The lyrics are amazing, they are super nice guys, and put on a ridiculous live performance!!! Listen, listen...listen!
  • The Spinto Band - Oh Mandy!! Can't get tired of it!
  • Wintersleep - One of my favorite albums of 2008...and of course they're Canadian. Canada is putting out some sweet sounds. I love the Weighty Ghost!

I hope my festivalling buddy is ready....let the music festivals begin!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Romance During a Recession

It's definitely possible...and something that should be done regardless of the economic state of the world. I happen to think that the best dates are those that are's more personal, you can have more of them, and always carefree!! But then again, maybe that's just my dream dates consist of picnics, kite flying, and marshmallow if you're high maintenance, this may not make you feel any better.

After a brief brainstorming session, here are a few ideas:

  • Have a picnic - Make some sandwiches, grab a bargain bottle of wine or some beer, some won't have to worry about tipping a rude waiter or valeting your car. Houston's Hermann Park is gorgeous and you might even catch a free performance at the Miller Outdoor Theater. It appears to be very romantic...
  • Get going - Go for a bike ride, go for a walk through the Arboretum, play a set of tennis, go bowling (although now Houston has ridiculous upscale alleys...ehem, 300, cough), toss around the Frisbee or the's good for you and it's fun!
  • Dinner and a movie at the casa - You and your date could make dinner together at half the cost of what you would pay in the restaurant and put your culinary creativity to use. Then stay on your cozy sofa and watch a're not going to get asked to leave in the event that you decided to make out, and you can always hit pause. You know...if that's your thing....just sayin'.
  • Get your culture on - Head to a museum. I love museums and both New Orleans and Houston have an abundance of quality museums. They are free on Thursday in Houston and if you're a student you get discounts. Personal fave is the Menil Collection in Montrose, it's always free and has some astounding artwork.
  • Be thrifty together - Head to the local thrift shop and explore. You never know what you might find...could be useful, could be funky, and you might even hit the jackpot.
  • Mmmm Smores - Look for a nearby campground and spend a weekend under the stars, sitting by the campfire and roasting marshmallows. During the day you can explore the natural surroundings or those of the nearest town.
  • Rock on - The Miller Outdoor Theater has many many free concerts, but most are symphony showcases. If you prefer to jam and Uncle Ticketmaster has you pissed off with all of his 'convenience charges', not to worry, we've got options. Walter's on Washington and Rudyard's both play host to many upcoming bands and both venues are dirt cheap. These bands usually perform in-store at Cactus Music ( earlier in the day.

Got any ideas? Post 'em...I'd love to hear more.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dining During a Depression: BYOB

With much free time on my hands and the pending Great Depression of our generation, I've decided to start a series of blogs dedicated to Recession Responsibility. It'll be a way to continue to support our local economy and have fun without causing you to file Chapter 11.

One of my favorite aspects of the Houston dining scene is the much-welcomed overabundance of BYOB restaurants and cafes....but I didn't realize there were so many that did not even charge a corkage fee! I've uncovered this hidden gem of a link with all of the BYOB restaurants, complete with the corkage fee:

Some highlights upon first glance:

  • Lucio's BYOB on Taft is just plain good (well plain is dull, and their food is anything but) with a corkage fee of $5 a bottle.
  • Collina's is known by everyone to be the best Italian food for your hard-earned buck and the fee is $1/person.
  • Houston's on Kirby has NO corkage fee. That's right...bring your own bottle of bargain bottles of vino and drink away.
  • Dry Creek Cafe has a better menu than Onion Creek and you can bring your wine and enjoy their laid back patio for $2.50 a bottle. As much as I love the O.C., bringing my own $8 bottle, paying the $2.50 puts me at about $2.75 a glass....much cheaper than the $9 that you'll get charged per glass at the bar. can also bring your own brews!!!