Honk!Tx parade 2013: a thrill for the third year

Thank you, Honk!TX for parading again this year. Portable music that lifts the spirits and does not require protection for the ears is in scant supply and for that reason very, very welcome.

Even the many dogs along the parade route looked happy. Children appeared to be happier still.

Every group in the parade was a delight, and there was some wonderful musicianship. Among the extensive list of those in the parade, there’s no way to pick favorites, really, but we truly did love the Biohazard Brass Band, a super-sharp military aggregation, here all the way from Fort Sam in San Antonio.

We were so busy listening, marching, and watching that we took few pictures with the toy camera and not many unedited videos, either, but they are souvenirs of a wonderful day.

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Texas Independence Day on the Avenue

Spirits were high, ‘though the day was chilly. Celebrate Texas organized a fine parade. There were veterans’ contingents, a Shiner Beer van distributing Shiner lapel buttons, Lone Star flags for the little children, two contingents of lions and dragons, and much, much more, including two wonderful bands from Austin high schools: the Eastside Memorial Panthers and the Bowie High School marching band.

James and Annetta White of the Broken Spoke were the parade honorees. Spirits were lifted by the singing of an a capella choir, from the Cowboy Church. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas passed by on horseback. The Texas Cowboys startled a dog or two.

The Plungettes, with their plumbing gear, and the Beachers, with their lawn chairs, turned out as they do for almost every parade.

The Eastside Panthers marched with pride in t-shirts and shorts, despite the chill. The Bowie band turned out in full uniform, complete with plumes; the band seemed to be 150 strong. We loved them both.

Congress Avenue was intended as to be a processional way. See some unedited videos and recall the fun or see and hear some of what you missed. We love a parade!

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Riverside Dairy Queen: oasis of civilization

It’s really located at 1501 Town Creek Drive, between Riverside and the river (telephone 444-0024).

This Dairy Queen, marked by the frozen-treat balloon on its roof, sits amidst acres and acres of cleared lots on which used to stand truly affordable housing and where day by day new construction is replacing what was demolished.

This Dairy Queen carries on, serving construction workers and what neighbors are left in the vicinity. The members of the staff are as friendly and efficient as can be. Seating’s indoors and also in a roofed-over outdoor area. We see lots of large carry-out orders, also. There are always happy children here.

It’s more visible from Riverside than it’s ever been, now that so much of the surrounding environment has vanished. We’re always glad to see this survivor thrive.

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Chuy’s parade 2012: for a good cause

Chuy’s Children Giving to Children parade is one of the best shows in town every year, and the price of admission is low: a toy or other contribution to Blue Santa.

If you missed the parade, you missed large balloons, costumed greyhounds, jugglers, unicyclists, Star Wars characters, Police Chief Acevedo, Fred Cantu, the Travis High School rebel band, the 36th Infantry Division band from Camp Mabry, Los Texas Wranglers, the Summitt Lion and Dragon dance team, the Biscuit Brothers, and many, many more dancing, marching, playing, and singing groups. Watch for toy-camera images from the parade.

It’s not too late to give to Blue Santa and brighten the holiday season.

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Perla’s has a new relative: say howdy to Clark’s

Clark’s Oyster Bar offers the freshest of oysters, roe, and many other impeccable briny treats in a nautical-themed space in Pecan Square at 1200 West Sixth Street.

The quarters are confined, but efficiently allocated. There seems to be nearly as much space under an awning outdoors as there is inside. Because of the hex-tiles, the acoustics are a bit lively, but the ambient sound of reggae is not too loud and helps mask nearby conversations.

The wines offered are selected with care and there is even quality sparkling wine available by the glass. Many inventive new and refreshed more traditional cocktails are popular. Maine Root ginger beer is among the soft drinks on offer.

Some of what’s on the menu changes daily, according to the market. The dressing on the greens accompanying fresher-than-fresh redfish was delightful. We saw a perfectly rare steak on a neighboring plate, and many were trying the roasted Brussels sprouts and asparagus spears. The popular French fries were tasty but difficult to manage, being skinnier than shoestrings and very long.

The image shown here depicts one of the business-card designs and also a matchbook. The crockery is a traditional Homer Laughlin restaurant style embellished with an anchor.

It’s a true service that Clark’s is open continuously from the opening time (depending on the day of the week) “until late.”

We didn’t inquire about reservations; if they’re available, it appears that they may be helpful during the busiest hours. The telephone number is 297-2525. Clark’s may be busy all the time; it deserves to be.

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Rudolph’s marks the beginning of the holiday season

Look for Rudolph’s Christmas tree lot at the corner of South Lamar and Bluebonnet; the big red-and-white striped tent protecting the Fraser firs and all the other trees catches the eye right away, even though the signs are still being put in place. This image shows new ornamentation for the sales booth. I don’t know whether we were the first customers today, but we certainly enjoyed our choice of the very freshest trees, aromatic and drinking water right away when set up ready to be decorated. There may be less expensive trees in town, but no friendlier welcome or better quality is to be found than at Rudolph’s.

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Pagliacci

Pagliacci has come and gone now, but all lovers of music should mark their calendars for the next two Austin Lyric Opera productions: The Marriage of Figaro (January 31; February 2, 3, 2013) and Gounod’s Faust (April 25, 27, 28, 2013). These promise to be the giant crowd-pleasers that Pagliacci was. The orchestra just gets better and better and all was most pleasing about this production. We saw the Friday performance, and then confirmed our appreciation by listening to the Sunday live performance on KMFA 89.5-fm. The audience loved the surprise encore concert after the performance, when, accompanied by the orchestra, leading singers were joined by the chorus (also excellent) in song.

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Veterans’ Day: patriotic concert

The jazz band performed first, and then the 36th Infantry Division concert band, which appeared to be the jazz band plus many additional musicians. Another configuration of the band marched in the Congress Avenue parade earlier in the day. These are musicians of the highest ability. There can be no finer setting for music than the outdoor terrace at the Long Center for the performing arts, with its spectacular view of the downtown Austin skyline. The capacity audience was delighted from start to finish by the spirited and stirring music. Also heard was a traditional recitation piece called “A Toast to the Flag.” The jazz program included the best performance of “In the Mood” that I’ve ever heard. We were treated to a Filmore march (“Americans We”) and two Sousa gems, complete with piccolo embellishments (“Washington Post” and “Stars and Stripes Forever”). Musician and vocalist SPC Bonnie Wellington sang a moving “America the Beautiful.” Austin is indeed the live music capital of the world. The toy-camera images and unedited videos do not come close to doing justice to this occasion.

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Veterans’ Day: parade with flying colors

On the eleventh day of the eleventh month, it was a glorious day for a parade to observe Veterans’ Day. As always the valiant Cardinal band from Del Valle marched and played, and all welcomed the returned 36th Infantry Division Band. The image here shows the flag flying from a crane near the start of the parade, which began on the bridge and proceeded up Congress to the Capitol. Other diversion was provided by a picturesque person on a bicycle who did a good bit of shouting and told a police officer (at a rather high volume and close to the officer’s face), “It’s not against the law to yell.” Pictures of the parade taken by a toy camera and unedited videos convey only a bit of this spirited event.

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Austin City Limits Taping – Jack White

Jack WhiteEvery year during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park, you can expect that at least a few artists will tape an episode of the Austin City Limits television show. This year, as the new season starts to air (Radiohead’s performance aired on 10/6 and Bon Iver aired this past Saturday), they’re continuing to add more artists to fill out the rest of the season. Jack White taped an episode Sunday night at the Moody Theater. The Austin City Limits television site is posting its own taping recaps now. They have a  pretty comprehensive background on the night including a set list. There’s also one from the Tim McGraw taping in August. Norah Jones also did a taping late this week.

Jack White has graced the Austin City Limits stage once before with Raconteurs in Season 32 (2006) which coincided with his first appearance at the music festival. The Raconteurs played the festival again in 2008 and he famously had to cancel the White Stripes headlining slot at the festival in 2007 due to Meg White’s health issues. I’m assuming that his choice of set list as a solo artist was influenced by the desire to get some White Stripes songs on Austin City Limits. I’ve been to several tapings over the years and this was the first one I can recall where the artist was allowed to alter the set. They didn’t obscure or block the Austin skyline, but they changed the stage from its usual black to white and had two spotlights that bathed the bands in a blue or white light. It managed to give them their own style while still sticking with the Austin City Limits tradition.

White has two backing bands and switched between them halfway through the set. He appeared to have brought his own Hasidic appearing road crew to manage the switch. I don’t want to touch off a gender war, but the all male Buzzards, the first backing band, definitely rocked harder than their female counterparts, the Peacocks. I enjoyed both thoroughly. The Buzzards, all in black, consisted of drums, bass, fiddle, keys and a multi instrumentalist. The Peacocks, all in white, had one more member than the Buzzards. I’d never noticed this before, but the keyboard / piano setup at stage left had a rather large mirror for the keys facing stage left so that the player could still see Jack and the rest of the band. Jack ended up restarting “Hypocritical Kiss” with the Peacocks so they could get it right. I think he was the one that made a mistake or the tuning  was slightly off. Being a drummer, I noticed that the drummers from both bands, Carla Azar with the Peacocks and Daru Jones with the Buzzards sit very high over their kits. Jones also angles all of his drums downward away from him at a fairly steep angle. To each their own, but I can’t see being able to play like that night after night.

Look for this episode to air in January.

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Welcome home!

Congress Avenue was made for parades; the Welcome Home, Iraq Veterans parade was made for Congress Avenue. On July 7, we marched up Congress Avenue to the Capitol grounds and then we returned on foot all the way back to the downtown side of the bridge. Many of us followed the wonderful band of the 36th Infantry Division of Camp Mabry, which sounds better than ever. It’s been a long time since we were privileged to hear this outfit. What spirit the band brought to the occasion! Five brass Sousaphones! Trombones out front! Mere pictures and videos cannot capture the event, but they’re souvenirs to remind us of the day and all the volunteers who created the tribute. Thank you!

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Juneteenth parade a spirited event

This year’s Juneteenth parade brought together the largest number of club riders on gaited horses that most of us have ever seen in one place at one time. Missing dignitaries were Austin mayor Leffingwell and council-members Riley and Cole. The elected officials drawing the greatest positive response at our viewing point across from the Fresh Up Club sign were the county judge, the county sheriff, and precinct constable Danny Thomas. Only one marching band turned out, the Greater Houston All Star Band. The percussionists of Spirit of the Drum made lively music, and the ladies drawing sweet music from the pans were most welcome. Volunteers seeking voters to register were having a degree of success. We talked to four of them and saw more; they were covering the entire parade route. The best prize seen was a bouncy soccer-style ball bestowed on a child very happy to receive it. We came home with a new supply of souvenir fans to take to other free Austin hot-weather events and to cool us in the yard when we escape the non-air-conditioned confines of the house this summer. Toy-camera photos and unedited videos give only a hint of the always joyous occasion of the annual Juneteenth parade.


Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience = happiness

Patience played to a full house, including all the children who arrived early for a special program and remained for the entire matinee performance yesterday, just as entranced as the rest of us.

H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado seem to be the most frequently performed masterpieces, but, thanks to our very own Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin, we are privileged to enjoy every gem and delight in the Gilbert and Sullivan repertory.

Sparkling in the intimate new performance setting of the arts center of Brentwood Christian School (map), which seats 400 and boasts an orchestra pit that conceals the professional-quality 15-piece orchestra, Patience is a complete theatrical experience. The 22-voice chorus (11 men, 11 women) sang with a snappy vigor and the clarity that made the supertitles showcasing the lyrics really unnecessary.

Every principal singer shone, and the audience welcomed the return of comic and musical stalwarts Arthur Di Bianca, Holton Johnson, Jeanette Jones, and Russell Gregory. Meredith Ruduski, as Patience the dairy maid herself, was a fine lyric and comic presence.

Everyone associated with this production should be very proud. A lot of the stage business and choreography was quite demanding. The audience laughed everywhere it was supposed to and nowhere it was not.

Just five performances remain: Thursday, 14 June, at 8 pm; Friday, 15 June, at 8 pm; Saturday, 16 June, at 3 pm and at 8 pm; and Sunday, 17 June, at 3 pm. For ticket information, call 474-5664; advance prices are $20 for adults ($25 at the door), $15 for students over 18 with identification ($20 at the door), and $7 for those 18 and under ($10 at the door).

Do not deprive yourself. If you love music or theater or both, treat yourself to Patience.

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Times change, Austin Java

Early Saturday we were debating where to go for a late breakfast, Austin Java came up. When I first came to Austin in 2004, Austin Java down on Barton Springs was a joy, eclectic, fun staff, interesting customers, wifi and endless coffee as well as some tasty food and great salads.

Back sometime I think in 2009 it changed to table service. In the “good ole days” you showed up, ordered and paid at the counter, they gave you a number, you found a table and either eat and left, or eat and stayed. Either way, it was simple transaction. I stopped going when they switched top table service, I met early one Thursday with Keith and Dan to discuss arrangements for an upcoming event. The visit went like this… Find a table, wait for menus, wait to order, wait for food, wait for check, wait for credit card processing and then constant “can I get anything else requests”. Even in an efficient, less waiting process, it was still 5-step transaction.

So, Saturday with my guest we decided to pass. Early Saturday evening we walked down from deepest Bouldin Creek, did a bit of the trail, the footbridge and decided to head to Shady Grove for dinner, we emerged from around the back of the new apartment building, between Uncle Billys and Austin Java, Uncle Billys seemed packed, Austin Java, not so much tables available inside and out the front. Around at Shady Grove there was a 25-minute wait for a table indoors and longer for outdoors, we waited.

So whats up with Austin Java, anyone else? Are the other Austin Java’s on 12th and Lamar and at City Hall table service? Is there something else at play here?

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Bernie: locally filmed movie a local attraction

Violet Crown CinemaThe movie Bernie is must-see entertainment.

It’s now playing in town at the Violet Crown Cinema and at the Arbor. On-line advance purchase appears to be requisite to see it at the Violet Crown; an attempt to purchase tickets at the door there was met with information that the next two shows were already sold out. So it was on to the Arbor, where the much larger house was nearly sold out.

This movie is laugh-out-loud fun. The audience even applauded spontaneously a few times. Look for familiar scenes from San Marcos, Bastrop, Smithville, Austin, and more. Quita Culpepper and Dale Dudley are on-screen presences.

Everyone loves different aspects of this movie. Here are some of my favorites: Jack Black’s singing, the singing and especially the choreography of the stage scene of “Seventy-Six Trombones” from The Music Man, the dialogue, the costumes, the humor generally, and the performances of everyone, in particular that of Richard Robichaux and, yes, those of Shirley MacLaine and, especially, Matthew McConaughey.

This would be a movie to see even if it weren’t set in Texas and weren’t filmed in part nearby. You won’t have a favorite scene to compare with the favorite scenes of others if you don’t go see it while it’s here.

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