The Red Dirt Circuit

Brad is dragged along to a convention in Texas by his parents. Left alone in the hotel while they attend the convention dinner, and told not to wait up for them, he decides to hit Sixth Avenue, take in the Austin music scene, and then return to the hotel, before his parents get back. The rewards are fraught with "complications."


10. Getting Past the Bouncer


He waited twenty minutes and then went down to the hotel lobby. Taxis were routinely arriving, pulling through the overhang and dropping riders in front of the concierge stand; he’d snag a lift there. The short ride to Sixth Avenue couldn’t cost more than a few bucks and had to be less than five minutes.


It was almost too early for the bars. The real fun was at 2:00 am. Now, bands would be only into their first set. He couldn’t help close the bars down but Brad was happy to take what he could get—providing they didn’t card him at the door. He’d just keep trying until he’d hit the lazy bouncer, too bored to check his id closely enough.


The city lights sparkled and as the taxi traversed the bat bridge into city proper, the curve of the river span seeming like the bridge over a castle moat, something out of OZ. The streets ahead were teeming with kids even though the University of Texas was not yet in full session. This week had to be freshmen orientation because there were so many young faces nearly his age. His heart raced and he could feel an adrenaline rush.


“Let me out anywhere on Sixth,” he said, figuring it was as good a place to start as any.

Who needs the bars, the streets look like just as much fun, especially if I get skunked at the door?


He noticed kids coming out of a second hand clothes store, one with a top hat, looking a bit like Slash. Brad went in and settled on a worn University of Texas tee shirt, one with the iconic longhorn on front, white on a background with that famous burnt orange hue. It had one frayed edge and showed other signs of being worn—he liked that—trying for the blended-in look, something more to take the bouncer’s mind off his age.


There were two or three spots on either side, depending which street you crossed. He’d have his pick of music and all previewed through the open doors, the variety of rock spilling out in the streets.


The first one had a fast beat, more pop than rock. Nah, next. He could tell that the next bar had been a retail store years ago, with a bay window and window seats. The bay reached almost to the high ceiling, stamped with those metal plates, these painted over enough times to make them look like plaster.


In front of the bay, right by the entrance was a tall battered speaker, easily four feet high. The lead guitar had one foot on the bay seat and the other on the edge of the speaker and he leaned back and forth with the rhythm. The speaker had to be solid and heavy because the lead singer, a skinny wiry girl moved in beside the guitarist and rocked with him. The speaker didn’t move.


The bouncer was oversized, even for a bouncer. Probably bounced, himself, from the football team. He still looked pisser at being cut, too. His bare arms crossed, he seemed to stare straight out at the street, bobbing his head down slightly at id kids flashed. Brad held his breath and fell in behind a short cue of kids entering. He flashed his id the same amount of time the others did and he was in. The guy never flinched. That was cool. And unexpectedly easy.


The music was deafening. The band pounded out the beat and the guitars fill any available eardrum surface. When he got ten people deep into the bar, he could make out the words but couldn’t identify the song. Then it sunk in. They were mashing up a song from, of all things, Grease. He had no idea that such saccharine pop could translate to almost heavy metal. The sound wasn’t great but it didn’t sound bad, either.


The drummer was shirtless and overused the high hat. He didn’t look much older than the freshmen in the bar. His right arm had a tattoo sleeve and a chain around his neck bounced up and down with each pounding of the skins. That had to feel annoying. Even with the air conditioning and three sets of paddle fans, the room was stifling hot. Brad sucked the first beer down before it got warm. Six bucks— not bad but he’d better pace himself.


Decision time was on him. Time to decide if he could con his way into another bar. The main reason for not staying put was that there were so many other bars to sample, each with its own style of rock. Brad was at the musical buffet table. This was a great chance to see if the claims of Austin having the best live rock music scene panned out.


What he had seen so far was mildly impressive. A good street scene, lively bars with loud, incredibly loud, music. You could probably get that in a lot of cities. He was on a search to see why Austin was ranked so far up the great experience totem pole. He couldn’t do that from the same spot. Time to move on.

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