Tour Manager’s Guide: Austin

Austin Tour Guide
Hi. My name is Danny. I’ve been touring with bands for some time and want to tell you about some of the places we’ve been. I know, I’m missing some important things from these cities but this is just what I’ve had time to see. If you have suggestions regarding where to go in your beloved hometown the next time I’m hurtling through in a van filled with drunk people, please let me know.

Last summer the candy company #Sourpatch contacted the band I work for and asked if they’d like to spend some time at the #Sourpatch house in Austin, Texas. If you are unfamiliar with the Sourpatch house, lemme break it down. Bands are given the keys to a decked out mansion leased by the movie theater candy company for a week at a time in the hopes that they will post about their experience on social media. Sourpatch believes that if millennial’s see their favorite bands having fun and eating candy it will entice them to go buy candy. When I first heard about it, it sounded too good to be true and borderline insane. A major corporation wanted to fill a house in an affluent neighborhood with expensive things and hand the keys over to broke bands? Yeah. The funniest part about all of this was that the band had never looked at or touched a Sourpatch candy. I suppose it’d be like if you were an American band asked to go live on a yacht owned by Australia’s beloved candy bar, Cherry Ripe. Either way, the band agreed and after a grueling touring schedule throughout late winter and spring we headed towards the candy house, swimmies in tow.

Upon our arrival some dude that worked for Sourpatch gave us a rundown of the house. It was incredible. Speakers everywhere, flat screen TV’s the size of my bedroom in NYC, gigantic birdcages (no bird’s L), and rooms filled with poncho hammocks. Side note: hammock’s made from ponchos look great but are impractical when it comes to lounging. Rest assured people, you are gonna slide off that poncho. Once we’d seen everything our sour Sherpa stood at the door and like a parent in an 80s teen flick that’s headed out of town and said, “Ok guys, remember… no parties… and there are cameras everywhere. Thanks!” And he left. We stared at each other and let it sink in that we were trapped in the dopest mansion of all time with instructions to not party AND that we were under constant surveillance by Senor Sourpatch himself. Unsurprisingly we did what anyone would do when being filmed all hours of the day by a large corporation ruthlessly pursuing the bottom line, we partied. We drove Cameron’s Ferrari out the window. Somewhere, on some server, that week is on tape and I:

  1. Wish I could see it.
  2. Want to destroy it.
  3. Am aware it may ruin any political ambitions myself, or my friends at the house may have.

This was an important week for me because it was the first time I’d spent time in Austin since I graduated from college. During my absence everyone was telling me how much it changed. New condos, new money, venues closing, an influx of people not from Texas etc… Consequently during my week of debauchery at the Sourpatch house I wanted to know that my beloved town was alive and kicking. I spent a lot of time drinking at the pool but I also spent a lot of time cruising around and showing the band my favorite spots in my favorite city. When the hangover of that week was finally assuaged my confidence in Austin returned. Austin has changed but it’s still awesome and still completely worth your time.

On tour I meet so many people that want to go to Austin. So many. Everyone is dying to get to ATX, or considering a move to ATX, or trying to get their band into SXSW. And to all of them and you, if you haven’t been, I say, “JUST GO”. Austin is max a 3.5 hour flight from anywhere worth a damn in North America so buy a flight on Friday and return Sunday. It is still great but who knows what will happen in a few years. Austin right now is like the great American west portrayed in “Dances with Wolves” and you are like Kevin Costner. Get there before it’s all gone and perhaps you too will be treated to the raw heart of a recently deceased Bison.

For this guide I’m going to do things a bit differently. I’m going to outline a set of rules / guidlines that will enhance your trip and then offer tips on where to go and how to spend your time.

  1. Do not visit in the middle of summer. It’s too hot. I think early fall or late May is a good time.
  2. Do not make fun of the rest of Texas while you are there. Texas hasn’t experienced the wave of ambivalence about their state most others have. People are proud to be from there. If you are from California and believe Austin would be better in California (a sentiment I’ve heard expressed many times despite the massive migration from Cali to Texas), you are missing the point. Contrast is what makes Austin, Austin. Without that contrast we’d be left with the unbearable lightness of Sacramento, and nobody likes Sacramento. J.
  3. It’s liberal but just bear in mind you are still south of the Mason Dixon.
  4. Visit when it is not SXSW. I don’t personally care for long lines, blown out speakers, and excessive corporate product placement, but if you do then please visit SXSW. Just visit Austin again when the festival is over.
  5. Five days is enough for a trip. It’s smaller than you’d expect.

First choice for accommodation is an air bnb downtown, just east of downtown, on south congress, or on south first as close to the bridge as possible. Second choice for accommodation would be the Austin motel on South Congress. It’s a cool boutique spot surrounded by lovely local restaurants and cafes. If neither of these is within budget I recommend the Super 8 at MLK and 35 or the La Quinta downtown. If you are really poor, you can air bnb a place from college kids. If you are one step away from the soup kitchen go to the Rodeway inn near the UT campus.

For breakfast in ATX there are a few classic options. My personal favorite has always been this divey spot called the Red River Café. It’s sentimental because I hung out there in college but they still get the basics right. And by basics I mean migas (Say it with me – ME Gaz). It’s a Tex Mex dish consisting of eggs scrambled together with peppers, tomatoes, Mexican spices and then topped with tortilla chips covered in cheese. I order it with a side of sausage, extra flower tortillas, and traditional hash browns. If you don’t want to sit down you can just go find a breakfast taco. I like breakfast tacos from the taco shack (only the breakfast tacos), but they’re good most places. Your basic options are:

  1. Bacon egg and cheese
  2. Potato egg and chese
  3. Pausage egg and chesse
  4. Migas breakfast taco (vegetarian)
  5. Ham egg and cheese

Gingerbread pancakes are also a fun option for breakfast in the 512. I recommend them at Kerby Lane or Magnolia’s on south 1st. Trying some queso at either one is necessary. A nice like bourgeois spot I found with my girlfriend is Epicerie. It’s a little house that’s been converted into a Texas influenced, casual yet nicer, Cajun restaurant. It’s a slam dunk.

Best way to spend your day in ATX is outdoors. If it is warm enough (most of the time it is) and you wanna make a day of it, go down and float the river from Gruene, Texas. Make a stop at Buc-cee’s (massive gas station) on the way down and get a cooler that can fit in an intertube, 2 cases of lone star beer, a bbq sandwich to smash on the way, sunscreen, a couple bottles of Ozarka water, and you’re set. If you can, float on a weekday. It’s too busy these days on a weekend. Floating takes 3 hours. You put your cans in the little bags they give you. Don’t litter. A bus takes you back to your car. When you are done make a drive to The Salt Lick for BBQ.

If you don’t want to exit city head to Barton springs first. It’s a natural spring that’s always 60 degrees. Very refreshing, shocking, it’s beautiful. After that I like to get tacos at the Torchies truck on south first. All of the tacos are the shit but my personal favorite is the green chili pork on flour with pablano ranch. You’ll like it. If you are vegetarian go for the fried avocado or Independent. Top all that off with a Topo Chico (Mexican sparkling water) and maybe a snow cone from Snow Beach. If you want to drive, the fish tacos on flour at El Chilito are out of this world and order them with fresh watermelon juice. If you are feeling a dangers, P Terry’s and Dirty Martins are excellent options. After lunch I’d put my bathing suit back on and go to the rowing dock. You can rent a kayak then ask the people at the dock how you get Red Bud Island (go left). Find a spot for your kayak and play with dogs. Across from the side you approached on you will see a rope dangling from a tree, swing on it. If you hate water and are still alive I suggest visiting the state capital or getting tickets to a UT football game.

At dusk you can always go see the bats but I recommend a nap. When you wake there are a few options for dinner. Texas has a tradition of German food and there is a place downtown called Easytiger that’s like a hipster beer garden. Their appetizers, sausage, and beer are good and you can do all of that while playing ping pong. Food trucks in ATX are not just kitsch, THEY’RE AMAZING. There is a small community of them on the east side and it’s a nice way to sit outside and eat with friends. If you want Mexican, Guero’s is a fine option and in a great spot. For pizza I’d hit up Homeslice on south congress. Perla’s Oyster bar has surprisingly good seafood. Upscale southwest food is done well at the South Congress café. If you have money to blow Uchi is obviously one of the best sushi restaurants in America. Don’t discredit Musashino’s though. It’s amazing and for a fun yet delicious dinner try Lucky Robot Sushi.

After dinner if you want to get beat up and fall in love with a frat daddy head to dirty 6th street. If not, I suggest walking east under I-35 and hitting up White Horse for two step dancing or some other bars near there. My favorite bar is Yellowjacket. It’s a perfect place to sit outside and drink beers on a sweltering evening. If you are a tech bro then I suggest going to Rainey street. It’s like a bunch of houses converted into bars. Dancing at Barbarella’s on red river can sometimes be fun. If you get hungry again, there are lots of places to eat after the bars close. Check out the learning secrets or transmission entertainment online for cool parties. If you are dying for a music festival I suggest FUN FUN FUN fest. It’s like ACL’s cooler younger sibling.

My favorite venue in ATX is the Mohawk outdoors. Unfortunately people moved into condos across the street complained about the noise so it’s not as loud or open as late as it used to be. I can’t blame these home owners. If I willfully chose to purchase a condo next to an outdoor music venue I’d also expect dead silence at midnight. Emo’s was an iconic venue downtown but it moved east. The new one is fine but just not the same. My second choice for a gig if you are new in town would be Stubbs. Both the Outdoor and indoor stages are great. The Parish is aight.

Ok that is all I have time for now. If you want to send me suggestions please hit me up on that twitter. If you hate this and want to send me anthrax, don’t. Enjoy ATX!

Other suggestions:

Breakfast at Corner Cafe
Haircut at Byrd’s
Habanero Mexican cafe
Franklin’s BBQ (get there at 8 am)
Movie at Alamo Drafthouse!
Frisbee at Zilker Park
The Grand – for pool
And on and on and on…

Danny writes about music and other things. You can find him Here. Right here.

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