Austin. I am not sure if I’m actually in Texas anymore. No cowboy hats. No boots. No spurs. No Texas drawl. There is a lot of music. It seems every place that is open has live music. Every bar. Every coffee house. I wouldn’t be surprised if a laundry mat there has a house band.

“Live Music While We Change Your Oil!”

We walk down into the Elephant Room for happy hour and some jazz.  There is an old guitarist I recognize from Asylum Street Spankers playing with a clarinetist named Jon Doyle. They are great. The sort of act you would expect to be bringing in a crowd but not here. There is just a half dozen or so hanging out.

I have heard so many times from old timers and even not so old timers about Austin’s “glory days”. Sure, Austin today is as young and hip as any American city. It feels more like Portland or Seattle than anywhere Texas. Quirky shops line the famous streets… lots of bicycles… plenty of homegrown character… but I can tell that the thousands of people bringing their song-dreams here are just winding up at open mics or dead bars and coffee houses playing for tips just like my friends here at the Elephant.

There used to be money in this game. There used to be room to grow. Yeah. The glory days of the self proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World” are fading… but not just for Austin. It is everywhere. All the DJ’s… Karaoke machines… big screen TVs… home theaters… cable TV… DUI gauntlets… the yuppies buying up condos in hip neighborhoods and then complaining about the noise… it all takes a toll. It just gets harder for some barefoot song-poet to find a place to beat out the rhythms of his heart on six strings, wood and voice hoping to get just enough out of it to keep going.

I played for four people in Austin.

Only one of them actually came to see me play. Michelle Stewart, another gypsy songstress, with a fire in her eyes who I met the previous night at an open mic. We hit it off from the start. The sort of connection I wish I wasn’t going to put several hundred miles behind me the next day. That’s how it goes when you’re a gypsy. Someday, I hope and pray (in my way) that I will have room for more than one in my caravan but it’s tough out here for a barefoot song-poet… and it seems to be getting tougher.

BACK