10.31pm, North Loop West Hwy 610, Houston, Texas, USA
Just drove into Houston from Austin – another good day in the state capital, which will keep ’til tomorrow. The morning’s job will be to catch up the Austin and San Antonio legs of the tour, and then we’ll be back to blogging the same day … on the day. Yay!
Saturday, 26/9/09: Toronto to Austin : Rewind
5.30am pickup to go to the airport for an 8am flight from Toronto to Austin via a 4 hour wait in Chicago. No fun working my way through the USA customs arrangements at the Toronto airport – which is why it pays to go early. But got into Austin around 4pm, picked up a rental car, checked in to the hotel, and later on went for a drive for a look around Austin. I had a chat with the lovely concierge bloke at the hotel, and he put me in the picture. They’ve had a horror summer this year – triple digit (ie over 100 degrees Farenheit) heat almost the entire summer – and I’d come from 17 degrees C in Toronto to 38 degrees C in Austin – body shock stuff.
But luck was with me, as this being my one night off in Texas , my favourite country singer – local bloke Dale Austin (some call him the Texas Troubadour) – was appearing in his natural habitat. He was at the legendary and still-standing-in-much-of-its-original-glory honky tonk out on South Lamar … The Broken Spoke. (Yep, that’s the place with the old Pioneer Clipper bus collapsed outside that used to be the tour bus for the Texas Tophands – amongst others.) I went out for the first really long set and just soaked up the atmosphere – Dale Watson and his Lone Stars playing originals and Merle Haggard covers, and a hundred people doing that Texas two-step shuffle and twirl thing around the dance floor.(You know,where they dance and actually hang on to each other, which I think has a serious amount of merit!)
You have to see this place to believe it. It’s living history, from the dance hall out back to the dining room out front to the “Tourist Trap” two rooms jam packed with country music memorabilia on the side. It’s the genuine article! Some of my favourite stuff are the photos of the Spoke’s owner – James P White – with just about every country music star I’ve ever listened to from George Strait to Randy Travis. And again, as luck would have it, James was in the house that night. He got up on stage to do a couple numbers with the Lone Stars and announce that the UK TV Channel ITV 4 was filming a documentary this Wednesday night (Tomorrow! See the photo of the poster!) on Dale Watson at the Spoke – and that Asleep At The Wheel were the special guests coming in as the support act! What a treat.
Also a treat was for me to meet James, owner of the honky tonk that’s launched a thousand careers in country music – and to finally see Dale Watson live on stage – “keeping country real on the south side of Austin”. There are definitely fringe benefits to the job, and Saturday night at the Broken Spoke was one of them.
See ya tomorrow from Houston, home of NASA’s Johnson Space Centre and one of our best consumer tastings in the USA.