Get Ready for Austin

Man, it's already that time again. SXSW is only a week away! If you've never been to Austin for the festivities, you're missing out. It is truly one of the most exciting music events in the country in one of the best cities in the country. I'm biased because I live here. And I'm proud and opinionated about a few things about the city - namely: local bands and Mexican food. Allow me to indulge...

If you're coming to SXSW for the music, I think it's important to support at least one or two of the local musicians who provide a thriving music scene for Austin year round, and who at times get pushed aside for the bigger acts that swing through town. Here are a few I'd recommend.

Black Cock
A relatively new noise rock band who has already gained a small but dedicated fan base among local punk rock fans. They sound a little like late 80's Japan (Boredoms) or mid-90's San Franscisco (Deerhoof), but ultimately - they've created their own sound and presence, one that's indescribable and unignorable.

Brothers and Sisters Familiar, laid back, mellow, warm and relaxed, like a trip to California in the late 60's. Inspired by country-rock legends like the Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield, The Brothers and Sisters, sound like the records you can still find at thrift stores- Harry Nilsson/Glen Campbell/Neil Young. There's actually only one brother (Will) and sister (Courtney) in the 5 piece band, and the two of them are the offspring of really cool musical parents. Their mom was/is a gospel singer banned from Christian radio because of a large gay following. Awesome.

Hex Dispensers
Not quite garage-goth (see Blank Dogs) -Equal parts Wipers, Misfits, Ramones, and Pixies(?) - (I think I'm the only one who hears that last reference), the Hex Dispensers are dark, raw, primal, and stripped-down and at the same time tender, ironic, nerdy and catchy. If you liked the Coachwhips or like Thee Oh Sees, I think you'd like them. A lot. Their last album was recorded and mixed by Mark Ryan of the Austin band the Marked Men and mastered by Jay Reatard. I wonder how much longer we'll have 'em in Austin.

The Ugly Beats
Boisterous, catchy, hip shaking, celebratory - the Ugly Beats are everything garage rock is supposed to be. They are a continuation of the '80s garage rock revival - the objective being to honestly replicate the sound, style, and look of '60s garage bands. And they do it so well. I dare you to have a lousy time listening to them - they embody the true spirit of rock 'n' roll.

I think I should also mention White Denim and Octopus Project. They're both popular enough that you've probably already heard them or heard of them, so I wont go into detail.

Some out of towners I'm excited about:

Rye Rye School of Seven Bells Hickoids Jack Oblivian and the Tennessee Tearjerkers No Age Eat Skull Brimstone Howl The Thermals Crystal Stilts Lover! Oh Sees Radioclit Wavves Mika Miko The Sonics The Krayolas and The West Side Horns Magic Christian School of Seven Bells The Felice Brothers The Urges The Cute Lepers Japanther The Evaporators

And I'm open to suggestions!


Breakfast Tacos:
You can get breakfast tacos pretty much anywhere and everywhere that serves breakfast in Austin. They are a signature "dish" in Austin more so than other cities in Texas, and waaay different than the overstuffed Mission Tortilla style breakfast burrito you'll find in other parts of the country. A breakfast taco is handy, light and efficient. You can eat 2 or 3 (depending on how hungry/hungover you are) which means you can try a few different types in one sitting. Part of one of my jobs, entails buying breakfast tacos for film crews from time to time, so I've been forced to sample most of the major players in the city. I have a control in my sampling: one potato-egg-cheese, one bacon-egg-cheese, one bean-cheese. The best ones usually come out of a truck, but those are, well, a lot of times traveling, so I'll stick with my top 5 free-standing joints.

Best All Around: Mi Madres. It's hard to claim one favorite, but if I had to, this would be it. The owners are pleasant, they make their own tortillas, the cheese melts but isn't to Velveeta-y, the hot sauce is spicy, and the beans aren't watery and have just enough smokey flavor. I'd recommend the '#0' - eggs, bacon, potatoes and cheese in a grilled flour tortilla. They also do migas really well.

Best South Side: Maria's Taco Xpress or Habanero's
Best East Side sit down with the locals: Joe's Bakery (look at their bacon - it's battered and fried)
Best East Side with Hipsters/College Kids: Tie - El Chilito and Juan in a Million
Best 24 hour option: La Mexicana
Best Super Cheap option: Tamale House #3
Best Gringo-Style: Tie -Torchy's and Tacodeli

Best Mexican Food (Tex-Mex):

East Side: El Azteca or Nuevo Leon
South Side: Maudie's, Matt's El Rancho, Habaneros, or La Feria
Campus: Trudy's
Healthy (meaning you can get black beans): Curra's or El Chile
Never been, but never heard anything but rave reviews: Taqueria Chalapa


Best BBQ:

Best Hamburger:
Casino el Camino

Best Coffee Shop:
East Side: Clementine
Downtown: Little City
South Side: Jo's Hot Coffee

Best Bar:
Old Stand by's: Beerland, Longbranch, Scoot Inn, Side Bar
New: Shangri-La, Rio Rita, Good Knight

Best Pizza:
East Side: East Side Pies
Downtown: Hoboken
South Side: Home Slice



  1. Needless to say, I don't know who most of those bands are. The Austin bands all seem very Austiny to me for some reason. I don't know why though-I've only been to Austin once and that was 17 years ago, so how would I know what is or is not Austiny?

    As for bands I would suggest? I think The Drones are playing. I like them.

    Beyond that, the two reasons (beside visiting you, which should go without saying) that I want to visit Austin are the tex-mex (particularly the brex-mex-a neologism I may have just invented) and the BBQ. Those tacos look so effing good! The bars look fun too, or at least they do in your pics, and in Grindhouse too, before all the girls were stalked and murdered by Kurt Russell. The latter, which if common, might put a damper on my enthusiasm for the Austin bar scene.

  2. I guess the bands are very "Austiny" because they're all from Austin. I can't help but think you've got an air of snobbery in that comment. There's nothing wrong with being "Austiny". And actually, The Ugly Beats are very "WFMU-y" and I think you'd actually like Black Cock and possibly even the Hex Dispensers. I suppose The Brothers and Sisters are very Austiny however.

    I'll look into The Drones.

    If you come to visit. Wait, wait, when you come to visit - I will send you home in a ridiculous food coma. Taco taco enchilada brisket sausage pork pork chicken fried steak taco taco beer.

    Never saw Grindhouse believe it or not.

    Congrats again on a year of no smoke.

  3. It wasn't supposed to sound snobby-honest engine. The Butthole Surfers seem very Austin-y too. Television seems very New York-y. X is very L.A.