Apparently, the summer is the time for having fun and traveling. We just got back from Chicago and Philadelphia stand-up Chip Chantry performed at the Cap City Comedy Club in Austin, Texas this weekend. Chip won't have any time to relax though, as he's guest-hosting this month's edition of Die, Actor, Die TONIGHT at The Khyber (56 S. 2nd), 8PM, $5. David James, Steve Gerben, Brendan Kennedy, Amir Gollan and Secret Pants are set to perform.
As Chip flies back into our fair city, here he shares with us some of the great things he experienced in Austin.
Oh, to be in Austin- the gorgeous weather, the live music, the snapping turtles. If you think Texas is a state full of fat, stupid, obnoxious, oil-hungry racists, you are only 90% right. Then there is Austin.
Imagine, if you will, that you wander into your grandmother’s living quarters one night when she is in Wilmington visiting my aunt that just had a hysterectomy. You down a mix of her Percocet and thyroid regulating medication- you’re really high. Next thing you know, you accidentally swallow one of her diamond earrings. You freak out. Now you have to wait for the gem to pass through your system and retrieve it.
Austin is the diamond earring in the hot feces of Texas. And my grandmother has never looked prettier.
So, what’s so great about Austin?
First of all, people are nice to you when you are in Austin. Like, genuinely nice. Strangers smile at you and say ‘hello’ on the street. The last person in Pennsylvania who smiled at me was my third grade teacher after I spelled the word “barrel” wrong in the first round of the big spelling bee. She followed the smile by whispering to me “It’s two R’s, you little shit. Now sit down. This isn’t 7Up. It takes something the rest of the students call “A-B-I-L-I-T-Y.”
But Austin is not just smiles and Mexicans. There are other great things that you can experience while you are in town. Music festivals like Austin City Limits and SXSW are popular attractions that have become internationally known (more so than Rob Base). But I wanted to dig a little deeper into the heart of Austin. And dig I dug.
So here is some of the local flavor to savor the next time you you’re in the fifth state capital alphabetically. (Time’s up! it’s Albany, Annapolis, Atlanta, and Augusta.)
1. Ryan Adams is So Dreamy Night: Every Tuesday night at Bootleggers Bar on Congress Ave, men and women dressed in plaid shirts and vintage jeans sit around and discuss just how divine this alt-country prodigy really is. They also discuss his new album. Because, as you know, Ryan Adams puts out a new album every week.
($2 Keystone Lights!)
2. Free Kayak Sundays: If you don’t own a kayak, stop by Lady Bird Lake on Sunday mornings between 7-10am. They will just GIVE YOU one. For keeps. Because everyone in Austin owns a kayak. And, quite frankly, they kayak the SHIT out of that town. This is a city where the dispositions are mild, but the sports are extreme.
($2 Keystone Lights!)
3. “Kite Runner Karaeoke” at the Lucky Lizard: This is a real hot spot these days. Locals pack this delightful dive bar during Thursday Happy Hour to alternately sing their favorite 80’s hits, and discuss the haunting, yet evocative tale of betrayal and redemption set in war-torn Afghanistan. I have never, ever seen such a solemn rendition of Jessie’s Girl. Ever.
4. Midget Rodeo at Lake Travis Arena: Midgets, German Shepherds, lots of peanut butter. Get there early- front row seats are a must.
5. Comedy Clubs: Coming from Philadelphia, this was rather foreign to me. Inside Austin’s comedy clubs such as Cap City Comedy Club and the Velveeta Room on 6th Street, large groups of people (they call them “crowds” down there) fill the room, sit and listen attentively. Then, after that, they laugh loudly and clap. And then they continue this cycle of applause and laughter at regular intervals. Then, after the show, they come up to the comedians to THANK them for performing, buy them drinks, and tell them how funny they were. It was really strange.
One thing that was particularly distracting for me though, was that no one in the audience got on their cell phone during my set to make a call or text their boyfriend. And not a single table had a loud conversation with each other in the front row, oblivious to the fact that there was a show going on and that they were being complete assholes. I didn’t know how to react to that. And I guess they were all nerds, because not a single person in the audience was too cool to laugh, like in Philadelphia. Because, we have some really cool people in Philly. Way to cool to laugh. Oh! And here’s something that was really bizarre… bachelorette parties do not consider comedy clubs appropriate venues to display drunken, self-indulged whorish antics. It’s really strange! Audiences just sit there, face forward and laugh- as if they were an audience!
6. Bennigan’s: Right off of exit 241 on Interstate 35 in North Austin, you will find this bar/restaurant that serves up as much fun as is does food. The owners have decorated the walls with rather unorthodox decorations (sporting equipment, musical instruments, photos of comedian Charlie Chaplin for starters!) and make this friendly establishment fun for the whole family. If someone in your party is celebrating a birthday, tell the waitstaff- they’ll come out and sing to the guest of honor!!! Stop by for a truly unique Austin experience. ($2 Keystone Lights!)
7. Shadoe Stevens Sound-alike Sundays at The Bullhorn: Can you make your voice sound like the legendary voiceover artist/DJ turned Hollywood Squares heartthrob? Well, then get your ass down to The Bullhorn (6th and Las Cruces) on Sundays. You might win the weekly grand prize of a coupon for a $2 Keystone Light. ($2 Keystone Lights!)
8. Hipsters in Austin: 6th Street is lined with literally dozens of bars and clubs that feature live, original music every night. Austin is the live music capital of the world, and the epicenter is this blocks-long strip. Hundreds of hipsters crowd this area every night, checking out the bands and local scene.
*It should be noted that Austin hipsters are much different from the Philadelphia specimen. They are much cooler, social, and lack the whiny, faux-intellectual sarcasm of the tight-jeans ones of the northeast. They have more of a rockabilly look, are much more tattooed, and could easily kick the living shit out of any passive-aggressive, square glasses wearing douche bag that hangs out in Northern Liberties. And man, can they kayak!
9. The Number 15 Bus (Red River Line): Ride this bus with the intended destination of AWESOME. Upon boarding, Shanda will promptly ask to use your cell phone, so she can call her dead mother (“It’s a local call”, she insists). Stick around to meet Glen, a slightly overweight man with a well-trimmed blonde beard, curly BLACK hair, and a golf ball sized boil on his right cheek. Ask him, and he will tell you about how if Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley lived in the Stone Age, then Carl Perkins would have been much more popular. (Actually, you don’t have to ask… just sit there, nervously pretending to do a crossword puzzle, without making eye contact, and he will tell you anyway- rather loudly, and in great detail.)
Austin’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird”. There are T-Shirts and signs all over town displaying these instructions. But it’s not really necessary. Because the people on the number 15 bus have that shit on LOCKDOWN.
10. “Hey Is That John Mayer?” Days (July 11th-17th): Austin is known as home to celebrities that are just too cool for Hollywood. Many of these A-Listers (what do you think the “A” stands for?) party it up for a week on Lake Travis. Most of the festivities bounce back and forth between the eco-friendly mansions of Lance Armstrong and Matthew McConaughey. No one is really sure what exactly goes down this week, but two things are for sure: it’s really fucking cool, and Al Gore usually shows up. Other notable guests include Tony Hawk, David Cross, Vince Vaughn, the band Wilco, and Kate Hudson. And there’s always a Wilson brother and at least five people who Dave Navarro has slept with in attendance.
11. University of Texas, Austin: This sprawling campus is one of the largest in the nation. The academics are excellent, the social scene is top-notch, and the football games are legendary. Plus, no one has shot anyone from atop the clock tower in like FORTY YEARS! Bonus!!!
12. South Austin Liberal-Off: Who is the most liberal person in the world? It’s gotta be someone in Austin. Once a week, in front of the capital building, dreadlocked warriors of the left battle to see who is the most socially and politically progressive person in Austin.
These yea-sayers one-up each other with political views that skew so far left, they are almost right. Onlookers vote to determine that week’s most liberal person.
This past week, ideas ranged from “saving the ferrets” to “tax breaks for members of the Polyphonic Spree”. Ultimately, the winner was a shirtless drum circle participant, simply named “Hand”. His proposal to legalize bear sex in the schools outshined all others.
*Come for the debates, stay for the obvious, cartoonishly abundant supply of free pot.
($2 Keystone Lights!)
Austin, Texas is, in fact, the greatest place on Earth. As a responsible journalist, I need to put that on record. For long-time fans of my writing, you probably have realized that this is in contradiction with an essay that I wrote in 5th grade, entitled “Dorney Park Rulezzz!!!” Let it be noted, that I have officially changed my stance.