SXSW 2011 was all it was cracked up to be: music, beer, food, beer, Pee Wee Herman and a gazillion others coming to get a taste of the “Live Music Capitol Of The World.” I arrived early to be a part of the interactive and film portion of the festival, but on my first night there, I could not resist an invitation to go see some real “local” music in a not-so-well-known spot.
I followed the directions: “…when you’re standing in front of The Continental Club, walk North to the end of the building. Go in the unmarked glass door and walk upstairs.” When I got upstairs I found a small room (maybe 40 capacity), with a very small bar and a few couches. On one side of the room was a Hammond B-3 organ and a small P.A. system. It was 8:25pm and I was the only person there besides the bartender and a couple musician types. I took one of the few bar stools and settled in next to the bay window that gave a great view of the newly reshaped Austin skyline and overlooked the ever-trendy South Congress Blvd.
Within 10 minutes people started walking up the stairs as a band, The Bruce James Soultet set up and started playing; laying down an incredible Memphis soul groove, as the whirling sound of the B-3 captured the attention of all. In another 20 minutes the place was packed, and not with spill over from overcrowded SXSW events! These were all locals who knew exactly where and when to show up. Not a wristband or platinum badge in the building.
It hit me like drunken frat boy on 6th St, that this was the Austin that had been described to me in 1984, by musicians I met in Louisiana, who urged me to go check it out. More than 25 years later, I was happy that I finally did. While the rest of the city is trying to “Keep Austin Weird,” it’s great to find a place that is “Keeping Austin Austin.”
So if you find yourself in Austin getting a little tired of Bevo, trailer park food courts and hearing about Sandra Bullock sightings, hold on until Friday night and get to The Gallery. Ask the big guy in front of The Continental Club to point the way.
Image of South Congress borrowed from Jenna Kawalsky’s Blog