USA 2011 Chapter 2 – Austin: Bikers, bats and Back In Black

As originally posted on my Tumblr site while travelling around the USA in 2011…

So, I’m currently sat in my hotel bar and it’s the last night of my stay in Austin, taking it easy before heading out on a road trip to New Orleans tomorrow. I’m also going to try to go into less detail than I did about Dallas or I could be here all night; suffice to say that it has been great here in Austin, a brilliant city.

I arrived here on Friday with a five hour Amtrak journey through the oilfields, deserts and small towns of Texas. As I said in my last post, it’s so much more pleasurable an experience than any train I’ve ever caught in England, especially with the right tunes to soundtrack the sights. I was certainly listening to a lot of Glen, Gram and Gene amongst lots of other country/southern rock.


The Amtrak to Austin

One thing that I didn’t expect was that I would be in Austin the weekend of the “Republic of Texas Biker Rally”, pretty much the largest biker rally in the US, which sees about 50,000 bikers turn up from all over, with much revving of hogs and the like. Certainly made for an interesting weekend and couldn’t work out if that made it one of the best or worst weekends I could come; probably a bit of both.

It certainly made the lively 6th Street even more so, with a good mix of bikers, locals plus the odd out of towner anyway. 6th Street is the main hub that helps Austin to badge itself “the live music capital of the world” and the standard of what you hear in the bars was higher than I expected, with the first country band I saw plus “Back In Black” (an ACDC tribute band of course) my favourites. Of course, I think I may have changed my mind on this if I’d watched them at different stages of the evening.


View from a pub roof terrace in Austin – bikers aplenty!

In terms of nightlife, I also checked out the nearby Warehouse district which is meant to attract a “more sophisticated” (read: older) crowd and this was pretty good but didn’t feel as unique really. The music was a lot more dance based in some of the places and bad dance music at that; Austin can do country, rock, blues and indie but any non-guitar music just doesn’t suit it. The music was particularly bad in this club/bar called Qua, which supposedly has a dance floor with live sharks underneath. However, I couldn’t see any sharks, just a pool. I heard varying rumours they just weren’t out tonight or that they were indeed there. Hmmm, very fishy.

Away from these “downtown” areas, I also went to the relatively newly established SoCo area, which I really liked. This is a little more off the beaten track and seemed pretty much full of Austin locals; a great mix of pubs, restaurants and shops (some great clothes shops plus some really odd affairs too). On the subject of shops, Austin also has one of the coolest record stores I’ve ever been to and I could have spent hours/hundreds of dollars in Waterloo Records but managed to restrain myself to a few 7 inches plus a great limited Daft Punk 10″.


As for sightseeing shenanigans, saw a few of the sights such as the Capitol building and stuff around there, but practical reasons meant that lots of wandering around wasn’t really an option. This is due to the heat, which I know can sound a cop out, but it is currently “unseasonally hot” here, with temperatures of at least 100 degrees every day, compared to the usual of about 90 and those 10 degrees do seem to make a difference. Should anyone in England be reading this, then I don’t expect any sympathy, this is more for my benefit for the future really.

One other thing that was pretty impressive was the “release the bats” scenario at sunset. Austin is home to the largest bat colony in the world; over one million bats nest here during the summer under one of the main bridges in the city and every night, they all wake up at sunset and go hunting bugs each night. Apparently they kill about 4m insects every night so very popular with the locals here, unless you are a mosquito. Therefore, watching them emerge from under the bridge and all head out to seek their insect prey is a pretty spectacular as well as surreal sight.


Release The Bats!

Finally, been watching a bit of sport again, including the final NBA finals game, where the Dallas Mavericks won, which went down well in Texas as you’d expect. I watched this match much more closely than the last one and was actually getting into the basketball a bit more, shame the season’s over now. Also, it’s the ice hockey finals at the moment (the Stanley Cup) so I’ve been supporting Boston Bruins there. Good to see plenty of fighting continues in this sport as I hadn’t watched an ice hockey game for ages.

So, that’s my time in Austin over. Great, relaxed city that seems to have a different flavour and I’d definitely return, perhaps to tie in with some proper gigs/festivals one day. Time to hit the road next: 3 day road trip to New Orleans here we come…

One thought on “USA 2011 Chapter 2 – Austin: Bikers, bats and Back In Black

  1. Pingback: Adventures in the USA: 2011 | No Longer Teenage Fan Club

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